So: epic (culinary) fail

Perhaps you’ve gathered that yet again, work’s consuming me. If you were my clients, surely you’d be delighted, although all work and not much play in the dirt makes Julie a less than ideal worker bee. Still, I’ve eaten some great ice cream for dinner in an airport and met some very cool people.  I can’t really complain.IMG_3952

But I will grouse about yesterday. You see, I had a holiday. Yes, a real “freebee” day from the company. It wasn’t even a national holiday. It was Columbus Day. We won’t get into what that all means since I try not to discuss anything more political than the anarchistic act of growing food in the Dallas city limits.

It was also Canadian Thanksgiving. And while I joked with my Facebook friends that I get two Thanksgivings because I have so much to be thankful for, I really wasn’t joking. I love having two opportunities to be grateful because I really and truly am doubly grateful.

 [For those readers who are unacquainted with Canadian Thanksgiving, it is very much like the big dinner American Thanksgiving except without the pilgrims and Indians mythology. Nice dinner with family and friends. Except it’s not the biggest holiday on the Canadian calendar. I think Christmas, even amongst non-Christians is a bigger deal, perhaps because it’s really three days, the Eve, the Day, and Boxing Day and usually at least two of those days are days off from work.]

That aside, yesterday I was not grateful for my temporary (I hope) lack of culinary prowess. Or perhaps it was just one of those accident-prone days, you know, when the moon is in the wrong phase or Jupiter is aligned with Mars. Something like that. Better to be in the kitchen than at work, however!

Anyway, the day started innocently enough. I packed Bruce’s lunch since the poor man’s company doesn’t like holidays (or vacation time) one bit. I tidied the kitchen. Then I made two giant jars of refrigerator pickles in anticipation of upcoming guests. I pickled okra. I pickled peppers.

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I’ll let you guess which one I should have been wearing gloves for.

I’ll let you hypothesize which one I kept top of mind for the rest of the day.

I’ll let you gather which jar Bruce thinks I should empty right now.

It’s not the okra. Ugh. (By the way, I have two huge freezer bags in the freezer crammed full of okra. If you are visiting this winter, I hope you like stewed okra or some of the various leafy greens which are now thriving in the rain-sodden mess that is the Urban Farm.)

Next, I made a delicious butternut squash soup: the only culinary success of the day. I was very glad it turned out nicely since it would be a distraction from the rest of the meal.

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 After that, I went about my day-off business of painting the inside of a cabinet, filling nail and staple holes in the trim, organizing a couple of closets and cabinets, and then the arduous task of bookkeeping and bill paying. Ugh again. Not because of the paying, but because of my several month neglect of being organized.  I do love my shredder and filing cabinets though. Godiva loves sleeping under the desk while I work. The rest of the Gs were sprawled across the office sectional and on the newly reupholstered bright orange ottoman. We are not afraid of color in this house.

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Then, lo and behold, it was time to get busy on the Thanksgiving feast since Bruce would be home from work soon. We had a difficult time finding the traditional fowl this year for some reason. In past years perhaps we were living amongst more ex-pat Canadians or people who liked turkey more, but the grocery stores did not have the bird. Even the yuppie-hippie grocery store had slim pickings in the turkey department and we settled for a boneless breast wrapped up in string to look like a pork roast.

At least that’s what I thought it looked like from memories of childhood. Generally Bruce is the meat man and he figures out the preparations of roasts and such.

Not yesterday. I consulted the Internet, found a simple roasting guide and, since our trussed up bird was smaller, I figured the minimum time would be perfect.

Not likely.

Post-dog walk, I knew the evening was going down hill fast. Guinness hates rain and it had been raining all day. His parasympathetic nervous system problem that makes his brain and bladder forget about communicating didn’t really set the mood well. Nothing like catheters to make everyone anxious. Ugh.

As for dinner, either the bird was frozen on the inside or our oven didn’t work. Well, I know the oven worked because it set off all the smoke detectors. Apparently it was dirty from something else cooked in it. I wouldn’t know what since we haven’t used the oven in ages. It’s too hot here for ovens in summer.

I baked pumpkin cupcakes before Bruce showed up with no issues. No smell, no smoke. Today my coworkers all thought they were muffins which tells you how good they were, despite being a recipe from a famous Food Network couple. I didn’t like them much, but I knew many of my coworkers would be jones-ing for sweets mid-morning and they’d vanish into thin air. No waste!

And I knew it was hot since I burnt my arm. Again. I have a lovely patchwork of cooking scars that hopefully my clients don’t assume are from teenaged cutting or something even more sinister. They are mostly from baking cookies and cupcakes.

Back to the football-shaped turkey breast. It browned nicely, but took its own sweet time cooking through to 155° F. And every time I opened the oven, it belched out smoke. The house still smells like it. So does my purse—it happened to be on a chair near the oven.

The sides were done about 1 hour too soon. I reheated the soup we were supposed to eat while the turkey rested so that we didn’t resort to cooking something else for dinner when we were ravenous. We picked at the riced potatoes and tested the gravy repeatedly.

Only the Gs seemed excited about the bird when it was ready. Between the smoke detectors barking “fire, fire” and the smoke signals, we were done. And we had killed the wine we selected with the dinner already. I was thankful it was finally done cooking.

The Gs were thankful for the lavish handouts, probably a bit more heavy handed than usual once we realized how dry the little football was.

That my friends, is the story of Canadian Thanksgiving 2013 on a rainy night in Texas.

And here is tonight’s gratuitous dog photo of a black and white puppy stuffed with turkey (photo by Bruce):

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Sow: live, learn

I’ll let you in on a secret: I’m not very pleased with the Urban Farm at the moment, although it looks nice from the mulching two weekends ago. (Side note: We’re getting really good at mulching—this morning we mulched the front flower beds ourselves. Oddly, lots of cars slowed down to watch me spread the mulch around. I can’t figure out why. Either they didn’t think it was an ok thing to do on Sunday morning or they were shocked to see homeowners doing their own yard work. I really enjoyed it—and it gave me a good look at the growth of all the perennials and shrubs planted last year.)

This fall growing season does not seem to be going very well yet. My kale seeds never sprouted. The two kinds of beet seeds I planted have not turned into a bounty of beet sprouts, much to my (and Bruce’s too) disappointment.  Eating lovely roasted yellow farm-grown Ontario beets last weekend made me yearn for beet harvest time again. I guess next weekend I’ll plant some more seeds and see what happens.

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this is what I’m dreaming of

After a chat with one of the horticultural experts at North Haven Gardens today, I’ve decided not to move forward with growing my own blueberries. I just don’t think we have enough space for two bushes that need their own 4″ x 8 ” raised bed. I’m worried about crowding the fig tree that hasn’t given us any figs yet. Sorry birds!

And then there’s my nemesis: the tomato plants. They’ve made me want to rip them all out of the ground and throw them in the composter. They are not looking very well. So far I’ve pulled three. There are four more left.

But before you think the worst: don’t think I’m giving up on the Urban Farm, because I’m not.

Lots of good stuff is happening, but at this point, I’d like to think of my approach as realistic. I’m getting schooled by the climate—and maybe even though this is my second fall season, I’m not the best student. I love digging in the dirt and seeing the results of weekends spent outside. But I’m thinking that I’m going to stop experimenting with tomatoes. I may grow Sweet 100s or some other kind of cherry or grape tomatoes in a large pot, but I’m going to leave the big juicy and heirloom ones to the professionals. I can pick up delicious ones at the hippie-yuppie grocery store. Or from a real farmer at a farmers market.  So I don’t see some improvement in the tomato plants I planted in July by next weekend, I’m pulling them out next weekend and planting collard greens. Or something else that likes fall/winter in North Texas. Maybe even more lettuce since after yesterday’s rain storm, none of ours looks too great. The bok choi looks puny, snow peas are still small. {cue the violins, right?}

But the okra? Still going strong. Same with the basil. Same with the peppers. Same with that wild and crazy Malabar spinach which now is thickly covering the trellis since we haven’t harvested any for over a week—it also has lovely tiny purple berries. Bush beans are flowering. Chard seeds have made 5 viable plants. Stuff is happening, it’s just taking it’s own sweet time. And I’m not as patient as I should be.

After the kale seeds didn’t happen, I picked up 6 kale plants at North Haven Gardens today — 4 Nero kale (the Italian one that looks like palm trees) but also 2 Russian kale with their pointy leaves and purple-y veins. The parsley seeds didn’t sprout either so I grabbed two Italian flat parsley transplants. It’s funny because the cilantro seeds are doing their thing and I’m excited to see the results. But I guess you just never know if conditions were right, the birds were hungry while I was at work, whatever.

Tomorrow morning, I’m going to fertilize everything and see what happens.

And with that, I leave you with the gratuitous dog photo of the day:

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Godiva also likes to see what happens, usually from a human vantage point

Enjoy your Sunday evening!

 

 

so: proper thank you


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Like I said the other day, Kate from foodie blog Tea and Tamarind nominated me for the Shine On Award. I wanted to give her a proper thank you and also think about which 10 (?) bloggers I wanted to nominate. And since I took a break from the award nominations (not that I’m not grateful for the love, just wanted others to get it too), I’m a bit rusty. And Kate and I have somewhat similar tastes in blogs so she’s nominated some I would have too (like 365 and Counting for example).

Luckily, there are so many wonderful blogs that I follow that it’s not hard to come up with 10 more. You should check these out sometime—maybe you’ll like them too:

1.  Evil Squirrel’s Nest

2.  Loving Homemade

3. The Dimwit Diary

4. Life on the Farmlet

5. The Kitchens Garden

6.  Cast Light

7. The Culture Monk

8. Pete Armetta

9. The Grammar Belle

10. lifebeam

Accepting this nomination requires me to share some random, interesting facts about myself which makes me laugh a little bit since that’s what sowsosew is all about, isn’t it? If you read this blog with any regularity you know that I have 4 dogs who have names starting with G, that I’m attempting to grow my own produce, that I’m failing miserably in the sewing arena since I haven’t touched the machine since last winter, and I’ve since spewed a bunch of other random factoids over the past 11 months. I mean, really, this blog is about as narcissistic as they come.

But rules are rules, and, while I don’t always play by them, here are some factoids about me that you may find random and/or interesting:

1. Mortroski is an amalgamation of Bruce’s last name and mine. It was created by the Grammar Belle who in her quaint Texas way really doesn’t like that I didn’t take my husband’s last name when we got married nearly 18 years ago. We think it’s a great new name and if the vet’s computer would let us, we’d give it to the Gs.

2.  I love flowers, flower arranging, giving bouquets to friends, but barely grow any except to attract bees to the Urban Farm.

3.  Guilty pleasure: fast reads! I love Sophie Kinsella, the writer of the Shopaholic series (I know, I am ashamed of myself, but I do love her storytelling and the fast read), the Twilight series, Harry Potter. Fast reading pulp is perfect for business trips and airplanes.

4.  My boss nicknamed me “Hollywood” after Bruce and I appeared on a show called Get Color (US)/Colour Confidential (Canada) starring Toronto interior designer Jane Lockhart.

5. I catch bugs that come in the house and I release them outside. Lizards too, if I can get to them before the Gs.

6. I love holidays of all kinds and decorating/doing special things/buying gifts/making special food for them, but I don’t do it nearly enough.

7. I love having so much to be thankful for that I can celebrate Thanksgiving in October (the Canadian one) and November (the American one) and I have done so for 19 years. No, I don’t get tired of turkey.

8.  At my work, we’re having a jello-shot tournament bracket style with two contestants each Friday. I was planning to make tiramisu jello shots and compete next week, but my travel schedule made me bow out.  My coworker nicknamed Plastic is taking over for me.

9.  I try to perform at least one random act of kindness/good deed every day.

10. This is my 200th blog post. (thank you for reading and following)

And now for your gratuitous dog photo of the day:

feet make excellent pillows

feet make excellent pillows

So: different welcome

IMG_3905If you read this blog with any regularity, you know that I was born and raised in the US, moved to Canada when I was 26, became a Canadian citizen after living there for 5 years, and then I moved back to the US 6.5 years ago. And you know that pretty much any time have the opportunity to go to Toronto for work, family or friends, I go.

Here’s a little story that might explain why:

Last Thursday I hopped on a American Airlines flight at DFW to YYZ (Toronto’s Pearson Airport). It was uneventful and perfect for working since the miracle of a row with 2 empty seats happened. When we landed I grabbed my stuff and made the longish trek to Customs and Immigration. With a Canadian passport, you can now go through a automated line  which lets you check out faster. As you walk out of the section with the automated lineup, there is a line up of Customs and Immigration officers and each person speaks to one of them and shows them their receipt from the machine that scanned their customs form and passport.

I did not know the customs agent nor had I ever been in his line in the past. He greeted me with a hearty, “Welcome home!” and proceeded to ask me what I would be doing on my trip. I mentioned that I was having a girls’ weekend in cottage country with two dear friends. His next comment was, “Well, then, when are you coming home to stay? Your friends and family miss you and Canada wants you to come back.” I was a little shocked by his comments (you’ll understand why in a minute), but I laughed and thanked him. He wished me a wonderful weekend and I was on my way. I really wanted to hug him.

The weekend was wonderful, the weather was perfect, company excellent, everything you’d hope a fall colours weekend with your girls would be.

Late Sunday afternoon, I was back at YYZ. I got my boarding pass and took my completed US customs form and headed for the US Customs and Immigration line (flights to the US are often processed in Canada). After standing in line for 30 minutes, I reached the officer. He took one look at me and one look at my passport and asked me if I was going home to Arizona. I told him no, that I was born in Arizona but I now live in Texas. Maybe he was trying to stump me. Next he asked the purpose of my visit. I said, I was visited my friends and had a girls’ weekend. He said, “why would you come here for that?” to which I replied that we were at my friends’ cottage and left the husbands, kids and pets at home. He then asked me if I ever lived in Canada. Of course, I said yes, and mentioned that I lived in Toronto for 12 years. After that he grunted at me and chucked my passport at me. I took that as I was free to go and headed towards Security which ended up taking over an hour.

I boarded my plane, grumpy and hot from rushing to the gate. And while the miracle of the a row with two empty seats happened again (perfect for working on the way home), it took me a little while to feel cheerful. I was glad to that I was going to see Bruce and the Gs in three hours and a bit, but that’s because home is wherever they are.

Of course, everyone came to DFW to pick me up. There were lots of tailwags and kisses, then Gidget insisted on sitting in my lap for part of the way home.

Here’s your gratuitous G photo for tonight:

Gidget really likes to be in the car, even when it's in the garage.

Gidget really likes to be in the car, even when it’s in the garage.

Sow: mulch better

Sorry, folks. I know I’ve been MIA for much longer than normal. My feeble excuse is work’s been pretty intense and snuck away to the Great White North for a much needed girls’ weekend with two of my pals.

While I was gone, Kate from the yummy foodie blog Tea and Tamarind nominated sowsewso for the Shine On Award. (I’ll take care of the formalities of accepting later. Maybe on the weekend.) Thank you, Kate! I appreciate your kudos and I thank you for the nudge that got me to write today’s post.

But in the interest of catching you up on what’s been happening on the Mortroski Midcentury Urban Farm, I need to show you a ton of photos:

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ugh. untidy garden.

Summer’s been rough in the aesthetics department. The pine straw mulch looked great for a while, but then it seemed to help the grass grow back in the places where we didn’t want it.

So we started ripping up the landscaping cloth

So we started ripping up the landscaping cloth around the raised beds and stock tanks. Notice who appears to be doing most of the work.

 

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I read that many people use newspaper to more successfully smother grass and weeds, so we got several coworkers to save their papers for us

once we got all the old stuff up, we could put down the newspaper

once we got all the old stuff up, we could put down the newspaper

then it had to be soaked so that it stuck to the ground better

then it had to be soaked so that it stuck to the ground better. again notice it’s Bruce doing all of the work.

mulch applied over the wet newspaper

mulch applied over the wet newspaper. it already looks better, right?

 

we ended up doing about 1/2 of the garden on the first day because we ran out of mulch

we ended up doing about 1/2 of the garden on the first day because we ran out of mulch. still it looked much better.

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it’s a little hard to see everything, but once it was done, it looked awesome. thanks to Bruce for all the help.

It’s been about two weeks since we completed the mulching. I’d like to say that the grass/weed mixture is 100% smothered and the mulch looks perfect. I’m afraid that this weekend, I’m going to need to pull out some grass. But still if I’m vigilant, I’ll be able to keep things looking nice.

That’s important since it’s patio season again in North Texas. Time for sitting on the patio enjoying adult beverages with friends as we watch the 4Gs and their doggie pals romp around the yard. I can’t wait. It’s really lovely.

As for the urban farm, my kale seeds haven’t sprouted and after a few weeks of waiting and watching the chard sprout and thrive, I’m giving up and picking up some transplants this weekend. Bok choi is growing well. Beets are a little disappointing so I’m going to plant more seeds. Beans are doing their thing and flowering so I’m hoping for a bumper crop. Various salad greens are growing well.

Tomatoes are a disappointment once again and may get pulled out. They are a complete mystery to me. I tried everything, fertilized as directed, watered, and the weather wasn’t that hot. But some of the plants are flowering again so maybe there’s hope.

Snow peas seem to be taking their own sweet time, but maybe they don’t like being so close to the okra. The okra may get pulled although it could still keep producing until the frost kills it. I’ve been giving it away and I have a huge bag of it in the freezer. I’d love to make some pickled okra but that is a little more of a time commitment than I can do. I’d like to get some collard greens growing. Peppers are going crazy. Basil too. Radishes are turning into cute little seedlings. Malabar spinach is thriving and so pretty. And the peaches I froze back in the spring are reminding me that it’s time to make jam.

You’ve probably gathered that I haven’t been spending much time with urban farm. Hopefully I get a bit of time out there this weekend.

And now it’s bedtime.  So I bid you goodnight and leave you with a gratuitous (and nap-tastic) 4G photo:

"hey people, where are you gonna sleep?"

“hey people, where are you gonna sleep?”