Tag Archives: life experiments

How to Propagate Christmas Cactus

How to Propagate Christmas Cactus | StairStories.com

My “Heirloom” Cactus

When my grandparents moved out of their farmhouse last year, I came into possession of my grandma’s sprawling but sadly neglected Christmas cactus. She does not remember how long she had it, but the plant is at least one or two decades old, perhaps older. I remember arriving at her house to celebrate Christmas and her eager excitement over showing me the beautiful pinkish blooms on the cactus. For as long as I can remember, it sat with a couple ferns in front of gauzily-curtained windows.

After a few months of research and TLC, the plant recovered and I wanted to propagate cuttings to share with other family members. Here are the steps I followed to propagate – or “start” – new Christmas cactus.

Preparing the Environment

First, I filled three self-watering flowerpots with with potting soil specially-formulated for cacti and succulents. I chose self-watering containers because, from my research, mature Christmas cacti do best when watered from the bottom.

How to Propagate Christmas Cactus | StairStories.com

Choosing Cuttings

Next, I examined my mature cactus and removed any dead or dying segments. (I try to do this pruning regularly.)

Then, I chose sections that were at least four segments (leaves) long and broke them off by twisting them from the main branches. You could also cut them apart with scissors or a knife. I especially looked for segments that had tiny rootlets already starting.

How to Propagate Christmas Cactus | StairStories.com

Planting

After that, I planted the cuttings, being sure to bury the joint between the first two segments. The roots will grow from those joints.

Christmas Cactus | StairStories.com

Follow-up Care

Finally, I watered the soil a little and set the pots near a window where they would receive indirect sunlight.

I watered the cuttings weekly and then gave them to my grandma, aunt, and mom a few weeks later.


Have you propagated succulents? I have not had much success with starting other varieties (except jade). Leave your advice in the comments!

 

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Field Notes on Resigning from a Job

Saying Goodbye

A year and a half ago, I left my accounting job to get married and move to a different town. Last week, I left my teaching assistant position to teach college. While my experiences do not make me an expert, I have made some observations. Here are my top five observations and advice for resigning from a job.

1. If you did a good job and got along well with people, coworkers and managers will be sad to see you go.

2. When you give two weeks notice, be prepared for an onslaught of writing procedures, communicating job duties, and sad faces. As word spread through the high school that I was leaving my last job, people’s faces would fall every time they saw me and remembered I would not be there much longer.

3. Write down the contact information for everyone you want to keep in contact with. You may think you will never, ever forget the email structure or extensions you used every day for eight years, but it only took me a year to get fuzzy on those things after I left my accounting job.

4. People who never seemed to like you or never seemed to notice you may go out of their way to wish you well or to say how much you will be missed. My favorite response is to smile and say, “Why, thank you!” Even while I am thinking, “I didn’t know you cared.”

5. Be gracious. Leaving is not all about you. Celebrations involving food were a big deal at both of my most recent jobs, so my departures were commemorated with snack days and kind words and lunches and lots of attention directed my way. As much as I would rather not be the center of attention, I tried to gratefully accept it all with gracious poise because I knew it meant my coworkers cared.

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The Student Planner Challenge (free download at end)

Simple, Free Student Planner | StairStories.com
 
 
If you are looking for a revolutionary student planner that will transform every student into a star pupil, this is not it. This is about coping with educational expectations.
 
 
Learning in Another Language
I remember feeling overwhelmed on my first day of “Civilizations of Spanish-Speaking Countries” during my junior year in college. I discovered the textbook, lectures, assignments, discussions, and tests would all be in Spanish with no English!
 
 
Now I am a teaching assistant working with high school students who learned – or are learning – English as a second language (ESL). Most of them seem even more overwhelmed than I was. Can you imagine trying to navigate high school classes and society when almost everything is in an unfamiliar or uncomfortable language?
 
 
The Practice
Personal organization is one tool that can help students take ownership of their work and break it into manageable parts. With that in mind, I made a simple, non-distracting planner and am trying to teach students how to use it.
 
1. Write the date below each day of the week.
2. When you get an assignment, write it on the day that it is due (not the day you get the assignment).
3. When you do homework, check your planner and start with what is due first.
4. When you complete an assignment, check it off on the planner.
 
 
I like this practice because it helps students recognize that the order they receive assignments is not necessarily the order in which they need to be completed. It is easy to check the planner and make sure they have everything ready for the next day. Our long-term goal, of course is to give the students tools to help them be self-sufficient in high school, college, or wherever life takes them.
 
 
The Challenge
The ESL teacher assistants have been encouraging the students we work with to try the planner pages. To add motivation, if a student updates and uses the planners for four consecutive weeks, he or she will get a prize.

 

Get my simple, non-distracting planner. 

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Simple, Speedy Cooking for One

One of my college student friends recently asked for recipes and tips for cooking for one. Before I got married last year, I spent the previous four years living on my own and either working two jobs or working and going to grad school. I love food – a lot! – but had limited time to cook. Here are my tips & recipes for her. Most of these are scalable recipes that can be easily increased to feed a crowd.
 Cooking for One: Tips & Tricks (StairStories.com)
Tips
  • Brown several pounds of ground beef in a skillet and freeze it in one-pound or half-pound portions to speed up meal preparation later.
  • Rotisserie chicken from your local deli can be a healthy, fast way to add protein to several meals (especially if you do not eat the skin). Meal #1: Have the legs and wings with vegetables and a roll or biscuit on the side. Meals #2-3: Use chopped breast and back meat in a Quesadilla or Chef Salad or on Baked Potatoes.
Cooking for One: Stir-Fry with Potstickers Recipe (StairStories.com)
Stir-Fry with Dumplings/Potstickers 
1 serving frozen potstickers, sometimes labeled as Asian dumplings (check package for serving size)
1/2 cup broccoli slaw
1 tablespoon chopped peanuts or sliced almonds (optional)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Prepare potstickers using the skillet directions. When they are done, leave them in the skillet and add the broccoli slaw. If the bottom of the pan is dry, add 1 tablespoon of water. Cover the pan and steam for 1-2 minutes. Transfer to a plate or bowl. Top with soy sauce and nuts to taste.
 Cooking for One: Italian Chicken & Potatoes Recipe (StairStories.com)
Italian Chicken & Potatoes
2 frozen chicken tenders or one breast (split)
1 medium or two small potatoes (white, red, or sweet potatoes are fine)
1 cup Italian salad dressing
Preheat oven to 350. Place thawed chicken on a casserole or baking pan with high sides. Scrub the potatoes and cut them into medium-sized chunks. Place the potatoes around the chicken. Pour the salad dressing over the chicken and potatoes. Bake for 30 minutes. The chicken should be white all the way through and the potatoes should be soft.
 Cooking for One: Baked BBQ Chicken Recipe (StairStories.com)
Baked BBQ Chicken
2 frozen chicken tenders or one breast (split)
1/8 – 1/4 cup barbecue sauce
Preheat oven to 350. Place thawed chicken on a casserole or baking pan with high sides. Pour the barbecue sauce over the chicken. Bake for 15-20 minutes. The chicken should be white all the way through.
 Cooking for One: Quesadillas Recipe (StairStories.com)
Quesadillas
2 tortillas
1/2 cup cooked meat (ground beef, chopped chicken, prepared barbecued pork)
1/4 cup shredded cheese (mild cheddar, American, colby, jack)
Heat skillet or griddle to medium high. Spray with nonstick cooking spray. Lay one tortilla flat on the hot skillet and spread meat evenly across the tortilla. Sprinkle cheese over the meat and top with second tortilla. Cook while frequently pressing down on the top tortilla with a spatula or a plate until the cheese is melted enough to hold the tortillas together and the bottom tortilla is nicely browned. Flip the quesadilla and brown the other side. Cut and serve!
 Cooking for One: Sweet & Tangy Meatballs Recipe (StairStories.com)
Sweet & Tangy Meatballs – adapted from Ring Around the Rosies
1 serving turkey and romano cheese frozen meatballs (check package for serving size)
1/4 cup grape jelly
1/4 cup barbecue sauce
Place all ingredients into small saucepan heat on medium, stirring occasionally until meatballs are heated completely according to package directions and jelly is blended with sauce. Serve over rice or pasta.
 Cooking for One: Chef Salad Recipe (StairStories.com)
Chef Salad
1 cup greens (I like spinach because I can use it in other favorite recipes)
1/2 cup other vegetables or fruits (fresh berries, tomatoes, peppers, celery, shredded carrots, beets)
1/2 cup protein (cottage cheese, sliced almonds, sunflower seeds, chopped sandwich meat, cooked chicken, sliced boiled egg)
1-2 tablespoons salad dressing
 Cooking for One: Loaded Baked Potatoes Recipe (StairStories.com)
Loaded Baked Potatoes
Scrub potatoes. Cook in oven (350 for 30-45 minutes, depending on size) or microwave on high (4-7 minutes, depending on size). Top as desired. Some of my family’s favorites are cheddar cheese, sour cream, olives, ham or any kind of sandwich meat, cooked broccoli, cottage cheese, bacon bits, Italian salad dressing.*
* Not all on the same potato!

 

Make the whole recipe and eat one serving. When the casserole cools, wrap individual servings in plastic wrap and place in a gallon freezer bag to freeze. Unwrap and reheat whenever you need a quick meal. It tastes far better than store-bought freezer meals!
What is your advice on cooking for one?

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Choosing Plenty Instead of Guilty

Plenty Button
Sometimes I feel guilty about what I don’t do, like…
  • hurried or unbalanced meals when I do not plan ahead or lack energy to make what I planned,
  • the clutter of things I need to put away,
  • stacks of papers I need to file in the filing cabinet I cannot reach because of the stacks of boxes still unpacked in our home office,
  • unwritten thank-you notes,
  • evenings when Brian and I come home from work and I feel tired or out-of-sorts instead of cheerful and energetic,
  • not being able to do everything I think I should be able to handle.
But then I mull over God’s Word and remember what is true. For example, “Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. 19 Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God. 20 Even if we feel guilty, God is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything” (1 John 3:18-20 New Living).

 

When I honestly consider what my actions show, I find myself choosing time with and for people instead of doing tasks that have clear, tangible results:
  • praying for students
  • doing manicures or sipping hot drinks and listening to chatty students
  • joining small group ladies for dinner on short notice
  • spending quality time with my husband

The thing is, when our actions and choices are like Mary’s, we often give up having homes like Martha’s. That is what Jesus called choosing the best thing and that is plenty for me.*

*Luke 10:38-42

What life lessons have you been learning recently?

 

Edit: I finally got this image and link working to tell you I am linking up with Amy at The Messy Middle.

Trusting Tuesdays button (Mobile)

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Mismatched Crazy Hair Day

At the high school where I work, this is spirit week in preparation for our homecoming basketball game on Friday. Monday was Mismatched Crazy Hair Day, so I wore my hair like this.

Crazy Hair FrontCrazy Hair Side

 

 

 

 

 

 

For reference, it usually looks like this.

Highlighted Hair

I received a variety of responses and determined that today’s hairstyle was not crazy in many other people’s perspectives.

Male teacher: Oh, you got a haircut.

Female teacher: Hey, I like your hair! You should wear it that way more often.

Male student: Nice hair, Mrs. Howe!

Female student 1: What is up with your hair?
Me: It’s for crazy hair day.
Female student 2 (to her classmate): You shouldn’t say that. What if she was actually trying to look nice?

My favorite anecdote from today:
In one class, a female student mocked my hair derisively in Spanish to the girl across from her while I was standing in plain view near their table. After a minute, I continued circulating around the room to help students and overheard the other girl inform the mocker that I actually speak and understand Spanish. The first girl was shocked and grew a little quieter after that. I simply smiled and continued helping students with their assignments.

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Plans change… so I have a word of the year

Until today, I did not think I would have a particular word of focus for 2014 even though I have for the past three or so years. It was not an entirely intentional decision, but nothing seemed to jump out at me as “undaunted” and “enjoy” did for 2012 and 2013. I was fine with that and chose not to force it or make a big deal about it. As I wrote recently, traditions change and that can be a good thing.

I have recently been noticing and paying special attention to the abundance and fullness of God – both who He is and what He provides – in every day life. I considered “enough” but it did not quite communicate what I have been seeing. Instead, my word for 2014 is “plenty,” which comes from the Latin word for “fullness.”

Plenty Button
Won’t it be exciting to focus on God’s abundance and fullness for a year?!

Do you have a word or theme that you are paying attention to or studying? I’d love to hear about it in the comments or you can post a link if you’ve written about it somewhere else.

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When Traditions Change

BowlingThanksgiving is a little different every year, but many of us have our traditions that remain the same. For years, my family has had celebrated early Thanksgiving with Dad’s side of the extended family and Colorado Thanksgiving with Mom’s side (and whichever of us siblings who could go). Last year, Brian and I were dating and he had been looking forward to celebrating with his family in Oklahoma while I was excited to celebrate with mine in Colorado (especially since all my siblings came!). We agreed since we were dating and not married, it was more important to us to celebrate with our respective families than together.

This year was different because Brian and I planned to spend the holiday with our Oklahoma family and my two married siblings planned to visit their in-laws too. Then my Colorado grandparents moved to assisted living in Wyoming and my parents came along when I took my new husband to meet them over a long summer weekend. The family decided summer visits are nicer and easier in some ways, particularly since we have to drive further now. Suddenly, Thanksgiving was different for my parents too.

My new Oklahoma family had their traditional dinner on Thanksgiving Day and some of us played games afterward. Brian and I taught them how to play Golf (the card game) because it works for odd numbers of players and does not take long to learn. Later that weekend, we went bowling with the extended family. (From what I am told, that has not been a tradition in the past.) Most of the family did not know my opinion of bowling, though, and I think some of them felt bad for me at first because I bowl badly… very badly. In one of our two games, I scored under fifty. Nevertheless, I find bowling to be relaxing, hilarious fun because I know I am not skilled at it; there is absolutely no pressure to play well.  I like the social aspect of chatting with other players while waiting for our turns and cheering when someone has a good throw. I also enjoy having no expectation of excelling, so I am never disappointed with my score.

Brian and I have only been married for six months, so we are still experiencing some of each other’s family traditions for the first time and figuring out which ones fit our family. When I was younger, I was very attached to traditions because I liked life to be consistent and familiar and comfortable. As an adult, I still enjoy some traditions but also have fun trying new ones, experiencing the way others celebrate, simply making up new traditions for our new family of two.

What are some of your holiday traditions?

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Field Notes on Boys #1-5

I am absolutely not an expert on boys. My information is based completely on my experience and observations from years of living with brothers and having friends who are boys. Many of these can apply to men as well as boys. This set of Field Notes is mainly addressed to girls.

1. Boys do not think the way girls do. (In general, I find people do not all think the same regardless of gender, so it is best to not assume anyone thinks like I do.)

2. Communicating through hints and subtlety usually does not work, so be clear about what you think, feel, or want.
A. Side Note: To improve the clarity of your communication, think about what message you want the other person to get. Summarize that message in one or two sentences. Tell the other person the summary.
B. Side Note: Just because you are clear does not mean they will do what you want.

2. Boys look for reactions. If you like something a boy does or says, respond positively and promptly. Do not try to play it cool or ignore them. They want a positive reaction. If they do not get it, they may try for a negative one.
A. Side Note: Sometimes they try for a negative reaction simply because it is fun to see girls get annoyed, embarrassed, or freaked out.

3. Boys generally love to watch girls get embarrassed, especially if they turn bright red! (See previous Note about reactions.)

4. Boys really can and do think nothing sometimes. This is very relaxing for them, so please do not stress them out by insisting they must have been thinking about something.

5. When young boys do not know what to do, they initiate a random, usually playful, physical altercation. (See earlier Note about reactions.) When one of my brothers was about ten, he saw me reading on the sofa and proceeded to fling himself onto, sprawling the entire length of said sofa and squishing my book. While freeing my book, I asked him nicely twice to get off, to which he just grinned and acted like he could not move. I marked my place in the book, hooked an arm under one of his legs and grabbed his ear with my other hand. Before he could react, I stood up and he hollered loudly as I carried him into another room where our mom was reading. “Mom,” I said depositing him next to her, “You need to deal with your son.” He still indignantly bemoans how “mean” I was in that instance, but he does so with a mischievous grin.

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2013 Theme Word – Enjoy

My theme word for 2013 is enjoy. It means to take joy, “to experience with joy; take pleasure in… to find or experience pleasure for (oneself).”
Enjoy Button
Philippians 4:4 and 1 Peter 1:6 both encourage and command joy. Since joy is commanded, it must be a choice and not a feeling or a mere product of circumstance.
Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! – Philippians 4:4 (NLT)
So be truly glad.There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. – 1 Peter 1:6 (NLT)

I am sure 2013, like years before it, holds times of all sorts: celebration, sadness, hilarity, stress, change, adventure. There will be mundane days and milestones. There will be events I have planned for and ones that may catch me off-guard. In all these circumstances and any others that come along, I will practice purposely experiencing them with joy and enjoying who God is and what He does.

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