So: faraway friends

Love or hate social media, it’s here to stay. To inform us of world events that our local journalists might not be reporting on. To tell us what’s going on in our hometown. To discuss PR gaffs and career suicides. And that’s only this week.

For me, it often brings wonderful surprises on days when things aren’t exactly going perfectly. That’s what happened yesterday.

I didn’t have much time to take breaks during the workday and it was a very long day. But when I checked Facebook quickly after a meeting ended a tiny bit early, I received Surprise #1: A post from my pal and former co-worker Shannon. While eating at Swiss Chalet (a rotisserie chicken restaurant) in Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, Bruce posted that we were there and, I think, took a photo and tagged me. Shannon, who now lives in the Caribbean (lucky girl!) saw it and messaged that she missed the Chalet dipping sauce (a hallmark of the restaurant). When I got back to Dallas, I messaged her and offered to send her a few packets (they’re sold in the supermarket and you just add water and boil to make it).

I’m not sure if she thought I’d really send it, but I did:

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Shannon’s treat

 

She got the packets and my note yesterday and posted to Facebook the photo and a thank you. Apparently it got there close to her birthday (it’s taken several weeks to get to her little island) so she was doubly thrilled at the timing.

And so was I. As you know I love to write notes to people, even to strangers through More Love Letters. I was so glad to make someone’s day just a little better.

Little did I know that my somewhat stressful and very action-packed long day was about to get AWESOME. A while back, I saw that my “friend,” artist Lisa Loria had posted a photo of a beautiful jewelry box that she had painted and I inquired about it.

First, let me explain “friend.” Lisa and I are Facebook friends. We have never met. We do not live anywhere near each other. But we have tons in common including a love of gardening and making stuff from repurposed items. And we’re both pretty sure that we’d enjoy spending the evening together on a nice patio, wine glass in hand.

The main thing we have in common is a long-time real-life mutual friend (ok, he’s a ex-boyfriend) who we are also Facebook friends with. Our mutual friend is the same guy who introduced me to Bruce. I’ve known him longer than I’ve known Bruce—over 20 years!

Lisa and I were constantly posting pithy comments and liking each other’s zingy retorts to said mutual friend, so I thought she’d be someone I’d love to know. I knew she was an artist, but I didn’t know much more about her. Still she said yes to my request to be Facebook friends.

One day I saw that she posted a photo of a larger painted jewelry box that she had done for herself. I had a similar jewelry box from my childhood, a gift from my parents when I was probably 12 years old. I had kept it all these years for sentimental reasons, not because I actually used it. And I really didn’t like how plain it was. It was ivory and rather bland.

So I asked Lisa if she’d consider painting it for me. She would have carte blanche on the design because I liked her work I had seen on both Facebook and her blog. I said she could fit it in when she had time. I was in no rush to get it back.

She accepted the commission. Whoooohoooo!

I emptied it out—I sorted through it all, kept a few things for my brother’s daughters, “found” a few things I had forgotten about, and donated the rest. And off it went to California, the place where it had originally come from (well, it was probably made in China or somewhere else, but you get what I mean).

Yesterday, at around 7:30 pm CT when I was still at the office, working on a huge project with lots of moving parts, I saw Lisa’s post  and the picture that she tagged me in. The jewelry box was almost complete! Oh happy day! It was so beautiful and I absolutely loved it.

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By 8 pm, she had finished it and posted another picture. And by 8:30, her status was a blog post about the jewelry box and our unique friendship created by an ex-boyfriend and Facebook. You can read it here  at http://lisaloria.blogspot.com (she’s also got more pictures of her jewelry boxes if you’d like to see them).

It seems this is a week of retrospection regarding friendship. I’ve read several blog posts about friends they’ve never met, people have talked to me about reconnecting with long lost friends and the new friends they’ve made by participating in social media. My personal rule about being “friends” with people I’ve never met is that if we lived near each other, they’d have to be someone I’d sit down with in a café or bar and have a drink and a conversation. Or eat a meal with.

Bruce and I have some long-time friends that he “met” through a chat room (how ancient) on a singer’s website. He chatted with them for years and got to know people from all over the U.S.

One day, we decided to meet up with a bunch of those friends from Detroit so that we could all hang out, eat dinner and see a show. It was amazing – but really shouldn’t surprise me at all. They were all people that we had something in common with. And through the years there have been more concerts, visits, dinners, roadtrips, and backyard bbqs. Several visited us in Toronto, one friend has even visited us in Texas and another may be coming when the surface of the sun temperatures get cooler, perhaps in October.

Speaking of travel, I’m on the plane right now, so I should wrap up this post and get on with working since it’s about when my day normally starts. But here’s your gratuitous harvest photo from yesterday morning:

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Have a great day—maybe you can make a friend’s day today too.

 

 

 

 

Sow: turbo harvest

Whew! Is it bad that I’d like another day to add to my long weekend? Or at least to today?

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thank you to those who have served, are serving, and will serve

We got closer to final on two large-ish DIY projects:

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Cabinets in the dining room in progress

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Cabinets in dining room finished! Just need a countertop

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Cabinets installed in lounge. Temporary countertop from previous cabinet in place for now.

After all that, Bruce quickly cut the grass (with all the rain it grew 4 inches this week) and I headed to the urban farm to do a little grocery shopping.

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Rainbow chard

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mixed greens

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red romaine

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carrots

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chili peppers

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beets

One special thing for today besides feeding the composter tons of rain wrecked lettuce: purple beans

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not sure why one was green

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they turn green when you cook them (blanched them with a few peas)

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see how green they got?

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just a few peas tonight

I also planted basil, pulled up the last of the spinach, found some rouge basil that must have seeded itself from fall’s crop, and staked one of the pepper plants.

Sure was nice to spend a little time digging in the dirt. See why I’d like another day?

Sow: black death

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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:

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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.

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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:

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

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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:

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But they look pretty tasty:

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We will be turning off the lights for this:

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

Sow: spring fever

Although it’s a bit gloomy-gray out, when George and I went out to pick lunch this morning by headlamp, I knew that I would have a hard time being inside today. So much so that, even though I had time for a break, I dared not go outside. I might roll the windows down and drive. And I might not come back, as crazy-stricken with spring fever as I am.

While work is fun and cool stuff is happening inside, there’s so much going down at the Urban Farm. Tomato flowers! Lettuce that has doubled in size! Tufts of bok choi! Beets that need to be thinned! Carrot shoots coming up in neat little rows (thanks, seed tape)! An almost full grown radish! Rose bushes greening up and getting leaves! Pea shoots starting to reach toward the trellises! Garlic sprouts! (All exclamation point worthy!)

I’ve been dreaming of planting jalapeño and bell pepper transplants. Getting the spring basil plants in the ground. Figuring out what to do with the patio pots (edible or just pretty? that is my question). I want to feel the soil on my hands (and face) and the sun blazing on the back of my neck. I want to yell at George for trying to catch butterflies and Guinness for trying to catch bees. I want to catch Godiva digging the hole she shares with George. I want to bask in the flowering beauty of the plum and peach trees now that Bruce added a gate to that part of the fence. I want to get the composter going  and turn those garden and kitchen scraps into this fall’s fertilizer. I want to wear flip flops and sit on the patio, cool drink in hand, watching the plants grow and the Gs roll in the grass. I even want to pull weeds in the front yard again.

(I’m itching to get outside if you can’t tell.)

Two walks through the neighborhood each day with Bruce and the 3G Network plus some weeknight watering and limited poking around in the raised beds isn’t doing it for me. I need more. And since my allergies aren’t going completely insane anymore (touch wood, right?) I am even more ready to plant some stuff and enjoy the outdoors before it becomes The Surface of the Sun (aka North Texas’ version of summer).

Luckily for me, it’s almost the weekend. Well, it’s Thursday, the Gateway to the Weekend(TM) and this week, it’s my Friday. You see, on Monday, I decided to give myself a little gift. I’m treating myself to a vacation day and spending Friday doing what I wanted to do. So I’m prepping for Spring, starting with a much needed pedicure to get ready for sandals and open toed shoes, then doing a little bit of wardrobe refreshing, topping it off with a visit to North Haven Gardens for some transplants. (I could do without the shopping but I really must go. I have a lot of client visits coming up and I need to look sharp. Ugh.) A perfect day that hopefully will go as planned and the shopping gods will deliver lovely work clothes and great bargains to me in record time.

So I’m getting up at 5 am as usual tomorrow. Starting my day as early as I can. No rest for the wicked. Or the spring feverish.

 

 

Sow: brussels sprouts

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Harvested purple brussels sprouts

I think I mentioned that I accidentally grew purple brussels sprouts this winter. I should have been paying closer attention while plant shopping and read the plant descriptions instead of just mindlessly grabbing. But they were lovely. Purple leaves. Purple stems. Purple-green sprouts.

Even upon cooking they remained purple. I bet a fancy 5-star restaurant chef would have loved to cook them in some decadent way. They were even probably some rare heirloom variety. However, tonight I was very happy to cook them simply in garlic infused olive oil, a tiny bit of chicken stock and a bit of salt and pepper. They were delicious and the Gs also enjoyed a tiny taste. (Yes, all of the dogs like vegetables, though only George likes them raw. Then again, George will eat pretty much anything. Hence, my need for a fence around the Urban Farm.)

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aren’t they pretty cooked?

For those of you who are wondering why in the world I’d grow, much less eat such a vegetable, I must confess that I love brussels sprouts. For those of you saying ew, you must know that they are my absolute favorite side  dish vegetable and I will have none of that. I do love avocados and artichokes more, so much that they grace the Mortroski Midcentury kitchen’s walls, in both art and avocado green paint color. If you don’t like brussels sprouts, I’d suggest you’ve never had them fresh from the field or properly cooked.

One of the best brussels sprouts dishes I have ever had was a frito mixto combined with artichokes served with a delicious aioli at the Hotel Vitale in San Francisco (it’s across from the Ferry Building where San Francisco’s best Saturday market takes place). I was there on a business trip and it was my fabulous room service dinner, eaten with a gorgeous view of the San Francisco Bay Bridge. Not only did I wish I could recreate it, I wished that I would have had someone to share it with. Bruce loves brussels sprouts too (I converted him, he did not grow up that way) and he would have been the perfect sharer, especially since he would have given me all of the artichokes.

Brussels sprouts have been my go to vegetable of choice since I was a teenager. My brother hated them and would feed them to our family’s beagle under the table. Like George, Rex would eat pretty much anything so my brother could clear his plate pretty fast.

In Northern California where I grew up, they are practically a native plant. They are cheap. You can buy them in winter at the farmers markets on the stalk. They last much longer in your fridge if you leave them that way. From the farmers perspective they are much easier to harvest if you just have to take a machete to a stalk versus pick every little sprout off the stem. Probably much less material to compost/dispose of too. And I bet the farmers laugh a little bit when the customers try to shove them into their market bags and baskets and wind up just throwing them over their shoulders. I know I would.

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growing

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perhaps a bit past due

But I have to say, as pretty as they were, the purple brussels sprouts were an Urban Farm failure. Most of that was due to my greedy desire to maximize the harvest which actually ended up minimizing it. I planted 5 transplants and lost 2 over the winter. Of the 3 that were left, only 2 produced. If I try them again next fall, I will make sure that I fertilize them several times, not just upon planting. I will also make sure that I carefully chart their time to harvest so that I don’t end up with only a small bowlful to show for my efforts.

But it’s spring tomorrow so it’s time to focus on the newly planted and the soon-to-be-newly planted. I’ve given myself Friday off so you can pretty much count on some planting about to happen. It’s time to get the peppers in the ground and I believe it’s safe to plant some basil too.

Happy Spring Eve, y’all.