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Death of a Houseplant

When do you give up on a houseplant?

I brought home my fiddle leaf fig in October, 2012. It dropped some leaves, but I quickly figured out how to keep it happy and it thrived. It grew about a foot taller over the next year, but then we moved. My brother-in-law cared for the plant while we were in Wisconsin, spending some time with family while we waited to close on our new house.

Fiddle Leaf Fig

He kept the plant outside, so it went from being indoors in one location for a year, to being outside, and then inside again in a new location, all in the span of about a month and a half. I gave it the same Southern exposure it was used to, but maybe the thing was stressed? Then I brought home a much smaller fiddle leaf fig from IKEA (which soon died), and I think it gave the other a fungus. It smelled and looked awful, but I tried to save it! I removed as much soil as I could and repotted it, adding a bunch of cinnamon for good measure. (Supposedly it ha anti-fungal properties? I’m sure I read that somewhere.) I successfully rid the soil of mushrooms, but the fig tree was losing leaves fast.

Fiddle Leaf Fig

I was watering it the same way I always had, but we have radiators here and I think the air was drier in the other house because of its forced air heating system. I cut back on the amount and frequency of water and that helped, but it never properly recovered. Tenderly, I would wipe down each leaf with a damp rag while whispering encouraging words. Grow, my darling, grow! OK, maybe not the last part, but I did remove the dust from the leaves regularly. They continued to drop occasionally though, and for the last few months now it has been looking like a Seuss tree.

Fiddle Leaf Fig

Don’t call it a comeback. I think it’s time to say goodbye to my fancy blogger tree, right?

The Search for a New Tradition

We celebrate Christmas Eve at my sister-in-law’s home for dinner. Brandon’s family always has Swedish meatballs, creamed spinach, garlic mashed potatoes, fresh bread, and a jicama salad. It’s their tradition, it’s delicious, and everyone looks forward to it. Earlier in the day, my dad’s side of the family comes over for brunch and we serve coffee and pastries. We alternate between Brandon’s family and mine each year for Thanksgiving, but both families prepare a turkey and the standard Thanksgiving sides: sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce and so on. My mom bakes an ham for Easter and we have colorful hard-boiled eggs, but we also have Polish sausage and pierogies. And for Christmas dinner with my mom’s side, we would gather at my uncle’s house and he’d always make sloppy joes. Not a typical holiday menu, but everyone loved them and so that was tradition for as long as I can remember.

Last year, Christmas dinner moved from our uncle’s house to ours… and we had no idea what to make. Our 100-year-old stove is charming, but limiting. We can’t cook anything too delicate because the burners are incapable of properly simmering, the oven doesn’t maintain a steady or predictable heat, and we can’t fit anything larger than a lasagna pan in it.

Our 1918 Cast Iron Wood-Burning and Gas Stove from Nicole Balch on Vimeo.

Cast Iron Antique Oven

We served tacos and tamales to my family last year, mostly because we didn’t feel confident enough with our stove to experiment with something more ambitious! We make them all the time so we knew we could make enough to feed everyone successfully, but because we make them so often, the meal didn’t feel special enough for a holiday. This year, we’d love to try something new. Something that may hopefully lead to a new family tradition, and a meal that we can look forward to each year. I’ve been paging through our cookbooks, looking for ideas and I think roast beef would be great for the main dish, but I’m not all that confident in our oven. I was talking to a couple of people at a party over the weekend and they suggested a roaster oven. I didn’t realize such a thing existed! Do any of you have experience with these things? Could it be a good solution for us?

Brandon and I do cook regularly, but meal planning is not a strength of ours. I’m trying to figure out what we can serve to feed twelve people that can be made on our antique stove, and that won’t drive us insane when we’ve got two little kids running around and a newborn to take care of. Maybe we should just make a pot roast in our slow cooker and save the fancier roast idea (say, beef tenderloin) for a time when we have a more functional kitchen? I was talking to my mom about all of this, and her advice was to find something that takes enough effort to feel special, but not so much that we’re setting ourselves up to dread the work involved each year.

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