Sow: relaxation, Easter edition

Today was a day of regrouping, getting more supplies, chores, and doing some DIY work, but also a day of relaxation.

Usual Sunday morning long walk with the Gs landed us this photo of the Gs sitting pretty in the blue bonnets (the Texas state flower). A neighbor planted them as a wildflower/spring ornamental, so we took advantage of the sidewalk for a photo.


George (yellow), Guinness (black) and Godiva (brown) sitting amongst the blue bonnets on some unsuspecting neighbor’s sidewalk

We cut boards for the office wall today. Needless to say, a new table saw is required to replace the 10+year old table saw which is on its last legs. It has served us well, in many houses, despite adding many colorful words to a religious holiday. Bruce will be researching new options over the next few days. If you are a table saw aficionado, please provide your opinion and suggestions.


The boys know how to relax

I wasn’t kidding about relaxation. After we realized that the saw was, well, not as accurate as it once was, we gave up and decided to enjoy the patio, the blue jays making nests in the live oak, the squirrel taunting the Gs, and the sunshine (rain is predicted for a lot of this week — yippee!). As you can see, Guinness and George approve of the new patio furniture.


Doesn’t Bruce look relaxed?

We called “wine-thirty” a tiny bit earlier than usual and used the time to chill (see, Fransi, we do listen) and enjoy the holiday spirit with some music and relaxation. We are sore from this weekend’s shenanigans, but the work week will fix what ails us.

One last photo: the first radish of 2013:

Bruce said it was delicious

Bruce said it was delicious

Hope everyone had a lovely day today!






So: floored

making progress

making progress

After waking up this morning and actually being able to move fine, although a little stiffly, I knew today would mean more progress in our office reno. The carpet’s been gone about a month so today we installed the carbonized bamboo. Last weekend Bruce ripped down the paneling after we both realized that if we didn’t take it down, we’d want to later. Only going to do this room once!

Bruce the installer

Bruce the installer with Godiva photo bomb

Bruce used to install flooring with his cousin Joe when he was in high school and university so this is not a new DIY thing for us. For example, we installed bamboo in our master bedroom in our last house and I swear we’ve tiled at least 4 bathrooms together.

Bamboo just takes time, effort, knowledge, and a very colorful vocabulary of profanity available on demand (like when boards fall on your hand, you rub off one of the blisters gained during sodding, you get a big bamboo splinter wedged in your right middle finger, you make a whole pile of glue squirt up between the boards, etc.).

another view of progress

another view of progress: the lonely computer

All in it took us 6 hours to carry large boxes of boards (about 50 lbs. a pop), carry huge vats of glue, cut boards, apply glue, hook the boards together (they’re tongue and groove so they snap together), swear, wipe off glue, swear, bang boards together, find tools, cut more boards, cut trim so the boards fit under it, etc. I’m sure there’s more to talk about, but after waking up tired from sodding this morning, you’d better believe that I’m exhausted now.

And surprised once again, that I actually can type. No promises tomorrow though. After two days in a row of hard physical  labor, I’m a bit of a mess. My arms are scratched from carrying boards. My wrists are sore. Even my fingers are tired. But I did not break a single nail (shocker!). That is only important since I am traveling next week — to see clients, go to a conference, attend an awards dinner, and to see my pal/sorority sister Laura (she writes Ps, Qs, and Ws). I thought it would be nice to have pretty nails for a change especially since I’ll be dressing a bit up for the awards dinner.

the finished product

the finished product

But it was worth it today, wasn’t it? The floor looks beautiful, doesn’t it? But I know it’s hard to get past the walls and the unstained desk and cabinet, not to mention the lack of furniture.

So next up: sanding and staining the desk and cabinets, painting the walls, adding another shelf above the computer. We are hoping to do some of this tomorrow, but it will depend on Bruce’s knees, our overall soreness, and how late the Gs let us sleep in.

Sow: sod it

my opponent for today

my opponent for today

Today was a holiday, but there was no rest. You see, today’s planting was to sow grass. I planted sod for about five hours to give the Gs a cool place to sleep during the summer months and to prevent muddy paws.


doing battle with the pallet

It’s a lot like doing flooring. You start with a single line, preferably against a straight edge. And then you keep going for 4 hours. It’s important to stagger the seams. And it’s important to make sure the sod is tightly butted up against each other. And that you water it A LOT.

just in case you were doubting that it was a big pile of sod...measured against my car

just in case you were doubting that it was a big pile of sod…measured against my car

But the pile shrank.

much smaller

much smaller

And finally it was done! Looks a lot better than dirt. Fingers crossed that it rains all weekend as predicted (even though it will effect the Easter parades and outdoor brunches—sorry!).

new sod installed

new sod installed

Of course, the Gs were pretty excited about having more grass. They love hanging out under the live oak tree, but I don’t really love that they’re rolling in the dirt. Now we can all be happy (and less muddy).

George liked it (a lot)

George liked it (a lot)


splendor in the grass G style

splendor in the grass G style—they’re thrilled to have grass to lie on under the live oak

Lots of watering happened when it was all down. And there will be more watering in my near future. Unless the predicted rain comes. Fingers crossed!

If I can actually cross my fingers. Gotta say that I’m exhausted and plenty of muscles hurt. I took a shower and lifting my arms high enough to wash my dirt-covered hair was a struggle. I’m proud of myself for actually being able to type. And form sentences. It’s going to be an 8:30 bedtime night if I can make it until then.

Most of all, it was awesome to be outside most of the day. Even if I do have a boo boo:

ouch! war wound from today

ouch! war wound from today—palm blister

Today’s DIY adventure definitely made me appreciate the effort it takes to have nice grass. And how much labor is required to plant it.



so: rule

Another day “off” tomorrow. A vacation day with the “off” in quotes. Not a day for sleeping in. Or sitting on the porch reading a book. Not relaxing.

It’s been an “off” week too. Strange weather. Dead plants. Work disappointment. Political b.s.

Perhaps that’s why tonight is not a good night for writing. A blockage is happening. Or is it apathy? Sloth? The siren song of bad tv calls. So does a pillow.


Last night, while talking with a friend on the phone, she mentioned that once a week, she goes to bed at 8:30 whether she needs to or not. She looks forward to that night. Of course, there’s a very good reason for looking forward to it: she is the mom of a very busy almost 5 year old and that early-to-bed night is as close to “me time” as she usually gets. And she wakes up after her night of extra sleep feeling ready to deal with whatever comes her way. If she skips it, she’s “off”. Not her usual happy self. Not as nice to be around. Not at her best.

Not being at my best almost meant the rule for the blog got vetoed tonight. Writing every day is the rule. So this post is what happened.

And tomorrow is another day.

Sow: black death


Poor orange bell pepper! It may need to be replaced or just a trim. Will reassess Friday. (Peas are doing fine at the back of the bed)

Dead plants make me sad. Last night, a black and crispy mixture greeted me as I covered up the peppers, tomatoes and basil by headlamp in anticipation of yet another cold night.

Since last night, I’ve been the kind of gloomy grumpy that lingers through the next day, despite my best efforts to perk myself up. And I’ve tried. I watched a badly produced video on composting and read a homesteading magazine featuring pictures of baby goats and showing me how to make the garden signs I’ve been planning in my head. To no avail. I’m still grouchy.

However, I’m hopeful that today’s beautiful weather with sun and a high of 68°F will perk the garden up. When I recheck everything tonight while watering, I’ll be greeted with growth and greenery and some of the black death and crispiness will be gone. At least the peas won’t let me down. Neither will the kale and chard. And the Red Velvet lettuce is doing just fine.

On a side note, this morning when I walked into the office, the beautiful hydrangea I received for my birthday was drooping, blue-purple flowers looking wilted and shriveled up. DAMN! Another plant murdered! Can’t I catch a break with even the indoor plants this week?!?

After kicking myself for not checking it before I left last night and spewing a string of colorful and descriptive words, I gave it a good drink and hoped that it would go back to its beautiful self before my coworker (the giver) came by to check it out. More sadness. More gloom. More grouchiness. Ugh.

Luckily my coworker is out today. And luckily, no plant-a-cide happened. The water worked its magic and it’s just as blue and beautiful as it ever was. Whew. That perked me up a tiny bit. Especially since I know zero about hydrangeas except that they can shift color depending upon the soil.

And lest you think I’m stretching the truth about the croaking happening around me and wondering if I’m being an overly dramatic Garden Diva (by the way, I do have a t-shirt that says “Garden Diva” — thanks, Simone!), I’ve snapped photo evidence, taken this morning before work as I assessed the damage in daylight:


A crispy, wilted green bell pepper. It was sheltered, but I guess it wasn’t warm and sheltered enough. It will need to be replaced.


This was one of the bushiest of the tomatoes. It will need to be replaced since the frost and cold have fried its top and probably stunted its growth for good.


Another tomato plant, fried at its top. This is one I will assess on Friday, especially since it’s part of the red water tray experiment. It was also one of the taller plants.


A common crispy leafed tomato (probably one to replace). This one makes me sad because so much of it got damaged.

See what I mean? Hopefully this is the end of the frosty and cold nights and we can get back to good tomato growing weather. Don’t let anyone tell you that growing tomatoes in North Texas is easy. I struggled last spring, last fall, and this spring has also been a battle. And if by chance you figure out what I did to entice Old Man Winter to come back for a visit, could you let me know? He is not welcome back in Dallas until at least November.

Sow: spring back?

It’s 58°F at 5:30 pm.

In North Texas, this time of day, not midday, is usually the hottest part of the day. I’m just glad to have the temperatures climb back up to a place closer to where it should be. I’ve been a bit of a nervous wreck worrying about the plants.

The entire Urban Farm stayed covered all of yesterday underneath the frost cloth. Hopefully it was all warm and secure enough.

I’m hoping to see happy tomatoes, basil and peppers when I return home tonight. Bruce uncovered them at midday today since it was still only 35°F when I left for the office. Still, that’s three degrees warmer than when I woke up this morning. Brrr. It’s been toques, snowboarding jackets, and gloves weather since Sunday and it’s felt even colder because it was so warm a bit earlier this month.

I’m also hoping for warmer temperatures that stay around. On Friday, I’m going to be putting down sod in parts of the backyard where we need it. It’s mostly to keep the Gs out of the mud truthfully. Yes, we’re buying grass for the Gs. Well, and me. Despite any required labor on my part, it will be a big timesaver if for nothing else than cutting down on the dog towel laundry. Godiva and George are my worst culprits, although I have caught Guinness trying to sneak back on to the couch muddy.

Tomorrow I’d better do a little reading to remind myself how to plant grass. Don’t worry, I’ve done it before. The first time, however, was a really long time ago. When I was a little girl living in Savannah, our whole family spent a weekend installing plugs of grass in the yard of our new house. In no time at all they spread and we had a nice lawn.

With this North Texas lawn planting, water will be the key. (It seems to be a common theme down here, doesn’t it?) But if we water well, the grass will be established prior to our surface of the sun summer temperatures and will survive.


April showers?

My fingers are crossed for plenty of April showers, not for the May flowers, but for the plump tomatoes, sweet peas, snappy beans, crunchy peppers, bountiful salads,  juicy peaches and plums, and well-established grass!

Sow: office garden

Old Man Winter decided to come back for another visit so the Mortroski Midcentury Urban Farm stayed covered up all day today. It’s been below 45°F for the past few nights and this morning it was around 32° during the Gs dark sojourn through the neighborhood. Other than Guinness wanting to catch a possum in the alley right behind the house, it was cold and uneventful.

Still when it’s sunny and bright like it is right now, I’m frequently fooled into not wearing a winter coat. I made that mistake many times when I first moved to Toronto from California. When it was sunny, I thought, “hey, it’s going to be nice today” and sadly I would have to get back in the elevator of our high rise apartment and go back to the 24th floor for a coat, hat, and gloves. Trickery!

I thought about leaving the house without a coat today, but remembered that Mondays are very unpredictable and I might have to alter my usual home-office-home plan and run out to say, Home Depot, or a lunch meeting. I also remembered my poor garden that had to remain covered all day today since it would only get to 50°F for a millisecond (perhaps right now) and then drop back into the cold temps. If it’s too cold for them, it’s definitely too cold for me these days. And that means no poking around the farm tonight.

Still, I always have my work garden. You see, somehow in the past year word has gotten out that I like plants so my office has become a plant sanctuary of sorts.(I started the Urban Farm with a single raised bed on 3/17/12 and I guess several people were paying attention to my lunch time and pre-meeting stories about digging in the dirt and eating the results months later.)


First to arrive: an orchid. While the leaves are lovely and green, I’m not sure it’s going to flower again.

I am lucky to have a sunny-ish office and I know that when it’s cold out, seeing the sun makes me happy. It also has made this refuge violet very happy:


The violet seems to like it here a lot and is almost needing a new pot.

But today I received a plant I have no experience growing:


a purplely-blue hydrangea

Since it’s so cold here right now, I’m keeping the hydrangea in my office. It’s so pretty and reminds me of the neighborhood where I lived in Toronto. There were a number of large hydrangea bushes there and a neighbor used to pick them and let them dry for winter arrangements and wreaths.

The person who gave it to me suggested that I plant it in my yard somewhere shady where it can be watered frequently during the summer. I also need to make sure that if George finds it delicious that we won’t need to make a quick visit to the veterinary emergency clinic (what do you think Christine?).

But now it’s time to brave the cold and head out to see what projects this night holds in store for me. As you saw from my weekend posts, there’s been a bit of destruction that needs to be remedied with a little construction and paint…

Note: This post was written Monday 3/25/13, but for whatever reason chose not to post. So you’ll see two posts today if you follow my blog.

So: more destruction

Yesterday, in addition to being my birthday was a day of demolition and projects.

After last night’s March birthday celebration, at which I tried to learn how to two step (thanks Grammar Belle), danced to an eclectic mix of country/hip hop/Canadian pop/top 40, and stayed up too late, I was not feeling my most fabulous this morning. Probably had nothing to do with the birthday cake flavored drink served a tiny cup (shout out to awesome hostess and fellow birthday gal Aly).

But being the trooper I am, I rallied. You see, Bruce was a man with a plan. Once a month the city of Dallas has bulk trash pick up and it’s the only way you can dispose of carpet unless you take it to the dump yourself (or pay someone to do so).

So we spent a big chunk of today making this pile:


We pulled up our living room and dining room carpet to see if we were going to lay the bamboo flooring ourselves. It will be the same as the office (and the rest of the house).

Unfortunately it looks to be a job better left to the pros only because there are some seriously low spots that will require leveling. And also we uncovered some high spots near the tiled entry.

But still, we did all of the carpet removal prep, including pulling up all of the smooth edge. My most important job (in my opinion anyway) was vacuuming with the giant shop vac:


That way we can put the furniture back and the Gs can run around without hurting their paws. I will be vacuuming the rest of the house with the shop vac since our regular vac blew its cord yesterday.

After that, I think I’ll take several of my friends’ advice and spend the rest of the day relaxing. Seems like the right way to finish an awesome weekend.

So: birthday

Today is my birthday. I’m 44 now.

So far it’s been absolutely wonderful.

After taking me out for dinner last night, Bruce made me a lovely breakfast, then he put together my birthday gift:




It’s a dual action composter! Awesome! Every girl wants one, right?

I’m so excited to compost again. It’s over by the peach and plum trees.



It will be such a big help with the urban farm and also provide an ongoing compost supply for the farm.

Besides composter assembly, it’s been an action-packed day. We’ve continued the reign of terror on the 1990s renovations to the Mortroski Midcentury. The office is gutted and ready for some serious wall work and staining tomorrow, furniture has been relocated to the spare bedroom:


Despite a blustery, thundery morning, I got the peppers (jalapeño, poblano and bell) and basil in:




So it’s almost time for cupcakes. I’m celebrating my birthday tonight with two other March birthday girls at a little party. Don’t tell, I cheated and made these:


But they look pretty tasty:


We will be turning off the lights for this:


It was an awesome birthday filled with lots of fun and plenty of my favorite things. Hope you had a fabulous day too!

So: playin’ hooky

I gave myself the day off today. It was another gloomy gray day so there was no digging in the garden (perhaps tomorrow or Sunday will be ok for getting dirt covered).

Instead, I got a pedicure (heaven!) and then did the activity I hate more than anything: I went shopping.

You might recall the post about my search for a red dress (and by now you know I never wore it since I got the flu and didn’t go to the ladies’ luncheon where the red clothing was required). This time I was searching for work-appropriate dresses.

The good news is I found two great pairs of flip flops. Actually I brought home an assortment of dresses and two shirts as well.

I need to put on a fashion show for my favorite fashion critic to see what I’m keeping. Bruce is very honest and direct because he knows I hate shopping but want to look good). That’s probably happening tomorrow since frankly I am frazzled from being in the dressing rooms from 11 until 3.

I don’t know how people, ok teenagers and women, do it. I went to two lovely shopping centers. One is full of high end retailers’ outlets. That’s where I started. The other, Northpark, is Dallas’ nicest mall. The Nashers were its developers and the Nashers amassed an amazing sculpture and art collection over their lifetimes. The mall has amazing art from that collection and it’s the reason that when I need a mall shop, I head there.

If you ever come to Dallas, take a couple of hours to check out this mall if you like shopping. And put the Nasher Sculpture Center on your list of to dos if you love art.

But I digress. As lovely as Northpark is, it’s a mall. And the stores are just too much visual stimulation for me. Stuff to look at everywhere. And trying clothes on means trying to figure out what might fit.

You see, I am a wide range of sizes. At the same store. In the same sort of garment. It’s a pain in the ass and means that I have to bring multiple sizes into the dressing room so I can pick which item fits the least offensively. Sometimes it’s the smaller size. Other times it’s the larger one. Or the middle one. It’s a crap shoot, frankly.

I would really like to be able to shop like Bruce: go into the store and in an hour or so, leave with an armful of clothes.

But that’s not how it works for me.

After all those maddening hours in the stores, I was thrilled to leave and do mundane things like pick up a kitchen compost bin and go to the liquor store.

Then, I stopped at North Haven Gardens on the way home. YAY! The temperature has dropped considerably so the tomatoes need to be covered, but tomorrow or Sunday, they’ll have basil to hang out with. And the jalapeños, poblanos, and bell peppers are here too. They’ll take their place in the garden soon too.

And now I must go for a walk. The Gs have a schedule to keep.