So: murphy’s law

 

see what Scott means?

see what Scott means?

ss_CoorsLightCanMr. Murphy is no friend of mine today. I’m writing this post 10,000 feet above the earth, in what my friend Scott refers to as a flying Coors Light can. I’m heading to Northern California for a meeting, but since early this morning it has felt like every stumbling block that could crop up has.

mur·phy’s law

/ˈmərfēz/
A supposed law of nature, expressed in various humorous popular sayings, to the effect that anything that can go wrong will go wrong.

Frankly I’m a little concerned that I may have forgotten something important like underwear considering I packed in a complete mad dash. You see, this morning was when the water heater decided to malfunction. Don’t get me wrong. I had a hot shower so my fellow plane passengers aren’t cringing. But after I came back after hopping in the car to leave (I forgot my toothbrush) I heard a loud hissing.

Of course, I called Bruce so he could trouble shoot via FaceTime (thank you iPhone). I turned off the things he told me to. I then got back in the car, looked over at the Urban Farm and realized that the tomatoes were still covered up and it would be 60°F today. They’d cook under the frost cloth.

So I jumped back out of the care and ran across the lawn in my work attire. I started uncovering the tomato plants. That’s when I heard it: the sound of water pouring out of something!

Damn damn damn.

You see we do not have a gate on that side of the yard. The previous owners didn’t install one. So I had to jump back into the car and drive around the house to see what happened. I suppose I could have just parked the car, gone in the house, then exited the front door, but I was already late and I was hoping it was something easy like someone left the hose on by the peach and plum trees.

Nope.

If you’ve ever driven up to your house and seen steaming hot water pouring out of your roofline through a PVC escape pipe, you know exactly how I felt next. I threw the car in park, ran over to investigate, called Bruce to come home from work and help me, then unlocked the front door and ran back to the water heater that lives in it’s own cute little closet.No water in the closet. Yay!

I ran into the room that’s right below where the water was gushing out. No water ruining the room. Yay!

Next I pulled down the attic ladder. You see in Texas, they put all of the mechanical stuff in the attic, out of the way. I know. It makes no sense to me either. It’s boiling hot up there when your AC breaks in August and the HVAC guys are not happy to go up there. The cable and phone guys don’t like it either. Neither does the plumber. But still no water pouring out into the attic. Yay! (By the way, that happened in the old house and let me tell you it really sucks and is very scary to see water pouring out of your pot lights when your water heater valve explodes off the water heater on a Friday night.)

Bruce had a look, Jim the plumber called him while he was looking and together they secured the water heater and got the mystery water stopped.

Now Jim was already booked up, but he likes us so he and Bruce met up this afternoon and after $135 everything is ok.

Jim cracks me up. He’s a southern gentlemen in pressed Wranglers and cowboy boots. He calls me Mrs. and ma’am. He won’t let me help him or his assistant unless we are asking him to install a faucet that comes from Europe. He’s lectured me about my greenness and doesn’t like low flow toilets much. But je’s been around since we moved into the Mortroski Midcentury so he enjoys seeing what we’re doing to the place. Today he asked to check out the Urban Farm since that’s new to him. Bruce tells me he was impressed and it also led to one of Jim’s stories. You see apparently if you are a widower of a certain age and you live out in East Texas, there are many oil widows who love to garden. So Jim enjoys attending Garden Club meetings so he can expand his pool of local ladies to date. I’m pretty sure Jim would NOT have told me this story, but truthfully he likes Bruce a lot especially since he’s now an American.

But I digress. I was approximately 2 hours late for work. We were still knee-deep in getting stuff done for the meeting. I’m pretty sure I’ve forgotten to do something there, but I figure if I keep typing my brain will remind me. Except it’s hopped up on my supplemental allergy medicine that my doctor wanted me to take so my ears don’t fill with fluid on the plane. If I wasn’t so stressed from this day, I’d probably be sound asleep.

We had to rush for the airport. I tried to make sure I brought the necessary work stuff and noticed that I was missing a power cord. Damn! It was at home on my desk. Oh well.

The TSA experience was pleasant enough, until someone spilled something all over the checkpoint. I already had my shoes out, the bins full of electronics, sweaters and toiletries. They said we could stay, but the last “clean up on aisle 4” took 30 minutes. I opted to hike 15 gates to the next security entrance with everyone else who was in line there. My sweet boss because she flies so much and is a statuesque blonde, got to Fast Pass the line since they had no Fast Pass people waiting (I bet it was a free sample to get her to buy the Fast Pass). Of course, I had to go through the regular line. At least I didn’t get the special massage and packing assessment today!

Plane was delayed by 30 minutes because we were missing the pilot and first officer. Typical for this airline so it didn’t bother me much. Hopefully with new ownership and more pilots to choose from they won’t have this as an excuse much longer.

Once on the plane I noticed two things. The fly on my dress pants had dropped, probably because I forgot to zip it at some point. And I had lost one of my favorite earrings. Hopefully it just fell into my clothes and when I go to change for bed tonight, I’ll find it. Sigh.

Two lovely friends of mine live 10 minutes from the airport. They have graciously agreed to accompany me to dinner tonight so we can catch up. I try to see them when ever I’m out here on business, but honestly, I’m not sure that they should be around me.

It seems that I have either a black cloud over my head or Mr. Murphy himself trying to mess with me. Please cross your fingers for me. Think good thoughts. Or pray. Bring me some good mojo/juju/thoughts/positivity.

Tomorrow and Wednesday need to be much less eventful, even if it makes my posts super boring.

 

 

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Sow: spring forward

According to my Facebook feed, it would appear that Daylight Savings Time is universally loathed in North America*. I actually like it a lot, despite accidentally oversleeping today (I blame my new super duper pharmaceutical strength allergy drugs and the fact that I haven’t slept well for about 3 weeks) and having a pile of work that has filled my conscious and subconscious thoughts for the past week or so.

Here are the top 10 reasons why I love to spring forward:

1. Goodbye to Headlamp Harvests. And headlamp watering. And headlamp yard cleaning up after the 3G Network on Garbage Night Eve. Since I get home from work after 6 pm on a good night, I’m often out mucking about in the Urban Farm when it’s dark. The solar lighting helps somewhat (thanks, Bruce!), but it’s still not as nice as being able to see what’s going on until 9 pm or so.

2. Happier plants. Longer days equal more sunlight. More sunlight equals better, faster growth so that when the temperatures turn North Texas into the surface of the sun (July through September), the spring crops should be harvested and I’ll only be stressing about keeping the fall transplants alive.

3. Better visibility for the 3G Network. Guinness, Godiva, and George prefer days with two long walks. Guinness usually insists upon them. I, on the other hand, am afraid we’ll all die if we do our walks much past dusk, despite light colors and a flashlight to show oncoming traffic where we are. A lot of our walk route does not have sidewalks (our street for example) so I fear the happy hour revelers, the soccer moms, the late for dinner parents, and the senior citizens returning from early bird dining. I’m a much happier walker when it’s light (or when no one is awake at 5:30 am).

4. Patio action. Until North Texas becomes the surface of the sun, it’s awesome to gather up friends, sit outside, and sip something refreshing. Sometimes this also involves a swimming pool if the gathering isn’t at our house. If it does, it’s better to have a longer day so the water is warmer and more people will get in. (I don’t mind what the water temperature is as long as there’s a towel waiting for me. Neither does Godiva.) If it’s at our house, there will be lots of dogs running around since our visitors know to BYOD (bring your own dogs) because the backyard minus the Urban Farm is a dog park. And “Uncle” Bruce usually is planning to smoke/deep-fry/grill something dog-friendly.

5. Flowers galore. I’ve stopped buying cut flowers even though I love them. When it gets warm here they just do not last. And I like flowering plants because they usually keep giving you more flowers if you remember to water them. But in spring about this time of year, everything that flowers is. The only parts of me that minds this are my nose, eyes, head. Damn you allergies.

6. Trees with leaves. There’s nothing uglier than a crape myrtle without leaves. It looks like a pile of bones standing upright on the grass. It looks dead and uninviting. And then the local landscapers decide to decapitate it and it looks like an awkwardly trimmed pile of bones.

poor crape myrtle

poor crape myrtle!

crape myrtle in spring at our first texas house

crape myrtle in spring at our first texas house

I’m glad to see leaves popping out on trees of all kinds, but especially crape myrtles.

7. Green grass. Although it doesn’t get all that cold here and only snows on important days like Christmas Day or when the Super Bowl’s being played in town, our grass goes dormant. It looks like straw from November until now. By the time I get back from my business trip this week, I’m hoping all the grass will be Ireland-green.

8. Rain. It’s a problem around here. We don’t get enough and when we do get some, it’s like God’s just pouring a bucket on the whole area and it just runs off. So I look forward to this time of year to fill the rain barrels, decrease the chances of drought, and make my friends with boats happy. Because you know what they say about boats: the best thing about boating is having a friend with a boat.

9. Happiness. Despite it never really staying dark, gray and gloomy around here for long, when it does, my coworkers aren’t as fun to be around. Everyone gets a bit down in the dumps. I think it’s because most people after living here for a while don’t like wearing socks. Last night at dinner one of my friends who is a native Texan explained how he feels happiest when he is wearing flip flops and shorts so even if it means being a little cold or wearing a sweatshirt when it’s windy or cold, he does it.

10. Pedicures and sandals. Open toe shoe season means that feet need to look pretty says the gal who desperately needs to head to the nearest nail salon. Even if you’re a dude. It doesn’t make you metrosexual, men friends, it just means that your feet will be presentable and clean. Ladies, even if you don’t let your feet experience a professional’s touch, lotion and polish will make your sandal wardrobe look even better. And as you dust off your sandals, be sure to be ruthless. Even if you love them, worn out shoes don’t do your body any favors.

Happy spring, y’all!

*Except for Fransi at Three-Hundred Sixty-Five. She actually used the word “Hallelujah!” in today’s post referencing Daylight Savings Time. I agree with her 100% as you can see.

Sow: eat your yard

I love this TED Talk from Pam Warhurst, founder of Incredible Edible, an initiative in Todmorden, England dedicated to growing food locally by planting on unused land throughout the community.

Although I first watched it ages ago, Sue from Daily Echo reminded me of it the other day. It was one of the inspirations behind the birth of the Mortroski Midcentury Urban Farm (along with our raging desire for tasty and beautiful produce in North Texas).

Please have a watch. Even if you aren’t too keen about digging up your own front yard, if you see your neighbors doing it, hopefully you will encourage them. Besides, if you do, they’ll probably give you some of their bounty.

It’s raining tonight here in North Texas. I’m glad for the water and the pollen scrub. My allergies have been going so insane that my boss gently suggested that three weeks of being snotty is not normal and I should get checked out before I hop on a plane. Turns out we are having some of the worst allergy conditions ever. Hopefully the rain washes away some of the ick. The rain barrels are full again. And I don’t need to water the Urban Farm tomorrow.

 

Full disclosure:
We are not digging up our front yard and planting food. We have too many trees and lovely native North Texas plants. But we will continue to add to the backyard!

So: TGIF?

I’d like to say I’m happy to see Friday winding down and the weekend starting, but truthfully, I wish it was still Thursday, The Gateway to the Weekend(tm).*

You see, I still have a lot of work to do that we optimistically thought could be finished and finalized today. And there are only two days in the weekend. The weekend is for gardening and DIY projects on the house, maybe enjoying a nice meal and the company of friends.

Not this weekend.

This weekend is for 1) stopping by my doctor’s walk in clinic to see if they can eliminate my stuffy nose, 2) writing a bunch of ads and refining the tv spots I wrote yesterday and today, and 3) panicking about what to wear to the big presentation on Wednesday. It may also involve a quick shopping trip if my closet doesn’t offer an acceptable wardrobe choice.

Speaking of wearing for those of you who remember my red dress search and how much I dislike shopping, here’s an update: I never got to wear it because I had the flu. My favorite is sitting in my closet; the others are in my car waiting to get returned (bad Julie).

But I digress.

On weeks like these I am thankful for the gift of being able to string words together in entertaining and actionable ways. And I’m thankful that after a good night’s sleep the words will flow better than they are right now.

Good night, sweet readers.

*Years ago I worked on Durex and we had a campaign to own Wednesday as Hump Day. Poor Thursday needed a special name too, hence the words I have strung together here.

Sow: bloom

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This photo doesn’t do the daffodils justice, unfortunately. My poor phone’s flash didn’t light up the darkness very well, did it? Still, it gives you the idea that they are finally blooming after teasing us for the past two weeks. They are planted in big clumps in the front yard and look to be on the verge of springing forth. I’m dying to see what they look like all in bloom—hopefully this weekend they will be in full glorious flower. They are coming up for the very first time since they were planted in January and as the years pass, the clumps will get bigger. Should be fantastic!

This morning during the tomato uncovering (it was around at 40°F at 5 am which was the coldest time of the day, but I am definitely not taking any chances with the spring tomato crop so I covered Raised Bed #4) and seedling watering, I noticed a lot more little sprouts. Still no carrots popping up, but more radishes and beets. The garlic cloves that were sprouting on the kitchen counter that I buried in a big pot have poked through the surface. And the celery is still going strong. The various lettuces seem to be doing really well, but the peas are worrying me since they are sprouting slowly.

I’m feeling a bit slow myself.

Seeing the tonight daffodils perked me up, but the past few days have been crazy at work and I haven’t been getting home as early as I would like. Or that the Gs would like. They aren’t all that impressed with me when I work late since I don’t like walking all three of them once it gets dark. I find that people are just not as careful as they should be as they rush home or to their kids’ activities and we don’t have sidewalks on our street. On the plus side, I’ve been doing a lot of fun things at work—and lots of writing, which is a nice bonus.

But there’s a bigger plus for tonight: Bruce will be back from his business travels any minute.

 

Sow: Eco-lutionary

I don’t ask much of you (beyond reading). Please watch this awesome TED Talk by Ron Finley so you’ll understand why I’m so fired up*:

I agree with Ron that we need to make gardening sexy. Not just for the obese residents of a food desert. Not just for bored teens with nothing to do. Not just for the homeless.

We need to make it sexy for everyone. And take back the simple act of growing some of our own food. Anything. A pot of herbs is an excellent start and very practical even for space-constrained city dwellers, little kids, or even those with a black thumb. You like basil? Grow some!

I love the idea of being a garden gangster, an eco-lutionary. Picture my swagger as I put on my headlamp to water the seedlings tonight! Watch my lean as I pull out the weeds and water! I love that a it’s a defiant act to tear up the lawn and plant some deliciousness.

Gardening IS without a doubt the most therapeutic thing that I have done. It beats the hell out of yoga, as much as I loved that. Even better a good run. Give me a backache from weeding verses a pulled calf muscle any old day. It pushes the crappy days out of me and clears my mind so I can be a better solution provider. A harder worker. A nicer person.

Plus, I’m much more artistic about it than I ever was with cake decorating or pretty much any craft I’ve done. When I’m outside with my hands in the dirt or with the watering can in my hand, I feel more alive than ever. I’m contributing. I’m improving the air. I’m putting effort into something that I will receive back tenfold. A gift I can share with my family. And something I can share with friends and neighbors and have it gratefully received because we all have to eat and vegetables don’t make you fat. Unlike my baking.

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Spring has sprung. Our plum tree is blooming. The peach tree will be next.

So now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go grab the 3G Network, head outside, and water the crops. And think about planting some more shit.

*A big thank you to Brandy Slater (aka The Grammar Belle) for thinking of me today and posting this marvelous TED Talk on my Facebook page. You were right when you said one of the best lines was “Growin’ your own food is like printin’ our own money.” I certainly feel rich these days.

So: super sweet

It was super sweet of Lifebeam to nominate me for the Super Sweet Blogging Award (and I love the cupcake visuals). It’s wonderful to be recognized by the excellent writers I’ve “met” through SowSewSo and it definitely prods me to the keyboard on those days when I’d rather be baking (or in my case, digging in the dirt, gaining a lovely farmer’s tan).

Without getting too gooey, thank you, Lifebeam, for including me in your baker’s dozen of noteworthy blogs and I appreciate the reference. I’ve enjoyed reading Lifebeam‘s posts and love the “one picture, one positive thought” philosophy that drives each post. Do check it out if you haven’t visited there yet.

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Here are the deliciously straight-forward set of rules for Super Sweet Blogging Award:

  1. Give credit to the person who chooses to nominate you. (DONE!)
  2. Answer the “Super Sweet” questions
  3. Nominate a “Baker’s Dozen” (I imagine that one must also let each know of their nomination)

My answers to the Super Sweet Questions:

  1. Cookies or cake? Neither. Cupcakes!
  2. Chocolate or vanilla? If it’s a cupcake, it should be vanilla with vanilla frosting. Maybe a few sprinkles on top just for fun. Or red velvet with cream cheese frosting.
  3. What is your favorite sweet treat, cheesecake or frozen yogurt? You can’t tempt me with cheesecake, but I do love fro-yo despite nearly OD-ing on it in college. You CAL friends might remember a little place called Yogurt Park…
  4. When do you crave sweet things the most? At work!
  5. If you had a sweet nickname what would it be? Petit Gâteau (aka Cupcake, see a pattern yet?)

Here is my yummy baker’s dozen of my blogging delights (and yes, you may notice repeats from sharing other awards but that’s because I really, really like those blogs):

1. TurtleandRobot.com

2. Lesley Carter

3. The Daily Golden

4. cupcaketravels

5. Winebbler

6. Expressions of my life – an evolution of art

7. The Grammar Belle

8. Ps & Qs & Ws

9. Three Hundred Sixty-Five

10. Daily Echo

11. Seth snap

12. Gnawing the Bone

13. leafandtwig

And there you have it. Check out the lucky 13 blogs and see if you find something new and fun to sweeten up your day.

Thank you again to Lifebeam for the nomination!

Sow: owl water

Besides the 3G Network, many animals inhabit the Urban Farm at some point during the day or night. We have squirrels, birds from hummingbirds to grackles, and the occasional possum (though I think since George moved in they’ve been few and far between).

Our two bird baths are important to all of the animals, though I prefer that George and Guinness not drink out of them since they have their own bucket bowl outside (Godiva is too petite for bird bath drinking). Squirrels are especially funny to see at the bird baths — they’re either hanging off the magnolia tree or hanging on to the bird bath’s edge for fear of falling in.

Of course, all types of birds use them from the tiny hummingbirds, all the way to blue jays, cardinals, and the noisy big black grackles. We had to get two because of the volume of birds we get once the weather gets hot (and the blue jays wanted their own), but the birds use them in all weather. On those rare super-cold days, I flip the ice crust of the bird baths before I head off to work in the morning.

While we’re certainly far from a backyard urban wildlife sanctuary thanks to the 3G Network’s natural instincts to chase anything that lands or walks into their yard, I’d like to think we’re making the world a slightly better place for the critters of Dallas.

My favorite animals that enjoy the free drinks are the owls. Owl happy hour is that unexpected and somewhat hard to predict time between dusk and dark. I go out to water the Urban Farm (more about that in a sec) and I make sure the owls have clean water each night. These owls are the size of a baseball glove, by the way. They’ve given me several glimpses and even a chance to get fairly close, but it is never light enough to get a photo. And oddly enough, they are not bothered by the Gs and the Gs do not bother them, though truthfully George and Godiva are usually too busy wrestling or chasing each other to notice the birds.

Other than watering the owls, I also put on my trusty headlamp to have a look at the plants and see what the 85°F temperatures (not a typo, it was summer here today, but will be 32°F tomorrow night) did for the Urban Farm. And it looks like a lot happened.

I’m pleased to report:

-the tomato plants all seem to be adjusting well to their new home

-the striped chioggia beets are finally sprouting and I’m already dreaming of roast beet, goat cheese and mesclun salads

Chioggia beet image from Baker Creek Heirloom seeds (I am using their seeds)

Chioggia beet image courtesy of Baker Creek Heirloom seeds (I am using their seeds)

-the snow peas have 4 sprouts

-the red velvet lettuce has little sprouts dotting its bed

-the bok choi finally sprouted

-the mesclun is going nuts

-the radish sprouts are multiplying

-maybe the brussels sprouts will finally be ready by the weekend

It’s a beautiful night, slightly windy. Hopefully it’s just how the owls and the tomatoes like it.

Sow: spring 2013 tomatoes

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Today was finally a perfect tomato planting day. It was sunny, beautiful, and a weekend day.

The 8 tomato plants were purchased at the garden happy hour on Friday. Bruce got to choose this time.

Saturday was very cold so the plants lived in Bruce’s truck Friday night and Saturday in the garage. But today was pretty perfect so we spent the entire afternoon outside.

Celebrity. Sweet 100. Burpee Big Boy. Cherokee purple. We planted two of each. We also decided to do a little experiment and one of the celebrity,big boy and Cherokee purple were given a tomato tray which supposedly helps with water, fertilizing, and pests. We’ll know sometime in the coming months if that helps or not.

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We planted, fertilized and mulched. And now we can dream of a fantastic tomato harvest.

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We also planted two rosemary plants to replace the one we had that croaked:

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And some mesclun since I harvested the washtub today. I’m really hoping all this lettuce that I’m planting doesn’t happen all at once!

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Sow: It’s My Park Day

Bags of mulch are a lot heavier than I remembered. Today’s fresh start/new beginning was adjusting to being “voluntold” by my sweet husband Bruce. You see our voluntary neighborhood association’s (not an HOA) president and the vp of activities came for a visit a week ago Friday. You see, they remembered that we volunteered at the It’s My Park Day that the city of Dallas sponsors. And they also remembered that we have three large-ish dogs that spend a great deal of time at the park with us.

Before the hour was out, Bruce was the Park Liaison. And I was the Park Liaison’s helper. I even have a fancy name tag.

That’s why I was up by 5:45 on a Saturday. And at Lowes by 7:30 to buy 16 bags of hardwood mulch since the city had apparently forgotten our delivery for the park (more about that in a second). Do not go to Lowes to purchase mulch at 7:30 am on a Saturday. First of all, each bag weighs 40 pounds. Second of all, the garden center isn’t really open that early so you will have to push 40 pounds x 16 through the entire store to get to the checkout. Third, when you are loading your pickup truck with 16 bags of mulch, no Lowes employee will help but instead make pithy comments like “Dang, that looks heavy” and “Y’all sure that’s gonna fit?”

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heavier than it looks

When we arrived at the park, it was around 32° F. Yes, 0° C. And a bit windy. Still 35 volunteers plus 3 local politicians (some with entourages) came to clean up in and around the creek and mulch 6 flower beds.

My first job after toting mulch bags was to check people in, make their name stickers, and get them to sign the city’s waver, allowing photography and holding no one responsible if they got hurt. I also pointed out where the donuts, coffee and water was, although given the temperature, coffee was the most popular option. Two little kids scarfed down most of the donuts, much to their mother’s horror. I chuckled to myself because I figured they would go sugar crazy pretty quickly.

The city arrived with the mulch. Bruce collected the bags he had unloaded and loaded them back into the truck.

My next job was to fill my wheelbarrow with bottled water, trash bags, gloves and kleenex (cold = runny noses) and walk the length of the park near the creek, then continue on to the flower beds, following the creek up to the next big street. I gave my big orange plastic bucket to the donut eating kids and their mom to help them mulch the flower bed they were working on (unfortunately for me, they decided to keep it).

After that I raked and mulched a flower bed. I got some gardening tips and heard about the heads of cattle one neighbor has on his ranch (his weekend home).

And then we were done. The creek was very clean. There were full black garbage bags waiting for the city to pick them up. The flower beds looked fabulous.

Well, WE weren’t done. Back to Lowes to unload and return the purchased mulch!

I’m going to need some Aleve tonight.