So: renos and reunions

Wow! What a weekend. Today alone was an amazing high energy day. We managed to install our new pantry cabinets, put the pantry back, and entertain a friend from college!

First of all, hanging out with IdaRose for the first time in a very long time was awesome. It was a big surprise since we heard from her yesterday, but the Mortroski Mid-century has a welcome mat out 24-7 so we were ready.

I wish we lived closer, we’d probably have lots of fun dinners and do cool things together. And I wish I wasn’t traveling this week while she’s in Dallas because I’d love to take her to some of the museums and restaurants. But at least we had a lovely dinner and a few hours together tonight.

And before she came over, Bruce and I were very busy today (I realize this is a surprise):

20130728-221446.jpg
Putting together the new cabinets for the pantry. Notice the supervisor.

20130728-221556.jpg
The gutted closet that will be a pantry. Notice the new supervisor.

20130728-221734.jpg
Bruce doing the finesse stuff.

20130728-221912.jpg
The final result

People, this is an Ikea setup. We are very impressed! We have 1/2 for pantry items (canned goods, staples) and 1/2 for cleaning stuff (home for vacuum, broom, steam mop, cleaning supplies). It’s lovely and well thought-out. Works for us–and we could get it all installed in a Sunday.

Advertisements

So: cupcakes, ketchup, catch up

I made breakfast cupcakes for my coworkers yesterday. We trade off bringing breakfast. Some people buy it, usually from Taco Cabana (breakfast tacos) or McDonald’s (Egg McMuffins), but I always love it when they make it. It’s always more yummy and more inventive.

Some people really go all out. We’ve had omelette bars, breakfast taco bars, panini bars, pancakes. We’ve also had kiddie cereals, leftover pizza and beer, and WalMart donuts.

Throughout my work career and amongst my friends, I’m known as a cupcake fan and cupcake baker. Any excuse, I’m pulling out cute papers and whipping up a batch.

So, I thought it would be funny to make breakfast cupcakes.

Here’s the recipe:
http://www.tablespoon.com/recipes/bacon-breakfast-cupcakes-recipe/1/print/

I made 2 batches, first bacon as guided by the recipe:

20130727-203545.jpg
For future reference, it takes a whole pack of Oscar Myer bacon. And I didn’t even know refrigerated hash browns existed. I added some chives from my herb patch as sprinkles.

Then a no meat version for my veggie coworkers:

20130727-204206.jpg
I used southwestern hash browns which were spicy and delicious.

Everyone enjoyed them–the moms thought it was pretty kid friendly and good for a crowd. I would definitely make them again but experiment with the flavors.

20130727-204428.jpg
Egg mixtures

20130727-204727.jpg
Potatoes baking

20130727-204810.jpg
Filling the cups

20130727-204910.jpg
I have a handy carrier (I told you I was hard core when it comes to cupcakes. Bruce got it for me as a gift.) that I used to transport them to work.

20130727-205112.jpg
The trays. This model holds three dozen. It’s also good for carrying cakes.

After all that pre-work cooking, I decided relaxation was needed and picked up dinner at a nearby Thai place. I was really hoping it would be great since they deliver to our neighborhood, but it was not. We’ll keep researching, but it’s painfully apparent that we’re not getting Toronto-quality Thai delivered to our house any time soon.

Still someone else did the cooking.

After dinner, Bruce and I watched The Buddha finally. We missed it when it was first run and recorded it this week. I really enjoyed it–a little enlightenment and armchair traveling for a Friday night.

This morning we woke up to beautiful sage flowers. This variety of sage only blooms when it rains:

20130727-210010.jpg

20130727-210040.jpg

After our long weekend dog walk, Bruce made breakfast and put out ketchup from one of the local hamburger chains:

20130727-210159.jpg

We have never tried their food even though we’ve lived here 6 years. So after our errands and morning chores, we decided to have a rare burger lunch. And as several of our friends said, it was great for fast food. But definitely only to be eaten occasionally.

20130727-210439.jpg

After lunch, I received an email from a college friend I haven’t seen since the mid-90s. She’ll be in Dallas for work this week. Unfortunately, I’ll be in North Carolina.

That’s ok, we made a plan: I’ll pick her up at the airport and bring her over to the Mortroski Mid-century for dinner tomorrow night so she can meet Bruce and the Gs. That way if she needs help or gets lonely, she’ll know who to call.

Today’s okra harvest:

20130727-210819.jpg
I’m going to pickle it in the morning.

And your gratuitous weekend dog shot, this time of Godiva:

20130727-210926.jpg

So: 3G Network

20130725-205741.jpg

As you can see, the Gs really enjoy each other’s company. Godiva and Guinness are the most closely bonded since they’ve been together since Godiva was 6 months old. She’s 4 now and we don’t know how old Guinness is since he was a stray. He was instrumental in her change from rambunctious puppy to pack leader.

Little did we know how sick he was when we got him. It’s amazing that he had the patience he did with an active and rambunctious puppy. But he did.

George showed up on July 22, 2012. He’s now been around just over 1 year. As you can see, he’s been accepted into the pack, we just need a bigger dog bed in the front window so everyone can be comfortable.

Sow: pesto presto

20130724-201818.jpg

I made the first pesto of the spring/summer basil Monday night. I planned to share this with you last night but it was a long Monday at work so today will do.

20130724-202008.jpg

In this case, it was about three cups of basil, around 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan, about 1/3 cup of pine nuts, 4 cloves of garlic, almost 1/2 cup of olive oil, salt and pepper. I chucked the garlic and pine nuts into the food processor, added the basil and kept going until everything was blended. Then the oil went in while the machine was next the cheese. S&P to taste.

Lots of abouts because I didn’t use all the oil, I put in a little extra cheese, and maybe a little extra basil. I drizzled some of the leftover oil on top to preserve the vibrant green.

Do it some night. It takes no time and you can make the proportions all your own. More garlic. Less oil. More cheese. Different nuts. No nuts. 10 minutes including prep and cleaning and spinning the basil dry. The hardest part is cleaning the food processor (I was lazy and chucked it in the dishwasher because there was space).

20130724-202711.jpg

Pretty, isn’t it?

Bruce said it was delicious too–he had it for dinner last night over farfalle pasta (you know, the bowties) with a bit of chicken. I sampled it when I got home from work after the leftovers were cold and it was still delicious. Score!

And there’s some left.

Today’s gratuitous garden photo:

20130724-203214.jpg

They’re almost done, but it’s almost time to plant the fall beets.

Today’s gratuitous dog photo:

20130724-203317.jpg
squirrel!

And one last thing, a shout out to the Grammar Belle who celebrates a year of trying to save the English-speaking world from grammatical errors today. Well done! Follow her if you aren’t and I guarantee you will be amused and re-educated.

Sow: do over Sunday

This weekend was not particularly good for productivity. Saturday, we plowed through all of the chores by 3 pm and decided to chill for the rest of the evening. And there was a great rainstorm.

Sunday, neither of us wanted to do anything. But after all the rain, our rain barrels were all full (overflowing actually), except for one. It was the one that we have been talking about moving for a while now—it was over by the peach and plum trees. So first, Bruce needed to move a sprinkler. Lots of digging. In the heat. And a trip to the local big box home improvement store for more PVC pipe than we actually needed.

Once the sprinkler move was done, we moved the rain barrel. Which also meant changing the gutters. While Bruce worked on that, I was in charge of leveling the ground, putting down stone, and leveling the blocks that the rain barrel sits on. The photo below is a bit misleading—it needs to sit on blocks for gravity help the water flow from the hose when you’re filling watering cans and buckets.

We have two of this type of rain barrel. Photo from http://www.suncast.com/productdisplay.aspx?id=534&pid=137

We have two of this type of rain barrel. Photo from http://www.suncast.com/productdisplay.aspx?id=534&pid=137

Anyway, once we had it in place and the downspout was fixed, we filled it up with extra water we captured from the overflowing rain barrels (we used big buckets and our reno trash can). Well, it promptly sprung a leak! And it had a hairline crack. Ugh. Bruce has repaired it temporarily with silicon and I ordered a replacement this morning. One step forward, one step back.

As if that wasn’t a big enough trial in the triple digit heat and soggy humidity, I noticed that Stock Tank #3 wasn’t draining properly. Malfunction! For some reason stock tank 3 was not draining at all and turned itself into a tomato and pepper killing, foul smelling swamp. After digging up and moving the transplants that were drowning, I dug out a quarter of the wet dirt and mixed it with dry dirt from an empty planter then cleared the drain. It seems to be on the way to drying out. Fingers crossed. It did look better this morning.

Both Bruce and I were exhausted from all of the digging and the heat. But I have to say after being covered in mud for the better part of the afternoon, it sure felt great to shower.

As for the do over, even though it’s Monday, I’m going to treat tonight like it’s Sunday. Water the garden. Putter around. Watch a little tv. Turn my brain off and rest my sore muscles.

Sow: pop-up pepper pickles

20130720-193144.jpg

Today I realized that we had a lot of jalapeños and Anaheim chilis to harvest and I needed to do something with them. So I decided to pickle a pound of peppers. Say that 5 times fast just for fun.

I pulled up a refrigerator pickle recipe my co-worker Lisa recommended (pinned to my pinterest board “can”). I made the recipe last fall with some of our pepper bounty and everyone who tried it, liked it.

Most people around here will eat a jar of pickled peppers so fast that refrigerator ones are the best way to share the bounty.

If you want to try it, check it out here: http://www.sippitysup.com/sippitysups-selection-of-a-pound-of-pickled-peppers/

It’s a delicious pickled pepper in my opinion. And Bruce and I really like them with fish. I put a bit of extra onion in each jar since everyone who tried them remarked that the onion was delicious too. One of my friends said the brine would be good for pickling carrots too.

20130720-193823.jpg

It’s a quick recipe if you have the ingredients. I picked up the vinegar at the local yuppie/hippie grocery store today. And as you can see from the photo, I was ready to make 5 good sized jars, some to keep, some to give away.

While I was pickling, we got a big surprise: a pop up gully washer (Texan for flash flood) thunderstorm! Yes, more rain.

When I checked the rain barrels today and added the mosquito dunks (organic mosquito prevention disc you add to rain barrels), three of the four were full.

So when the storm happened today, Bruce ran out and put buckets, the plastic liner for our garden wagon (looks like a kid’s wagon except with all terrain tires) and anything else he could find to catch water. He also had to get a broom to push water off the patio since it was coming down so fast and hard and flooding in places.

Power went out several times because of the lightening. Surprisingly, George was not scared at all.

Very odd weather for July in North Texas. When I checked the garden today and harvested okra and peppers, the ground was still saturated from yesterday’s popup storm. Obviously the Malabar spinach likes it:

20130720-195334.jpg

Peppers turned out very well. Now they need to marinade for about a week before tasting them. Hopefully they’re as good as last fall’s version.

20130720-195551.jpg

So: civic duty

As I mentioned earlier this week, Wednesday was my day to do my civic duty for my fellow citizens of Dallas county. Yes, that’s right: the ever-dreaded jury duty.

I only know one person who loves jury duty. She’s been a foreperson four times. She wants to get chosen. I’m sure she walks right up to the judge and says so. She also lives for correcting other people’s grammar. Visit her blog at http://www.grammarbelle.com

I definitely did not want to get picked. Let’s just say my views are often not shared by the citizenry of North Texas. And unfortunately like The Grammar Belle, I have a tendency to be given leadership roles in volunteer groups. And missing work means making up the time at night when I’d rather be gardening, hanging out with Bruce and the Gs, or even blogging.

That being said, I really didn’t have anything to compare the potential experience to. I was never chosen for jury duty in Ontario nor California, so Texas is my only point of comparison.

I have to say that Dallas seems very efficient and responsible compared to my Tarrant county (the area west of DFW airport, court is in Ft. Worth) experience. For that time, I was told to show up at noon for that jury duty and had to hang around until around 5 pm, only to be the last potential juror to be questioned and once the lawyers heard what I did and where I went to university, they said, “thank you but your services are not needed.” That case was a felony DUI case, a felony because the driver had his young son in the car. I don’t know how it ended up, but I still wonder what happened since so many of the potential jurors seemed to want to try the man before the actual case was heard.

20130718-200659.jpg

Wednesday morning was a lot more civilized. We were ushered into a receiving area where our jury summons’ barcodes were scanned and we were told to be seated in the auditorium. We watched a short video with a local tv news anchor as the presenter that described our potential duties and showed what a trial looks like. We listened to the presiding judge (not the name in the picture)

20130718-201839.jpg

explain why we must take this job very seriously and why, along with voting, it is what separates the U.S. system of government from many others. (Unfortunately far too simplistic of an explanation says the poli sci major). He was an engaging and powerful speaker and in my opinion would have been a good preacher or motivational speaker.

Then we waited.

And waited some more.

It was all fine with me. I did work email. I wrote my brother a birthday card. I read a magazine. I made some notes.

I did my usual airport people watching and was pleasantly surprised that most people were dressed in their Sunday best or for a job interview as requested in the jury summons. No pajamas or clubwear present.

And then they selected two big groups. About 150 people in the first, 50 in the second. It was by your jury number and mine was 753.

Guess what: after another 30 minute break that turned into almost an hour, I was dismissed. And that was it. Back to work I went and I was in my desk before 1 pm.

20130718-201943.jpg

Bonuses of the day: seeing downtown Dallas on a weekday morning. Seeing the old city hall building from the front of the courthouse:

20130718-202155.jpg

Being across the street from the JFK memorial:

20130718-202251.jpg

And I had to drive next to the tourist covered grassy knoll to get back to my office.

So it was a day of US history and government reminders.

Sow: wet

20130716-201423.jpg

It’s been raining since Sunday. This is not normal for North Texas. It should be blazing surface of the sun hot and so dry that I’m thinking of watering the urban farm at dawn, at dusk, and right before bed. At least the fall tomatoes (only 1 casualty so far) are growing like crazy.

But the rain barrels are full again. The grass is green again. The garden is lush and everything is huge. Picking lunch was a real pleasure today and by tomorrow, we’ll have enough okra for dinner.

And Guinness is grumpy. Really grumpy.

He hates water of all kinds, but dislikes rain the most since it may mean no W-A-L-K, especially if there is lightning or hail. He’s also aggravated his neck/back injury that was originally caused by wrestling with a much younger (and heavier) dog. Yes, George.

So Guinness is lying on the sofa (yes, you will get dog hair on your clothes if you sit on our furniture) with a microwaved sock full of uncooked rice on his shoulders. He’s also pumped full of rimadyl and tramadol so he’s a little sleepy/dopey. He’s finally comfortable. Yes, he has pottied, eaten and drank water so we are sure that he’s thrown out his neck/back. Again.

20130716-202908.jpg

It may be weather related. He may have over exerted himself trying to impress Ollie the chihuahua on Saturday. Or maybe he and George had a good wrestle.

But it’s G resting time since the humans are plinking away on their phones while the washer is spinning and the tv is yammering on the background.

Special note: Tomorrow’s post could be a blast or a bust. I have jury duty.

So: wow weekend

What a fabulous weekend! While its completely out of order, let me start with Mr. Fireworks Dog George. He learned to swim, thanks to Godiva and our lovely friends Aly and Jay (their pool):

20130714-195749.jpg
While he looks very laid back, he wasn’t too sure. Godiva the otter made swimming seem effortless for George the manatee.

Today was no good for dog swimming since there was a massive temperature drop, but before the Lambert family returns from their trip, George will swim again. After all, he is a golden-lab and needs to know his skills.

In the farming department, the urban farm is entering the surface of the sun times;

20130714-200339.jpg
Our gift watermelon from Lisa is struggling.

20130714-200609.jpg
The roses are attracting bees.

20130714-200700.jpg
The okra flowers promise us delicious okra every other day. It’s shocking how fast they grow!

20130714-200812.jpg
Despite the heat, the Malabar spinach is fulfilling its promise.

20130714-200904.jpg
The salad we had for dinner Saturday night was quite delicious!

20130714-200951.jpg
A combo of chard, peppers, spinach, roasted beets, pepitas, and goat cheese, it was the perfect accompaniment to grilled kebabs.

20130714-201148.jpg
The salad experiment is coming along!

20130714-201252.jpg

Getting a bit serious, I would just like you to notice the following prices and descriptions (please note I do not begrudge the farmers in any way, just want you to see what a $2.50 pack of organic seeds and water can do with a popular Texas-based grocery store reference):

20130714-201707.jpg

20130714-201752.jpg

And beets. Ours:

20130714-201901.jpg

The store:

20130714-201929.jpg

20130714-202000.jpg

We are really enjoying growing stuff and saving money at the grocery store!

But yesterday was also about the Gs. They have new puntable pals–a shitzu, a pom, and a chihuahua pup! Here’s one photo of last night:

20130714-202402.jpg
If a dog that big and a dog that small can have fun, why can’t we humans all get along? The Gs and their petite pals had a good old time running around, playing with toys, mooching food from the people.

And then there was today. Abnormally cool. Rainy. Magnificent. It’s fitting that its Godiva’s birthday. Stinky brothers all got a bath and a pedicure after their swim. Fun time with new friends Saturday night. House almost back together. Humans just hanging out inside catching up on the DVR.

Everyone seems very well rested, just as a weekend should be.

So: highlights

I’ve been lazy this week, with good reason. Wednesday, I was stuck at the Atlanta airport for weather and mechanical problems for 5 hours. I was busy with work most of that so it wasn’t so bad but still. I had weather issues getting there and sleeping issues once I got there. If it wasn’t for the people and the great meeting, it would have been a hair puller of a trip.

But don’t think for a moment that it wasn’t a great week. Here are a few highlights since my last post:

20130712-203721.jpg

It looks meager, but at least there was a harvest. This is the time of year where any plants that are still alive are an amazing victory as it hits three digits every day for the next two months. I may have an invention for this though. Stay tuned.

20130712-203919.jpg

My childhood jewelry box repainted by artist Lisa Loria showed up yesterday and it’s stunning. Even prettier than the photo. A definite highlight of the month.

20130712-204043.jpg

I found this strange vine attacking the creeping rosemary today. It looks like a Little Shop of Horrors green bean! Yanked the sucker out of the front plants.

20130712-204224.jpg

The countertop dudes came and gave us counters in under two hours. Love love love the quartz.

20130712-204322.jpg

20130712-204337.jpg

This is pretty exciting because now the lounge and the living/dining room are pretty much DONE! It looks great too.

20130712-204450.jpg

The seaming of the dining room countertop was so cool. The machine vibrated and hummed as it squeezed the small piece to the big one.

20130712-204601.jpg

You can only see the seam very close up.

So then, it’s the weekend. Tomorrow we’ll be putting finishing touches on the fabulous new office. I just love it–Bruce’s color choices were amazing. It is such a comfortable tv venue now. And probably a delightful place to work although the Gs and I preferred the kitchen table as usual

It’s Godiva’s birthday on Sunday (Bastille Day is the day we picked for her) so we’re going to go swimming. Our friends are away and offered us their pool. Godiva loves to swim so its the perfect birthday for a 4 year old. I’m sure there will be photos. Plus George needs to learn…