IMG_9949

Sow: Spring 2016 experiments

IMG_9949

Repurposed washtub planter with sage, rosemary, thyme and oregano

If you’ve read any of my gardening posts (the Sow ones), you already know that I really don’t know what I’m doing. Sure, I’ve been planting and harvesting stuff in North Texas for a few years now, but it’s always a bit of a crapshoot. Trial and lots of error. Lots of error.

 

Herbs always have done very well for me, especially during the cooler months (November-February).

 

IMG_9948

The kitchen herb planter had a fantastic winter. Parsley is bolting but the flowers are pretty.

 

Of course, cooler is never a given, even during the winter here. I barely had to cover the garden at all which is unusual for North Texas—there are usually a few days of very cold weather, ice or even snow.

No snow/ice days for us this year.  The unpredictable weather here is always a challenging variable, but I also like to make it hard on myself by trying new things.

 

For spring and summer 2016, I’ve planted some of my favorites (aka plants that have grown well for me):

Bell peppers (transplants from North Haven Gardens)

 

IMG_9963

Jalapeno peppers (transplants from North Haven Gardens), shown here with a rogue red romaine lettuce

IMG_9965

Anaheim chilis (transplants from North Haven Gardens)

IMG_9964

Basil (transplants from Trader Joe’s)

IMG_9954

Sweet 100 tomatoes (transplants from North Haven Gardens)

IMG_9951Okra (seeds from Botanical Interests) — still tiny because it’s not hot enough for their usual fast growing

IMG_9959Black eyed peas (seeds from last year’s harvest that were from plants grown from Botanical Interests seeds) — even tinier than the okra so not shown.

Shishito peppers (transplants from North Haven Gardens)

IMG_9958

514p2oBCuZL.jpg

I’ll be planting tomatillo seeds (from Sweet Corn Garden Organics) very soon—probably this weekend. Just waiting for it to get slightly warmer during the daytime hours. The plants grow like weeds here and I make a lot of salsa verde, so this year I’m planting double the amount I planted last year.

 

 

And now, without further ado, I’d like to introduce you to my 2016 experiments:

Artichoke (transplant from North Haven Gardens)

IMG_9957Black Bean (transplant from North Haven Gardens)

IMG_9950

Arkansas Traveler tomatoes (transplants from North Haven Gardens)

IMG_9955

Mortgage Lifter tomatoes (transplants from North Haven Gardens)

IMG_9953Flying Saucer squash (transplants from North Haven Gardens)

IMG_9956Fingers crossed for a successful growing season! And for keeping Gidget from eating all the plants!

IMG_9967

IMG_9962

although I have netted and fenced the fig tree, it looks like there are just a few figs left for spring. luckily it is sprouting more which should be ready in the summer.

IMG_9961

And maybe we will have plums this year too — Gidget and Godiva are doing a fine job of squirrel scaring.

 

 

 

IMG_9581

So: soul food?

Certain sweets are irresistible to me. White cupcakes with white frosting. Homemade oatmeal raisin cookies. Wine gums. Dark chocolate covered jujubes. Coffee Crisp chocolate bars. Old fashioned donuts. Dark chocolate Cadbury Mini Eggs. Yum! My mouth is watering.

But the one treat that I love above all others is the butter tart. Basically they are tart crusts filled with a mixture of lots of butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, eggs, vanilla and sometimes raisins or chopped nuts. Sounds healthy, right? (here’s a recipe from Canadian Living magazine if you want to see the basic ingredients)

When our Toronto-based friend Liz was visiting Dallas, she imported a package as a gift for us. So I did what I had to do: I froze them. I did it because I knew that they would be hard as rocks and would need serious thawing time to become deliciously gooey again. It was the only way I knew to save me from myself and still have butter tarts in the house. They freeze very well. They also thaw well, but you must practice your patience as you wait for them to thaw.

It was only fitting that on my birthday this year, instead of birthday cake or a cupcake, I had the last remaining butter tart to celebrate. It was delicious. It was also good that it was the last one left in the freezer.

I never had a butter tart until I was 25 when my then-boyfriend Bruce  introduced me to them. Oh man. I was hooked. I’ve never seen them outside of Canada unless I’ve made them myself (which I have and they are amazingly delicious). They are a bit of work, but totally worth it. To save time, I’ve also made them in a bar version which is just as good but doesn’t have as much crust.

My father-in-law Ed also loved them. And because I loved them too and he knew I wouldn’t buy them for myself (because I’d eat the whole package), he would often pick some up when he knew Bruce and I were visiting. He did the same thing with donuts, by the way.

When we lived in Canada, I also used the excuse of visitors, especially American visitors to ensure butter tarts were in the house when company visited. After all, they hadn’t had them before and who was I to deny them a delicious, though extremely sweet, taste of Canada.

Now, when I go to Canada, I use the excuse of not being able to have them very often to treat myself. I’ve sampled the grocery store versions, upscale bakery versions, small town bakery versions, farmers market versions. I’ve had ones made with chocolate, dried cranberries, and other exotic flavors. They’re ok, but the kind that I crave the most are the ones made in someone’s kitchen because they’re baked with a secret ingredient: love.

They may not be not good for me in terms of nutrition or calories, but they’re sure good for the soul.

IMG_9821

So: new ‘do, new hue

Last weekend I had a hair appointment. I cancelled it because I wasn’t feeling 100% and when I’m not feeling so great, I tend to make bad hair decisions. However, the stylist I see is fabulous, popular, and always very busy. If you want a Saturday appointment, you’re going to wait or cross your fingers that someone cancels. (I probably made someone very happy.)

Not only did I wait 8 weeks for that now-cancelled appointment, I’ll wait 4 more weeks to see her. But it’s ok and here’s why:

I’ve never been one to keep a hairstyle for long. I like change. So I’ve had very short choppy hair. Yes, pixie cuts and slightly longer spiky numbers. I’ve had mid-length shaggy hairdos. I’ve had a range of bobs of various lengths and asymmetricities (not sure that’s a word). Bad perms in high school. Lots of different styles.

One thing that has always eluded me is to sport hair past my shoulders. You know, the length you can just throw into a ponytail at a moment’s notice and run out the door looking sophisticatedly polished. The length that looks sporty and cute when you throw a baseball cap over it when you haven’t washed your hair for a couple of days. The length that you can pull back so that it doesn’t whip you in the face when the wind picks up—or get into your meal or drink. The length you can put into a fancy updo for a black tie wedding.

I’ve always been too impatient for serious hair growth. But not this time. Why? Longer would be a whole lot more convenient for all the outdoor activities that I love to do. It would make early morning dog walks have fewer head covering decisions: Headband? Bandana? Toque? Hat? None of the above? Just pull it back and add an elastic ponytail thingie (I’ve got to buy some of those thingies so if you have recommendations, let me know.)

Color is another story. I’ve had highlights in a hair color rainbow. I’ve been blondish. I’ve been a redhead. I’ve had dark hair, almost black, though my natural color is pretty dark. I won’t lie: it’s been fun to try out different hair. I’ve liked all my looks, although there was a time where I got too blonde for my own good.

Now, I’m trying out another new style: my natural highlights of a silvery tint throughout my natural dark color. The current plan is to let my hard-earned silvery sparkles shine through. Truthfully, I’m curious about exactly how many I have. So far it looks like they are plentiful, yet scattered throughout in single strands—at least, that’s how it is on top of my head and at my temples as the deep dark color flecked with sparkles forces itself upon the warmer light brown in a DIY ombre.

Truthfully, I’m tired of hair dye. It’s not the price, although I can find many other more enjoyable ways to spend the money that it costs every 6 or so weeks. I really, really hate the smell. I hate the cold, heavy feeling for the 30 minutes or so while it processes into the color. I hate the feeling of it being rinsed out. And the smell. But most of all, I hate the time it takes away from other stuff.

So, I’m going to see if I can learn to love what I’ve got.

IMG_9821Have you kept your natural hair color or decided to go gray? Why or why not?

 

So: very bad day

Ever have a day that was so messed up that you wonder what kinds of karmic misdeeds you did to piss off the universe so much? A day when you were already feeling frayed, frazzled, and funky (not the good kind either)?

That was my yesterday.

First, my iphone did a swan dive into a nice wet, round porcelain recepticle. At my work. Yes, I tried to save it. Reached in, fished it out and shook the toilet water out of it. Used air in a can on it.

It was alive long enough for me to back it up to my computer, then it started randomly calling people (hi Claire!) and finally died. Hopefully Gazelle will give me $20 for it since that’s the going rate for a non-working iPhone. It tried to turn on one more time last night and then promptly gave up.

Now you’re sufficiently grossed out (sorry, I wasn’t going to try to flush it down and there was no other way to handle the situation without leaving it in the bowl longer than 30 seconds), I need to tell you the rest of the story.

It may be hard to believe, but my day got worse.

Yes, worse than the very nice Genius with the Italian accent at the Apple Store telling me the price tag of my new phone which made me gasp. It was first new iPhone I’ve had in ages. Usually I keep Bruce’s cast offs then use them until the battery no longer charges.

Truth be told, my iPhone was almost ready for replacement since I was having to have a charger handy at all times and recharge ½ way through the work day. Besides the obvious price tag sticker shock, the timing was really the problem. You see, I’m going on a business trip Wednesday morning. Going at lunch on Tuesday wasn’t going to happen since I already had a meeting scheduled. Then last night was Zumba and in order to get over to the Apple Store and get a new phone, I had to skip it. Grrr. I was already going to miss my booty shaking and sweating on Wednesday. Grrr.

As I headed down the highway from the office towards the Apple Store closest to my house, I noticed that my tire pressure light suddenly came on. Thinking one of my tires might be a little low, I got off at my usual exit and went to the first gas station for air. No luck on the air machine, but there was another gas station a few blocks away and I knew they had a machine.

When I got out of the car, I checked the usual suspects: my front tires. In the past that’s where the problem was. Then I saw my back passenger tire rapidly deflating.

UGH! Close to home. No phone. A flat tire with a big hunk of metal embedded right in the middle of the treads. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. And I hadn’t changed a tire in years. With the clock ticking and the Apple Store hours rapidly evaporating, I started unpacking the trunk. I also grabbed the manual since I didn’t want to screw anything up.

As I was sizing up the situation (and trying not to cry in frustration), a man called out to me and asked if I needed help. I didn’t want to bother him or anyone and said that I was ok. That’s when he insisted on helping. He wasn’t from around here, but he was in the area helping out on a job.

Neither he nor I could speak the other’s language very well, but we figured out between the two of us how to use the very new (and super stiff) tire jack and get the spare tire on. It probably took him a lot less time than it would have taken me since he was much stronger than I am. He was also probably much younger that I am.

Nice Man also told me it wasn’t proper for me to change the tire so that’s why he was helping. Maybe I reminded him a little of his mother or a favorite aunt.

While this was all happening, several more nice men stopped to ask if I needed help. Some were dressed for various trades, some were in various renditions of corporate business wear. One tradesman looking guy had a big old red and white pit bull in the back of his truck and seemed shocked when I said “I’m good, but I love your dog.”

When Nice Man was finished changing the tire and the spare was on, I thanked him profusely and asked if I could pay him something for his help. He said no and said that he was just doing what he was supposed to do. A good deed.

I thanked him over and over and probably made him a little embarrassed with my thank yous in the gas station parking lot. He was still in his car when I drove off, maybe waiting for a friend who worked at the gas station to finish his shift. And when I got home, Bruce drove me to the Apple Store.

While I was in the moment, it may have felt like the worse day ever, but in hindsight, perhaps it was one of the best.

First, it reaffirmed my belief in the power of the kindness of strangers.

Second, it helped to remind me that there is hope for the people of this country and not everyone is an angry, hateful person, despite what the news is portraying. There are nice people all around us, even at the corner gas station. All you have to do is listen.

 

 

So: Zumba

As those of you who know me in “real life” can attest: I’m no dancer. I’m rhythm challenged, awkward at best.
Maybe you’ve even witnessed my seizure-like car “dance” when one of my favorite songs comes on the radio. I usually sing along to make it even more painful for my fellow vehicle occupants. I give it my all for the amusement of those traveling around me.
Or maybe you are a high school or college friend who watched me careen across the floor like a overly enthusiastic and gangly teenaged wildebeest.
Don’t even get me started about my “dances” at weddings. I’m sure they’re on YouTube somewhere if you need a laugh.
But now, I’ve put aside any shred of fear, of possible humiliation I have left. I’m putting it out there twice a week if I can: yes, I’m doing Zumba.
It’s more like a loud dance party and less like a workout. Unlike running where I get to zone out and let my mind wander, for me, Zumba requires concentration and focus. Or I might injure myself—or worse yet, someone else.
Bless our poor teacher Chris. I wonder how she can keep a straight face while I trip over my own feet, wildly gyrating off kilter and off beat. Luckily my classmates are too busy with the probably not very complicated routines to notice. I try to keep to one side of the room so I have a bit more space. It’s to prevent collisions, you see.
But each class I come away a little more humble, yet slightly more confident. And much sweatier than when I started.
Until next time,
XO Julie
PS: Someone wisely said to a beginning runner, “you’re doing better than someone who’s still on the couch.” The same applies here. So dance like no one’s watching. Chances are good they’re too busy attempting their own moves.
White water lily and lily pad on water
** Note: Visible grain at 100%, best at smaller sizes

So: one year later

Why hello, 47! It’s been exactly one year since I’ve written last. So, happy birthday to me! And also to my friends Sylvia and Steve who share this auspicious day with me.

Funny thing: Sylvia and Steve are also writers. Hopefully 2015 was better for them than it was for me. For me, it wasn’t the best year for writing anything other than cards, letters, the occasional silly verse, and of course, work-related copy.

Writers’ block wasn’t the trouble.

Nor was time.

Nor topics.

It was tenacity.

Fear was my excuse. Fear that I wasn’t writing anything interesting. Fear that I was repeating myself. Fear that my stories weren’t worth telling. Fear that my opinions were too polarizing. Or not polarizing enough. One fear after another. Building, building, building. Until it seemed easier just to forget about it. Do something else. Move on. Forget about it.

But then, in the early part of 2016 the signs started coming. A kick-in-the-pants blog post here. Some passing comments about missing my posts. An inspirational article there. And finally this post which makes a pretty cool point about fear a lot more eloquently than I do.

So, my gift to myself today on my 47th birthday is to live life with more joie de vivre and less fear. Before I decided to put myself out there with this promise/threat/vow/whatever you want to call it, know that I’ve been practicing for the past few months and you know what they say about making things a habit. You need to do them consistently. It’s worked for a bunch of other stuff in my life so it’s gotta work for my writing. Because if I don’t use it, I might lose it, right?

Well then, now that all that’s out there, rather than spend any additional characters looking back on the lack of well-crafted sentences, pithy comments, and tales of garden pests, I’ll share a non-comprehensive and certainly not all-inclusive list of the things I’m looking forward to in this 47th year:

-hearing that my mom’s hip replacement surgery went well today
-attempting the steps to each dance in my ZUMBA class tonight
-seeing which of the Gs is going to be tonight’s Downton Abbey marathon lap dog
-reading even more than I did last year
-continuing to work towards better health and fitness
-getting the spring plants in the ground and laying sod (another once again!) this weekend
-painting walls and cabinets a bright white
-spending time with an eclectic and inspiring mix of friends and family
-being inspired by the unexpected, the generous, and the kind
-writing whatever I want

Until next time,
xo Julie

PS: I’m trying to convince an artistic friend of mine to make me a little fear chair to put on whatever table/desk/sofa I’m using for my writing desk du jour. Portable so it could come to work! Even travel with me wherever I go! I think he could make a killing on Etsy. There’s got to be more of us out there who are doubting the talents that make us the happiest and need a visible reminder to hang out with us and give fear a place to sit. What do you think? Would you want one?

Water Lily

No mud. No lotus. It’s been one of my favorite thoughts for the past few months.

 

So: happy 46

Today was my 46th birthday. And I don’t mind if you or anyone else knows. I’m glad to be 46. I can’t believe it’s been that long! Neither can my mom–she said so in my birthday card.

It was an amazing day. I loved hearing from far-flung friends. Lots of surprises and sweetness. Phone calls and texts. Lovely cards and thoughtful presents. Flowers. David Bowie and iTunes. Plane tickets for summer vacation. A relaxing evening that was supposed to be spent at the gym but instead was spent on the patio with Bruce, overlooking the urban farm and discussing my latest addition to the plan: growing blueberries.

 It would be nice to have more homegrown fruit!  Peach blossoms are a go in 2015.

2015 so far has been a year of refocusing. Last week was the week of getting long put off doctors’ appointments done. And getting back to the gym. And soreness! That’s ok–it makes me feel alive. 

The urban farm is looking springy and green. 

   

Even the little container tomatoes are doing well:  

 

But what I’m most excited about is the fig tree:  

 

It’s spreading and there are lots of shoots. Stay tuned for more photos. Or follow me on Instagram (@julie_petroski) for my random garden shots.

One more thing. Back by popular demand: the gratuitous dog photo! Gidget is our funniest sleeper.

Sow: free car wash

ThawLast week was bitter cold. Ice. Snow. Frozen roads. Cars in ditches. Tow trucks making a mint. Cities trying to keep the roads open with sand. TV news channel weather people excited to have the news all to themselves. School closures. Gleeful children. Working from home which isn’t nearly as fun as it sounds, unless you count not having to commute, being able to put on sweats and a t-shirt, staying makeup free. (It is very productive, however.)

Dogs running around like puppies in the white stuff. Eating snow. Carrying chunks of icy snow in their mouths. Playing ’til exhaustion.

In North Texas, one thing you can count on is that frozen precipitation of any kind doesn’t stick around for long. We might get 4 inches of snow, but by the next day it’s gone. Better get your snowman built, your snow angels made, your snowballs thrown. Still, we have a snow shovel and ice melter on hand and we’re glad to have them for the one, two or three times a year that we need them. Old habits die hard.

Since Saturday evening, it’s been rain. Nice slow steady rain with a few pauses. It’s pleased me to no end. Free car washes! Clean patio chairs! Clean sidewalks and streets! Happy sprouts! Full rain barrels! Sage flowers! More daffodils!

Spring is so close that I can feel it. I’m getting little signs of it from the peach and plum trees too. They may be blooming by the weekend and while it doesn’t last long, it’s beautiful. It doesn’t hurt that it will be in the upper 60°s starting tomorrow. A bit of sunshine and the urban farm’s spring crops will be well underway. I can’t wait.

Around here, some people talk about the weather—all types of weather—like it’s some kind of foreign enemy to be despised and battled. They get grumbly because they have to pull out the umbrella or a raincoat. They complain that there are no clothes flimsy enough to keep them cool. They rue having to put on socks. I like the change in wardrobe, even though it means soon I’ll have to put away the sweatshirts and flannel pajama. And this time of year, I love the idea of Mother Nature getting ready and cleaned up for a big vibrant party of blooms and greens.

Rain means change. And change is good.

 

photo[2]

So: hello, again

photo[2]

I’m back, apparently by popular demand. Thank you, friends (you know who you are) and Bruce, for nagging, I mean, encouraging me to get back to it and start writing things down again.

Truthfully, I haven’t felt much like writing. I’ve had to do a lot lately for work and it’s been hard. Not because I’ve forgotten how or the specific assignments and projects. Definitely, not that. I’ve liked the challenge and the pace. It reminds me of what I love about advertising—the variety, the challenges, the solutions. It makes me feel alive, excited, and energized.

It’s just that I’ve been a little afraid of what’s going to come out. And when.

This winter has been one of the hardest I’ve had in a very long time. An early frost threatened to shut down the entire Mortroski Midcentury Urban Farm’s winter production. We’ve purchased way more produce this winter than I intended. Thank goodness for Trader Joe’s and their organic produce selection and prices.

Once I got everything up and running again, we had February and March ice storms. Ice and snow days where I worked from home and the roads were horrible. Luckily the huge live oak that’s been another winter problem (plumbing) came through with insulating leaves that, along with the frost cloths, kept the young radish, beet, kale, lettuce, bok choi, collard green, mustard green, and chard sprouts alive. So there’s the garden. It looks ugly and neglected, yet it seems to have turned a corner now that the snow has melted and turned to rain. It’s waiting for the sprouts to thrive and mulch to keep it all alive.

There’s a silver lining to everything, right? That’s what I try to tell myself. When something bad happens, something good’s around the corner. A door closes and another opens.

The silver lining to the plumbing problem? An awesome and thoroughly modern outflow to the city sewer. Never again worrying about running the washing machine and the dishwasher at the same time. No more plumbing enzymes and emergency unclogging. Truthfully, I am relieved that once and for all the Mortroski Mid-Century’s plumbing issues are done. While I like Jim the 70-something plumber a whole lot and enjoy chatting about gardening with him, I hope I don’t see him for while.

Another thing happened this winter: my grandmother died in December. She was just one week short of her 100th birthday. She had some kind of massive event that left her breathing and just barely alive when she was found. She never recovered from it. To say I was looking forward to her birthday would be a massive understatement. I had plans! I had surprises! I had so much I wanted to celebrate with her! I had been looking forward to it for a really long time! We were going to have fun!

When I found out what had happened, I was devastated. As Bruce wisely pointed out one night in January when I was wallowing in my sadness, I was only thinking about myself, not her, with all of my planning. Would she have appreciated the letters and cards from all over the place? Maybe. Would she have rather I showed up more often to visit her? Definitely.

Yes, I feel guilty. And very stupid for assuming that a woman who was over 99 and very tenacious would be around to see her 100th birthday surrounded by family and friends at a big party. But she’s been part of my life for the past 45+ years? Why should that change?

Because it did. She reached her expiration date and, unfortunately, her frequently repeated remark of “I may not make it to 100” came true. I just thought she was bluffing. I haven’t dealt with it very well, I’m afraid. But I’ve been trying. I know, I know, she lived a good long life. But selfishly, I hoped for one last hurrah.

The silver lining? The lesson? I am trying really hard to really live in the moment. To connect with the people in my life. To really listen. To realize that it might be the last time. To be as kind as I can be.

My grandmother’s house was the only home that has been in my life for my entire life time. My family moved a lot when I was growing up and Bruce and I’ve done a great job of carrying on the family tradition. My grandparents’ house was a lovely brick ranch bungalow built in the 1960s. It was always so clean and well-cared for. And it maintained a lot of its 1960s charm. Interior brick walls. The planter/bookcase next to the front door. Slate tiles. The pink bathroom fixtures and formica countertop with the sputnik pattern. The red power room sink. I’m sure subconsciously it influenced the purchase of our midcentury, which was built around the same time with a similar private area layout.

So when it came time to clean out her house, I didn’t really want to let go. I took worn quilts. I took an afghan in 1970s brown and orange. I took a gravy boat. I took glassware. I took games I played as a kid. I took random things, hoping that surrounding myself with them could bring me comfort.

Even this morning as I mixed up pancake batter for breakfast, I thought of her. It wasn’t even her recipe from the back of the yellow Bisquick box. She made Bisquick pancakes with King syrup for us as kids and it always made her—and us—happy to have pancakes together. In her later years, my brother took over when he visited, making pancakes for her. I always thought that was such a sweet gesture. It’s amazing how a food memory can affect you. Then, I poured orange juice into 1960s style flowered jam jar glasses that I took from her kitchen. I don’t know the whole story behind them, but I wish I did. She gave me 4 others when I was in my 30s and admired them. I now have a set of 6, two red, two yellow, two green. I wash them by hand.

There’s been a lot of death this winter. First, Grandma. Then, Bruce’s uncle. Older people who have both lived long and productive lives. Then came the one just over a week ago that slapped me hard in the face, reminding me that life is a precious gift. My college friend, a mother of 4 young adults, just a tiny bit older than me. She was put to rest yesterday. Hundreds of people attended her rosary and funeral in California. There is no doubt she was loved. She was someone who lit up a room. Someone who was always kind. Someone who helped others. An amazing volunteer. But there is also no doubt of the unfairness of such a vibrant life ending soon. What might have been. Her daughter’s wedding. Her sons’ graduations.

So, I’ve tried to spare you the sadness and the self-indulgent posts where “so” not “sow” or even the always rare “sew” is the focus. Writing nothing if I can’t talk about the plants and the extreme Texas weather or the funny things the Gs do (today, they all had baths and they are finally not completely pissed off at their humans) seemed like the better course of action.

But I’ve really had enough. I’m tired of keeping what I’m thinking and feeling to myself. So this is a fair warning then: it may crop up as the year progresses. Writing is the way I have always dealt with everything, especially emotions, education, earning money, and ignoring that fact has really put a crimp in my style. That’s why you’re getting this long-ass post. Bruce has checked on my several times, since I’ve been banging on this laptop for a while now.

For the last several month I’ve felt rather stuck. I tried doing other stuff. My photography skills are improving, but still, there were days even posting garden photos on Instagram (@julie_petroski) felt hard. I’ve made a lot of soup. Distracted myself with recipes that sounded good. Tried to get zen with dishwashing and household chores.

Even making my usual elaborate to-do lists that I’ve made since college seemed too hard. It’s been hard to think about more than one day at a time. So, better to do nothing and relax, right? Wrong. It’s been unnatural and exhausting. Rather than feeling refreshed and calm as I had hoped, I feel like a bag of knots. And unnaturally tired. My dreams have been strange. Multitasking has been hard. Chores have been neglected. I’ve been losing and misplacing stuff from my silly Invisalign braces to computer parts to favorite pens. I’m thinking it is all a big hint from the universe that I need to get my head back in the game.

Today, the clocks sprung forward. On the 21st, spring will be here. It feels a bit like it’s time to move on. Besides, there are four raised beds and three stock tanks full of little sprouts that you’ll want to hear about.

Thank you for your patience. It’s time to get back to oversharing.

So: lizard infestation

gecko1s

Texas house gecko • photo from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension

Some days I really don’t feel prepared to be an adult. Today was one of those days. And as long as I’ve now lived in Texas, days like these, in addition to leaving me feeling like a complete idiot, remind me of how little I understand about the place, especially the creatures that live here.

This story really begins more than three years ago. When we first moved into our neighborhood in Dallas, Bruce’s pick up truck got stolen right out of our driveway. It was the Tuesday after Memorial Day weekend. We were all exhausted from unpacking and all that fun stuff you do when you’re moving into a new place. Our garage was still full of stuff so neither of our cars was in it. We (Bruce, Godiva, Guinness and I) went to bed early. I guess we all slept very soundly because no one barked, not even Gracie, our neighbor’s dog that seems to bark at everything. Constantly.

There was a fence around the grassy portion of our backyard and it separated the garage and driveway from the yard. Our driveway backs up into an alley filled with everyone’s garbage and recycling bins. Some neighbors had put gates at the bottom of their driveways. Our real estate agent suggested that doing so might be a nice way to really maximize the backyard, especially since it would be nicer for the dogs.

So even if we had heard the thieves, we probably wouldn’t have seen them very well, since the wood fence separated the grass from the driveway. We let the dogs out to pee, had a coffee, then went out the front door for a walk.

Coming home, we walked up the alley. That’s when we saw the broken glass and the missing truck.

10806491_10205788345451951_8326710592305900094_n

popped out window • photo courtesy of Bruce

Long story short: OnStar helped us find it and Bruce got to the truck before the police did. It was on blocks. The tires and rims were gone. Of course, insurance took care of the situation, but it was still a big pain.

10428689_10205788338171769_3739959083563674335_n

Bruce’s truck on blocks • photo courtesy of Bruce

 

It also expedited a new fence. Instead of only fencing around the grassy part of the yard, we knocked down the fence by the driveway, added a fence in the side yard and finally added a gate at the end of our driveway. The whole yard became instantly bigger. And we felt a lot more secure. It’s sad, but true.

The gate is huge because our driveway is very wide. There really was no other way to have a gate that big and heavy except to have a motor to open it. Like a garage door opener, you hit a button and it opens or closes.

Except when lizards decide to find a nice toasty warm place to sleep. When Nic the gate guy showed up this morning, of course, the gate opened no problem despite being problematic yesterday. After testing my remote at various distances, Nic popped off the cover of the unit, then popped open the cover on the sensor. A four-inch long brownish lizard scurried off. Nic laughed and said, “I thought so.”

Apparently this is a very common problem in North Texas when it gets cold. There is a tiny hole, about the size of a hole that a hole punch makes, and tiny lizards can get in there. Bugs also make the unit their home. So the toasty warm lizard snacks and gets bigger and chubbier until he can’t fit out the little hole. That’s when his size and density starts messing with the operation of the sensor!

That was lizard number #1. He looked like a house gecko to me, but I’m no lizard expert. Nic kept exploring the unit since he said, “where there’s one, there’s usually more.” Sure enough, when he pried open the motherboard, lizard #2 was waiting. Like his pal lizard #1, he was about four inches long and once he saw Nic, he was along his merry little lizard way under the fence and into a pile of leaves.

But Nic wanted to be certain they didn’t come back. He taped over the lizard entry with some electrical tape. He told me to go out and get some mothballs since it would keep both lizards and rodents away from the unit. Tomorrow morning as soon as the sun’s up, I will be adding mothballs in L’Eggs knee highs to prevent one of the Gs (Gidget or George) from eating a stray one.

Nic dusted and cleaned the motor. He lubricated the chain and showed me how I could do it myself (he gave me the spray bottle of lubricant too). He made a few adjustments to the gate. He looked at the garage door and then lubricated every part on it. He’ll be back in January to fix a major part on the verge of breaking.

But I think he did most of those things because he felt bad charging so much for the 2 second repair. And he probably went back to the office shaking his head at the easiest job of his day: lizard extraction.

Today’s gratuitous dog photo of the day features some more head shaking:

IMG_6323