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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31 Days of Random Questions – Day 21

What is something most people appreciate?
Most people like to be respected. I think people perceive respect in different ways, though. For example, listening when someone speaks can communicate that I respect them.

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31 Days of Random Questions – Day 18

What’s something you would do more often if you had the time?
I would play the piano more. I am definitely not talented at music or rhythm but my mom believed her father’s philosophy that skill at any of the arts can be taught. I took lessons from an excellent and very patient teacher from ages 11-19, only stopping because piano lessons no longer fit into my class schedule. I still play occasionally but would love to practice more often.

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31 Days of Random Questions – Day 14

What are the two best live performances (of any kind) you have ever seen?
Several years ago, I saw Phantom of the Opera as part of the touring Broadway series that comes to Tulsa. It was even more hauntingly beautiful than the movie, which is one of my favorites.

As a part of the same Broadway series, I also saw Wicked. Defying Gravity at the end of the first act was the most visually and aurally magical live performance I have seen.

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31 Days of Random Questions – Day 11

What is something you would hate to go without for a day?
Coffee. The second thing would be my phone, but being without my phone does not give me a headache.

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31 Days of Random Questions – Day 10

What are the top three qualities you look for in a friend?
Forgiveness, loyalty, and enthusiasm. I almost always choose the first two, but the third quality I would choose sometimes changes. What do you look for?

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31 Days of Random Questions – Day 8

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to grow up to be Queen Esther. When I found out that wasn’t possible, I wanted to be a princess. In college, I even wrote an essay about pretending to be a princess.

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