Ashley Cook

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Green Thumb part 2

I finally feel safe writing this entry as it has been a month and a half and most of the plants from this attempt are still alive!

Part1: Plant clippings

Over the 4th of July, P and I went to visit my mom and on the way back her friend generously loaded me up with clippings from her beautiful yard. When we got back I tore the house up looking for a bag of soil I put away during the last house organization. Unable to find it and one midnight trip to Home Depot later, I was ready to plant.


With fresh soil and a few pots, I planted 5 of the clippings in 2 larger pots. In the 2 smaller pots went another 3 clippings (one of the clippings snapped in half! So there was now 2 clippings of the same plant). Being pessimistic about this attempt, more than one clipping went into each pot, in hopes that one per pot would survive!




While I like the way each of these look I have no idea what kind of plants they are. The ones in the blue pot have been prolific and make a ton of little plantlings that it has been dropping in its pot.

As of today 8/23/16 all of the clippings in the clay pot have not made it (perhaps due to our long heat waves this summer). While the rest are happily alive. I ended up moving the babies from the blue pot so they can grow a bit bigger before being transplanted to their own pot.


Part 2: Tomatoes

Why stop at just plant clippings? We’re giving a solid attempt at growing plants this summer. Earlier in the year I’d watched a friends cats for a week (and also his tomato seedlings).


Long story short there were a ton of tomato plants that survived so much so that I ended up with 5 of them. P found a nice planter at BJ’s perfect for these guys and they were planted shortly after my cuttings from Florida.

Just after planting

Just after planting

These guys grew quickly. At this point I have a ton of flowers, which made me nervous about the weight of the potential future tomatoes. Another trip to Home Depot meant these guys now have stakes to help carry the weight and Velcro ties holding them to the stakes. I was really intrigued by the Velcro ties since they can be re-used and easily moved (Which was important with how fast these guys grew!).

Some research online led me to prune the plants as they grew to remove excess branches (suckers) growing from the nodes of the main stem. We’ll see how this goes.

Post Staking

The plants after tethering them to the stakes

With the heat from the last week or so the tomatoes that I had growing have appeared to slow down. Fingers crossed this cold front that’s passing though will lower the temperature so they can continue to develop.

All the pictures here!

My Office is the details

I figure it is time for another project! A few months ago in an attempt to tame my paper stack, I broke down and grabbed a filing cabinet a neighbor was giving away (yay facebook groups!). It has been incredibly helpful but it is an eyesore in the room considering what I have in mind for my final office design. Not to mention I can’t bring myself to actually work in my office as it currently stands. Last weekend I was fed up with looking at my drab khaki 2-drawer filing cabinet. It was time for an upgrade!

IMG_20160710_075122532 - Copy

During my trip to Cuba a few years back I picked up a fabulous hand painted film poster. It has been traveling with me for a while and when I moved in, I knew it was the perfect inspiration piece for the office. Gold, orange, and red tones are going to be the focus of this space, with deeper toned wood accents. That is the vision.


The Ugly Khaki before

Back to the filing cabinet. This is a cheap older cabinet but it gets the job done and was free. I can’t really ask for anything more. I’d read a bit online to learn some tips and ticks for painting filing cabinets. It seems like something a lot of people have done. What I picked up, plus my previous spray paint experience made this job fairly simple.

  1. Disassemble cabinet: take out the drawers, take off all hardware.
  2. Painters tape and newspaper: wrap the drawer slides, key hole, and other details I didn’t want paint to get on.
  3. Check the weather: wait for a sunny, less humid day
  4. Take paint precautions: lay drop cloth on my backyard (I don’t need red outlines permanently on my cement)
  5. Prep the surface: lightly sand each pieces with a high grit sanding block and wipe with a clean dry cloth
  6. Paint!: Apply thin even coats of paint, repeating a second time once the first is fully dry
  7. Repeat the same for the hardware (although I didn’t sand them).
  8. Admire your handiwork!

The final product


My golden trashcan

My golden trashcan

Photos in this room are difficult. Fixing the lighting in here is moving up on my to do list.

I choose a burgundy for the cabinet and went with gold on the hardware. It turned out fantastic! I couldn’t be happier. I event went back inside and grabbed the trashcan that sits next to the cabinet and sprayed it gold to match the hardware.

One step down to making my office a place I actually want to work!

The greening continued

It feels like this was a really long winter. The cold has been keeping me inside for the most part meaning my greening of the house has continued.

As an attempt to create more plants without shelling out the $$ (since I assume some of them won’t live very long) I’ve been interested in the idea of taking cuttings. Essentially taking a small branch from a mature plant and turning it into it’s own plant which 1. saves money and 2. makes small plants. Since I don’t have a lot of open counter/shelf space right now smaller plants are better (plus they’ll have more room to grow).

And then, it was as if the community was reading my mind. I noticed an event at Baltimore’s Neighborhood Grow Center all about Maximizing Your Growth through Plant Propagation. Perfect!

I attended the event which turned out to be a small group. It was perfect for swapping of stories, tips, techniques, and also taking cuttings from the plants the presenter brought to take home with us. She also created a short write up of the workshop!

Thus far the cuttings from the workshop haven’t completely died on me but only time will tell if they’ve taken root. In the mean time I’ve also gotten a hold of cuttings from some succulents that I have hopes of adding to the office.


Green Things are Growing!

I’ve been intrigued by adding plants to my house for a while now. There are few benefits of them that especially peak my interest namely, increasing air quality and general self sustainability. Plants can be a great addition for those seeking better air quality, they’ve been shown to sequester any heavy metals and reduce carbon dioxide from the air into harmless by-products. Its a topic that NASA explored as part of its possibilities for long term space habitation. (for a more detailed summary see this article). While I understand that any tiny houseplants I manage to keep alive won’t completely purify the air, they will (hopefully) add some benefit.

This is one succulent I’d love to have up by my desk. Image from

My eventual goal for the home is to have a nice spread of succulents on the 2nd floor since they require less light, water and day to day attention. In the kitchen I envision a few herbs that I can use for cooking. For the rest of the house I envision the occasional fern or other plant with a high filter rating and is rather hearty (again less hands on time needed). And in the backyard I’d love to have a few pots to attempt to grow simple things like tomatoes (I love home grown tomatoes) and zucchini. That’s a long list and I can’t guarantee it’ll all happen on this house. I’ve spent a lot of time figuring out where was the best place to start this plant adventure.

Last spring my mom sent me some bulbs that I planted outside with my 2nd attempt to grow lavender (year 2 attempt at lavender). The bulbs did well and are now hibernating in my basement for winter. I managed to take no pictures of those guys so hopefully if they grow again in the spring I’ll snap a picture. And I don’t want to talk about the lavender I’ve attempted to grow twice.

With that little experience under my belt, I happened across a few tiny ferns on clearance when my local Walmart closed two weeks ago and for $1.50 I figured this was worth a shot. They lived on my windowsill successfully without dying for a week so I upgraded them to pots this past weekend.


Green onions in their onion mug

Using some pots I had in the basement, a mug, some coffee grounds, and the potting soil I had stashed in the basement last season, these guys have a new home. I also am attempting to see if I can grow these green onions (the start of my kitchen herb garden). See their new home in appropriately decorated mugs. As a side note there was a large number of coffee mugs in the house when I moved in. They are fantastic and I was looking for a great opportunity to use them. I’ll have to move the one fern from the mug (I think it needs a bigger space), but until I can get out and find one I like, it’ll have to do.


This fern has found his official spot above the TV

This is a start. Eventually I’ll be looking into using gray water to water the non-edible plants. But that is a topic for another day. Perhaps when there is less snow on the ground.

Snowzilla 2016

If you haven’t seen any of the news, record breaking snowfalls have hit Maryland. A nice summary of the weekend of snow would read: Hot Chocolate, naps,  discovering Lego Dimensions, small house things, watching the snow on tv, a bit of snow shoveling, and venturing out for brunch today. (You should consider reading the “official” Jonas twitter for a good laugh).

The house faired well for my first big snow as a home owner, much less maintenance required than I thought it would. My best measurement from the backyard puts the house around 28″ of snow. Which is quite a bit. I figured I’d share some photos from the neighborhood.


And of course the first thing I did when I went out was make a snow angel in thed alley.


The backyard is a fluffy pit of snow that is hiding my grill, trash can (under the table), and blocking use of my back door. These photos were taken before the last of the snow fell off the roof, there’s much more on the stairs now because of that.


And I must give a shout out to my snow shoveling hero. He was a huge help in allowing me to leave my car in the garage this weekend (no shoveling it out!) and helping to shovel the sidewalk!



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