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.)

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!

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.




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.




Whelp, here I go!

One weekday this summer I was on a walk with my husband. It was early (because it’s Central Texas and summer walks after 10am are not going to happen), but that’s my primetime. So, there I was, chatting away about my different hobbies and how much I’m enjoying them – and my other half says, “You should do a blog!”


In other words, my husband had come up with a terrible idea. This did not sound fun or interesting. It sounded like work. Why suggest adding this random thing to my plate? Besides, there are plenty of blogs out there already. Mine would end up neglected in the heap of blogs that no one really reads. So, I spent the next 15 minutes telling him he was wrong.

But let’s start at the beginning.

Rewind to Last Year

I was exhausted. Not miserable; my job was awesome, and I had friends, family, and a significant other I loved. But work was taking so much out of me that I would literally wake up, go to work, come home, sit in front of the TV where my then-fiancé would feed me dinner, and go to bed. My only creative outlet was work and it was beginning to wear on me.

A friend had started to do the workbook The Artist’s Way and was describing exactly the kind of awakening I needed. I bought a copy to try. It worked.


These days:

  • I’m baking sourdough bread, crackers, etc. (6 months BEFORE it was cool!)
  • I’m drawing and painting
  • I’m gardening (also BEFORE it was cool!)
  • I’m cooking what I grow in the garden
  • I’m crafting (stay tuned for December when you’ll see my nerdy advent calendar)
  • I’m writing
  • I’m playing music and singing
  • I’m…now annoyed that work is getting in the way of all of my hobbies. Ah well, overcorrected.

The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron

So, what is the trick?

There are many things that helped me readjust my life. Part of this blog will be about sharing those things to help make creativity and fun be more accessible for other people. A blend of real-life experience and psychology knowledge. But I think the best place to start is with what The Artist’s Way calls synchronicity. Essentially, creativity is about opening ourselves up to the possibilities and just going for it. And, if we do, we will see that the world around us is trying to help.

If you listen closely enough, the world is whispering its secrets to you and wants you to find your creative path. In other words, it’s about saying YES when an opportunity presents itself. Not questioning our abilities or our worthiness. Just saying – Whelp, here I go!

I realized that my husband’s suggestion of the blog was about connecting the dots across my work and play. Since that realization, we decided to put the blog on the To Do List. But I still found it intimidating. Also, did you see my list of hobbies? I’m busy! I just hadn’t pulled the trigger.

What changed?

A few mornings ago I woke up and saw an opportunity to be a freelance writer focused on one of my favorite hobbies. I immediately thought back to the conversations with my husband and how my excitement had slowly grown about creating an online presence. I told him I wanted to apply. Before I even finished describing the opportunity, he told me to go for it. I started the application. It required a link to an online writing sample. Of which I have none. Whomp, whomp.

Universe, make up your mind! Is this synchronicity or is this just a “gotcha!” moment?

Part of life is how you spin it. I’m spinning this into my first step into the online writing world. It’s a win-win really. Whether I get the gig or not, I’ve made my entrance. Now it’ll just be about guilting my friends and family into reading it.

It hurts to start my blog this way, but…my husband was right. (Don’t tell him.)