Thursday, February 25, 2010

Indoor-Plant Care

It's time for spring cleaning. Oh joy. Though not my favourite activity, it does offer a wonderful sense of satisfaction when it's completed. Fortunately for me, we just moved in to a new home so most of the major cleaning was done just a couple months ago. The plants, however, still carry the dust of 2009, with more layered on during the move. They missed getting their usual fall cleansing and are crying out for attention.

Commercial plant soaps and leaf gloss can be expensive, though. Instead, I use a couple household products that cost fractions of cents per use. One is dish detergent and the other is glycerine.

First, I give water-loving plants a shower. Literally. I wait until they're fairly dry, ready for watering, and then place them in the tub. The water must be tepid, neither hot nor cold, and I ensure that temperature before opening the shower valve. Also, a gentle stream of water is best. Harsh spray will tear tender leaves and branches. Once the shower is started, I place one drop of dish soap on my palm and, under the shower stream, rub my hands together to create suds. These suds rain down on the plant and should be allowed to penetrate the soil. Depending on the size of the plant, you might need to repeat this sudsing a couple times. This has a three-fold effect: it cleans the leaves and branches; it helps kill aphids, spider mites and their eggs; and, it provides some mild fertilization.

Not all plants tolerate a shower. My Cycad or African violet would die miserable deaths if watered so profusely and directly. For these plants, I use an old (but clean) make-up brush to remove lint and dust. If there are stubborn deposits, I use a soft terry-cloth rag to wipe soil from firm leaves, those without hairs as this process would damage them.

Once the plants have all been cleaned, I apply a home-made leaf polish. To make your own, combine ½ teaspoon glycerine with ¼ cup tepid water. Stir until glycerine is well dissolved. Then, dip a soft (rag) cloth in the mixture, wring it out until just damp, and wipe leaves gently. The result will be a clean, green glow, not the high-gloss sheen that most commercial brands impart. Personally, I prefer the more subtle, natural-looking lustre.

This whole process may take days, depending on the number of plants queuing for the shower and leaves awaiting individual attention. After plants are cleaned, they perk up noticeably. Quite often, new leaves and branches sprout eagerly after I've completed this twice-yearly procedure. Dust clogs the pores but, once clean, plants "breathe" easier, prompting their growth and increasing their capacity to filter household pollutants from the air.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


" action intended to communicate feelings or intentions."

Valentine's Day is coming so I've been busy crafting a love note to my Sweetheart. It's something I've been doing for years. Both hubby and I enjoy it. For me, it's a time of loving reflection, when I view our relationship through a purely romantic filter. For my Sweetie, who has always championed my writing, these cards are an expression of that gift from my heart to his. He's saved every one.

Homemade cards may be thrifty, but their value is so much greater than any ordinary greeting card. A heartfelt, handmade card is a true gift. Making cards isn't as easy as buying a card. They take time and effort to create. Your gift is the time and thoughtfulness spent in the creation.

The actual card can be as thrifty or extravagant as your budget allows. You can save money buying card forms or splurge with specialty craft papers and parchments. You can type the text with a printer, but calligraphy, if you know it, adds a special touch. Handmade covers can be simple or complex. Suitable clip art, free graphics, hand- or computer-drawn images, even embedded personal photos are quick to produce and easily personalize the card. Scrapbooking or sewing bits and bobs create texture and visual interest if used sparingly – too much adornment can weigh heavily on the cardstock, both physically and perceptually. Or, try a natural element like dried leaves, flowers, or herbs. They look striking behind a translucent window of parchment or wax-paper.

Depending on the occasion, each cover has its own purpose, mood and appeal. A good cover should do what drugstore cards do – appeal to the recipient. If you plan to mail your card, you'll want to take its ultimate weight into consideration. Printer graphics weigh much less than glue and any attachment. Due to the printing process, if the cover has attachments, you'll want to do one of two things: either print your card's text prior to decorating the cover; or, print the text on a separate sheet (thin/parchment paper) and then attach it to the cover with glue or a suitable ribbon.

If you write poetry, by all means, include a suitable poem for the recipient and their occasion. But, if you break into a nervous sweat at the mere mention of the word, have no fear. Your prose need not be poetry. On a scrap piece of paper jot down feelings you'd like to express. Study these and try to focus them into one simple, loving sentence. Use your most poetic language, but don't worry about rhyme and meter. Just write true sentiment.

Once you've figured out the perfect wording, type it into a card template. Most word processors include a few greeting card templates that you can alter to your own specifications. You may want to change fonts and alter margins, add formatting features like borders, special characters or clip art. Have fun. Just remember to save changes to the card template with your own file-name.

Printing can sometimes be the most challenging part of the process. I print the first copy on scrap paper and overlay the result onto the cardstock to ensure margins, images, and text alignments are where they ought to be. After any and all adjustments are made, then it's time to print on the cardstock.

Creating homemade cards takes time and effort, definitely not as easy as buying a card. It can be thrifty or extravagant, funny or sentimental. More often than not, though, a handmade card is one small gesture that becomes, for someone special, a cherished gift.