A cocktail party to celebrate our baby (and... it's a girl!)

A Cocktail Party to Celebrate Our Baby (and… It’s a Girl!)

I’ve been invited to dozens of baby showers since my 20s, and almost all of them have been get-togethers for the girls to celebrate their friends’ forays into motherhood. I still think it’s a sweet tradition, but since it takes two people to make a baby, there isn’t any reason the fathers shouldn’t be celebrated too.

Besides, I have so many male friends that it wouldn’t feel right to exclude them from one of the biggest moments of my life. A boy/girl party was only natural for our group.

Continue Reading

Tomatoes in winter
Random Thoughts

Five Things Friday

The five little things that made my week…

1. This tenacious tomato plant was started from seed a year ago and left for neglect four months ago at the height of the drought. It stopped producing tomatoes but we were simply too lazy to pull it out. Now with El Niño in full swing (bringing with it more cold, rain, and snow than we’ve seen in several years), we’ve been getting dozens of little yellow blossoms and healthy green fruits! Here’s hoping they continue to ripen through the winter!

Continue Reading

Why reader reviews of cookbooks are so important

Why Reader Reviews of Cookbooks Are So Important

There are two types of reviews when it comes to cookbooks: reviews written by the media (magazines, newspapers, and radio shows) and reviews by readers (bloggers, recipe testers, and home cooks).

Which reviews usually influence your decision to buy a cookbook?

I pondered this after coming across a blog post by author Dianne Jacob, whose new release made The New York Times‘ holiday roundup of the best books to buy. It’s a brag-worthy piece of press that hundreds of cookbooks vie for each year, but as a food writer and editor, Dianne admitted that something “nagged” her about the so-called “review.”

Because in her eyes, a review implies the reviewer actually tested the recipes before extolling their greatness. Otherwise, it’s nothing more than a rewritten press release.

And as I thought about it more… her refreshingly frank take on the matter makes a lot of sense.

Continue Reading

A tour of Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company

A Tour of Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company

I’ve been a big fan of Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company since the very beginnings of this blog. (I love looking back to that first year I started gardening, when all of the seeds I owned could fit into two vintage cigar boxes. Quite a difference from the multiple ammo cans I now keep them in!)

I devoured their seed catalog every winter, dog-earing pages of vegetables I wanted to try and marking colorful varieties that caught my eye. Long before Garden Betty was ever a brand, years before I even published a book, the fine folks at Baker Creek were behind me 100 percent. To say they were the first supporters of my blog (when I was an enthused but novice gardener) is not far from the truth — and for that, I’ll always be thankful.

When owner Jere Gettle and manager Paul Wallace popped by my garden for a visit a few years ago, I was even more enthralled by the work they were doing to promote pure food. Selling seeds is only one part of their business; supporting sustainable farming, championing the non-GMO movement, speaking out against the patenting of seeds, fighting corporate control of our food system, and preserving heirloom varieties from some 75 countries round out the core of Baker Creek’s mission.

After speaking at the Spring Planting Festival last year, I had an opportunity to wander their pioneer village, tour the farm and get a glimpse of the seed-packing operation, all set against the rolling green hills of the Missouri Ozarks. (And only minutes from the home of Laura Ingalls Wilder, one of my favorite childhood authors.)

If you’ve ever been curious about the day-to-day of Baker Creek, you’re in for a visual treat!

Continue Reading

My husband, my rock
Random Thoughts

Five Things Friday: New Year 2016 Edition

In 2015, I wrote a total of 20 Five Things Friday posts. The biweekly series started in 2013 as a way to share the random collection of thoughts and tidbits from my life that don’t warrant a whole blog entry, and also serve as a reminder to myself that no matter how hard things may be (or how mundane the day to day may seem), there’s always something to smile about. Even if it’s a small thing. Because sometimes, those are the best things. (You can read the very first Five Things Friday here.)

I didn’t put too much thought into how significant the series would eventually become, but through the years, I’ve heard from countless readers that this little post was a favorite on the blog, a highlight in their inboxes or newsreaders every other week. And truthfully, it threw me off a bit. But then I realized… there is pure joy in simple pleasures, which is what I always try to convey in my posts.

I’m so happy to know it’s something you look forward to, and hope it helps you look back on all your blessings as you leap ahead into the New Year.

Without further ado… here were the five big things that made my year!

Continue Reading

The best year yet: 2015 round-up
Random Thoughts

The Best Year Yet: 2015 Round-Up

When I think of all the people I’ve met, the places I’ve seen, and the blessings I’ve had, this year did not feel real at all. As soon as the clock ticked over to 2015 just 364 short days ago, it’s been nonstop with the 3 Bs: book release, book tour, and (soon-to-be) baby!

Had you asked me last New Year’s Eve how I thought this year might turn out, I never could have foreseen just how incredible of a journey it’s been. Despite a slower pace on the blog because of my travel schedule (a total of 80 posts and 686 images uploaded — not bad considering I was on the road for a good part of the year), Garden Betty reached almost half a million pageviews in a single month, and for the first time since its inception five years ago — a stat that shocks and amazes me.

Continue Reading

Christmas: a week in pictures
Random Thoughts

Christmas: A Week in Pictures

This is the first day in over a week that I’ve actually opened my laptop, and I must say it’s been a really lovely holiday break. Will and I spent Christmas with his family in Northern California, and I hope I’m not alone in saying a break from our holiday break is now in order!

We had a lively week filled with family activities — Christmas Eve with all the cousins, Christmas Day with our immediate family, a day-after dinner with my siblings-in-law, then a holiday block party at my mother-in-law’s house on Mount Tamalpais. That’s six full days of decorating, wrapping, unwrapping, prepping, cooking, eating, drinking, and more eating with dozens of friends and family I only get to see a couple times a year… and I am wiped. out. In the most heartwarming way!

Continue Reading

Gluhwein: a spiced wine to warm the heart
Recipes, Sips & Syrups

Glühwein: A Spiced Wine to Warm the Heart

I love a good party, and I especially love a good party punch. In summer, I typically stir up a sparkly bowl of sangria and in winter, I’m all about cozying up to a hot cocktail (like this festive cranberry-apple cider). Mulled wine often makes an appearance at my holiday parties and I never serve it the same way twice.

That’s the beauty of mulled wine — you can’t really go wrong as long as it’s sweetened, spiced, and heated. It’s a forgiving drink and open to experimentation, depending on what kind of spices you have in your kitchen. Sometimes I’ll make mulled wine like a hot sangria, with added chunks of apples or pears thrown in.

Continue Reading