The Succulent Kindergarten

Hello there. It’s been a long, long hiatus. After moving, we started to paint, assemble IKEA stuff and do a lot of DIY and gardening projects and the weeks passed by without even being able to realize.

Today I’m here to talk about something I created unexpectedly and almost accidentally in the terrace of my new place: obtaining baby plants from different types of succulents. That should give you an evidence of how easy they are to propagate.

Jade plant

That’s probably the most valuable thing the previous owners left behind: two magnificent (and probably quite ancient) jade plants. I don’t know their exact age, but doing some research, I think at least they might be 10 years old.

When we were putting wooden floor outdoors, we moved them many times and some of their leaves and little branches fell off. After some days, I discovered a little branch hidden behind the plant on the floor and it had roots! So I planted it and now I have a new jade plant. Yes, it is that easy.

Echeveria “von Nuremberg”

This one is all gorgeous by itself. I bought it a long ago, when I didn’t know about all this succulent deco trends, just because I loved it. Succulents had never caught my attention until then.

Then I started to google it and I discovered that they can be propagated by gently removing a leaf and placing it on a plate. I tried, and at first I was disappointed because after 4 weeks or so the leaf was still there and nothing happened. Then, suddenly it started to develop tiny roots for a long time, but they seemed to die just afterwards. And when I had lost all hope, the roots become wider, pink and healthy, and after a few days, tiny leaves began to appear:

Afterwards, I bought another echeveria and I saw it already had a new plant attached to a rotting leaf behind the mother plant, so I only had to remove the leave and plant it.

Aloe

I don’t particularly like Aloes, but this plant was left by the previous owner and it was all dry and almost dying. I took it as a challenge to turn it into a healthy plant again. And after this hiatus weeks it has certainly grown (all the green part) and I realized it already had some plantlets around. Again, that easy.

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The art of moving

I’m moving again this month. I really hope this is the last time in a while because I love my new home.

The truth is I’ve moved four times since I came to Barcelona six years ago. So in the process, I’ve learnt certain tips and tricks I’d like to share with you.

I think there are several logical steps when you are moving, so here are my “tips & hacks” for each of the steps:

1. Plan: estimate how long will it take you to pack all your things and leave the place clean and as it was when you came. Consider which month you would move. Then ensure that month is somehow free, that you have some holidays or at least think if your other responsibilities that month will obstruct the moving process (e.g. ensure you don’t have exams at university, you don’t have a complicated month at work or any kind of problem that will keep you busy).

2. Tell the landlord your decision to leave at least one month before leaving. Prepare the last water and electricity bills and the rental contract you signed for when you go to see the owner before leaving.

3. Start the packing marathon:

  • Ask for boxes at a local supermarket or appliances store.
  • Get packing tape and a big permanent marker to label the boxes.
  • Keep all the newspapers you can. Wrap all the breakable stuff with them (or using old clothes).
  • Pack out-of-season clothes.
  • Pack spare bed linen and towels (keep the ones you are using and a pack of clean ones just in case).
  • Pack books, decorations, wall art and hobby stuff (Except for plants, curtains)

(Warning: Boxes containing only books may be extremely heavy. I usually try to do ½ books and ½ towels or bed linen)

  • Pack party dresses and formal clothes.
  • If you have a wide wardrobe, pack ½ of the season’s clothes. Think of what you probably won’t wear before moving.
  • Part of the kitchenware and appliances you don’t use daily (e.g. cake pans, wine glasses, party tableware, half of the daily tableware, cocktail shaker…)

By the way, ensure you leave unpacked one or two old track-suits or old comfy clothes and a pair of trainers for the moving + painting + cleaning days.

4. You’d better…

  • Not buy long expiry food or stock up your pantry or freezer. Instead, try to finish all stuff in your pantry and freezer. Try to live on what you have in your fridge.
  • Not buy any decorations/kitchenware/furniture for your new home before you’ve moved there. You already have a lot to carry (instead I’m doing a Pinterest wishlist of what I plan to buy when I’m there).
  • If you have more than one piece of furniture to store things, try to concentrate all the unpacked stuff in the same one. Clean the rest and disassemble them if possible. If you want, you can even start covering their edges with paperboard to prevent them from being damaged while moving.
  • Wrap and seal or put in a sandwich bag or an envelope all the screws and metal pieces of each piece of furniture separately. Label them conveniently and keep them together and in a visible place until moving.
  • When labeling the boxes, label the side, not the top, so you can still see the label if they are stacked. It is also useful to label the room where they are going to be, either by writing it or with different color duct tape.
  • This is a good time to get rid of old stuff: get all the random clutter that you don’t like or the clothes that don’t fit you or you possibly won’t wear again and put it in one box and label it as “Stuff I’m not sure if I still want”. This box will be the last one to be unpacked. Once you do it, get piece by piece and decide if it has a place in your new home.
  • It is also a good idea to start deep cleaning the rooms you’ve already emptied completely.

5. The last week

If you have access to your new home, now is the right time to paint all the rooms you want. If not, you will have to do it like in step 6 in a less handy way. Before painting, make sure you don’t need to fix any wall imperfections, add extra plugs…

Same goes for deep cleaning. If you can, it is a good idea to buy a whole set of cleaning supplies and deep clean your new home before moving there or bringing any of your furniture. If possible, leave this cleaning supplies there.

At this point you should only be still unpacked:

  • Part of your season’s clothes.
  • Essential kitchenware
  • Toiletries
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Plants and curtains
  • 2 packs of towels and bed linen
  • Appliances
  • Furniture
  • Stuff you need at work/school

– Pack a big suitcase as if you were going on holidays for a week: put your toiletries, clothes, towels and the clean bed linen in there.

– The last days before leaving, pack the rest of the stuff in this list. Label all these boxes as “essentials”. Unpack these first.

– Defreeze your refrigerator and clean it. Ensure there’s no food or rests of food in it.

– It is also a good idea to make a list of all the boxes, appliances and pieces of furniture you are going to carry and their labels. It is incredibly easy to leave something behind when moving without even noticing until a week after.

– You can order the boxes by room in this list, and unpack room by room when you arrive. This will smooth your stress levels when unpacking.

– Eat out or get food delivered the last night before moving. You won’t want to lose time and energy doing the dishes or putting the dishwasher on the day you are moving.

6. The arrival

  • Consider painting the rooms before unpacking anything (unpack only your big suitcase and the “essential” boxes). Don’t paint them all at the same time. Start by painting one or two bedrooms and somehow distribute beds in the rest of rooms and the living and sleep there. The next day or the following, bring back the beds to their place and paint the rest.
  • Clean all wardrobes, cabinets and chests of drawers before putting anything in them or unpacking anything else.
  • Plan which use you will give to each storage space. Decide the content of which box will be in each cabinet or drawer and unpack only that box. This way, you will make sure everything is well organized and it has a specific place.

As you can see, this post has very few pictures compared to my standards and, besides, they are not very good. I apologize for it. I’m quite busy with my own packing marathon right now. Moving is exhausting and stressing, but once you see the result, a new opportunity to live better and with more space, you always end thinking it is worth the effort.

Especially this time: we are moving to a penthouse in the outskirts of Barcelona with a big terrace (so you can imagine the plant-a-holic in me is happy as a clam!). I will post about the before & after once it’s finished.

I’ve probably forgot to tell you a lot of things, since moving involves caring for a lot of details and it is quite difficult to do it in an ordered and efficient way. I hope at least one or two of these tips will help you sometime in the future.

Daffodils 101: Spring is coming. Let the bells ring

How to take care of daffodils – All you need to know

I bought a bunch of daffodil (or narcissus) bulbs in bloom today. I saw them at a local flower shop in the neighborhood and I thought “why I have never had one of those? They are beautiful”. So yes, it was a rage buy.

I didn’t know almost anything about daffodils (in fact, not even their name in English, which is a weird one), so I started googlin’ how to take care of them. It took me a lot of time, since the information around seems part of some kind of botanical encyclopedia, much more information than someone willing to have them at home should REALLY know.

But anyway, daffodils are a great option for your garden or balcony since they are perennial plants that will remind you every year that spring is arriving with their colorful blooms, which is always a great and heartwarming sensation after a long, cold winter.

These yellow bells will ring yearly to announce that spring is near

So let me make a summary for you with the practical stuff only:

How to buy them?

You can buy daffodils in two stages of their development:

  • At bloom: sold this way at the end of winter/early spring in the northern hemisphere. They come potted and you may just wait for the flowers to fade (usually around 20 days) and keep the bulbs for next year.
  • As bulbs: daffodil bulbs are sold at fall, which is the right time to plant them and they will start blooming as spring comes.

Inside or outside?

Both. However, bulbs need to “feel the cold” in winter, so many people puts them outside before they bloom.

They ideally like being at a temperature around 15ºC, but they won’t complain if outdoor temperatures reach down to 1-3ºC.

Light?

Daffodils are very tolerant about having direct, indirect or poor light, but what they really hate is wind. Make sure they are somehow sheltered.

How do I plant them?

Plant the bulbs twice their own depth (this is crucial for success!). If winters are severe at your place, you can plant them deeper. Soil shouldn’t be very compact. Rich in organic matter and with decent drainage.

How much watering/fertilizing?

Moderate, about once a week. Whey they are in bloom, enrich them with liquid universal fertilizer every 7-10 days or so.

What to do with the bulbs?

After blooms have fade, leaves will keep growing in a messy way. If you don’t like them to be the center of attention, just plant the daffodils in pots and put them in a less visible corner. But do not cut the leaves! They keep photosynthesizing to feed the bulb for the next year. Keep watering until they die naturally.

Then there are two options: take the bulbs out to fill the gap with a summer plant and be able to control the growth of your daffodils for next year, or leave them in place. If you do so, you don’t need to water them after they have lost all foliage.

If you decide to remove them, dig the bulbs and rinse them gently to remove soil. Each year you will see they have had baby bulbs, having more and more daffodils. Leave them dry for a week and, optimally in early summer, you can divide the biggest bulbs (and maybe gift spare bulbs to your friends!)

Then, store them in a dry place wrapped in paper until fall.

Daffodils can make friends with…

Tulips, hyacinths, irises, crocuses… not only because you will obtain a stunningly colorful and bright result, but also because they are bulbs too, and they require really similar cares.

Sunrise in Barcelona 

I hope all this information serves you good. I’m no daffodil expert, so if any of these tips is wrong, just let me know. I will do my best taking care of them, and I hope next year I can post again about this issue, with even better tips!

The traveler inside you will love geolocalized pin boards

Today I’m going to talk about something I have recently rediscovered myself and I will show you an easy way to do it if you like the idea.

I am talking about Pinterest’s geolocalized pin boards. Even if I have only visited most part of Europe and some Africa, I really enjoy travelling. I’ve always dreamed of having a real pin board at home with a world map, adding a pin to each country or place I visit. Unfortunately, I feel something like this would take a lot of space in the wall (I live in a small flat) and, besides, it doesn’t really match the rest of my home decor right now. But again Pinterest gave me the perfect solution.

By the end of this tutorial, you should have a digital world map pin board with the best photos of your own journeys pinned to each place you’ve visited (and by the way, this is another advantage: if you had to attach your favorite photo to every pinned place in a real life pin board you would need a huge pin board and a huge map!). Let’s get started.

1. Create an account in a free image hosting service. There are plenty of websites that host your images for free and give you an url for them. I recommend http://imgur.com/

(Or add them to Pinterest.com directly by clicking the “plus” button at the right bottom part of the main page, but I find it less convenient and I personally don’t like the “Uploaded by user” thing)

2. Upload the best photos of all the places you’ve visited. If you have many photos of the same place, don’t upload them all. Just select the best ones. Otherwise, your pin map will look chaotic and cluttered. Imgur lets you upload the images by just dragging them into their website. Quite handy.

3. Create a board in Pinterest such as “Places i’ve visited” or “I’ve been here”. Edit the board and enable the option “Add a map?”

4. Pin the hosted images to your new board. You probably noticed that imgur has a Pinterest “pin it” button, which makes it specially convenient. Just click on it and select the board you just created. Add some info such as the place and date this photo was taken.

5. Go to your new board on Pinterest and click “Add a place” for each photo. You will see the map there is quite well done. It finds most streets and squares in cities, and some in smaller towns and it even finds tiny villages, mountains, parks or lakes (Oops! I left the Pinterest interface in Spanish in that one! I’m sorry. “Selecciona un lugar” means “Pick a place”).

6. Time to be happy and grateful for having the opportunity to visit all those beautiful places!

Some other cool ideas to do with this is a “Summits of my life” board (this title is a tribute to Catalan mountaineer and long-distance runner Kilian Jornet), with all the summits you have reached, a “Best beaches in…” or “Best places to go running” or separate your national and international trips in different boards so that the pins from very close places don’t look all piled up (although you can zoom in and out the map with the buttons at the bottom right part of the page), or even a “Places I want to go”, pinning beautiful photos from other people in the Pinterest community.

The possibilities that come to my mind are endless! I hope you enjoy it.

And remember “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” – Henry Miller

Why is a blank notebook the perfect diary?

Is your weekly planner inefficient and you run out of space in busy days while others are blank? Is your desk cluttered with post-its with endless to-do lists everywhere? Is that calendar in your kitchen enough to remember things but it is not with you when you remember something to be added? Is that to-do app perfect until your smartphone runs out of battery?

All that organization systems may be good, but they all have weaknesses. Why? They are inflexible and incomplete to keep track of everything you might need.

The perfect solution for me is simple: a small notebook. Small enough to fit in all your handbags. Something that can be with you everywhere. And above all: blank. Nothing offers you greater freedom and inspires you more than a blank paper.

This choice for me is not only a matter of productivity, but also a matter of inspiration. Taking a notebook with you can give a beautiful pair of wings to your imagination when that unexpected flow of inspiration hits you: write a blog entry, a fairy tale to tell to your children before bed, write poetry, short stories, draw, plan a DIY project that just came to your mind…

But inspiration and productivity can work side by side if you can brainstorm ideas for a new project at the right moment: when inspiration flows and your brain is working faster and better than ever. Brainstorms, to-do lists, taking notes, planning social events or holidays, setting weekly, monthly or yearly goals (and having them always visible!). One of the sweetest things of using a notebook as diary is being able to read again all you wrote under highly motivated and inspired moods. Reading it again can act as a rain dance, calling new inspiration, and refreshing your motivation to achieve your goals.

“O.K. Very inspiring, but I don’t see the scheduling thing here.” Now the plan is to take five-ten minutes in Sunday afternoon to help a couple of pages of your notebook become a diary. That weekly routine will take you less than five minutes and, besides, it will help you to see the upcoming week at a glance. Write the important things that will happen throughout the week, especially on Monday. Leave more space than usual if one day is going to be busy, add a motivating quote or some weekly goal or a to-do list if you want. You may even want to add the most important tasks or events in a to-do app with reminders (my beloved assistant here is Wunderlist). This little effort has a big reward: the priceless sensation that the upcoming week is under control.

One sweet idea is the habit of leaving the left page blank. This allows you to write to-do lists or quick notes during the week, solve an unexpected lack of space, or something I love: sticking mini-photos of special days or nice moments with my friends and family that happened that week. When the year and the notebook are over, you can always keep the notebook as a sweet and tiny reminder of all the great things that happened throughout the year.

To end with, which features should this notebook diary have to be perfect?

  • Small enough to fit easily in all your handbags
  • Have a pen holder (the comfort of having your favorite pen always near is priceless).
  • Have a bookmark ribbon to easily find the current week.
  • Have a pocket to put papers in it (you can DIY it easily).

Last but not least, you must love the cover image (or DIY it, too!). Loving this notebook is loving the way you plan your life and, consequently, your life. I hope that, if you have the chance to try this organization system, it works for you too, both in productivity and inspiration, and you get to love it as much as I do.

Oh! I almost forgot. This is Cristina, 23, PhD student from Barcelona concerned about healthy living and environment, productivity and time economy (despite a little addiction to Pinterest), keeping everything organized, but who also loves to cook, garden, craft, sew, DIY, go trekking and many other activities for which she barely has enough time.

I hope this small project of mine can rise as beautifully as the sun rose this morning in this small corner of the world. See you around!