So: sick 2

So I have the flu.

Yes, the one that you hear about on the news. No, I didn’t get a flu shot. Yes, I was given tamiflu. Yes, I feel quite rotten.

My doctor says I must rest and I can’t go back to work until Monday. The Gs know something is up, they’re just not too sure what.

So: sick

I’m sick.

Bruce will tell you that I’ve been grumpy every night for the past few days so he knew something was up. I stayed home from work today and tried to work a bunch of the time. I did some stuff but frankly I wasn’t my most productive or effective.

I tried to nap this afternoon and was successful for an hour or so–until the phone rang and then when my call was over, Guinness felt the need to protect us from garbage trunk invasion. So much for sleep.

It’s hot here in Dallas by January standards — 76 degrees at 5:30 pm! But I am cold.

Watery eyes, cough, runny and stuffy nose, headache, stuffy head are my symptoms. I’ve been consuming lots of fluids, trying to rest. I don’t feel like reading or watching tv and the computer hurts my eyes.

Yes, I’ll go to bed early like I have been doing every night since Thursday.

This time the cold has won. Hopefully it doesn’t linger for a long time. One silver lining: at least I don’t have chicken pox like Barbara Walters (I had it when I was in 8th grade).

Sow: education & expansion

Despite having a cold and the weather being gray and kind of misty, I had an action-packed Mortroski Midcentury Urban Farm weekend.

Saturday afternoon, Bruce and I attended Terrific Tomatoes — a three-hour long class on how to grow better tomatoes in North Texas. Well, I certainly know a few more things that I did wrong with both the spring and fall crops. I now know that I have to plant the transplants a lot deeper. I know how to fertilize correctly. I know when to plant (very soon) and that I’m going to have to cover them whenever the temperature threatens to get below 40° F. We learned about the best varieties to plant, pests, watering, and pretty much everything you might need to know about tomatoes.There’s even a new kind of grafted tomatoes which may be more tolerant of our rapid weather swings and crazy heat. We’re excited to get planting. But we need to wait until mid-February.

A green zebra from our spring 2012 crop

A green zebra from our spring 2012 crop

Like I said this was an outdoor weekend. I harvested the last of the carrots and bok choi this morning and puttered about the garden first thing this morning.Then we got down to business. After taking the 3G Network for an extra long walk, we all jumped in the pickup and headed out to the country to pick up the first amendment for the spring 2013 Urban Farm season. Our closest Tractor Supply Company is in Mesquite which is about 25 minutes from our house in North Dallas—it’s not really that country but it’s where the rodeo takes place.

All of the dogs enjoy riding in the truck (we have a crew cab with flip up seats in the back which makes it a perfect canine transporter). Godiva loves to surf the console and perch between the front and the back so she can see where we’re going. Guinness and George are tall enough to look out the windows. Luckily they’re all good passengers.

stock tank

example of the type of stock tanks we have, they are normally used as water containers for livestock

Once we got to the Tractor Supply, Bruce picked up our 3rd stock tank and some landscape cloth (more about that in a few paragraphs). They’re great for growing lots of stuff but I think this spring, we’ll focus on growing root veggies like carrots and beets in them. Right now the two that we have are full of spinach, red romaine and kale.


the Urban Farm under construction today

the Urban Farm under construction today

Next, we dropped the stock tank and the dogs off at home and headed back to North Haven Gardens for another raised bed kit, earthworm casings and a truck bed full of bags of soil, composted cow manure, compost, and top soil. We headed back home to get super dirty assembling the raised bed, moving what seemed like hundreds of bags of stuff, and filling up the new stock tank and the new raised bed. We scattered worm castings amongst all the raised beds—something we learned from Saturday’s class. Supposedly not only will we get richer and more active soil (which will hopefully lead to bigger, tastier veggies), we’ll also get earthworms since there are earthworm eggs in the castings. What we learned in the class is that preparing the beds while ahead of planting lets beneficial microbes get active in the soil. That doesn’t matter to the 3G Network—they just enjoyed sniffing at the fresh dirt. Hopefully we don’t find George-sized body divots or Godiva sized holes dug in the middle of the new bed…

the new raised bed and stock tank plus the 3G Network

Then we began making the Urban Farm look nicer. Bruce put the farm sign back up on the fence.

Next, we put down landscaping cloth amongst the 3 stock tanks and the 4 raised beds to help kill off the weeds around them. Next weekend (or maybe this week if we’re ambitious and work cooperates), we’ll be adding some pine straw mulch—something else we learned about during the class—which will make it a lot nicer to walk around everything. It will also help to make the yard look nicer and more finished.

I folded up the frost cloths. This week’s temperatures are going to be in the 60°s so unless something changes, we won’t need them.

Finally, I picked a bunch of kale, collards, mixed salad greens and spinach for tonight’s dinner and tomorrow’s lunch. Have to say that after all of this, I’m a lot tired and my cold will probably not keep me up tonight!




So: Judging

Personal preference has no place in advertising. When reviewing the work and deciding if it’s “good”, you must think about it’s intended audience.

Or so they say.

In my meetings with clients this week, I had to gently remind one that a color disliked was actually a brand color and it was being used in a manner that the brand agency prescribed. And in another meeting, I heard, “I don’t like it.”

That’s not exactly keeping the target in mind. Our client does not fit the profile of the person we’re trying to reach. And while I can appreciate not liking a brand color (it’s not my favorite either), it is our responsibility to uphold the look of the brand and protect it from dilution.

So today I am in the judging seat. I’m reviewing creative for an advertising contest. Some of it is very good and does the job that it is intended to do.

Other things fall short because they look nice or the copy is well written but the concept doesn’t make sense. And unlike the reviews I have with my team, I can’t talk with anyone about my changes that could improve it or ask why the team made the decisions they did.

Today I must put myself in the mindset of the consumer: sometimes a college student, a young mother, a customer of a bank, a homeowner, maybe a soldier. And each time I must ask myself: does what I’m seeing meet my needs as that viewer?

It’s hard to put aside my own personal biases and petty dislikes. But to be fair to each entry, I must.

Like the folks I work with, the people who made these pieces, ads, posters, tv spots, promos, radio ads, websites and stands put a lot of effort and thought into their work. They did their best to solve the marketing problems they were given.

But I also can’t discount the more technical aspects of the work. Were the rules of good design followed? Was it printed well? Was the photography well shot…and retouched? Were the voice overs clear and easy to hear, not rushed? Was the music complementary to the message being presented?

I always enjoy judging because I like to see the creativity and ingenuity of the work. I like being surprised and delighted. I love seeing the student work and thinking about the amazing things these kids will be doing in their first jobs.

Even though it’s volunteer work, judging pays me back. For the price of a few hours on a Saturday morning, I recharge my batteries. See work I wouldn’t normally see. Witness the promise of amazing interns. Meet some nice people from other agencies.

One of the agencies I worked at years ago said that the work they did was provide “truth well told.” Volunteering to judge on a Saturday is time well spent.

Sow: headlamp harvest #2

Happy Friday! Not only is it Friday it’s also it’s Robbie Burns Day (an excuse to drink scotch) and the Mortroski Midcentury Urban Farm seems to have rebounded from the frosty nights. HOORAY!

Today is a good day! I did another headlamp harvest of fresh produce for our lunches. Here is some photographic evidence:

cilantro -- finally getting bushy

spinach — finally getting bushy


my trusty headlamp



collard greens by headlamp light and flash


lettuce growing like weeds


the little washtub on wheels is now a lettuce farm for real! lots of crazy colors too


today’s harvest (a bit dark): collards, spinach, red romaine, misc leaf lettuce, a little bok choi, mustard greens, lots of kale


lunch salad of mixed greens ready for toppings (like that yellow pepper in the frame)

You may notice that the gardens are looking a bit shaggy and are in need of some serious TLC. I’ll have to save my puttering and planning (and seed planting) for Sunday because tomorrow I’ll be judging the Small Market ADDYS (advertising contest in the US) for the fine club located in San Angelo, Texas in the morning. Judging creative is a lot of fun—and I’ll get to meet some people from other agencies. I’ve helped out for the past 4 years so

My afternoon will be spent back at North Haven Gardens for a 3 hour class in Tomato Growing. Yes, another tomato class! This one is taught by Leslie Halleck, a professional Horticulturalist. I’m going to make sure that I have lovely tomatoes this year, by golly!

And while I’m not of Scottish descent, Bruce is, so I’ll leave you some words from a traditional Burns Supper:

Ye Pow’rs wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o’ fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinkin ware
That jaups in luggies;
But, if ye wish her gratefu’ prayer,
Gie her a haggis!

So: water & chemicals

Today was one of those non-stop, wake up and hit the ground running sort of days. It was also a day when I was painfully reminded that we human beings are really nothing more than a bag of water and chemicals. And sometimes the mixture doesn’t work at its optimal level.

It was a day when the body frequently won in any battles with the mind. The heart was on its own terminal verge of tears timeline when it wasn’t feeling like lashing out at the next poor sod to say boo. The mind flitted from thing to thing like George vs toys vs squirrels vs playing with Godiva vs barking vs rolling in muck vs chasing birds.

It was however a day when being on, being smart, being funny, being attentive, being creative, being a leader, being a good listener, being a good wife, being a good friend, being a good guardian to the 4-leggeds, being all those things that I usually am, was very, very difficult. I checked with a couple of people and no one seemed to notice any difference.

But I did.

When I don’t feel well, as hard as I try to fake it ’til I make it, it just doesn’t work for me. People who I think are great made me frustrated. Or worse, angry. A chaotic day, which in my business is 1000% normal, makes me want to tear my hair out. Broken commitments, no matter how innocent, get me to question agendas and values. Even getting cut off in traffic brings out curse words so foul that I shudder to think what the person would think if I said them to their face. Cowardly words used for a reason no less than lack of creativity.

It was an off day.

The only beings who didn’t frustrate me were the 3G Network—they must have sensed a disturbance in the force. They were wonderful. Lots of tail wags and snuggles this morning. Listened well on their walk and didn’t drag me towards the possum and other woodland creatures they could smell hidden in the bushes. Came when they were called to come in. Ate their breakfast well.

And now, it’s the end of the day. Bruce is home from his business trip. The 3G Network is thrilled that everything is back to normal. So am I. And tomorrow will be a better day.





Sow: cupcake tree

Ok, there’s no such thing, but believe me, if there was I’d certainly add it to the collection of plants in the Mortroski Midcentury Urban Farm. Baking’s always been something that I love to do. However, I find that as the years march on, eating the stuff I make is no longer all that appealing to me. And I don’t have as much time as I’d like to make more elaborate desserts. How nice it would be to head outside cupcake carrier in hand and pluck the number needed fresh from the tree. Hopefully they’d have a grafted version with vanilla, red velvet, coconut, and chocolate all growing together.

white cupcakes, decorated and ready to go

white cupcakes, decorated and ready to go

Since my dream tree doesn’t exist, last night my old friend Duncan gave me a hand. He and I have been pals since I was old enough to use the mixer and turn on the oven. Betty plays second fiddle to Duncan when it’s cupcake time. What?!? I don’t grab a Barefoot Contessa/Nigella Lawson/Martha Stewart/other famous baker’s cookbook and start from scratch?

Hell no.

I’ve done it. And when it comes to cupcakes, Duncan Hinds is what everyone wants despite Sprinkles’ success. Why? Because eating a cupcake makes you feel like you’re 6 years old again when that cupcake was HUGE and you were so excited it was all yours. (By the way, that’s my theory for the size of the Sprinkles ones too. They are huge even by adult standards.) Unless your mom is Martha Stewart, Mom’s cupcakes were probably lovingly made by taking a box of cake mix made by Duncan Hinds or Betty Crocker, mixing it up with eggs, oil and water, pouring it into the cute little papers and baking them up.

My mom always made homemade icing, which I love, but over the years I’ve found that over the years my dear coworkers on either side of the border don’t really notice it’s homemade. They are too busy devouring every last crumb in seconds. So Duncan to the rescue again with his wide selection of frostings in cans.

devil's food cupcakes

devil’s food cupcakes pre-frosting

cupcakes pre-frosting

white cupcakes pre-frosting

Last night I made white and devil’s food cupcakes. 36 to be exact. Frosted and sprinkled, just like many moms made for class birthday celebrations when I was a kid. They’re for our department’s January birthday celebration and even though there are more than there are people attending the celebration, I guarantee they’ll all be gone. First of all, they’re free food and second of all, Creatives love to hit the ‘way back machine and remember their childhood.

Cupcakes also take me back across the border. My friend Reesa and I made cupcakes for occasions of all sorts: bridal showers, dinner parties, any holiday you can think of, birthdays, you name it, we’d make a cupcake for it. Usually the baking was accompanied by several glasses of wine, but always there was copious amounts of laughter and plenty of catching up.

my "helpers" are supervising

my “helpers” are supervising, surprisingly Guinness is actually in the kitchen, George and Godiva are handing back

Lest you wonder what the exhausted hounds were doing while I was up to the elbows in dishes and cake mix, all three of the 3G Network were curious about  what was going on in the kitchen. George was an especially good helper once I spilled a small bottle of sprinkles and most landed on the floor. We should have called him Hoover.

packed up and ready to head to the office

packed up and ready to head to the office

PS: If you have any doubt about my love of baking, check out my linked in profile. Not sure if potential employers consider baking an asset, but if they do, they’ll be pleased to know that it comes highly recommended by former coworkers.

So: California dreaming


palm trees and ocean. sigh.

A long weekend that feels like a vacation is a wonderful thing. Seeing loved ones, visiting beautiful places, getting out of the same-old-same old, is exhilarating.

Except in my case, it’s leading to brain freeze and procrastination. Even as I was heading for the airport yesterday, I casually remarked to Bruce that I wished I could have just stayed there for a week or so.

I kept my writing schedule while I was away. But this morning, I could not write. It’s taken me approximately 6 hours to warm up to something that resembles worthwhile writing. Luckily, I had several conference calls to wake me out of my stupor and force my protesting brain to function.

Maybe it was the Southern California weather. It so foreign to me now, but there was a time in my life that I took it for granted. Sunny and gorgeous with towering palm trees swaying ever so slightly in the breeze was just how every day went when I was 12. The twins are lucky to grow up in such a pretty place especially since their parents are outdoorsy. They’ll take full advantage of being able to do all kinds of sports—and see snow and ocean on the same day.

Or maybe it was the flight back. There was something vaguely vacation-y about it. So many people snoozing, listening to music, or working in their ever-so compact spot. They all seemed so carefree. Oh wait, they’re probably Californians, or at least others who have adopted a Californian’s attitude, despite being from somewhere else.

Unlike my recent flights to such exotic East Coast destinations as Philadelphia, LaGuardia, and Raleigh-Durham, there was no pushing. There was no line-jumping. There didn’t seem to be much stealing of extra overhead bin space. No chewing out of the flight attendants or gate staff. No exasperated looks. No snide comments. Everyone seemed pretty chilled out and ok that they were going to spend three hours doing whatever until we arrived in Dallas.

Perhaps that’s what I am longing for today. A bit of bliss. Calm serenity. Maybe that’s what my brain is fighting for. Or maybe just a view of the ocean and a palm tree or two. Methinks it’s a good day to organize my photos.

more palm trees and ocean

more palm trees and ocean