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.

Soup Season, Part 2

Welcome to Part 2 of the Soup Season Diaries. Did you make any soup in the past week? Just in case you are looking for more inspiration, here are a couple more soups that we’ve made recently.

Butternut Squash Soup

The produce box decided to bring me a butternut squash the other week. I was delighted and intimidated and decided that the best way to put it to use was something that wouldn’t rely on my knife skills to succeed. It was another perfect victim for soup season.

  • Step one: dispatch the squash. I cut off the ends, cut it in half across the middle and used the potato peeler to peel it. Then I split each section, removed the seeds, and roughly chopped the whole thing into reasonable-sized bits.
  • Next, dice an onion, sauté in olive oil, sprinkle with salt.
  • Once the onion starts to get soft, add two cloves of garlic. When the garlic starts to get aromatic, add a good splash (maybe more of a pour) of white wine. Let that reduce a bit.
  • At this point switch to your slow cooker (or slow cooker mode if you have an all-in-one).
  • Add the chopped/peeled butternut squash and four cups of liquid. Go do something else for a few hours.
  • For a while it will smell like you are making chicken soup (if you use chicken stock). Don’t panic, just ignore it until you begin to smell the squash. Then go check it and if the squash is tender it’s time to blitz it with the immersion blender (or transfer to the blender).
  • Once you have a fairly smooth puree, check your seasoning. We decided that we needed to add a good blast of Cayenne pepper, some black pepper, and more salt.

My serving suggestion for this is to add a nice dollop of sour cream and a generous sprinkle of chopped parsley/scallions.

photo by Monica Grabkowska on Unsplash
Split Pea Soup

This is Mr. Man’s specialty. He bought a five-pound bag of split peas off of the internet almost as soon as we got the fancy slow cooker. The only reason that he doesn’t make split pea soup all the time is that we don’t tend to have smoked ham hock sitting around all the time.

There really aren’t steps for this one. Mr. Man doesn’t bother with sautéing the onion, celery, and carrots, he just throws them right in the pot with the split peas, ham hock, and liquid. He does chop the onions and celery rather fine; they seem to disappear into the split peas, leaving just big chunks of carrots and hopefully little bits of smoked ham.

He recommends starting the slow cooker on high until everything gets going, the split peas start to soften and you smell the smoky ham hock. Then switch to low and let it go a while longer.

Before serving, he will pull out the ham hock and use a fork to pull the meat off the bone. If it doesn’t look particularly delicious, skip this step and just throw it out. You can always dice some breakfast ham or even sandwich ham if you want.

Soup season is a fun time to make something delicious with whatever you happen to have on hand. I hope I have inspired you to undertake a bit of careless cookery.

Soup Season, Part 1

Well winter has finally found her way to southern California. I don’t know why cold weather seems to be a particularly good reason to make soup, but Mr. Man and I have been souping up a storm around these parts. I suppose it is finally soup season.

Our favorite way to make soup is in the slow cooker. We have a fancy one with a sear setting that I use to sauté the onions and whatever other aromatics before switching to low and slow. I love using the slow cooker because I can throw everything together and then go off to do other things. Another great thing about making soup in the slow cooker is that there are plenty of opportunities to make adjustments if things aren’t turning out the way you want them to (a little Cayenne pepper can fix a lot). Here are some soups that we’ve made recently. *

*these aren’t actually proper recipes with measurements and specific ingredients; they are more like suggestions of things that you can throw in a pot.

Cream of Broccoli soup

Soup season started because my farm box delivery came with a big bunch of broccoli. I decided that a nice cream of broccoli soup would be a great way to use the stalks as well as the florets. It also allows a lot of leeway for you to decide where you want to fall on the healthy to indulgent continuum.

Here is how I’ve been making broccoli soup:

  • Dice one onion.
  • Roughly chop the broccoli stalks and remove the florets.
  • Sauté the onion and broccoli stalks in a good amount of butter until softened. Add a bit of salt and maybe a splash of white wine.
  • In a slow cooker combine sauteed vegetables with liquid (I like to use one carton of low-sodium chicken stock, but you can use four cups of water, some combination of any kind of broth/stock and water … whatever works for you), and the broccoli florets. Let it all cook for a while.
  • When everything is soft and starting to smell good, carefully go to work with your immersion blender. Or transfer to your blender and then back to the slow cooker. You should wind up with a creamy-ish puree. At this point, you have a fairly healthy soup but if you want to kick up the creaminess, you can add:
    • A cup of whole milk or cream (this is enough to give the soup a rich taste/texture).
    • OR … a bit of cream cheese,
    • OR … more butter,
    • OR … shredded cheese,
    • … you get the gist.

photo by Samee Anderson on Unsplash.
Thai Coconut Curry Chicken Soup

We had a package of boneless chicken thighs in the freezer that were just waiting for their moment of greatness as the centerpiece of a slow cooker meal and I finally decided to fake something up. Here is my completely made-up version of Thai Coconut Curry Chicken soup:

  • Seasoned the chicken thighs with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and ginger (I just used dried, powdered ginger).
  • Seared them (in the slow cooker or a pan) for about 5 minutes on each side. Put them on a plate to rest.
  • In whatever you used to sear the chicken: add some olive oil and sauté one onion and about an equal amount of chopped celery and carrots. Sauté for 5-10 minutes. Once it gets going it should pick up all the crusted-on chicken bits.
  • In your slow cooker, combine the softened veggies, the chicken, one jar of Trader Joes Thai Red Curry Sauce, and up to four cups of liquid. Let that cook for a while. Maybe add a chopped sweet potato (I love sweet with spicy, don’t you?). Eventually it should start smelling mostly like chicken soup with a bit of a kick. The longer you let it go, the more the flavors meld.
  • At some point, you are going to want to pull out the chicken and either chop or shred it.
  • When you get close to serving time (maybe an hour before, maybe less) add one can of coconut milk. This completely changes the complexion of the soup in a wonderful way.
  • If the liquid seems thin, don’t hesitate to add a bit of cornstarch dissolved in warm water, you want that thick, stew-style broth.

Serving suggestion: serve over rice.

The only problem with all the soup-making we’ve been doing this soup season is that I haven’t managed to make up a loaf of crusty bread to go with any of it! Thankfully, there is still time. I’ll share a couple more soup recipes next week. Do you have a favorite soup that you like to make? Do you use a slow cooker or the stovetop?

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!

When Every Day is Coffee Day

What a caffeinated week this is!  Between National Coffee Day on Tuesday and International Coffee Day today, I am certainly feeling the buzz.

Did I ever tell you about my very first job? I worked at a coffee place in the mall. We sold fancy espresso makers and all the flavored coffee beans (remember chocolate raspberry flavored coffee beans?  My favorite!). But mostly we sold frou-frou coffee drinks, those cakes-by-the-slice with the big, chocolate leaves on top, and other snacky stuff that was sure to put a pep in your step.

I was so excited to get that job, but the blush was off the rose pretty quickly when it came to wearing that ruffled pinafore uniform. Nonetheless, I learned how to make a pretty good cappuccino, the joy of chocolate-covered espresso beans, and most importantly, that hungry people are mean and should be avoided.

The experience did nothing to dampen my love of coffee. Even when I was a starving college student, I couldn’t live without was my morning cup of coffee (brewed at home, thank you very much!). And even now, even when I’ll try all sorts of wacky health remedies (coconut oil pulling anyone?), I just have to smile and shake my head when someone suggests that I trade my morning coffee for hot tea.

Photo by Mike Kenneally on Unsplash

Coffee Fun Facts

*just a few things that I found notable from a very extensive Wikipedia article about coffee, click here to read the whole thing.

  • Coffee originated in Ethiopia and is believed to have been brought to the world via trade with the Arabian Peninsula, in particular, a place in Yemen called Mocha in the sixteenth century. (Mocha – get it! Yum!)
  • Cultivation in the western hemisphere began in the Caribbean and South America in the early 1700s.
  • The two main varieties of coffee plants that are cultivated for commercial coffee production are C. arabica and C. canephora (aka robusta). Roughly 75% of coffee cultivated is arabica, which is considered milder. Robusta tends to be more bitter and contains as much as 50% more caffeine than arabica; it is the preferred bean for espresso.
  • Coffee plants seem to thrive in forest environments where they benefit from the protection of a diverse ecosystem. For example, one of the most damaging pests for coffee plants, the coffee borer beetle, is delicious to certain birds, so if the coffee plants are grown somewhere with trees nearby, the birds help mitigate the damage from the beetles. Isn’t nature smart!  
  • Nordic countries are the highest per capita consumers of coffee. Maybe it has something to do with the cold, dark climate. I always remember a few years ago when Mr. Man went up to Seattle in February for work. It was cold and dark and generally not the kind of weather you appreciate when you live in southern California. He was telling me about how the sun barely came out at 8am and set by 3pm; the punchline of his story was, “There’s a reason that the coffee here is so good.”

Whether you are a daily coffee drinker, someone who goes for a frou-frou princess latte on special occasions only, or caffeine-free, I hope this post put a little pep in your step.

Rosemary-Lemon Bread

Among my various around the house activities these past few months, I couldn’t help to succumb to the siren call of trying to make homemade bread. It was a big deal; there were many (mostly imaginary) obstacles for me to overcome to attempt such a culinary adventure: my fear that it would be complicated, my disinterest in kneading, my lack of proper bread pans, and the absence of yeast in my pantry. Over zoom happy hour a while back, my friend mentioned that she had found a really easy recipe for rosemary-lemon bread that you make in a cast iron Dutch oven. I’m not sure what all she said after that, I only heard certain words which continue to ring in my mind: rosemary, lemon, crusty, soft inside.

I wiped away the drool and demanded that she send over the recipe immediately!

Now, what about the yeast? Mr. Man was planning on making a trip to the market, so I let him know that he had better come home with yeast because I needed to make this rosemary-lemon bread as soon as possible. I’m not saying that he didn’t wind up going to multiple stores on his quest, but he did return home triumphant.

Our first attempt was a moderate success. I think the dough wound up really sticky and that it didn’t achieve its full potential in terms of how much it rose. But it was tasty, and more importantly, the smell was incredible. It merited another attempt for that reason alone.

This past weekend I tried again. I was able to correct the two issues from my previous attempt and it came out even better than the first time around. I’m so excited to have made bread!

*If you are not already a bread maker, before you attempt this recipe, be warned: I feel that this is a gateway recipe that could create a lot of enthusiasm for and interest in making more/other kinds of bread (at least that is what has happened to me).

Williams-Sonoma Rosemary-Lemon No-Knead Bread

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp. instant yeast
  • 1 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 tsp. lemon zest
  • 1 5/8 cups water
  • Cornmeal as needed

Directions:

  • Combine flour, yeast, salt, rosemary, and lemon zest in a large bowl.
  • Add water, stir until blended (it will look like a mess, it’s ok).
  • Cover with plastic wrap and rest in a warm (70-ish) place for 12-18 hours (I tucked mine into the oven with just the oven light on overnight).
  • After 12-18 hours your dough should have grown quite a bit and it should be bubbly/lumpy looking.
  • Dump the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Sprinkle with a little flour and fold it over itself a few times (it should be easy, when it stops wanting to fold, it’s ready to rest). Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let it rest for 15 minutes.
  • Get a tea towel ready with a light coating of cornmeal. Using just enough flour to keep it from sticking, form the dough into a ball. Place it on the cornmeal towel, seam side down. Dust with more flour and cornmeal and cover with another tea towel. (My dough ball quickly turns itself into a dough blob. It’s the thought that counts, right?)
  • Let rest for 2 hours (dough should double in size and should not spring back when poked).
  • At the 1.5-hour mark of your dough ball rest, put your Dutch oven (including lid) in your oven and preheat to 450. You want your pot to preheat for at least 30 minutes.
  • Remove the pot from the oven. Uncover the dough and use the bottom towel to pick it up. Carefully dump it in the pot (I got cornmeal EVERYWHERE, just sayin’). You can shake the pot a little if it looks too wonky. You also can use a knife to cut some slits in the top of the dough (it feels like a very professional-baker kind-of thing to do). Put the lid on and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and continue to bake for 15-30 minutes (until the top is golden brown).
  • Remove from the oven and let it cool in the pot for 10 minutes before turning it out (I like to dump it out on a clean tea towel, otherwise I get cornmeal everywhere all over again).

I recommend having softened butter handy and digging in while it’s still warm.  If you want to keep yourself from eating the whole thing, cut it in half right away and run some over to your neighbor.

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?