Category Archives: Kitchen

Brown Thumb Vanquished!

Dear World,

I have not written in quite a long time! I do apologize, but I promise I have been storing up a nice post or two. The one I am most pleased by is my recent discovery that I have finally conquered my previously persistent gardening curse.

Any time I have had a plant, it has wound up sadly leaving this world. Its departure was always slow and mysterious. I would watch it slowly drift away, trying all sorts of things to make it better – more water, less water, more sun, less sun – always bumbling about ignorantly in the futile race to save the plant. (Don’t tell anyone … I have even killed a succulent.)

Things began to change when a couple of months ago, after a long hiatus without living things within my four walls, I decided to give it another go.

I gave myself three rules:

1. Do your research. Read up on plants from as many sources as you can to find which ones you think have the best shot in your dim apartment.

2. One plant at a time. I told myself, “Start with one. If you can keep it healthy for at least a month, then you can move on to the next, and the next, and slowly grow your collection” … or “urban garden,” as my research has taught me is the trendy thing to say.

3. Put it where you won’t forget to water it! For this, that meant in plain sight in my apartment, or outside the front door, where I will see it when walking in. If I were to start out on the back patio, I wouldn’t see them, and therefore wouldn’t think of them, and therefore they would die.

These, as we might say in teaching, were my effort to “set myself up for success.”

My first baby: Phillippa, the rubber plant.

Can you see her? She is the only actual living plant in the picture.


I need to get a better picture of her. She is quite lovely, with burgundy tips at the end of her stalks, like pink paper all rolled up.  When a new leaf sprouts, those burgundy stalks unroll to reveal a fragile, translucent light green leaf (also a little wrinkly … I guess like a real newborn anything). And I can proudly say my rubber plant has not only survived, but grown at least 4 new leaves and even a new baby stalk at the base, which continues to grow.

Second project: The herb garden


Having declared the Phillippa as one point for me, I abided by Rule #2, decided to for my second planty project … 


I have long dreamed of having a “salsa garden,” in which I would grow all the ingredients necessary to make a homemade salsa. While I don’t quite have that, I did learn that it was possible to grow several herbs inside an apartment — even one that doesn’t get that much direct sunlight. THANK YOU, GARDENISTA for inspiring me! If you are also interested in getting some green in your 425 square foot life, see this very helpful post to learn which herbs have a shot in the shade. You might be surprised!

So one weekend Daniel and I went to a local nursery and picked up some peppermint, oregano, basil, and sweet margoram (I didn’t know what it was, but it smelled nice, and at the very least I thought it might make a nice tea). Then, when Daniel was out of town, and I was left to my own whims, I bought several more at our local co-op: more basil, rosemary, spearmint, and even a tomato plant … just for fun. Then at Whole Foods: the cilantro I had been truly hunting for and a couple of lavender plants.

Here are the “before” and “one week after” pictures.

Oh, it just makes me want to kiss them!

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An INCREDIBLE secret, I discovered along the way, also with the help of my new garden coaches at was in this post: How to water any potted plant. So far since reading it, I have not under-watered nor overwatered any plant! (*Cheering from the bleachers* … or maybe this is more of a *knock on wood* moment). If you also suffer from my watering woes, this article will change your life.

Another of the great things is, that now that I have plants indoors that I’m used to watering, I can have them on the back porch (breaking rule #3), because watering is already in my everyday awareness. Plus, the weather has been so lovely recently (somehow Austin is fending off the horrid Central Texas heat further and further into Spring), we have been sitting out on our patio more often.

What do you think, friends? Can I officially say my brown thumb is vanquished? If I am right, it will be a great thing for plants everywhere … or maybe just in my general vicinity!

I have great plans for my current plants and plants-to-be. Here is to more green posts to come…



Fun with Magnetic Letters

It has been a long time since my last post!

There was a project dry spell for a while. Then when I got started again, like a person given a glass of water after a terrible thirst, I just drank and drank (arted and crafted) without stopping to breathe (post).

Here is one of my recent projects. No genius here. As a teacher I had a ton of colorful magnetic letters, that it turns out I really don’t need anymore … at least not in the numbers I had them.


I had the thought to spray paint them, and was so proud of my unique idea … until I found about a million pins on Pinterest of people doing the same.

However, the big “in” thing is gold. And I dig it. Nothing against gold. But it wasn’t really what I wanted for our kitchen. So I just went black.

So still unbeknownst to the apartment building owner (whew), I took the letters out on a big sheet of cardboard to paint them such.


I cleared the rest of the clutter off our icy friend to leave it just simple black and white. Two of each letter stay on the fridge for easy access, and the rest go back in the green tub to avoid cluttering the fridge too much. Turns out these letters are a lot of fun!

Daniel’s and my routine has become the following:

I write a message. Later I walk in to find Daniel has changed around the letters to spell something entirely different (which may or may not make sense). Here are just a few examples…


Good morning” becomes “Goon dorming.”



What’s for dinner?” becomes “Finned thor wars.”


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Hello Handsome” becomes “No sad hell home” or “Mend shoal hole.”

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So spiky” (Don’t ask. We’ve been watching a British show.) becomes “OK Pissy.”

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and “Weekend fun” becomes “We need funk.” Same thing, really.

It turns out “I’m too bootylicious” has too many Os and Is to re-spell anything. Here are some of our attempts:


“I’m too bootylicious” becomes …

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And finally, success!


“Oily tooticious mob.” Indeed.

And then sometimes they just get left to be nice.


Kitchen Inspiration

This is a before picture of our kitchen, which is directly across from our living room (which is also where we eat). Therefore, we look at these cabinets any time we are living in our apartment.


This was taken before I actually moved all my stuff in, so in general it looks much different now, but the unfinished wood on the cabinets clashing with the fake wood laminate counters is getting to me nowadays. I’ve been debating whether I should ask for permission to either paint the cabinets or stain them at least. If I paint them, I would probably only be allowed to go with the same off-white color on the walls that they painted the bathroom cabinets. Any opinions on whether it would be better in a small space to go for blending the cabinets into the walls or staining them a richer color?

In the meantime I just stumbled across this website, though, which has me thinking about what I could do to fix them … and “spruce up” the kitchen in general. 

I’m considering #1: “Floor it,” but wondering whether it would just make an already small (very small) place seem choppy.

I’d love to do #2: Change the light. But I’m not sure about the technical how-to with the particular light installed in our place yet. If I figure it out, I will let you know!

I’m CRAZY about #7: “Bring the outside in.” A vertical wall-mounted herb garden would be a dream! Before I get it I will need to 1) save up to get this thing and 2) paint my thumb to be a bit more green.

I am contemplating #8: taking the doors off the cabinets. However, I’m not sure exposed storage would be the best for this small space. Not unless I could rearrange some things, maybe.

And perhaps #10 could be in the works eventually: non-stick papering the countertops to look like cork or granite or something. I found this video of its installation. Call me crazy, but maybe it could work … At Berlin Wallpaper, the marble roll is only $9 for a huge roll!

Then this website, Berlin Wallpaper, has other patterns as well – could I make my cabinets a whitewashed wood or something else different?

I love this door. I mean shelves.

Back to the main purpose of this blog: making a 425 sq ft “house” a home. In this so called home, we have one kitchen drawer. Yes, that’s right. One kitchen drawer.

I have lived in a place in DC where I  slept above a toilet. I have lived in a house where persons over 6′  had to stoop to fit into some rooms (in Colorado). I have even lived in a pop-up camper that one time (in Montana) … uhm, popped … to one side, creating a nicely 45 degree-sloped floor in the middle of the night (which equals rolling out of bed down to the other side). But … this is the first time I have lived somewhere with one kitchen drawer.


Meet our kitchen drawer. “Hello, little drawer.” And little it is…

This drawer has become the obligatory junk drawer. Home to twist-ties, scissors, rags, hot pads, matches, etc. So what happens to, you know … spoons. forks. knives. spatulas. But we cannot declare defeat!


Enter my most favorite “find” ever…  Meet my door.


Once upon a time this door was a regular door on a house. Then it was a damaged door on a burned down house. When I crossed paths with this door, I was living on the border in Weslaco, TX, and stumbled upon a wonderful woodworking artist named Augustín, who rescued wood from burned down houses and turned them into country-ish furnishings. (My best friend bought an awesome bench).

At the time, this door was a blue door frame with chicken wire in a stand. For two years, I used it to simply hang things … photographs with ribbon, tiny vases with flowers. (I’m sorry I don’t have photos. I promise to get better at this.)

However, the time came that I decided it should, could, and would, be more useful. At that point, I bought a basic slab of wood at Home Depot, had them cut it to the the near width of the door. I then mounted these strips of wood with brackets.


Then I carefully selected a paper from the oh so voluptuous paper selection at the Paper Source (let me count the ways I love you) and decoupaged, then shellacked it onto the shelves.



The door then instantly became a way to make up for our lack of kitchen drawers.

Sentimental mugs = silverware holders

Used kombucha jar = lentil bean container

Shelves = spice and tea rack

Chicken wire + mini-S-hooks = kitchen utensil hanging rack

(We go through phases of drinking tea anywhere from occasionally to frequently, but nevertheless … tea boxes are actually beautiful! No reason to hide them in the cupboard!)


This was our kitchen door before the holidays. It has gotten much more cheerful since then…


We have since decided that our little white lights are nice. We’re leaving them up until further notice … 🙂

What I love most about the door is that it has taken a journey that is all its own. It survived a house fire. It was transformed by a talented artist almost in Mexico. It was then further transformed by me, its not-so-secret admirer. And it now serves our household in a unique way. I will always have this piece of furniture!

If you also live in a 425 sq ft (or thereabouts) apartment with your significant other, looking for inspiration to maximize this space, I realize that this post is slightly unfair, because not everyone has met awesome Augustín or run into his incredible work in the back room of a small Texas town antique shop. However, perhaps you have your own one of a kid enviable objects that can be used in an unexpected way, or that you could modify to use in an unexpected way. If you do, please share them!