My former roommate did a silly thing. She asked me if she could commission her sister’s wedding gift. Ridiculous, right? I mean, of all people, she knows I’m a psychologist by trade – not to be trusted with such a venture. But she had seen firsthand the few paintings and drawings I did during graduate school when, miracle upon miracle, I managed to remember that I had passions outside of psychology. She has also seen pictures of some of my art from taking classes the past two years. I guess she knew what she was getting herself into.

The Logistics

Here’s something I’ve heard from longtime artists. Commissions are really stressful. Even if people think they don’t have a specific idea in mind, often they get pretty particular once they see the end product. It is much more desirable to have artwork available that people can pick from instead. I was already considering selling some pieces this way to avoid…ya know…stress. But when life hands you an opportunity, you gotta at least consider it.

Fortunately, I know my former roommate well enough that I figured I could trust she’d be happy with whatever direction I settled on. She has always been very complimentary about artwork I’ve done, and she has seen a range of styles and mediums I’ve tried out. In other words, the perfect time to try out this whole ‘selling your artwork’ thing. Eek!

I was given free reign on the style and medium. She had a general framework of wanting something connected to her sister’s wedding and was going to provide pictures from the wedding day. We settled on a general size and price range (based on some research I did looking at similar products online) and discussed a timeline for completing it once I received the photos. And that was that!

Trusting Your Instincts

Keep in mind that art has been a ‘hobby’ for me, just to fill my own walls or to give a gift here and there. It is only very recently that I have started to see my potential as an ‘actual’ artist.

This commission was my first time figuring out the direction to take a piece of art based on the subject matter. Usually, I would start with the medium I wanted to use (like my recent venture into acrylics) and then find something to draw or paint. This time it was all about seeing some photos and choosing my direction from there.

Oh, and then there’s the small detail of not having an art teacher there to help. This time all bets were off.

Based on our discussion, I figured I would be doing a watercolor painting of the bouquet. I was all set to do it. I had even gotten all my watercolors out and had started to wipe away the cobwebs with a little practice (since I’d gotten a little rusty after shifting to acrylics in my art class). Then I got the pictures from the wedding and saw a bouquet of white flowers.

Whelp – so much for watercolors (emphasis on colors)! Granted, you can add a fun background to make it pop, but I just wasn’t feeling watercolor inspiration. Whomp whomp. But wait! Have something fairly monochromatic that you want to add a little dramatic oomph to? Enter charcoal, my old friend.

Some hours later, after becoming charcoal covered from fingertips to shoulder blades (don’t ask me how I managed that one), I had a charcoal drawing of the bouquet. The best part? I’m actually super proud of it. My gut told me where to go and it did not let me down.

Don’t Overthink It

What advice can I give following this experience? Don’t overthink it! I get that this is hysterical coming from me, but it’s the lesson I continually find myself grateful to learn.

You want to do something? Yearning to take it to the next level? When the right opportunity presents itself, go for it! I’m getting better and better about getting out of my head and not worrying about if I’m good enough to do something. In the past, I would have been more stressed about how this would go. Instead, I decided to trust the process. Will it always go as smoothly as this one did? Well…no. But you have to embrace a little risk and stretch yourself to feel that sense of pride and accomplishment. And now it’s got me thinking about where to go next. All pretty exciting if you ask me.

I have a new obsession in my life. Perhaps rather appropriately, that obsession is with the literal spice of life: homegrown herbs.

I absolutely love being able to walk into the garden with a pair of scissors and a colander and grab what I need for cooking, baking, or tea brewing. It makes me ridiculously happy. Aside from having the guarantee of fresh flavors, everything is immediately available without having to worry about going to the store or opening your fridge just to find out that what you needed has gone bad. And as a bonus? Many herbs are incredibly easy to grow.

Most herbs need lots of sun. Other than that, they can be ignored most of the time. Some are perennial while others reseed every year (and thus require a little more attention if you want to have enough for a year’s worth of use). A warning, though: do not be fooled by Pinterest / YouTube hacks! Don’t put herbs in a little tin by the windowsill or in some cute little plantar. It will be a waste of your time and energy, because you need your plants to grow large enough that you can harvest from them. I love me some Pinterest, but herbs are not a situation where you want aesthetics to trump functionality.

It seems like I’m adding to my list of herbs I grow every month, especially given my desire to have a substantial tea garden. I’m not listing everything out here, but I figured I would list some of the basics I started with, especially since they tend to be popular for a reason. Funnily enough, while writing this I kept remembering more herbs to add to this list, but I had to stop somewhere! Guess it goes to show that I’ll be doing some follow-up blogs on my love of herbs. At least one future blog will be sure to include ways of preserving annual herbs, like basil and cilantro, for yearlong use.


When we moved into our house, we were so thrilled by the giant rosemary plant in the front yard. Every time I stepped outside, I got to stop and smell the rosemary. It was a wonderful feeling. This year is sadly different. Most of my garden recuperated well from the Texas winter storm in March, but most of our rosemary plant died away. There is one, small sliver still hanging on – so fingers crossed that I’ll be using fresh rosemary again in the fall! Admittedly, I am still pretty timid in my exploration of rosemary. I need to really dive in deeper with adding rosemary to my cooking. My main use has been for baking bread. I would highly recommend garlic rosemary bread; it’s a fantastic combination.

Basil, Oregano, & Thyme

Man, do I love this powerhouse combo. Pasta sauce is the most obvious route for this partnership of flavor. I also make a mean focaccia. I soak the herbs and garlic in olive oil for a few hours and then brush the mixture on the stretched out dough and mix the rest of the olive oil blend in with the toppings. Tasty. Just be aware that with fresh herbs, sometimes the timing of when you use them in the cooking process can vary, so it’s good to do some googling. For example, oregano and thyme have a strong punch of flavor that can hold up in a tomato sauce if you put it in early in the simmering process. Fresh basil is best to add near the end or its flavor can end up getting lost.

As an aside, basil (rosemary, too, actually) makes an easy yet delicious simple syrup. Equal parts basil, water, and sugar briefly boiled on the stove and steeped, and you have the makings of an impressive cocktail/mocktail.


For some reason this year my dill did not want to take. I’ll blame the weird winter weather. But last year my dill went great! Admittedly not one of my favorite flavors unless it’s subtly blended into a dish. However, there are two reasons I would definitely encourage growing dill. One is pickles. My husband makes awesome homemade pickles and fresh dill is a must. The second is butterflies. Black swallowtail caterpillars will be all over dill plants when it’s the right time of year. Many gardeners will grow extra dill, that way the plants can be shared with garden wildlife – after all, who doesn’t love butterflies!


There are many reasons to grow lemongrass, and it grows fast and easy in the warm weather. Just be mindful of the sharp edges! Last year was my first venture into lemongrass, so I focused specifically on using the leaves in teas, because I always love a good lemongrass tea blend. Now that I have a decent handle on growing and preserving it, I hope to have enough to try some stalks in cooking curries. From what I’ve read, sometimes that can be the subtle touch of flavor that really elevates some Asian dishes. I also plan on trialing some DIY mosquito repellant spray that includes lemongrass, so stay tuned for that!


If you have the genes that make you think cilantro tastes like soapy gym socks, I feel very sorry for you. I LOVE cilantro and my guacamole and salsa recipes show it. But any Central Texas gardener will tell you that life’s cruel joke is the timing of the cilantro season. It is actually a cool weather plant here. In other words, it grows best before all the guacamole and salsa yumminess of avocados, peppers, and tomatoes.

Weird, right? You just assume it all grows together. But alas, it’s all a lie. (Unless you grow cilantro in a more shaded area and plant the seeds every few weeks for a steady harvest. I thought I was so clever doing that this year in the front yard. Turns out the deer in our neighborhood are cleverer, and they had a tasty treat. Sigh.)

Busted again.

In my (virtual) group guitar class, the teacher randomly asked if there were any theater nerds present. I really enjoy musical theater – I go to Broadway and traveling performances whenever I can – and took part in a number of plays and musicals throughout childhood. But my true theatrical knowledge stops at highly interested novice. Hearing ‘theater’ and ‘nerd’ in one sentence, I naturally raised my hand and then, after realizing what I had done, quickly shifted into that wobbly hand movement to indicate ‘kind of’. The teacher laughed and asked, “What does that mean?”


Caught in my own hesitation, I explained how I did not want to misrepresent myself as some sort of expert. Fortunately, my guitar class is filled with many positive attitudes and energies. Someone who had created and run a literal theater company joked that if we were creating a measuring stick, perhaps she may also fall short.


Are you a real artist?


There’s a mental block that many of us creative types come across at some point in our lives. I can’t tell you the number of times I or a friend have tiptoed around ownership of a creative identity, whether it be artist, writer, musician, dancer…the list goes on. Admittedly, I do know people who seem more confident in their claims, but it tends to be those who have a career or job in the selected artistic field. And even then, imposter syndrome is a frenemy well-known to many (perhaps most?).

I respect the people who break through the mental block. And I have been toying with how to find my way through it as well. There are people who tell me I’m an artist, musician, or writer. But do I claim it? Not with confidence. And always with modifiers.

”I’m good for a beginner.”

“Yeah, but I’m not a professional.”

“It’s a hobby.”

“I’m pretty good.”

“Just keep in mind that…”

What’s It Take?

What does it take to be a REAL artist? Does it require…

  • Making money off your craft?
  • Creating something of your own rather than a copy/rendition of someone else’s work?
  • Spending a certain amount of your time and energy on that art?
  • Reaching a certain level of competence / skill?

In the words of a middle school debater, “Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines an artist as ‘a person who creates art using conscious skill and creative imagination.’”

Good news is it looks like money ain’t got nothing to do with it. This dictionary definition allows a lot more leeway for embracing the inner artist than we often allow ourselves. It does not suggest that a certain production quota or level of success is necessary. All we need is to create through imagination and skill.

Bad news is…the picture is still pretty murky. What reaches an adequate level of skill and imagination is at least somewhat in the eye of the beholder. Who decides the measuring stick that should be used to determine skill level? After all, the more you learn a skill, the more you realize how much you don’t know. That makes it hard not to keep adjusting the measuring stick, placing true “skill” further and further out of reach.

Perhaps even worse news, if I care about setting an operational definition to measure ‘artist’ by (and I’m a psychologist, so I can’t help but want to do this)…I can’t keep using the excuse that it’s not my career or that I don’t have enough of my time going toward my art for it to count. It seems pretty clear now that I need to stop my sidestepping. Guess it is finally time to pull the trigger. Bring it on, impostor syndrome, I’m calling myself an artist! (Eek!)

I hate being wasteful. I can’t stand when products are wrapped in plastic and/or Styrofoam. I get physically uncomfortable seeing something go bad or remain unused. The feeble cries from my fridge of moldy peppers and shriveled up lettuce can put me in a shame spiral for days. When I live with someone and they buy a new household item, a good 50% of the time my initial reaction is, “Why did we need that?”

Don’t I sound delightful?

People who know me, probably aren’t too surprised. I have a natural inclination toward organized efficiency. Combine that with being raised by the children of immigrant/Depression Era parents and you’ve got yourself a deadly combination. I remember in graduate school my roommate and I didn’t have a toaster. From time to time I would mention that I should probably get one. Then we’d be in the store, I’d be staring at the toasters, pick one up, begin to place it in the shopping cart…and then I’d put it back and walk away. My roommate was understandably flabbergasted. In my mind, I was running through all the times I easily managed to make toast on the stovetop – if I took the time to think about it, I didn’t actually need a toaster.

While I know most changes that need to occur to truly impact climate change are with certain large businesses, making my own changes is a way of me doing my part for the natural world I treasure. Plus, for me it just feels good. So on Earth Day, I figured I’d delve into it for my blog.

This is NOT meant to provide you with your own personal shame spiral. Leave those to me. I just find that many people who focus on waste reduction are HARDCORE. If you are like me and you’d like to make some changes, but you are intimidated by that world, maybe some of my own wanderings and wonderings will be helpful.

Reuse / Repurpose and Compost (over Recycling)

Recycling is not the solution to everything. In fact, it is a very flawed system. And I am pretty perturbed at the fact that there are triangled numbers that mean a product is NOT recyclable; talk about using the psychology of human behavior for evil. On the bright side, if we can get aluminum recycling down like the Germans, that seems like a great option.

The long and short of it? Finding ways to reuse or repurpose is, in most cases, a much better way to go. Do I wish that my ex-boyfriend had asked before taking the stuffing out of my pillow and using it in the stereo system he built? Sure, but I respect where the inclination came from.

My husband and I are lucky to live in a place that makes this easier. For example, we have been using which is an Austin-based company that pulls together a lot of avenues for reducing waste related to groceries. We now get milk delivered in a reusable glass jar, and I am loving the retro vibes. But really it does not have to be that obvious. Essentially, it’s making things last and working with the materials you have easily available before buying something new. Take my seedling starters that were once restaurant to-go containers and egg cartons / toilet paper rolls. Perfect for what I need AND cheaper, too!

Another one of my fan favorite alternatives to trash heaps and recycling? Composting! Not everyone has their own composting system like I do or a local infrastructure doing city-based composting. But at the end of the day, if you throw away something compostable it’s probably better than throwing away something that isn’t.

Just think about how long until the item degrades. A few months? Years? Centuries?

Also think about what it degrades into. Soil? Toxic sludge? Who knows because it still looks like a plastic container?

Multi vs Single Use

This gets tricky. I think many of us naturally gravitate toward something multiuse that we can use over and over again. We often think this is less wasteful because, well, there is…less of it. HOWEVER, think about writing on paper, especially bamboo paper, versus laminated plastic or a computer.

How much energy and resources go into production and development of the product?

How much are we using renewable resources versus resources that the Earth will run out of?

How biodegradable is the product? I can shred up that paper and put it in my compost for gardening. If I tried that with my old laptop, I think my results would be a bit lackluster.

I’m not saying there’s a simple answer here. My advice is just to think twice about the quality, durability, and sustainability of the options before just going with what will last the longest.

Minimizing waste

I can’t make companies stop being wasteful. But I don’t have to support it economically either. The fact of the matter is the best route is to minimize the waste from the get-go. I’ve been looking into a number of ways to reduce my waste.

Here are a few of my favorites to round out this lovely Earth Day:

  • Pick the item with minimal to no packaging, especially when packaging is not biodegradable
  • Shop local and what is in-season. Added Bonus – you are supporting businesses that are more likely to support your local community!
  • Be a dork like me and bring containers from home for your restaurant to-go boxes
  • Borrow, trade, or obtain lightly used items rather than buying new
    • Pots and pans from family members, your friend’s clothes they don’t wear anymore, consignment shops
    • Buy Nothing Facebook group, NextDoor, Facebook Marketplace, Craig’s List, neighborhood plant / library stands
  • Do you garden? Collect rain water! (It’s actually better for you plants and…you guessed it! Cheaper!)

I can’t count how many times I’ve sat down to relax after doing a project, started absentmindedly rubbing my thumb across my fingertips, and felt little particles of dirt stuck around and beneath my nails. I love it.

I’m using the term “dirt” loosely here. Mainly as a way of describing any stray particle that clings on. Dough, flour, paint, charcoal, guitar callouses, plant stains, soil – doesn’t matter, it brings a smile to my face every time. (Unless it’s serrano or jalapeno pepper remnants. Then it brings tears and…just a few expletives.)

I have never been the person with the beautifully manicured hands. As a kid I kept my nails short to play violin. But honestly, I didn’t feel like I was missing out. If my nails reach past the pads of my fingertips, I find them more of a hinderance than anything, getting chipped away or snagged on something. On the rare occasion I’ll paint my nails, but they don’t stay pristine for long. I’m all for dangling some earrings or sprucing up my outfit, but I tend to go for comfort and convenience when it comes to my hands and my feet.

Sensory Connection

I think subconsciously I tend to prefer the projects that are hands on and get a bit messy. There’s something about dirt that I just can’t explain. It makes me think of a therapeutic technique called grounding using the five senses. Essentially you are trying to manage stress and anxiety by focusing in on your sensory experiences. My own personal theory for why these “dirty” projects are so satisfying is that they are powerful at grounding. The more immersed my senses are in the activity, the more connected to the present moment I feel.

What’s even better, those little stragglers of dirt keep me grounded beyond the project itself. I just love when you end up carrying remnants of a creative exploit with you after you’re done. If you watch me closely enough (please don’t, because it’s creepy), you’ll see that I like to go back to the dirt – feel the rough edges, smell the last traces of enjoyment. You know the sticky smell of garlic after you’ve been cooking? Can’t get enough. Or the caked on floury goodness of dough? I’ll keep sniffing my fingertips all day. Even the metallic and resiny smells from guitar playing gives off a pleasant aroma to me. It’s like I’ve been tagged by happiness and get to carry it around with me.

Proof in the Pudding

Don’t let my blog and online presence fool you, I am not the pinnacle of activity. Just ask my husband how many indoor chores have been on the to-do list for over 3 months. And I enjoy binge-watching a show or reading a book all day like anyone. But nearly every time I do one of those hours-long benders, I end up feeling restless and a little gross. At some point, I end up tipping my internal scale too far in one direction.

For me, relaxation cannot be just resting. No matter how hard I try, I can never fully escape the importance I place on productivity. Getting things done. Marking things off. Fixing something. Doing what needs doing. Learning or creating something new. I’ve realized that, when I allow myself to relax, dirt reminds me that I’ve already had a job well done and I deserve the respite. It’s the evidence that tells me it’s OK to take a beat. I guess if I were smarter, I’d do what our dog does and fake it – run outside and roll around in some dirt for a few minutes, then lie around all day. Alas, I am just not that clever.

I’m trying to start this new trend in my life. Let’s call it an artist’s day off.

COVID-19 has forced me to appreciate staycations. I love traveling and exploring, and I can’t wait to add that back into life, but I also love putting my time and energy into being at home. I finally did something I’ve been thinking about for years. Right now, I am taking a few days off specifically to give me time for a hobby.

It’s not that I haven’t had the opportunity to fit in gardening, music, and other antics during previous time off from work, especially if we count this past year. In fact, I often get to spend a lot of time working on my various projects during vacations. But usually, it’s a side effect of having the free time, not the primary reason for it. In this instance, I’m doing it for the sole purpose of working on one of my hobbies. I gotta say, it’s pretty invigorating.

Above: my tracking sheet for the garden season

Finally Doing It!

It came about a tad indirectly. Once we were done with the holiday season, I wanted to make sure I had something to look forward to. I looked out to March and was trying to decide how to narrow down the options. And then it hit me. Mid-March is the start of spring gardening here in Central Texas. Your freezing temperatures are (theoretically) behind you and it’s time to get planting. And just like that, a plan was made.

I’ve thought about this before and wanted to put it into practice, just never quite pulling the trigger. In casual conversations with family and friends or when I’m journaling and brainstorming upcoming projects, I seem to always come back to this desire to reserve special space for my creativity. In other words, I’m glad I finally did it!

When I scheduled the time off, I got super excited. More excited than I’d felt for previous “staycations”. After all, I wasn’t just doing it because of the desperate need to take time off. Instead, I was focusing on something important aside from work. I wasn’t going to find time for gardening. I was going to make time. And that made all the difference.

It’s simplistically brilliant. So why hadn’t I done this before?

Above: 3 basils (sweet Italian large leaf) and 1 eggplant (black beauty); oak leaves for weed barrier & retaining moisture

The Roadblocks

In my mind, taking time off is meant to be one of two things: a vacation or a sick day. Time off that isn’t “needed” is vacation time, which means trips, travel, and lounging. Using leave as a way to set aside time for my other passions feels a little weird. Instead of taking a vacation, I’m actually working. True, these activities are not my employment or necessary for my survival, but I am putting in a lot of energy and effort.

I have somehow managed to undervalue these activities that are so important to me. They don’t wow you in the way those Instagram worthy travel pics do. They are, as I often put it, my hobbies. In the name it suggests something that is “lesser” than work and household responsibilities. But despite how I make it seem to myself on the surface, these activities are important and deserve my focus. In large part, they make up who I am; a conglomeration of things that represent my personality. Taking time for them means honoring their importance and allowing them to grow into something even bigger. So, cheers to me and my artist’s day off!

  1. I made pasties!

They. Are. Delicious. I mean, they better be given all the butter – but whatever, you only live once. (I’m a Millennial and no longer young and hip, so I’ll assume that YOLO is no longer a thing. But…YOLO!)

I made sourdough pasties, because, duh, it’s me. Sourdough all the way. I’m looking forward to using the crust recipe for some larger pies once my blackberries and strawberries hopefully produce this year. Stay tuned for that!

Hand pies / pasties are something that the Michiganders know a lot about, but I first learned about them from The Great British Baking Show. With the use of a food processor, these turned out to be VERY easy to make despite looking super fancy. In addition to being easy and delicious, they are also easy to handle without utensils (hence being called hand pies).


I found this very detailed and wouldn’t change a thing about the directions EXCEPT to note that you can, of course, change the size of the cut for your pasty if you want to make them bigger – just use a large bowl. For desserts I found this the perfect size. For a main course of a meal I liked making the pasty pastry (say that 5 times fast) a little bigger to allow for more filling.

TIP: Watch your food processor. I got overly confident the second time making the dough and turned away for 10 seconds while it processed, and the crust went from crumbled bits (perfect!) to a more solid mass (too much processing!). HOWEVER, it still turned out delicious. There was probably less flake and a little more butter leakage during the bake, but not enough for me to care.

As suggested in the recipe, one time I froze dough in large disks and defrosted it at a later date to use. It worked out great! Next time I hope to make the filling at the same time so I can freeze the hand pies whole and have them ready to go for days when I’m not feeling up to cooking. After all, a freezer full of my husband’s mandu (Korean dumplings) and my pasties sounds like heaven.

Other than that, I may try to reduce the butter by small increments to see if I can manage getting the same yummy effect without feeling so guilty about the butter content, but we’ll see.


I’ve done two versions of filling for pasties so far and I’d recommend both.

One filling was some leftover homemade cranberry sauce (the chunky version so it wouldn’t seep out). And – yum.

For the more meal-style version I made the following filling. It’s a great way to use those root vegetables where you’re like, “WTF are you…?”

All ingredients are cubed/chopped into small pieces so they will cook thoroughly. These are ESTIMATES for the amount of each veggie and starch – I aimed for them to be fairly equal amounts in the mixture.

Cooking time will vary based on the size of the pasties. I cooked at 350 F using the convection setting (375 F if your oven doesn’t do convection) for about 27 minutes based on the size from the crust recipe above. If you get some butter leaking out it may burn, but I wouldn’t stress too much about that.

  • ½ onion
  • 2-3 turnips / root vegetable
  • 1-2 potatoes / sweet potatoes
  • ½ lb ground beef
  • ¼ cup broth
  • Seasonings to taste (these are estimates of what I used)
    • ½ Tablespoon salt
    • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
    • ¾ teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
    • Fresh oregano, thyme, and sage

This is actually halved from a recipe I based this on to try to prevent leftover filling. But honestly, I consider leftover filling a happy accident, because then my hubby makes us a nice stir fry and rice dish with it. (Drool.)



I have a lot of them. I expect a lot from everything and everyone, particularly myself.

Y’all. It’s a pan-freaking-demic. And that doesn’t even cover HALF of it. Aside from being in a helping profession that’s part of the systemic problems I am somehow tasked to help my clients overcome, I just came off of 2 ½ days without power during freezing temperatures this part of the country isn’t built for. Oh, followed by 3 days of no running water. Did I mention the impassable roads because we lack salt and snowplows? I’m not even going to complain about boiling my water because it beats gathering snow and rain barrel water for the toilet. Homesteaders, off-the-grid’ers, people living in cars or on the streets, and others who live tougher lives than I do – I respect you so much.

This is all to say that the bar I had set for myself probably needed some major readjustments…and that was BEFORE the kickstart of things in 2020.

Truth Bomb

When a friend posted this, I laughed for a solid 10-15 seconds. Like, check yourself in the mirror because this might finally be the moment that you morph into the Joker kind of laughter.

It hit so close to home.

I have been working really hard on something for the past 2 years and I think I will be working on it until the day I die: Not seeing rest and relaxation as being ‘lazy’. When I started to pay attention to it, I realized I was using that word a lot. “That’s lazy!” “Don’t be lazy!” “I’m so lazy!”


As a psychologist, it goes without saying that I firmly believe in the power of words. Think about it:

I am going to rest / relax. Take a break. Take care of myself.

I am going to be lazy. Do nothing. Be a waste of space.

In our common vernacular, they are synonymous. But damn, one of those packs a hell of a punch, particularly when you look at it through a cultural emphasis on capitalistic efficiency and production.


Naturally, I have psychoanalyzed myself on this. While I do believe the cultural context cannot be ignored as a part of how all Americans are pushed to view achievement as the ultimate measure of a person’s value (not to mention our technological world’s insistence on us being available and entertaining to others 24/7), I also recognize my own role in this. See, I have a bad habit of believing that putting in anything less than 100% is dishonest. Reaching one’s full potential is something I truly value, so anything less than giving your all runs counter to my very being. While this makes me a reliably hard worker, it can also make me a TERRIBLE loser and an even worse relaxer.

Never fear, my dear parents! I know COVID has given you major cabin fever, but before you strap on those masks and head outside to take yourself on a long and arduous guilt trip of how you “ruined your child’s life” (you know who you are), I love my work ethic and my passion to always be living and learning that I assume came from you. These are great values that were instilled in me. It has made me a thinker, a problem solver, a creator. But you know what? Your greatest strengths tend to be your greatest weaknesses. What can ya do.

Proof in the Fictional Character Pudding

Just so you know, it is taking all of my willpower not to continue with my comic nerd references to expand on this point. Ah screw it, you knew the risks going into this.

BATMAN! The great analyzer and strategizer who uses his trauma to drive himself to achieve at a level thought humanly impossible – traits that isolate him from the very people who can help him succeed and mend his emotional wounds.

SUPERMAN! Being from Krypton gives him awesome powers when he takes in the sun’s rays – just gotta ignore the pesky green bits of his former planet if he doesn’t want to die.

HARLEY QUINN! I just read the Black Label comic about her desire to understand and heal supervillains – which leads her down a path to her own villainism.

Marvel fans don’t get offended, I love your characters, too. Batman just happens to be my one, true love.

Knowing my tendency to set my expectations high is a big part of why I didn’t want to start this blog. I knew I’d go in whole hog. I didn’t want to feel guilty for not keeping up with it. Perhaps more than that, I didn’t want to start something “for no reason”. But, in the wise words of myself earlier in this blog, ah screw it. This blog is one of the ways I am trying to practice lowering my expectations. (Ugh, even saying that makes me cringe a little.) But I don’t need to post every week. I don’t need to make this blog into something practical or productive. It just needs to be something I want to do. In other words, congratulations on being a guinea pig in my lowering of the bar.

I’ve been starting seeds! Depending on where you are, it may still be too early for you. I’d feel bad for you but I’m too busy having fun.

“Why buy seeds when I can buy plants?” you may ask. Seeds are often cheaper – one plant often costing about the same as a whole packet of seeds. Also, you can get fun versions of plants that are otherwise hard to come by. For example, I’ll be growing red roselle (to make hibiscus tea!) and tromboncino (to grow something zucchini-like without dealing with squash vine borers!), neither of which I would find easily at a garden center. Another plus is that if you are itching to start your spring garden even though it’s too early, seeds can be started about 1.5-2 months earlier to help you scratch that itch. The final reason? It is SO COOL! The pride I feel growing a plant from a seed is pretty great. I mean, who doesn’t want to play god every once in a while?

I’ve already learned quite a few things about seed starting. Mainly from being bad at it the first few tries. (Not that I’ll claim to be good at it yet.) In case you’d like to learn from my mistakes, here are a few tricks of the trade:

What to buy

There are many versions of a type of plant out there. Definitely research which ones are best adapted to your climate as well as the appropriate season to grow. I like to use local garden groups or my local nurseries to learn from people who have been around the block a few times already. For example, here we have a narrow window for the cool/cold season, so carrots and onions that have a shorter days to maturity are a must. Also, don’t grow brassica like broccoli during warm months unless you want to be picking nasty little cabbage worms off of them – blech. The local planting guide is helpful to stick to the best season for easy growing.

If you have limited garden space or only have so much time to spend, you’ll have to be picky about what you grow. The two key factors I have heard recommended are to think about cost and preference. Grow what you will actually eat. As you go along you may start getting more creative, but it’s best to start with something you know you’ll enjoy. Also try to grow plants that are more costly to buy in the grocery store in order to get more bang for your buck.

Another thing I consider is if it is an heirloom variety. Heirlooms are when a plant variety produces seeds that will grow the exact same variety rather than growing some surprise variant. Of course, that’s if you don’t plant something in close enough proximity that can crosspollinate. Like what will likely happen to my pepper plants. Eh, details. I’ve heard wild stories of hot and sweet peppers crosspollinating for surprise concoctions the following year. We’ll see how it goes!

Lights, camera, action!

Depending on when you start seeds, you may need to buy a light source and potentially a heating pad. Some people say it’s definitely necessary, others say it’s definitely not. So…that’s helpful, right? I mean, obviously we haven’t always had the technology so I’m sure it’s possible without all the razzle dazzle. All I know is my attempts to MacGyver seed starting were lackluster without it.

The lights and heating pad are mainly for when you need to start seeds and either (A) you are starting before the ideal time of year for seed growth (people do this to maximize harvest time) or (B) you don’t have a place with enough direct light. If you have a great, sunny window where cats aren’t butts or you know you can reliably move your seed starts in and out of your house every day without getting too lazy, you may be successful without the extra “stuff”.

Buying lights gets into all this jargony stuff that I may or may not get bored of reading and therefore stop after a few sentences. I’m just trialing one I found online that I think all that jargony stuff was recommending. This is all to say that I’d encourage you to do your own research and ask around rather than take my word for it. Good news is, if you are moderately handy it really is a cheap setup.

Gnats are evil

OK, not really. But they are really, really annoying. They somehow only want to go into the glass I intend to drink from. If it’s a glass set as a trap? I swear only half as many fly in.

My partner will likely leave me one day because of gnats and other little fly infestations. It’s the curse of being with a plant owner. But in all fairness, his dog gave my cat fleas once and that was…well… surprisingly easier to get rid of. I digress.

The key to minimizing gnats and other small flying things has been to water from the bottom. I am really starting to dig watering plants this way, known as wicking. Wicking methods are nice because the soil takes in just what it needs so you won’t over water. Plus, without the moisture on top you avoid most issues with mold forming.

This one I MacGyvered successfully! Egg cartons and toilet paper rolls cut up and filled with soil, placed in all those restaurant to-go containers we had no use for. I put the plastic top on the containers until the seedlings start poking through. Speaking of, fun fact: people suggest petting your seedlings or having a small fan blowing on them so they grow up strong. I’m not sure how much this truly matters, but it’s fun to pet them and my hands smell nice afterward. (Once they have at least their second set of leaves, I transfer them into larger containers and gradually acclimate them to the outdoors. Check out the roots on this one as I went to swap to a larger container!)

Direct Sowing

Some things do better when you plant the seeds directly into the ground. I seem to still struggle with this, and I think it’s because I am terrible at regularly watering in the beginning. A number of seeds can be soaked beforehand, things like beans, peas, and beets, which should reduce the water needed. Even then I struggle. I’m going to need to set some Google Calendar reminders – sigh.

I can’t wait until, after my words of wisdom, all my seedlings die off on me and I have to go buy transplants from a garden center. That’ll be depressing. On the bright side, I’ll be able to feed you a whole new list of mistakes to avoid.


So. I am a planner. I like structure and organization. You know what makes me happy? Lists. Charts. Layouts. I’ll make them, remake them, stare at them. (I’m not weird, you’re weird.) Sadly, this does not play out in my housekeeping, but other than that it’s a pretty helpful trait that is only occasionally debilitating. 

Based on my love for all things structured, what is the first type of art medium I tried? Watercolors. That’s right, the uncontrollable doggy drool of the painting world. *facepalm* 

Flashback to art class circa 2019. It was my first day with watercolors. I remember dividing a paper into squares, trying out different watercolor techniques and textures, and then hearing my teacher say one of the most horrifying things I’ve ever heard. It went something like: “Watercolors have a mind of their own. It’s about working with the watercolors rather than trying to force them to do what you want.” 

Uh, excuse me, what now? I’m sorry, I think you have me mistaken for someone a bit more enlightened. I am not here to be one with the watercolors, I’m here to make them bow down to my superior, artistic prowess. 


Practice, Practice, Practice 

Early into starting my art class, I decided I would make artwork for all the members of our wedding party. I found some cute little watercolor pictures of succulents and cacti and decided it’d be a great focus for class. Well there’s nothing like a deadline to bring on the productivity. 

I’d work on two to three paintings at a time. Why? – you might ask. Because there is nothing worse than getting one part of a watercolor perfect only to start painting the section right next to it. Almost inevitably, you will realize the first section was not completely dry. Now you have a big ol’ brown blob spilling over your paperblending seamlessly with your tears of despair. To avoid this, I’d complete a few watercolor paintings at a time, both in class and then a few at home during the week. Then I’d come back to class for some edits on the ones from home and do a few more. This went on for about 1-2 months. 

Doing so many paintings in quick succession really gave me a crash course in watercolor and learning a number of techniques quicklyGiven the small size of the paintings, I felt free to experiment. Worst case? I spent an hour or two on something I didn’t like, could crumple it up, and do another. 


Wouldn’t you know it, I really enjoy watercolors. Take that, organizational neuroses! There is just something about watching the colors spread and morph on a page that I find incredibly soothing. I’d even call it mesmerizing. See, watercolors are like a dance. With time you learn the necessary choreography, working both quickly to maneuver and blend the watery paint and slowly to prevent oversaturation and muddled colors. Not to mention there is an added bonus for my environmental sideit’s easy to minimize waste with watercolor paints because if the paint dries out you just ADD WATER (duh) – meaning far less paint down the drain! 

If you think you don’t like watercolors because they are so…well…watery, then I suggest trying the watercolors that come in tubes. The amount of water you add to the paint seems to be more adaptable, making it easier to get darker colors (i.e., add less water). A cool trick my teacher taught me to help you really work on getting the colors dark is to take a picture of your painting in black and white. See below how a picture I thought was nearly finished definitely needed more pizazz. 

The real trick to watercolors is that it’s all about the beauty of layering colorGranted, there’s annoyingly little opportunity for coverups. But you know what? Coverups are overrated. Let me tell you, I’m now working with acrylics and nothing sucks worse than doing something really well just to realize you’ll paint over it later and have to do it again. Watercolor is the opposite: everything shows. I find it oddly freeing. As long as you’re willing to bend and flex, you find another way to make the picture happen even when it seems to be taking a turn for the worse. Many times, it ends up taking you down a new, interesting path and morphs the picture into something better than you were initially able to conjure up. And isn’t that just a wonderful analogy for life? 

Well what do you know, looks like I found watercolor enlightenment. 

Final Christmas post! Man – I am WORN OUT from holiday baking and crafting. Does anyone else get exhausted just from being themselves? I’m sure there’s some life-altering epiphanies I could have about that, but we’ll save those for the new year. 

Anyway, this is a craft I worked on for about a yearIt is another example of not being able to find what I wanted, so I made it myself. I call it my nerd advent calendar. I am very proud of this thing, so I’m just gonna post a bunch of pictures of it. Hopefully, others find it fun, too! 

Basic Layout 

First, I have the basic layout for the start of December. After that you can see the end result you get on Christmas Eve. I actually have one more removable item I need to come up with, but 23 out of 24 done ain’t bad! 

In case it’s easier to read this way, I have typed out the poem: 

‘Twas the night before Christmas 

When all through the mansion 

Not a superhero was stirring 

Across the multiverse expansion. 


Infinity stones were hidden 

By the chimney with care, 

In hopes that of Thanos 

No one had to beware. 


Santas from DC to Star Wars 

Brought in plenty of loot, 

That they gathered underneath 

The ornamented Groot. 


On the roof was Saint-3PO 

Who called reindeers by name, 

“On, R2! On, DeLorean! 

Speeds of 88 miles we must gain!” 


Batman and Deadpool were seen 

Off rolling their eyes 

Preferring to this celebration 

A violent demise. 


All the while Picard observed 

As the holiday sage, 

Saying, “Merry Christmas to all, 

And to all…engage!” 


Top Row: 

  • Ghostbuster Winston scanning presents for ghosts 
  • C3PO riding in his Saint-3PO sleigh 
  • Reindeer R2D2 
  • Back to the Future DeLorean as Rudolph 
  • Snowman Captain America 
  • Stay Puft Marshmallow Man hiding behind some trees 

Middle Row: 

  • Groot ornamented like a Christmas tree 
  • Presents including a Katana stuffed animal 
  • Spiderman placing the star over Groot 
  • Professor X using his psychokinetic powers to place his present under Groot 
  • Stark banner from Game of Thrones 
  • Storm lighting up the fireplace 
  • Robin, Green Lantern, and Wonder Woman’s stockings 
  • A gingerbread man wearing Thanos’ infinity gauntlet 
  • Deadpool breaking the 4th wall 

Bottom Row: 

  • Wolverine defending himself against… 
  • Harley Quinn while standing underneath… 
  • Mistletoe being hung by… 
  • The Joker who is springing from a gift box trap set by… 
  • Thanos 
  • Gamora trying to stop Thanos 
  • Captain Janeway and… 
  • Captain Picard beaming down to observe 21st century Christmas traditions 


  • Santa Batwoman rappelling with Christmas gifts 
  • Ghostbuster Egon enjoying a candy cane 
  • Santa Batman rappelling 
  • Catwoman hitching a ride with Batman 

And that’s all, folks! Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to go pretend that it’s socially acceptable to leave all my Christmas decorations up until February. 

Yay adult-sized Christmas tree! First one of my very own. Only problem? I am a bit lacking in the ornament department. 

It worked out pretty well spreading out the ornaments we had (and some candy canes)especially since we pretended like the back of the tree doesn’t exist. But the sparseness of ornaments gave me an excuse for some more holiday crafting! 

Before I get into that, I wanted to mention a funny conversation I had with some friends. I was mentioning this conundrum and how I now had to make ornaments and a friend just laughed and said, “Or you could buy some!” The best part was that that hadn’t really occurred to me. First, I like selecting things that I am drawn toward or have meaning, not just to fill a tree up quick. Second, it’s actually a pretty common occurrence that I can’t find what I want out there to buy. Third (and final, I promise!), that’s just how I was raised – you didn’t buy or replace something unless you REALLY needed to. Depression Era and immigrant grandparents probably had something to do with that. So here is what I made this year! 


Cork Reindeer Ornament 

I have been saving wine corks for a long time, but without too clear of a purpose. With a need for ornaments, I figured this was the time to use some of them.  

A lot of people seem to be selling these on Etsy, so I mostly looked at versions I liked and then tried to make mine look similar. I based mine off of this cutie patootie  

I cut up a few corks to be the legs, head, ears, and tail. Hot glue worked best for me when attaching them. I used stray materials for the rest. I Mod Podged some twine to make antlers. Little red bells for noses. Ribbons for scarves. Fabric paint for the eyesAnd when I saw the popsicle stick skis on the Etsy reindeer above, I just couldn’t resist. 


Cork Snowman Ornament 

While I was cutting cork, I figured I might as well try a few versions. The other one that worked out for me was snowmen. I mean, corks are just circles – seemed silly not to try. 

I cut a number of disks from different types of corks to get a variation of sizes. Then I painted them white. Once again, the hot glue gun came to the rescue for attachment. Little bells worked great as buttons, ribbons worked again as scarves, and fabric paint worked for the face. Then I cut a few more corks to the shape of a top hat, painted them black, and hot glued them on. And presto! Snowmen ornaments. 


Batman Painted Globe Ornament 

A few months back, I bought some plastic, globe ornaments from Michael’s to toy around with this winterIt was merely a question of what decoration to put on/in them. I am a nerd, and my craft room is filled with a lot of Batman paraphernalia (among other nerdy things). The next step was obvious. Na na na na na na na na Batman ornament!  

I don’t know if it was the paint I used or what, but word of warning – pouring paint into the globe ornament and swirling it around (versus just painting the outside a color) is a PAIN. It didn’t seem like it at first, but no matter what I tried, the paint kept settling more in some areas than others and needed multiple tries to balance out the consistency. Maybe that’s what I get for using cheapo craft paint. Switching to doing it on the outside was way better. 

This Batman ornament was an example of not finding an ornament to my liking. So I made what I was looking for! 


Snow Globe Ornament 

I based this cute ornament on the following DIY example: 

Once we’ve gone through all 25 days of Christmas, I’ll be showing off my DIY nerd advent calendar. I bought some little, craft Christmas trees for that project and had some leftovers. The base was wider than the ornament opening which meant slimming it down. Turned out easier than I expected – just pulled out the tree and “replanted” it in some cork! 

Snowflake Decoration (or Ornament) 

These could be used in a number of decorative ways. Because I miss living where it snows, I chose to hang these from our windows so I can trick myself into thinking winter actually exists here. (Give me a few years – this house is going to be like entering a snow globe!) 

As is often my style, I saw a few things on Pinterest that intrigued me and did some conglomeration of them: for the larger idea for the steps to create it for the shape I wanted 

I got messy with some Mod Podge and wound white twine from one pin to the next. I found that drawing out the shape first before putting in the pins was much easier. I also ended up realizing using cardboard for the base (rather than Styrofoam) and a layer of saran wrap helped things not stick together and get gunky. It was a learning curve, but I got my groove! 

As you can see below, sometime crafting takes a bit of finesse to stay relatively kitty-free. 

Here’s my end result. I’m still adding to my collection to fill enough windows to get that snowy feel; slowly but surely! 


Happy holiday crafting, everyone! 


IT’S DECEMBER! Time to trick myself into thinking I live in a Central Texas Winter Wonderland.  

Y’all, I have a problem.

I was desperately trying to find inspirational fall and Halloween crafts to do. I mostly just found myself in the kitchen making and baking yummy foods. However, once Thanksgiving passed, I have been struggling to STOP crafting. I think it’s because of my stubborn vow to make sure COVID doesn’t rid me of my holiday cheer. 

In the interest of sharing that cheer, I’ll try to take enough of a break from my crafting and celebrating to give you a few blog posts about what I’m up to. Before I start, I just want to note that I personally celebrate a lot of secular Christmas traditions smattered with some nostalgic Christian Christmas songs and memories. But many of my wonderful friends and family celebrate Hannukah, winter solstice, or other holidays. This is just to say that I recognize my holiday cheer is not one size fits all – and I’d love to see what other celebrations are going on! 

Pine Wreaths 

Nothing says Winter Wonderland and Christmas to me like the smell and look of pine trees. Needless to say, a wreath was high on the list of projects for this year. 

Early on in life, my mom picked up on a trait of mine that was relevant for this craft: I tend to take a project and learn it just well enough to sort of figure it out in my own way. Sometimes this gets me into trouble. It’s smart to learn to do something the right way firstmastering the fundamentals, and then riff off of that to make it your own. Sometimes it takes me longer to get a basic project figured out because I try to adapt it before fully grasping it. On the bright side, I am able to be a bit more financially and environmentally frugal because I can adjust a project to fit the materials I have without buying something special just to use once or twice. 

Fortunately, my riffing worked well for my first ever pine wreath! I’ve made one or two branch wreaths and fake vine wreaths, but this was the first time making one of the wonderfully pine-scented versions. I had a friend give me a few pointers in addition to looking up instructions online – and it turned out great! 

What I riffed off of:  

What I did:  

  1. I got free pine tree trimmings from the place we bought our Christmas tree. They emphatically told me to take as much as I wanted. My understanding is most places are eager to get rid of the trimmings, so no cost – yippee!  
  2. Cut the trimmings into smaller, more evenly sized piecescut mine into pieces that split in 3-5 directions. (As you can see from the picture, I needed a bit of space to spread everything out.)

  1. I started by overlapping 2/3 to 3/4 of Trimming onto Trimming A, angling it so it would eventually be a circle. I then cut the needed length of wire and twisted the wire around the firmest part of the overlapping trimmings. Then I overlapped Trimming C onto Trimming B and so on. After a while, I got the hang of it to the point that I’d add a few trimmings before adding a wire that connected 3-4 trimmings at one time. 
  2. A few people have asked how I got my wreath so full and – well – monstrous. The answer? Dumb luck. As I thought I was getting near the end, I found the connections between a number of trimmings to be flimsy and the form was a bit awkward in shape and visually underwhelming, so I ended up creating a smaller, more compact wreath by overlapping it onto itself. This ended up making my wreath much more solid and substantial. 
  3. I added more, smaller trimmings where needed (1) to even out the wreath and (2) to wedge into the wire bindings where any trimmings were still a bit loose. 
  4. I ran out of wire just as I finished the wreath. Only problem? The monstrosity that it was, I was not convinced my wreath would hold its shape over time, especially once I lifted it up to hang on a door. Womp wompFortunately, I had plenty of twine for gardening. I flipped the wreath over and wrapped the twine tightly around all of the foundational twigs/branches until I had gone fully around the wreath. This actually worked really well! 

  1. flipped the wreath back around, held it up, and rotated it until I found my preferred “top”. Then I cut another strand of twine and tied it to the back so it would hang like a picture frame.  
  1. I hung it on the door and pruned it in a few places to balance out the shape – and voila! Wreath. 

I will say this. Do not question the price of wreaths. Those bitches take time and skill! If you have the patience for it, it does feel really good to get to the final product. And you get to smell all piney fresh the rest of the day. If not, I hear ya – just buy one of those beauties from someone local. 

One random tidbit to round out this post. I took the rest of the little cut trimmings and put them in jars and vases of water around the house. A nice way to get as much of that wintry scent and feel as you can. (This would be a great way to go if you don’t have the patience for building a wreath.) Happy wreathing! 

Fall is coming to an end. By that, of course, I mean emotionally, not seasonally. If you know me, you know I expect everyone to respect fall in full. But once I have a belly full of turkey, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie, we can talk winter/Christmas (or your selected holiday). With fall whizzing past at the speed of light, I have a few more chances to focus on fall before shifting to pretending like winter exists in Central Texas.

I wouldn’t call myself a pumpkin spice-obsessed person, but I do miss living where I could rock a Han Solo style vest-jean-boot combo. And the mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove is magical. And I will step on every leaf on the sidewalk to hear that wonderful crunch under my heel. Otherwise, I’m a totally normal person, I promise.

Sadly, I had trouble figuring out any fall projects that I could feel super jazzed about, unless it involved food. It’s not the worst problem to have. But I’d like to keep some semblance of health. Ah well, such is life. Here are my food explorations that got me in the mood for crisp, fall weather.

Let Them Eat Cake


This cake is really a chocolate cake made moist by pumpkin. But the cinnamon-y icing was very yummy and added a fun fall flavor. While I really add pumpkin to…taste pumpkin…I was not disappointed in the cake.

You know what I was disappointed in? Myself. Granted it was only me and the hubby eating this cake, but I actually got to a point where I almost didn’t finish it. Alas, childhood is far behind me. This chocoholic just couldn’t believe the struggle to eat the last few pieces despite its deliciousness.

The Best Part of the Pie


Confession: pie crust is mainly just a means of transporting yummy filling into my mouth.

Pumpkin pie custard in ramekins is a genius idea. It makes perfect little serving sizes and lets me skip the part I personally don’t need (the crust). Either this recipe was for gargantuan ramekins or mine are smaller than the standard size, because it definitely made more than 6 – NOT that I’m complaining.

Side Note: Both me and my husband preferred it cold rather than warm from the oven.

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

(See Header picture.)

Most breads and cakes you put pumpkin in aren’t actually going to taste like pumpkin. I always find this incredibly disappointing. It makes whatever you are baking incredibly moist and a fun orange color, but that’s about it. If you want a little flavor with your pumpkin when making a bread, this may be worth a try.

These cinnamon rolls having pumpkin in the filling, so you actually get some of the flavor which is awesome. It’s still more subtle, but it’s there. Also, this cinnamon roll dough was WAY easier to manipulate than my usual recipe. For once they came out with clean swirls – hooray!

Side Note: I did not have cream cheese, so I just made a confectioner’s sugar, vanilla, almond milk icing – quick and easy.


Happy fall baking/cooking, everyone!

Bagels. Sourdough style, cuz that’s how I roll. (Ooh, maybe I’ll make rolls next.) It took me forever to try making them, because we have our favorite local bagel place already and I’m all about supporting local businesses. Well I finally did it. Man is it fun!

Bagels are Easy

They look all fancy, not just molded into the normal bread-shaped blob. But do it! Baaaakkkeeee baaaagggggeeeeelllllsssss. Push your finger through those bread domes and twirl it round your fingers – wee!

While the baking process is multi-step (you boil them before baking, I know, weird), it’s one of the quicker sourdough recipes I’ve done. Mixing the dough 1 hour before bed and then wake up the next day to shape, rest, boil, and bake which takes about 1.5 hours the next morning. And let me tell you, eating bagels straight out of the oven is DELICIOUS.

I used Emilie Raffa’s recipe since she’s always been a reliable starting point for new sourdough recipes. These are very rounded and the holes close up, but from the recipes I’ve seen, that seems to be how it often goes when using a sourdough starter for your yeast. Don’t worry, they are still very, very yummy!

Like Playdoh!

Bagel dough is awesome. If you’ve baked, especially if you’ve made bread of some sort, you know that dough can be messy, sticky, and hard to shape / form especially in the initial stages. Bagel dough is refreshingly different. I guess recipes would officially call it a “dry” dough. To me, it’s almost plastic-y in a good way. I can shape it more like Playdoh than like dough.

Truth be told, I enjoy bread dough and actually appreciate the feeling of stickiness between my fingers. But a little variety is nice, ya know?

Bagel dough is the most malleable dough I’ve worked with so far. I haven’t tried toying around with that – yet – but just the dividing and twirling around my fingers to make the bagel shape are very seamless.

Next Steps

Next, I want to try blending some herbs, cheeses, etc. into the dough. I love doing that with breads and those are my favorite bagel flavors, so it seems like a win-win.

Now that I’ve learned the ropes, I also might experiment with adjusting the recipe to see how it adjusts the shape and flavor. I also think it’d be fun to try the fancy way of shaping the bagels where you roll the dough out and then twist it together.

Cream Cheese 4 Life

A little side note. Man cannot live on bread alone, but this gal sure can. Especially if cream cheese topping was considered a major food group. The only time I’ve almost maxed out on cream cheese was with a loaded-up bagel in New York City. I did not think it could be done, but those bagel shops know the way to my heart is through giving me my own weight in shmear.

Naturally, I had to make sure there was cream cheese for my bagels. With the last batch of cream cheese, I blended in some homemade pickles. Yum! I’m going to have to try some other flavors using herbs and veggies from my garden. Now if only cream cheese grew on trees life would be perfection.

It’s finally happening. 

I’m wearing PANTS and SOCKS and LONG SLEEVES, and I am comfortable doing it (sometimes)! Glorious open window weather, I have missed you.  

This fall brings a unique characteristic to it: reopening. I have been lucky in the pandemic in that my job continued as usual-ish. I maintained my fulltime work and pay and even had the added bonus of being able to telework for a whileRecently went back to my pre-pandemic office schedule. This worries me. 

As my blog shows, I have a lot of interests to find time for. When life inevitably ramps back up, I have to protect my creative time. I am good at not working past the hours allotted, but there’s more to it. My commute removes about 5 hours from my free time each week. Not to mention that work breaks, when I am able to take them, are limited to what I have available. I’m not dragging my baking ingredients with me to the office. Although the image of someone strolling up and seeing me kneading dough across my desk is pretty priceless. 

My boss recently joked about expecting me to come in one day and say I am going part time to pursue my artistic interests. My response? “…………..” See, I have become a bit disillusioned with the work until you break style of the American Dream. Don’t get me wrong, I know I’m lucky in this country and in my job. But I have also looked up all the other countries I’d be lucky to live in that have averages of 28-35 hours of work per week. 

Have you watched The Great British Baking Show? (First of all, if you have not, stop reading this immediately and go become a happier person. Second of all, they quarantined together to make the current season possible, and I want with my whole being to live in that tent right now.) It is a competition for home bakers. The contestants are introduced by their job, their family life, and one major hobby in addition to baking. That is what I want out of life. 

Now, this is not to say that I hate my job. I’m one of the lucky ones who actually loves the work I do. But if money and sociocultural expectations were not a factor, I’d probably work half as much and half as hardTime to do the work I love and time to do the other things I love tooOpportunity to give and opportunity to be rejuvenated. 

Survival Guide 

I knew the transition back to working in the office would be hard and I like to be prepared, so I started my “how to survive COVID19 reopening” guide just a month into teleworking. Here is what I came up with: 

  • Wake up early so I have 60min for activities before work 
    • I’m a morning person. Do you know how frustrating it is to expel ALL your best energy on work? Waking up earlier was a struggle at first but very worth it. 
  • Take my breaks. And take them away from my desk (otherwise, bye bye break). Keep some realistic creative options available: 
    • Sketchbook I can take on walks to my favorite workplace spots 
    • My journal to brainstorm ideas 
    • Search online for new songs, recipes, craft ideas, etc. to learn 
    • Walk around – my primo brainstorming activity 
    • Talk to someone about fun, creative things (and NOT about work!) 
  • Use the drive home to decompress NOT to road rage 
    • I have yet to find a satisfying use of this time other than listening to the radio and shifting out of work mode. For me personally, when I try to use it for a creative purpose, it always ends up feeling like a compromise because driving limits how I would want to be creative. For now, I’ve decided not to compromise and just jam out and maybe sneak in an audiobook or two.  
  • Have multiple weekly protected times for creativity (like art / music classes) 
  • When the husband plays videogames, spend at least some of that time without the TV on so I’ll be forced to find an alternative way to entertain myself 
  • Actually USE my vacation time 

Check-In and Adjust 

I’m writing this blog, so obviously I have mastered all of these things. Ha, I’m funny.  

Pretty quickly I learned that it’s not about figuring out the perfect schedule. Once I figured out a scheduleit just needed changing. Instead, I believe it is about finding the best way to check in with yourself so you pay attention to how you are doing and can readjust when you need to. Below are my favorite wayright now for doing this: 

  • Daylio is an app that pops up on my phone twice a day and forces me to pay attention to how I’m feeling and how I’m spending my time. You can also look at your data across time to look at larger patterns. (Google Play Store + Apple Store)

  • I also like visuals; they are quick yet powerful. Below is a visual I adapted from The Artist’s Way which talks about a Life Pie – I adapted it to be a creativity pie of sorts. The further out from the center of the circle, the more satisfied you are with that area. I really like this visual because you can review a number of areas all at once to help you consider how to shift or maintain your time and energy. 


What is “enough”? 

A friend asked me a great question when I voiced my concern about having enough time for each of my many interests. They asked, “How do you know what is enough?” 

After a long pause to consider the question, my answer was the quintessential psychologist response: It depends. 

I bake less often than I write which is fine. I write less often than I garden which is not fine. I craft periodically and I do music regularly. These are personal gauges, not a map for every person. When I track how I spend my time, I am not trying to look for specific timestamps or accomplishments per say, I am paying attention to my internal sense of satisfaction about my growth and engagement. Overall, am I satisfied and content with how I have spent my time? 

That is what I have chosen to be my marker for “enough”. 

Patience sucks 

Waiting for the right time of year for a project. Waiting to plant the seedlings or buy the plants until there is a place to grow themWaiting for the sourdough starter to rise. Waiting to taste the food I made before saying it will taste like crapWaiting until I’m over 75% through a painting or drawing before telling my art teacher it’s crap. Waiting until I’ve practiced a song more than a few times before…thinking it’s crap.  

Hm. Seeing a theme. 

I cannot count how many times I have almost given up on a drawing or painting because of how terrible the work-in-progress looked. Most of the time, you know what my art teacher says? “Keep going! This is how it’s supposed to look right now.” Bleh. 

Not to sound like I’m bragging, but I tend to be good at things pretty quickly. I sometimes wonder if, despite the obvious benefits, this has set me up to really struggle with being patient enough to get the most out of the creativity process. 


Now don’t get me wrong, I have had plenty of projects not work out. In fact, I’m currently realizing I’ll have to re-cardboard and mulch a whole section of my native garden bed because I didn’t get it right the first time and annoying little grass babies are popping up everywhere. But I have also had plenty of things that I knew weren’t working out that did. You won’t know which is which unless you allow yourself to be open to the failuresIn fact, you often won’t even make it to the successes without the failures. 

Expecting perfection from the start is a recipe for creative disaster. It’s the Catch-22. We often lose focus on the fact that the only way to actually fail at creativity is to refuse to allow ourselves to fail. But man is it hard to say, “Woo! Let’s do it! Failure? I LOVE failure! Gimme some failure!”  

In the interest of encouraging others to embrace the ugly side of creating, I am going to show you the progression of my first charcoal portrait. With each step, I’ll also give you a peek inside my mind at the time. 

“OK, this isn’t so scary.” 

Ooooooo, clothes and hair are actually really fun!” 

“Wait. What the @$&(%, I’m further along. How does it look less like him than when I started?!” 

%^&@%^# piece of %#*, I’m going to throw you in the %#^ @&#*% trash – UGH! It’s the $^(*# North. Winter is coming. Jon Snow doesn’t really need lips, does he? They’ll just freeze off anyway. 

“Guess he’s looking OK. My teacher was right, the beard does make a big difference! …Lips still suck…I just won’t look at them. 

“Hm. Don’t think his hair is going to look right in the picture. But at least it looks kind of like him!” 

“Sweet, got the hang of the hair.” 


“Whoa, it looks like Jon Snow! But…maybe only I think it looks like Jon Snow…” Proceeds to show it to a few people who think it looks like Jon Snow. “HEY, EVERYBODY, LOOK WHAT I DID!” 

Let me tell you, this portrait was quite the rollercoaster ride, but it was very, very worth it in the end. If I had stopped halfway through, things would have never come back around. You know what else is cool? In going through my different art pictures to find what to use for this postI got to see how even the steps I went through to get to an end portrait changed and improved moving on from this first one.

Don’t Give Up 

Still not entirely convinced? Let’s go even uglier. Here is an art project that “failed”. 


Clearly, I felt real good about this one. I got SO mad and took it out on the painting – I loved how the background of this painting was looking and then just destroyed it when trying to paint in some flowers. Honestly, this is likely a big reason why I have so many unfinished projects lying around. The fear of messing it up. 

As much as I’d love to avoid sharing this one, it’s one of the most important. This is when I stepped back and decided that I was not allowed to get mad at myself for struggling with art when I had not taken an art class in 20 years. That was the day I finally registered for my adult art class where I had the success I showed above. 

That bread that looks too flat? Often still tastes great. (Is it too hard? No such thing – make it into croutons or bread pudding!) 

That chord you can’t get right? Smooths out with time if you practice. 

That part you wrote that you don’t like? Will get you to the best parts later. 

That plant you’ve killed 4 times? You learned something each time that will help with the next plant. (Damn you, lavender, I shall get you to grow someday!) 

Don’t be fooled by what sounds like this incredibly mature adult before you. I am terrible at this. I yell, I snap, I sulk, heck I even consider throwing things. OK, maybe I’ve thrown a few things. But it’s always wimpy stuff like wads of paper and guitar picks. Then I pause, take a few deep breaths, maybe I take a break for a bit, and then I do the next step. I’m often not happy about it in the moment. I often think it’s a waste of timeLater, I’m always glad that I did it. 

So this was all my long-winded way of saying…Keep going – you got this! (And try not to throw anything.) 


I have a friend I’d like you to meet. She can be an acquired taste. Sometimes a bit messy. To be honest, she can smell a little off if you don’t feed her. Despite all of that, she has become really popular. 

Meet Audrey II, my sourdough starter! (Any Little Shop of Horrors fans out there?) 

Before COVID19, us diehard sourdough baking enthusiasts were already out there. Funnily enough, it seemed that I found a small grouping of sourdough people at every party I went to. Once I got into it, people started coming out of the woodwork. 

I’ve made many different things, but some of the highlights have been varying breads including hot dog buns and pita breadfocaccia, biscuits, pancakes, bread pudding, cinnamon rolls, pasta 

Now I’m hungry. 

Where to Start

There are a number of bakeries helping people with starter kits – now that this is an option, I definitely recommend it. So many people have asked my trick for sourdough starters because some of their homemade ones have gone funky after some time. Easy – get it from someone else. I went to a great pasta and cider tasting at Texas Keeper Cidery where the chef handed out starters in a to-go bag. It’s been over a year now and my starter keeps chugging along. 

If you want added information on baking with sourdough and Google isn’t cutting it, I started with this and thought it was great at explaining the process without getting too much in the weeds: 

Artisan Sourdough Made Simple by Emilie Raffa  

A really cool exploration into sourdough baking as a lifestyle (yes, this sounds over the top; yes, you should want this for yourself) comes from another book. Warning – this one requires more brain power from you to put the recipe details together, but it does a great job of tempting you into this slower paced way of life. I now use this book for the base of my mainstay bread recipe. 

Tartine Bread by Chad Robertson  

If you have a starter and it is growing out of control, make sourdough crackers (you’re welcome) – I use fresh herbs from the garden. These crackers are so yummy and don’t require the time to bake that breads doAlso, don’t ask me how but, they last way longer than you’d think before getting stale. 

Sourdough Crackers Recipe

Sourdough as a Lifestyle

Sourdough as a lifestyle, you say? 

Sounds a bit much, don’t you think? 

Not at all. I am a firm believer that we should all be living the sourdough bread baker life. 

am a sucker for what I refer to as Depression Era hobbies. This is my way of saying that I enjoy doing things that remove the middlemen and allow me to fully appreciate a product from start to finish. 

Sourdough is a great example. Take bread, something that is nearly instantaneously accessible in our modern world due to retail companies. Sourdough baking takes it back to its roots. (Or if that’s too rich for your blood, find yourself a local bakery to frequent!) 

Sourdough forces you to pay attention to the fundamental mechanics of bakingIt’s about spacing your bake out into smaller amounts of time across 1-3 days, adapting your actions based on what you see happening to the starter and dough. Sure, that can sound really intimidating off the bat, but most books and/or recipes will help you chart this out while you get used to the processIt does not take much longer or more focus than ‘instant’ baking, it just spans a longer swatch of time. Personally, I find it relaxing and enjoy weaving the process throughout my other activities.  

The usual process looks something like this: 

  • Feed sourdough starter every 1-2 days (it is a yeast that you feed water and flour) 
  • Once it has risen the starter can be used in recipes OR wait until it has fallen if the recipe calls for unfed starter – there should be at least a little starter leftover 
  • Feed the leftover starter  
  • Feed every 1-2 days OR put in refrigerator until a few days before next bake 

If it hadn’t been for that fateful day when a chef literally handed me a starter, I may have never tried sourdough baking. It seemed like more work than it was worth. But now that I have my starter, it is a nice ritual that I enjoy incorporating into everyday life. 

Consistently, the message with sourdough is to slow down. Don’t get too distracted. Don’t forget to pay attention and track your progress. Rather than a specific timeframe for each step, you have to watch and adaptAs someone who loves being given crisp, clear directions, I hated this part initially. But eventually you start being able to gauge how long you should wait for the next step based on the temperature in your house and the look of your starter or dough. There’s an odd peace that comes with cultivating that skillset. 

Anyone out there trying to use mindfulness more in your day-to-day practices? This is one of the yummiest ways you can accomplish that. 

One Last Tip

I couldn’t talk about Audrey II without mentioning one important thing. Do yourself a favor, bread bakers or whole loaf purchasers. Buy. A. Real. Bread. Knife. 



Do it now. 

Your bread can slice like butter. It can be cut without smooshing the loaf underneath the weight of your overbearing hand. You don’t have to eat the giant heel of bread all at onceTrust me, this one simple change is pure magic. 

Whelp, time to go bake. 


How does the saying go? I’m so sick and tired of being sick and tired. 

COVID19 has stripped away a lot of the everyday distractions and yet the worst parts of our world can’t seem to be stopped. Mother Nature still destroys homes, POC are still killed for reasons undeserving of death, people on minimum wage (which does not cover the bills) have to risk exposure to a deadly disease or lose their jobs, people are losing businesses and jobs through no fault of their own, and some people who I refuse to name are threatening (again) to send our country into a tailspin.  

For me, this results in some major guilt. Specifically, the guilt of having the opportunity to free myself from those realities through creativity. 

Often, I can work through the guilt, but the current nature of things makes it harder. There are just so many people struggling so profoundly, and I am notThe guilt freezes my hand midair as I reach for my guitar. It weighs me down when I try to bake or draw. It catches in my throat and shades everything in dark gray shades of despair.  

For the record, guilt is necessary so we will change the world for the better. But man, how do you manage guilt that highlights the need to change the world?  

I don’t have answers. Below is merely a string of observations about what helps me continue my creative path through some difficult territory. 

Creativity does not require privilege 

First and foremost, the assumption that my privilege gives me more opportunities for creativity than other people is a rather simplified view of the world. It’s like saying someone without sight sees the world less than I do. Sure, if you want to get technical, that is true for vision. But the human body is amazing – there is more than one way to see and experience the world around us; the body and mind will adapt to allow for whole new experiences we never realized was possible. It is not my place to diminish the creative processes of those without my specific abilities or privileges. 

Don’t get me wrong, money helps. Having connections helps. Not being seen as someone “less than” helps. Living in a system built for who you are helps. But it does not make creativity possible. In fact, creativity without struggle is often like hiking without a path. Yay, nature! But…where am I? 

If I could snap my fingers and make all suffering go away I would do it yesterdayBut if suffering has to exist, and for now it does, creativity is one of the best biproducts we could ask for. I suppose this is all to say that I choose to focus on enhancing everyone’s paths to being creative rather than hindering my own. 

What’s your excuse? 

With the most recent onslaught of awful news, gardening came to the rescue. Here’s how my brain works. Cooking, baking, gardening…these are easier things to initiate because I “must” do them. After all, a girl’s gotta eat.  

It helps alleviate the guilt to know that if I don’t water the garden it’ll die. (Except the blackberry vine. I didn’t water that thing for like 4 months while it was still in a small pot, and it was still alive! Indestructible.) This is the “excuse” I gave myself so I could be, you know, human. Some other examples that I’ve seen people use… Calling creative pursuits ‘self-care’ instead of ‘hobbies’Using creativity to contribute to the household so it is viewed as productive. Working creativity into a date night or hang out activity 

Now, if you want to be really ahead of the curve, you can start battling the larger hurdle: Why do I even need an excuse to be human? (Whoa.) 

You are not the cheese, so do not stand alone 

The farmer in the dell 
The farmer in the dell 
Hi-ho, the derry-o 
The farmer in the dell 


The cheese stands alone 
The cheese stands alone 
Hi-ho, the derry-o 
The cheese stands alone 

Aside from the fact that I now realize I have absolutely no idea what that song is about, you are not the blue cheese that, despite being so delicious, is too stinky to be around. The first thing I want to do when I see the news is to curl into a ball in the darkest corner of my house, stuff my face with said cheese, and never come out. You may have the same visceral reaction. If you need a moment, take it. But please, come back out of your hidey hole. Or at least let someone curl up in that ball with you. 

Trying creative pursuits outside of my norm has been my recent favorite for connecting to others while simultaneously propelling my creativity through the guilt to something constructiveA local comic bookstore offered to help customers identify graphic novels highlighting Black communities. (I bought a few that I loved and have now expanded my scope to Asian and Asian American communities.) I am in a virtual guitar class and the teacher incorporated multiple Latin-x songs in our current class because she had noticed a lack of inclusion in her natural music preferences. I am following local artists from a variety of backgrounds in order to better understand the place I live. 

It is becoming easier and easier to access the art of people whose works have previously been hidden or hindered. Go out and find it! Or, even better, find and support the artists themselves 




I suck.

I’ll never get this.



Sound familiar?

Gardening Pros

Gardening can be addictive. There is sheer pride and joy when you create your own urban jungle or harvest your first homegrown vegetable (even if it’s a butternut squash that fits in the palm of your hand)Now that we’re in COVID times, there are many more people realizing the wonderment of gardening. Welcome aboard!

Participating in the life of a plant is sacred. We take it for granted when we walk by a neighbor’s flowerbed or we buy our groceries. When you plant something and nurture its growth yourself, you get to work hand-in-hand with Mother Nature. And it’s wonderful. There is just something irreplaceable about gardening and the magic of bringing new life into the world. Sure, the labor pains tend to be MUCH less intense than what biological mothers experience, but the rewards are still there.

I love the highs that come from gardening. Sometimes I spend all evening sitting in my hammock, looking peacefully around my backyard. Other times inhale a long, allergen-filled breath of air after a morning of weeding, landscaping, and cultivating. With each exhale, I think about how good life is.

Gardening Cons

Well, with life comes death. Sorry, folks! I’ve tried to find my way around it, but it can’t be doneNow don’t get me wrong. Always do your research, because sometimes we can keep death at bay. The quick fixes?

  • Watering too little
  • Watering too much (yes, that is a thing) 
  • Wrong size pot
  • Too little sunlight
  • Too much sunlight (in the middle of the summer in Central Texas, you can almost hear non-native plants in full sun shrieking in misery)
  • Wrong type of soil
  • Needs fertilizer
  • Oops! Now you’ve over-fertilized

Helpful, right? Ehhhhhhh, maybe. There are plants that will literally never know if they died because they were overwatered or because they were underwatered. I mean, seriously? If you need help beyond what Google finds for you, I always recommend asking your local gardening store or any gardeners you know for help.

But I’ll say it again: with life comes death. 

don’t care how many articles you read, how many people you ask, how many solutions you try – you will kill something. Or, if you want to be more psychologically healthy about it – something you are growing will die. And it can happen relatively often.

When we have a hand in the growthwe also have a hand in the death. It may even feel like we single-handedly snuffed out life’s flame. And maybe we did. When I spent 3 weeks refusing to look at the plants I was neglecting, knowing that if I looked, I might find them dead…well, I was definitely increasing the odds.

I mean, let’s think about this. 

  1. You don’t water your plants when they need it.
  2. Later you realize: Eek – I should have watered my plants. That’s not good. 
  3. That leads to: Watering the plants! Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner!

Anyone hanging their head in shame? Yeah, me too. Sure, these steps make logical sense, but they neglect the human condition.

Acceptance Brings Us Back to Life

My dad is the plant whisperer. I grew up with everyone on the bus route to school knowing my house – “the one with all the flowers! ”When I moved to Central Texas a few years back, I was finally stable enough in my career that I could live in one place for a while, so I took the opportunity to expand my plant family. I was excited to show my dad what I was growing inside and on the porch

But first there was the gnat infestation of 2018. Oh man, it was bad. We couldn’t leave cups of water out or there’d be little bodies floating in them. There was a lot of yellow sticky paper, Mosquito Bits, plants moved outside, and skipped watering to get rid of those suckers.

Then there was the death porch of 2018. (As you can see, I learned a lot that first year.) west-facing, concrete porch in Central Texas during the summer is not a plant’s best friend. Turns out, even succulents hate it. I thought succulents were like cacti. Spoiler Alert: they are not.

Then there were the times when things died without any clear reason why. Those irritate me the most. Like, fine. Die. But you best make it clear why you are dwindling into nothingness.

OK, back to my dad, gardener extraordinaire. My parents made it to town and we were showing them around the apartment. When we started looking at my plants, the conversation went something like this:

Me: “I wish I was as natural at this as you are, Dad. I kill like 50-75% of everything I grow.”

My dad: “That’s how I started, too. You learn as you go.”

Me: “Nu uh! You’ve always been so good at gardening!”

My dad: Looking amused, “You met me after I had been doing this for years.” He then proceeds to tell me about some of the first plants he killed.(Apparently, Sheryl Crow was right, the first cutor plant death, is the deepest.)

Me: “Huh, who’d have thought!” I avoid my then-boyfriend’s eye contact. Because, damn it, here’s another time where I found out he was right all along. (Man, this blog is not good for my marriage. I’m starting to lose some serious points here.)

Here’s the thing. If you are not willing to allow for death, you can quicken its pace. If you are not willing to allow for death, you will never be able to fully participate in life. Think back to my story about avoiding my plants for 3 weeks. My fear and guilt made me go from the possible reality that my plants may have died to the probable reality that my plants had definitely died.

Yes, having plants means that you will have to deal with the sadness and frustrations of death and failure. But it is almost always outshined by the pride and beauty if you let it.

Your Homework Assignment

Sadly, as wise as my words are, reading them is not enough. If you really want to garden but you find you are getting in your own wayhere’s what you do.

Say it with me:

Plants are going to die, and sometimes it will be because of me, and THAT IS OK.

Did you believe it? No? Then say it again, with gusto!

Plants are going to die, and sometimes it will be because of me, and THAT IS OK.

Still no? And again!

Plants are going to die, and sometimes it will be because of me, and THAT IS OK.

Say it in the mirror, in your journal, to your friends, make a jingle out of it, do it until you are blue in the face and until…you start to believe it a little bit. Or maybe you just don’t immediately roll your eyes and scoff in disbelief. Baby steps.

Here’s another challenge:

Sit with each plant when it’s dying / died. Take in its life cycle. Acknowledge how it entered and left your world. If there is disappointment or pain or guilt, turn toward it. If you don’t have much of a reaction at all or if this plant’s end was just meant to be, turn toward that, too. If it’s not too new age-y for you, tell the plant when you feel sorry for how its life ended. Heck, throw a eulogy if you want. (I’m not kidding.) Find your way to allow for the experience of death so that death stings a little less. When it has less of a sting, you can then see its lifecycle and learn from it so you can begin again, much like how many plants must die in order to reseed and grow anew.