2014: a year in review

Before writing this post, I fondly read over the previous “Years in Review” from 2011, 2012, and 2013, and I’m astounded by how much has happened in the relatively short time I’ve been blogging. If I had to choose a theme for 2014, I think I would call it the “Year of Growth.”

Not only have I grown incredibly as a person through new experiences, but my career has grown in ways I never could’ve imagined, and my blog has grown into a repository of inspiration for visitors all over the world, giving Garden Betty its highest traffic numbers ever in 2014!


December 29 2014      20 comments     Linda Ly
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A hike to cure the holidaze

Sunshine. Fresh air. A hilly hike. All good things on Christmas Day, and the perfect elixir for the holidaze (especially after entertaining all night on Christmas Eve!).

I live on a little-known peninsula of Los Angeles that’s about as far removed from Los Angeles as one could be, both geographically and figuratively. No freeways, no traffic, and you’re more likely to share the road with wild peacocks than local celebrities.

It’s also the most geologically active region in Greater Los Angeles, thought to be an island at one time as it shares a similar — and unique —  ecosystem to that of the nearby Channel Islands. Dramatic cliffs formed by lava and vibrant tidepools filled with sea anemones define the shoreline, while miles of trails wind around the Palos Verdes Hills high above the Pacific.

It’s an ecological gem in the southernmost part of the basin, and I pinch myself every time I look out my window: snow-capped peaks just beyond the Port of Los Angeles to the east, and thousands of acres of open space abutting unspoiled ocean to the west.


December 27 2014      22 comments     Linda Ly

The five little things that made my week…

Surrounded by our extended family on Christmas Eve

1. Family isn’t always a mom, a brother, or a cousin, or even anybody related to you. It’s the people who stand behind you and inspire you to reach a little higher, who embrace you for who you are and embody who you want to be. For the first time in eight years that my husband and I have been together, we’re spending our holidays at home. And while we missed the presence of our respective parents and siblings, we were blessed to be surrounded by some of our extended family on Christmas Eve — 14 of them (more if you count the four-legged children) for an all-night feast at our house!


December 26 2014      7 comments     Linda Ly

The five little things that made my week…

Family heirloom ornament

1. Decorating our first Christmas tree together with ornaments passed down from my husband’s family over several decades. (And yes, that’s a popcorn and cranberry garland! I hadn’t made one of those since grade school… so fun to revisit the craft during a wine and movie marathon at home.)


December 12 2014      6 comments     Linda Ly

The Southern California Christmas tree

Say the words “Christmas tree” and you’re probably picturing stately conifers like fir, pine, spruce, and cedar, or even the less common cypress. You might be familiar with Scotch pine, Virginia pine, and Eastern white pine, and you’ve likely never heard of Monterey pine. In fact, it doesn’t even make the list of popular Christmas trees at the National Christmas Tree Association.

But in Southern California, Monterey pine (Pinus radiata) is the de facto Christmas tree, grown on suburban tree farms spanning hundreds of acres in our Mediterranean climate. It is the quintessential Southern California Christmas tree, and only here will you find families out in the fields, hunting for that perfect Christmas tree in December while wearing shorts and flip flops. (And as you can see, I was completely overdressed in my flannel and jeans.)

Looking for the perfect Christmas tree


December 10 2014      15 comments     Linda Ly

Preordering The CSA Cookbook as a gift? Download a printable IOU postcard

If you’re pondering what to give your friends and family for the holidays this year, may I suggest a copy of The CSA Cookbook? I mean, this is on everyone’s list, right? (I kid, I kid.)

But as it turns out, the publication date for my first book has been bumped up to February 16, 2015 — this means that all preorders will be delivered shortly after, so you don’t have to wait for its arrival in stores in March.

You can preorder the book from your favorite bookseller, online or off. Here are a few places:

And if you want a signed copy — with your gift recipient’s name on it and a personal inscription, if you choose — my local bookshop, The Book Frog, has offered to take those preorders for me. As soon as The Book Frog receives their books in February, I’ll be heading down to their shop with a fresh pack of Sharpies and signing away!

This is the perfect way to add that special touch to a gift, especially if you want something more personal than a standard signed bookplate, or you live in a smaller town I might not be able to visit during my book tour.

To place a preorder for a personalized copy of The CSA Cookbook, call The Book Frog at (310) 265-2665 (you can find their hours here) or send them a message through their Facebook page.

Once you’ve placed your preorder, you can download a printable IOU postcard to let your recipient know his or her gift is on the way! Cut it out and tuck the 4×6 (A6) postcard inside a holiday card or stocking for a sweet surprise. (And hang on to your receipt; I’m cooking up something special for preorders in the coming weeks!)


December 8 2014      15 comments     Linda Ly

Fresh homemade pasta (using what you already have in the kitchen)

Until I started making my own pasta, I always thought homemade pasta required a special pasta maker, a lot of space to hang up curtains of noodles, and a lot of time to devote in the kitchen. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Homemade pasta can be had with the most basic of kitchen implements: a smooth surface, a rolling pin, a sharp knife, and a half-hour of hands-on time. Small appliances can shave off a few minutes if you have a mixer to knead the dough or a machine to roll it out, but once you get the hang of homemade pasta, your hands can be just as quick.

Beet pasta

Hand-cut pasta

It’s so easy that I’ll sometimes roll out a batch of dough right before dinner. My favorite is handmade linguine or fettucine. I love the rustic quality of hand-cut pasta — how each noodle is just slightly different in thickness or length. Compared to the dried boxed pasta you can buy in the store, fresh pasta is so luxurious on its own that it needs little more than a good sauce to satisfy.


December 5 2014      78 comments     Linda Ly
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