All of the Pesto, None of the Basil

Something new that I’m doing in 2021 is getting farm box delivery. I have really enjoyed the pandemic practice of minimizing trips to the grocery store, but running out of fresh vegetables is the pits. It’s been great having a box full of veggies show up at my door ever couple of weeks.

I’m a big fan of vegetables in the crunchy water family (I believe that’s the technical term) – celery, cucumbers, etc. and one of my favorite things to get in my farm box delivery is radishes.

One week, I noticed that the greens on the radishes were looking particularly lovely. Were they edible? Yes! What could I make with them? Pesto!

Since this was an experiment with bonus vegetables (radish greens are now on my list with beet greens as a vegetable gift-with-purchase), I didn’t worry about not having all the right ingredients to make pesto (such as basil or pine nuts). I just threw the radish greens in the blender with some other things I had on hand to see what would happen.

It turned out good enough to share the recipe with you here.

Radish Greens Pesto

Suggested Ingredients:

  • Bunch of radish greens (cleaned)
  • Handful or two of walnuts (I don’t keep pine nuts on hand, but I always have walnuts around)
  • Couple cloves of garlic
  • Lots of lemon juice
  • Plenty of olive oil
  • Some salt

Blitz the radishes, garlic, and lemon juice in the food processor until the greens are mostly broken down.

Throw the walnuts in and keep blitzing until it resembles a lumpy paste (so that you can’t tell that they are walnuts anymore and the whole thing has taken on a pretty, light green color).

Now comes the fun part, let the food processor run and drizzle in olive oil until the concoction sort-of smooths out (I feel like Ina Garten when I do this which is why I think it’s so much fun).

I like it on the thick side but add as much olive oil as you like (at least enough to get to a creamy-ish texture).

If you taste it at this point, it will taste very bitter and you will be sad, but don’t despair! Just add salt! A good bit of salt, not just a wee sprinkle.

Now taste it. Magic? Yes. Salt magic. It will be a little more bitter and earthy than a basil/pine nut pesto, but still plenty tangy/zesty.

Now that you have your pesto, what are you going to do with it?

You could put in on pasta, sure. You could use it as a spread or a dip. You could use it to dress a green salad. I use it for a roasted vegetable salad that I have been experimenting with and it is perfect for bringing all the random ingredients I found in my cupboard together.

Lentil and Roasted Veg Salad

  • Cook ½ cup (or so) lentils (use the kind that stay firm) w/ salt and thyme in water until just done, drain and cool. *or substitute a can of garbanzo beans for the lentils – even easier!
  • Dice one sweep potato, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast until tender.
  • Optional (but delicious): dice some turnips and roast with the sweet potato.

Let everything cool a bit, throw it in a bowl, cover, and throw it in the fridge.

Later add:

  • A good amount of chopped parsley
  • Some artichoke hearts
  • Some sliced radishes
  • Maybe a scallion
  • Maybe some grated parmesan
  • Whatever else is in the fridge/the cupboard/the garden that looks interesting
  • Lots of your delicious homemade pesto

Get it all mixed together and it’s ready to eat. Or you can throw it back in the fridge for later.

Both the pesto and the roasted vegetable salad feel like good foundations for improvising as the seasons change and different produce is available. What would you add/change?

Adventures in Landscaping, part 2

As my adventures in landscaping continued, rather than shapeless days of digging, there were discrete tasks that needed to be executed in a certain order. I was so excited to get to the part where I had a finished patio that I had to keep reminding myself to take breaks and enjoy the process.

After consulting with Mr. Man about what he learned from his research, I forged ahead, driven by enthusiasm and determination rather than knowledge or skill. There was a rainstorm pending for the end of the week and it seemed like a completed patio would weather a storm better than a half-finished project. Over the course of five days, I went through the steps of:

  • Framing
  • Leveling
  • Lining
  • Installing the base layer
  • Leveling
  • Installing the fill layer
  • Leveling
  • Tile setting
  • Filling
  • Watering

It all went relatively smoothly although I did basically fake it when it came to leveling.

The great thing about dry setting tiles is that there are no long-term consequences to messing up. You can just pull it all out and start again until you get it right. Which is exactly what I did. Many times. After the third or fourth try, I started to figure it out. I wouldn’t say that I did a good job, but I did the best job that I was capable of. And when I get to the point that I can no longer tolerate my shoddy workmanship, I will just pull it all out and try again. But look at that! I built a patio!

Now what? It was just kind-of there. Sitting in the middle of a bunch of dirt. What needed to happen for it to get to the point that I could sit out there comfortably, sipping rosé and reading books?

Over the course of the next several weeks, I puttered, tweaking here and there (including adding a patch of pea gravel, there had to be pea gravel somewhere). I have been slowly adding some plants and finally got around to picking up some furniture. Mr. Man has promised to run some irrigation for me but in the meantime, I have just been making a point of going out every couple of days to hand water and tell all my new little plants how proud I am of them. It will be a while until they are established so I want to make sure that they are getting positive reinforcement while they are settling in.

Now that it is starting to feel like springtime, I am looking forward to making use of my little outdoor getaway. I’m sure that I’ll find more tweaks and finishing touches to do, but my adventures in landscaping have already been a very satisfying success!

Adventures in Landscaping

It’s time for an update on my little side yard project. In January I shared about how we finally got a fence between our property and the place next door and how that started a whole chain reaction of what I am calling my adventures in landscaping.

That side of the house had been an eyesore for years and years and years. Because it is shady for most of the day, it was never suitable for any serious gardening. Sometimes I imagined turning it into a little meditation garden/sitting area. Then I would walk out there and behold the magnitude of such a project and put that idea back in the maybe someday idea file. But once the fence happened, I was ready to at least give it a shot.

After the what turned out to be a car-sized bush was removed, it was Mr. Man’s turn to get to work building a fence to divide the front/side yards. Suddenly, I had a whole little private oasis … well, it wasn’t much of an oasis, but it was finally private and had potential for oasis-ness. What to do?

Our very lovely landlady mentioned that she had a bunch of tiles in her garage that we were welcome to use to build a patio (she and I had talked about doing something to the side yard years ago, but until the property owners next door were ready to do something about the fence, there was no reason). Up to that point, my best idea was just putting down pea gravel. But a patio! Yes please! I was ready to get to work.

And so, adventures in landscaping continued as phase two of the side yard beautification project got underway (phase one had been the fencing). While perhaps some would look for professional help or rent power tools, I just started digging.

There is something relaxing about just digging in the dirt for the sake of digging in the dirt. I spent hours out there. There was so much to notice about the ground, how it sloped, how it could change from hard and dense to fluffy, how many earthworms were in there (who I kept stopping to transfer to my vegetable garden). Maybe it already was a meditation garden of sorts.

Mr. Man does not find digging as meditative as I do, so for everyone’s happiness, we agreed that I would focus on the digging and he would focus on providing support (encouragement, knowledge, supplies, and tools).

After several days of digging, it looked like I had done enough to be able to move on to the next step, whatever that was. Fortunately, Mr. Man had been researching and laid it all out for me.

Before any actual patio building could take place, we needed to define the footprint. I knew what I thought would be the ideal area, but my eyes tend to be bigger than my stomach if you know what I mean. Mr. Man had the good advice to figure out how many square feet of tile I had to work with before I over-committed.

Ah! Math! Alright then. Eight feet by twelve feet sounds about right.

Next week I’ll tell you all about how the plan came together.

Wintertime Gardening

Living in southern California means that winter isn’t really a reason to stop gardening. In some ways, it is the best time for it – the cooler days and occasional rain can help to make yardwork a little less strenuous. I was working on a story for my community association newsletter about wintertime gardening and in the process found myself falling down the rabbit hole of my own wintertime garden project.

The person I was interviewing about wintertime gardening likes to spend this time of year moving dirt around, creating new garden beds and such, but she calls it terraforming which makes it sound so much more serious. I realized that I was terraforming too – taking advantage of the one rainstorm that we’ve had to dig up some things while the dirt was soft. Of course, that one chore created a chain reaction and now there is a whole project happening.

You see, the people next door recently completed some work on their property. The payoff for putting up with two months of incessant construction noise and nuisance was that they built a fence along our shared property line (this has been at the top of my wish list since forever).

Look at that beautiful fence! Now I just have to get my rose bush to cover it.

Once the fence was up, the mounds of overgrown day lilies had to go. With the help of our so far only winter rainstorm, I filled two trashcans with shoots, roots, bulbs, and other bits. This was the first phase of my terraforming – digging up the mounds and then filling in the resulting holes.

With the day lilies cleared, my dream of creating a little patio on that side of the house finally seemed possible and I was eager to get to work. My enthusiasm for this patio endeavor was contagious enough to convince Mr. Man to get on board. His first assignment is to build a fence to separate the front and back yards.

Until now, the only thing screening that side of the yard from the street was an overgrown bush. We probably would have just left it, but it was in the way of where the fence needs to go. After I began hacking at it with my hedge clippers, I discovered that it was a job for power tools. Since our nice gardener has a chainsaw, I asked him to help. This bush was the size of a small car and I don’t even want to tell you the kinds of things we found inside of it, fortunately the gardener hauled it all away.

Once Mr. Man gets the fence up, we are going to reroute some irrigation, then it is time for patio building! The ground over there is lumpy and not level so there will be more terraforming in order to prep the space, but when we’re done our wintertime gardening project will be ideal for summertime sitting. I can’t wait to show you how it turns out!

Rose Petals by Any Other Name

Recently, I have had an overwhelming urge to make the most of the natural resources around me. Anything growing in my yard (or my neighbor’s yard) has been fair game. Among the many, various, ridiculous things that I have been up to, one of my favorites involves rose petals from the wild, old-fashioned rose bush in my backyard.

This rose bush has those wonderful, fragrant blooms that open all the way up and immediately fall apart. So as much as I would like to bring them inside and put them in a vase, they are terrible roses for cutting because as soon as a bloom opens, it begins to disintegrate.

It turns out that there are more uses for roses than just looking at. Since I’m a fan of the Trader Joes rosewater facial mist, I wondered if that was something that I might be able to make myself. And so, I began down a rabbit-hole of things to make with rose petals. Rose petals are anti-inflammatory and high in antioxidants. That is why they are such a popular ingredient in fancy skincare things. The lovely smell is a plus.

*If you are going to make anything with rose petals, make sure that they haven’t been treated with pesticides.

First, I decided to make rose water. It sounded like a nice thing to do. Rose water can be used directly on the skin or hair and can be ingested. There are two methods for making rose water: extraction and distillation.

Extraction involved putting rose petals and water in a pot and simmering gently.  When the rose petals lose their color, your extraction is complete. Strain out the petals and store the finished rose water in the refrigerator. Mine comes out a sort of dark pink/brown color.

The distillation method sounded like it would involve all sorts of equipment and knowledge, but I was delighted to learn can be undertaken at home as well. I felt so science-y! For this technique, put a heat-proof bowl in the center of a pot, then surround it with rose petals and water (I used roughly equal parts fresh rose petals and water). Place the lid on upside down and place ice packs on top. This encourages the condensation to collect in the bowl in the center of the pot. Again, a low simmer is best and once the petals have lost their color, you’re done.

Here’s the thing about distillation: it yields much less rose water although it is clear and said to be of higher quality.

What I consider a bonus is that you still wind up with a good amount of extracted rose water in the pot, so you might as well save that too.

full yield of distilled rosewater in front, half-empty jar of extracted rose water behind

I’ve been using my rose water as a toner and my skin loves it, especially if I’ve gotten a bit too much sun.

Next, I took rose water one step further and made rose syrup. I followed the extraction method then immediately added sugar to the warm, strained rose water (one-part sugar to two-parts rosewater worked for me) and stirred until it was dissolved.

This produced a delicious smelling if still unattractive brown-ish result. But when used for a cocktail it creates a delightfully pink drink.

Rose-y Gin Drink (help me come up with a better name please!)

  • 2-parts gin
  • 1-part fresh lime juice
  • 1-part rose syrup
  • Shake with ice
  • Serve up

Rose syrup is a common ingredient in Persian desserts (rose ice cream for one, which I do intend to attempt soon). There are probably also fun ways to use it in baking which I probably won’t get around to for a while.

dried rose petals

Of course, I have also been drying rose petals so that I will have a supply handy when needed. I have only begun to scratch the surface of uses for rose petals!

Around the House

What have you been up to around the house?

We have all been at home for a long time now. Have you been doing quarantine-inspired stuff around the house? You know what I’m talking about:

  • Make banana bread (check)
  • Make bread (check)
  • Make that fluffy coffee (I haven’t tried this yet; I worry that it might be too delicious and take over my life)
  • Clean your closets (at this point, I only need the clothes in my sweatpants drawer, but I might regret getting rid of everything else, so I’m holding off)
  • Take an online class (check)
  • Crafts (check) *more about this later
  • Gardening (check)
  • Marie Kondo your whole house and garage (Ay caramba! No way!)

The list of possibilities is endless really. I’m sure that I’ve missed some good ones.

I haven’t done anything major, but I have done a few little things here and there that have really made a big difference in how I feel about my home. For me, when I finally break down and do something that I’ve been avoiding, I know that it was worth it because I feel taller when I’m finished.  I know, it’s a little strange, but there is no other way to describe it.

For me, sticking to little, bite-sized projects is key. When I think of a big project that I’ve been wanting to magically take care of itself (like reorganizing the kitchen), I get a feeling of dread that quickly leads to anxiety and avoidance. So, I have been thinking about my kitchen reorg as a bunch of small projects. Sometimes I do one a week … or less, but it’s not so overwhelming. In that spirit, reorganizing the kitchen became:

  • Clean the refrigerator (like where you take the shelves out and wash everything)
  • Move the coffee maker
  • Find a place to store the ice cream maker (even though we use it a lot, it doesn’t need to live on the counter)
  • Clean the cupboard under the sink
  • Find a new home for that silver tray that has been living on the counter for the past XX years
  • A bunch of other stuff that I haven’t started thinking about yet

Even cleaning the refrigerator was tackled one shelf at a time. It doesn’t matter that I did it slowly, I still felt taller when I was finished.

I’ve also made some progress with consolidating/organizing/purging some of my other clutter catchers. Sometimes, just moving whatever doesn’t belong out of a particular location is enough to jump start some sort of resolution to the issue, like when I collected the various piles of books from the various locations around the house into one, big pile in the middle of the living room. I may have had to stare at it for a week, but one day, motivation took over and I organized the whole mess (including re-homing many).

book stack
some of the books that were re-homed

Anyway, I was feeling relatively productive and accomplished about staying home until I saw this story about an artist who is painting flowers ALL OVER her home. It is so whimsical and happy. I mean, look at those doors!

I don’t think that I’m going to start painting flowers everywhere, but I do think that I will keep trying to find little ways to make the most of my home. How about you?  Have you tackled any around-the-house projects?  Did you feel taller when you finished or is that just me?

Kitchen Scraps Garden

So, I went cheap on my veggie garden this summer.  Like REALLY cheap.  Instead of taking a big trip to the nursery and buying baby plants and/or seeds, I decided to see if I could grow some kitchen scraps. I am excited to report that it seems to be working (at least so far).

Huh?  Kitchen scraps?  What?

Well, it all started one day when I was making something with green onions. I hacked off the bottoms and instead of tossing the little root ends in the trash, I decided to go stick them in the garden and see what would happen.  They grew! And I could go pull one and stick the end back in the dirt and it would grow again!  I love having green onions handy like that.  So, I decided to see what else I could get to re-grow.

I picked celery and romaine lettuce for my next attempt.  These guys got a fresh cut to the bottom of the heart (since they didn’t already have roots starting like the green onions) and kept them in a little cup of water on the kitchen windowsill. They started growing leaves right away. I kept them in the window and just changed the water every couple of days.  Eventually I had the starts of some roots.  So, into the garden they went.

Celery didn’t miss a beat, but I was worried that I might lose the romaine.  So, I watered and watered and told him nice things and he got his bearings and started to thrive.  One of each is not going to be enough to keep me from having to go to the grocery store, so I think I will have to try my windowsill technique on some more kitchen scraps until I have a more robust little crop.

I also planted the end of a sweet potato that I had left sitting around long enough that it has sprouted.  The vine is doing great, I am hopeful that I might wind up with home-grown sweet potatoes at some point as well (I might not, someone was telling me something about having to plant the eyes of potatoes…so I don’t really know what is going to happen, it will be fun to find out!

An extra surprise treasure was that once I started watering my kitchen scraps, a little, baby tomato plant sprouted up.  Poor thing was probably a seed from one of last year’s abandoned cherry tomatoes.  At least now he has a reason to grow up and he won’t just be a lonely seed waiting for his moment of greatness.

One unintended consequence of kitchen scrap gardening is that I now have an overwhelming urge to start composting.  Why not let the rest of those kitchen scraps go to good use?  I’ll let you know when/if I get around to it.

Friendly Neighborhood Craft Fair

There was a craft fair in the neighborhood a few weeks ago called the Patchwork Show Long Beach Makers Festival at which my artist friend, MaryBeth Leonard, was hosting a booth.  I generally try to avoid craft fairs.  Mostly because there are too many interesting things that I want to buy.  A secondary problem is that I see all sorts of things that I think I could make myself or that trigger a new project idea and then I get overwhelmed with craftprehension.

*Craftprehension – noun; apprehension brought on by too many craft project ideas; also, a word that I just made up


Since MaryBeth was going to be there, I wanted to make a point of showing up so I asked my golf partner if she would be up for a different kind of Sunday walk.  Fortunately, M is generally up for most adventures and away we went!

When we got there, we somehow managed to decide to start at the exact opposite end from where MaryBeth’s booth was.  As we went up and down all the rows looking for her, we found all sorts of other fun treasures.

Sea princess cake pops:

Because, what good is a cake pop without a mermaid tail, really?

Crayon unicorns:

They had these crayon sets in SO MANY fun shapes

A chic bo-ho sundress:

I kind-of want to be the girl on the sailboat in the picture

So many cute plant-themed graphics

I was drawn to the Botanical Bright booth because of the graphic illustrations and t-shirts. My t-shirt drawer is full and really I only ever wear the same few over and over so I’m trying to not buy any more until I can convince myself to get rid of some.  I’ve bookmarked this seller’s website for when I do.  She also had these beautiful succulent arrangements in geodes that the kittens would  be so excited to tear apart, so I abstained from those as well. I did wind up picking up some crystals because you know how I feel about having a little bit of magic in your life.  I think she said the silver one gives you superpowers.

Finally, when we were practically at the end of our adventure, we found MaryBeth!

Isn’t she lovely?

She had a big selection of matted prints from her “A Drawing a Day for a Year” project. But she also had original drawings and paintings.  I found just the perfect thing for someone’s Christmas gift and M found something for her beach-themed room.

Just a smidge of her work









I fortunately managed to not bring home a bunch of new craft ideas, just a reminder about the succulent projects that I haven’t gotten around to and a sweet little handful of magical rocks.


The Pumpkin Report

Remember when I said that I would tell you how my pumpkin patch turned out?  Oh, I was so full of hope then. I was sure that we would be drowning in pumpkins, that I would have given as many as I could to my neighbors and explored many pumpkin recipes.

Well, I don’t have any of those problems.

I don’t know what happened!  Guys, it all started off so well.  Mr. Man plopped the seeds in the garden. We had sprouts before we knew it!

They were growing and growing.

So many plants, with so many potential pumpkins.

Our future was looking like it would be FULL of pumpkins.

Then it all started heading south.  This guy committed suicide, he just dropped off the vine onto the driveway.

Inspector Sally examining the evidence, he determined that there was no foul play

The one, respectable-looking pumpkin got this icky spot, yuck!

And then all the plants suddenly pooped out. It was a gardening massacre.

So, now that it’s too late to do anything about it, I decided to do some research. The top Google result, The Old Farmer’s Almanac (, sure had everything that I needed to know about growing pumpkins.  Too bad that I didn’t read up before we started!  Here are my top take-aways:

  • Pumpkins like hot soil, which explains why they took off so well in our raised planter bed. You’re supposed to build little “hills” for your pumpkins to grow on to help keep the roots stay warm.
  • You also need to keep the soil moist – mulch, mulch, mulch.
  • And feed, feed, feed – manure or compost plus high nitrogen fertilizer (during early plant growth) and high phosphorus fertilizer (once blooming begins).
  • You need to be careful about getting the plants wet. I think this is the biggest booboo that we made since Mr. Man likes to water the garden from across the lawn.  Once the leaves got powdery, it was over.
  • If/when you start to get fruit, place something (ex: cardboard) under the fruit to keep them from getting icky spots from sitting in damp mulch.
  • If/when you pick them, keep 3-4” of stem to help them last longer and cure them in the sun for a week before storing.

Now that I’ve armed myself with some knowledge, I think we can attempt pumpkins again next year with the potential for better results.  As far as this year goes, I see a trip to Trader Joes for pumpkins in my near future.

Halloween Decorating

What can I say, I like decorating my yard for Halloween! We live near an elementary school, so the effort totally pays off in appreciation from little children.

When I first started decorating for Halloween years ago, no one else in the neighborhood was playing along.  Nowadays I’ve got the next-door neighbors making a point of out-doing me and a good number of the houses all the way down the block getting into the spooky spirit!

Headless Mr. Man isn’t scared of vampire lawn flamingos

My cornerstone decoration is Headless Mr. Man.  He sits out on the front porch every year and probably startles me and my living, breathing Mr. Man more than everyone else (what is that guy doing on my front porch?!). Originally, Mr. Man did not appreciate the awesomeness of some of his old clothes stuffed with newspaper sitting in a chair, but one day a junior high kid walking to school let him know it was cool and since then I get slightly less grief from him about it.


I used to make a point of putting all my decorations out at once and then that was it.  This year, I’m taking it a bit slower because I don’t want to put out the gravestones until I get the witch who crashed into the wisteria bush fleshed out a little bit better.




Next door apparently has a giant spider invasion.  This guy will probably catch himself a kindergartener or two before the month is over.  Come to think of it, I haven’t seen my neighbor much recently.  Hmmm…




Now, I’m going to show you some photos of my all-time favorite decorations.  I thought this house was the BEST and would go out of my way to drive by as often as possible.  I mean, this shipwreck! You should have seen it at night!  There were lights and a fan – I mean the wind – that would whip through the tattered sails.

This was the next year:

Apparently Wyle E. Coyote lived here

I always wanted to stop by or send them a card letting them know how much I appreciated their AWESOME decorations, but I never did.  And they moved away. I still wish that I had taken a moment to let them know.

Maybe someday, I will have an incredible pirate shipwreck and sea monster in my front yard.  I’ll add it to my list of things to do in-between things.