Green obsession: houseplants are taking over

I’ve been collecting indoor plants for about 4 months and I love how they bring character and life to my home. Unfortunately I’m pretty close to hitting my limit due to lighting conditions. I don’t have many windows in my apartment and my plants are crowded near them. Thankfully they enjoy huddling and it helps maintain a decent humidity level. Plants look great when you style them together on a table or wall. Here is one of my favorite resources for styling with plants.

On to the photos:

Feature image: Dumb Cane, Dracaena, Orchid, Marble Queen Pothos.

Pictured (left to right, top to bottom): Arrowhead Vine, 2 Fittonia varieties, Snake Plant, Fittonia again, the same Fittonia next to Coffea Arabica (no longer with me), Pothos vine above.

Row 2: Chinese Evergreen, Orchid (no idea what kind…), Schefflera. Small pic in between rows: Dumb Cane again in the center.

Bottom row: Florida Beauty next to the Orchid from earlier, Snake Plant and Fittonia riding home with friends, most of the gang at the end.

Not pictured: Aloe Vera, Crassula (I have no idea what type), Jade Plant, Croton mammy, Golden Pothos. These are on my balcony.

Planning for a family without children: a bold new paradigm

I am of the so-called “child-bearing age” and one of the last things I want in life is to have a child. My husband and I have taken almost every precaution to ensure this does not happen. We married not only because we love one another and have devoted ourselves to care for one another, but also to seen and treated as family in the eyes of the law and civil matters. We are family yet we have no children. We chose this life after years of careful thought and examining of our values, experiences, and desires. I am happy with our decision to be childfree I’m here to give you a peek into why I feel the way I do and how I think our attitudes toward families without children should change.

This is it. Definitely us. All we do is relax and have money. Oh, yes, a perfect portrait of the reality of childfree life.

Lots of people have children for a multitude of poorly thought out reasons. However, I have yet to hear of one poorly thought out reason not to have kids. It’s not that that I think people shouldn’t have children at all, that’s ridiculous. It’s that I think the bar is set waaaay too low in American culture. In general, we aren’t taught to think about the choice of having children. We are expected to simply accept it. As early as our own childhood, we are bombarded with messages that parenthood is our future. This is especially true for young girls. It is drilled into our heads that we will be moms one day. If you aren’t aware you have choices, are you truly free to make them?

I view the modern childfree lifestyle as a series of intentions and processes. First, a person has to realize that they have the choice to be childfree. This might be the most difficult part since, as I mentioned above, it is so ingrained into us that parenthood is a part of our destiny. Next, the person considers their options and weighs the benefits and disadvantages of having a child. At one point or another, if the person has a partner or the means to procreate, they must decide whether to use protection and take precautions or not. This is important and this is where many of us came to be. From an accident. That isn’t to say it wasn’t a happy accident on many occasions. But on others it was earth-shattering, terrifying, and unwanted.

Perhaps the most taboo subject of all, aside from abortion itself (which I do not feel the need to discuss any further aside from this mention), is the subject of parental regret. Parents who regret having their children. To read stories about this you can search online forums like Reddit. This is where I first heard about these people’s experiences. It is all too easy to demonize these individuals when our society takes pride in parenthood and bases so much of our self-worth upon it. Of course, a child should never feel unwanted or like a burden on their family. But don’t rush to criticize and demean people who disclose their honest struggles with parenthood. If nothing else, consider it a cautionary tale. It couldn’t happen to me. Oh but it could.

When it comes to criticism, I’ve heard it all. And what I haven’t heard I’ve read from other’s experiences. Here are some of the greatest hits of childfree critics, italics being things actually said to me:

  • That’s very selfish of you
  • Oh, you’ll change your mind (with a smirk or eye roll added)
  • Who will take care of you when you get old?
  • You are far too young to decide this
  • You should give your parents grandchildren
  • You would look cute with kids though
  • You’ll feel different when your biological clock kicks in
  • But you would be such a great parent!
  • Honey, that’s what I said too

Maybe you’ve heard these before too. Maybe you’ve said some of them. Either way I’m sorry for that. No one should have to constantly justify, argue, defend, or explain their decision to be childfree yet most of us do. If you do want to understand some reasons people don’t want kids, here is another handy list, where all reasons are completely valid, italics being mine (let me also stress that I don’t think any one reason is more moral or better than another when deciding to have children or not):

  • I don’t make very much money to support a child
  • I make enough money to support a child and I don’t want one
  • I don’t want a kid, no reason in particular
  • I don’t have a partner and I prefer to be alone
  • My partner and I don’t like kids
  • My partner and I like children but we don’t want to change our lives with a child
  • I’m scared of childbirth
  • I don’t want my body to go through pregnancy
  • I’m not scared of childbirth but I don’t want my body to change
  • I’m focusing on my job
  • I’m focusing on my education
  • I don’t have a particular focus right now and it’s not a good time for me to have a child
  • I absolutely love kids but I want to spend my time focusing on me
  • My parents were great but I’m not sure I could do it
  • My parents were terrible and I’m not sure I could do it
  • I feel a sense of existential dread when I think about having a child
  • I want to travel without restriction
  • I want to stay at home and children don’t fit into my life

I could go on all day if you let me. But allow me to conclude: There are many reasons a person might not want to become a parent. It’s okay to reject parenthood just as much as it’s okay to embrace it. You can change your mind too. Plan to be childfree your whole life? Great! Plan to be childfree for one summer? Awesome! Plan to have kids right away? That’s great too! Take charge of your life when and where you can. I made my decision along with my partner not to have children and I’m looking forward to our lives together. We wish you all the best.

Natural elements: adding greenery in small spaces

There are infinite ways to style your home. Why not bring it to life with attractive foliage and pops of color from flowers? If you find yourself overwhelmed but awed at the indoor jungles present on social media today, you’re not alone. I’ve been watching the youtube channel Planterina and I absolutely long for a big beautiful house filled with plants like Amanda’s. Alas, I have a rabbit, a particular budget, and an apartment with exactly four windows (counting the sliding glass door). Not too bad but these do complicate my plant aspirations!

In this article I’ll show you some of my solutions to keeping plants in small spaces and away from pets.

The first picture on the top left is a small collection of some of the plants I’ve been keeping on my balcony. I had assembled them here together to get a look at what I had and to plan where they would end up. There are ferns, basil, a croton, an aloe, a schefflera plant, and a couple of small flowering plants. The table is a perfect height to keep plants well out of my rabbit’s reach.

The two plants in the center are enjoying my latest creation- a DIY light station. I got this tube light at Goodwill a few weeks ago for $5. I mounted it to the glass panel of a bookshelf with one of those picture hanging velcro sets.

On the right is my very first attempt at a terrarium. It’s not yet finished because I am expecting a shipment of moss next week. All it has right now is the bottom layer of pebbles and a layer of activated charcoal. I put my fern straight into it to start acclimating and with a few light misting sprays it’s looking great.

Terrariums are an excellent solution for fitting in greenery in small spaces. You can find pre-assembled ones that are teeny tiny (jars, cups, bowls, and even necklaces) or you can build one in a former aquarium. Humidity-loving plants can really thrive in an old aquarium and they create a lovely conversation piece.

Here’s what my patio table looked like at one point. I’m constantly moving plants around. I set an old shower curtain on it to keep it clean of dirt and debris. My aloe is loving the morning sun here and it’s protected from the rain getting in at the other end of the balcony.

Top left: Two lavender plants soaking up the sun. I found that cute little white container at a thrift shop. It jazzes up the plants without blocking their light and helps protect against predators (like rabbits) when closed. I’ve read from several places that lavender is safe for rabbit consumption but my boy is a piggie and he would leave none left for me to showcase.

Top middle: A funky little flower I picked up at Trader Joe’s for $1.99. I’m surprised it has survived a week because I had no idea what it was until I stumbled upon some larger ones at Meijer with tags. This plant is the Cyclamen flower common to Europe and the Mediterranean. It is actually a perennial (could have fooled me) and prefers cooler air in the 50’s to 60’s and high humidity. How it is still alive on my balcony is a miracle.

Top right: A yarrow plant. I picked this plant because of its luscious yellow color and safety for rabbits. I’ve used one of my patio chairs as a plant stand for it and I covered its nursery pot with a white wicker basket.

Extra suggestions for adding plants to small spaces:

  • Use every surface available (within reason). When you are thinking about introducing a plant in your home think about its needs. Foremost, where would it get appropriate light? You may need to rearrange your space a bit. I have plants on a tray on my printer, on my dresser, on an end table, a bookcase, and on chairs.
  • If you can’t build out, build up. You can get cheap shelves at the hardware store and make your own built-in plant paradise near a good window. This saves tons of space.
  • Remember to rotate your plants when necessary. Once you place a plant it doesn’t have to stay there forever. Sometimes the light isn’t right or you find a draft, etc. Swap plants around every once and a while to change things up. Even if you only have a few plants it makes a difference visually.

Try IKEA online and find the inspiration you’ve been missing out on

IKEA is the world’s largest furniture retailer but many Americans still live far from their stores and have never visited one. Here’s how to shop online and why I think it’s worth it.

There are 37 IKEA stores in the United States. Image from Google Maps.

My first trip to my local IKEA was in February this year. I drove over 4 hours that day and went alone. It was exhausting and I should have prepared better for this trip or at least had lunch at their café. There are obvious benefits to shopping in-store: you get to see and touch items firsthand, measure them in person, access to the showroom, sales only in-store, etc. However, I think that IKEA can be successfully shopped online. Since February I’ve placed three online orders and I’m pleased to report no serious mishaps. In fact, I ended up with an extra item by mistake and I got to keep it. Non-furniture small item shipments start at only $9 through FedEx (at least in my area) and you can basically pile your cart as full as you’d like without any upcharge. Of course, do get a shipping estimate on your cart before you check out to avoid any surprises.

One reason I will continue to shop IKEA is that the retailer plans to offer fully sustainable materials in its furniture and textiles by 2030, either through recycling or renewable resources. I find this to be an admirable step to ensure responsibility and restraint when it’s so easy for big companies to ignore and shrink away from the reality of global climate change. IKEA is also notable for its flat-packing methods which also helps cut down on material usage and transportation costs.

Navigating the IKEA website

It doesn’t feel as user-friendly to me as say, Amazon, but once you know the general layout you’ll be fine. These guys here are your buddies:

I recommend creating an account if you plan on saving items to lists because it could wipe them out if you don’t. I also recommend joining the IKEA Family program because it’s free and you get access to exclusive sales. No credit card number necessary.

Across the top header of the website there are general menu options. The Products menu provides a drop-down of all IKEA departments. Inspiration takes you to what is essentially IKEA’s blog. You can find anything from news on press releases to gardening ideas to tips on styling your shelves. These are pretty self-explanatory. The parts of the website I most enjoy, however, weren’t readily apparent to me. The galleries.

The galleries are my happy places. Unfortunately I haven’t found anywhere yet that links all the galleries together. You would think that Inspiration would but it doesn’t.

Pssst. The gallery is all the way at the bottom. Image source.

Each gallery is essentially a showcase of a department. It’s a glorious place where you can view all the styles your heart desires without the excessive text of the catalog. It’s easy on the eyes and will leave you wanting more. Simply click on an image to view the room and scroll down to see all featured items.

Since I think it’s a pain to have to sift through departments to find the galleries I’ve collected all the prominent links I could find and here they are.

A lovely retreat provided by the Outdoor Gallery.

Time to go gallery-hopping.

Auction house picks for Sunday, May 19 2019

All items will be auctioned by Bluegrass Auction and Appraisal in Lexington, KY. All photos belong to them. Note that this link may be broken in the future or changed as they update their site to the next auction. You can bid online or in person and here are their instructions.

Disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with this company nor do I claim to represent it. I’m someone who likes auctions and I like to keep track of the interesting items that appear and let others know how to get them too.

Here are the items I’ve curated from their 12 pages of content:

  1. Glass perfume decanters The dark ruby red is gorgeous. I’m imagining myself sitting at my dressing table, record playing as I sip from a delicate stemmed wine glass.
  2. Oil on canvas signed “Daniel” I’ve bought several original art pieces from BAA and I love each and every one. I like this piece especially because I admire still art as a solid traditional subject. I like the sense of depth created in this painting and the rich coloring of the fruits.
  3. Pendant light This is funky and I dig it. What are the clear pieces on the end, tiny boots? Whatever they are I’ll take three.
  4. Pair of red lanterns At first glance I thought these were a little too garden chotsky but consider the possibilities. They would look positively ethereal with a large pillar candle by the poolside at night or in your garden walkway.
  5. Tiffany & Co sterling silver chopsticks Now this is fancy eating. I’m impressed they still have their dust ruffle (carrying case?).
  6. 1920’s Persian rug I’m a little obsessed with rugs.
  7. Custom upholstered settee Holy cow what a piece of furniture! I’m not one for cow prints but this is truly a one of a kind little couch. Whoever purchases this is brave and I hope they will honor it. You’ve got to have the proper aesthetic to bring it home.

I hope I’ve piqued your interest in auctioning. You can find some truly unique finds and great deals if you know what to look for, when to go, and how to bid.

Indoor plant inspiration for 2019

A light background, dark furniture, and pops of color to accessorize is a solid formula for styling any space, large or small. Throw in a couple of plants and you’ve got a cozy retreat. In this article I’ve brought together some looks and ideas that have given me inspiration this year.

This gallery set is provided by Mike Marquez:

Plants don’t have to be the focus of a room but they really do bring a lot of personality and life. Geometric planters and hanging planters are super popular right now. They can also be repurposed or refashioned if you grow tired of them.

IKEA small space big adventures

What I love about this room is that is looks curated but lived-in. It has bright lighting, a cozy feel, and personal touches like the chair and the art. It’s clean and organized but not necessarily a museum-worthy dwelling. The plants are spaced across the room and they are varying shapes, sizes, and species. All these elements come together in an attractive space where I can imagine myself reading a book, taking a nap, or typing on the computer.

IKEA Home visit: five ways to benefit from house plants

Also nice of course are plants that are shown together. This lot creates a natural barrier in the room and draws the eye to this spot. It’s generally good to huddle plants together as they can help one another keep a small bubble of humidity.


photo by Liana Mikah

Not everybody has a bunch of plants. I have six right now divided between my living room, office, and outside balcony. One plant can make a lovely addition to a shelf.

photo by Stephanie Harvey

I also find it very pleasing to house plants in uncommon pots. Here, a sugar cup from a tea set makes an unexpected home to a succulent. It is best to make sure that plants can drain properly, so try to make holes in the bottom of their containers. Small rocks or sand can also be used in the bottom of containers to help keep root rot at bay.

The Monetization of the blogosphere: is anybody real out there?

Instagram promoters. Micro-influencers. Social media gurus. They are all just different ways of saying advertisers by contract, essentially. To be clear, I’m not here to argue that sponsored content is all unethical by nature. The problem I see is that advertising has taken over not only social media but our entire lives. The social media marketing phenomenon is but a symptom of a larger problem, the blurring of lines between personal life and business opportunity.

There has never been a more auspicious time for business marketing and analytics than the present. Our reality is like a business executive’s enchanted wet dreams come to life. We can be sold a product without even leaving the house! Or the couch, for that matter. Ads aren’t just on TV and billboards anymore. The other day I pulled into a gas station that had little TV screens IN THE GAS DISPENSER. I couldn’t escape it. Anyway, not only can we make purchases nearly anywhere and anytime, companies are collecting information about us and our habits at almost every moment and very likely without our consent (cough, Equifax, cough). What could go wrong?

As the saying goes, if it’s free, you’re the product. Facebook listens to you and sells your data. You know that. Google tracks your movements on the web and took out its clause about not being evil on its corporate code of conduct. Big whoop. Target once correctly predicted a woman’s pregnancy through her shopping habits and started showing her baby ads and coupons. I don’t have a snap back for this one…Let me put this to you in Big Millennial Terms™: we’re living in a Capitalist dystopian society where anything we say, do, tweet, or scorn, will be used to sell us something. People online who we thought were sharing something they were passionate about in their life turned out to be living embodiments of pop-up ads. This may lead us to question: who else is lowkey slipping in paid content? Is anybody real out there?

Can you relate? Hit that like button and subscribe.

Nowhere is this reality as present as in our online experience. In its early days especially, sponsored content was often not disclosed. Whether due to ignorance, carelessness, or deceptive business practices, many social media users still struggle to properly disclose the material connections they have to the content they produce. In 2017, the Federal Trade Commission sent out over 90 letters to influencers and marketers warning them of this behavior. They have since provided a how-to guide on product endorsements as well as a question and answer guide on social media content.

Native advertising and content marketing have become ubiquitous social media experiences and ultimately, this contributes to a troublesome new normal for us, the blurring of lines between personal life and business opportunity, as I stated in opening. It can be hard to discern if a post contains affiliate content or advertising and some forms of marketing are made to reinforce this. Native advertising is one such example. Curata explains the purpose and scope of native advertising clearly:

Native advertising: The content may appear to provide value, but that goal is secondary to selling a product or service. Often the advertorial may try to solve a problem that conveniently involves buying the brand’s product or service. However, the content of native advertising generally does not have inherent value without the reader buying a product or service.

Done right, native advertising is incredibly effective and social media users seem to prefer it since it’s less ostentatious. Michael Gigante compiled an impressive list of 40+ Advertising Statistics for 2019 which show how important native marketing is to companies. Here is my selection from his list:

  • Native advertising was the fastest-growing advertising segment, with 35 percent growth between 2017 and 2018. (eMarketer
  • 70 percent of users would rather learn about products through content than traditional advertisements. (Content Marketing Institute)
  • Native ad spending is projected to increase to $41.1 billion in 2019. This means native advertising will account for 61 percent of total digital display ad spending in the U.S. (eMarketer)
    Native video advertising accounts for 56 percent of video ad spending. (IAB 2018 Video Ad Spend Study)

In my view, the danger in native marketing lies in its subtlety insofar as it is unrecognisable as marketing and in its extensive promulgation. I’m simply tired of encountering this type of content everywhere I go. I think that the content we find online doesn’t accurately reflect the world we live in and I’m not the only one. The PEW Research Center published a study on Attitudes toward Algorithms: The Content People See on Social Media last year where social media users were surveyed about their emotional responses and attitudes on social media platforms.

Most think social media does not accurately reflect society

Granted, this study is not about advertising in particular, rather it is about how satisfied or dissatisfied people are with social media algorithms and the content that is promoted to them. Another interesting figure in this study is the commentary that, “Users’ comfort level with social media companies using their personal data depends on how their data are used” as shown below.

Some 47% of respondents said that it is not very acceptable or not at all acceptable for social media sites to use their data to show them ads for products or services. Another 41% find it somewhat acceptable while a mere 11% say it’s very acceptable. In other words, we’re not feeling it, brands. We like our privacy and we like our platforms to be transparent about what they do with our data, for the most part.

Now, before you try to destroy me with a strongly-worded comment or e-mail, WordPress is no exception in the social media monetization revolution. I realise that you may actually see ads on this website and that you might have seen a pop-up about cookies. So you get the tummy tea or whatever for now. I’m sorry. Don’t click it. Better yet install Adblock Plus and uBlock Origin. These extensions are gifts from the gods.

When I started this blog (not long ago…) I chose the completely free option. At almost one month old I decided to upgrade In Via Lexington to a premium account. More options, a registered domain, fancy themes, etc. This is what I was after. Now, I have not monetized this blog and I have no plans to do so, given the entire article you just read. As I learn more about building and customizing my website I will be able to make more informed choices on what is shown on it. As I understand, only the business option will allow WordPress users to remove all WordPress.com advertising. From this description alone I do not know if they mean advertising WordPress itself (which I am fine with, this is my platform and I support it) or third party advertising working with WordPress. If you know about this please let me know at invialexblog@gmail.com or drop a link in the comments.

In closing, I have squarely expressed my distrust of and near disdain for branded and promoted content online. I admit that my article has been one-sided and focusing on the negative aspects of social media monetization without showing how positive it can be for content creators to secure a means of living and connecting with others. I have no doubt that this is a non-issue for many people and an incredibly lucrative opportunity for some. However, for people like me, we see an all-encroaching wave of advertisements and unsolicited and disingenuous content blocking out what we view as the original purpose of online communities and social media: simply sharing our personal experiences and not expecting any special reward for it or compensation. The “reward” is forging a new community and fostering long-term relationships with people we know and trust. At least, that’s how I see it.

For further reading, I recommend: