So: 3-day Guinness celebration

Let Guinness eat cake -- it's his birthday!

Let Guinness eat cake — it’s his birthday!

(WARNING: this post is pretty much all gratuitous dog photos with a little bit of garden and DIY commentary thrown in just for good measure. If you’re not a fan of my dog discussions, you may want to skip this one. It’s been very canine-focused around here for the past week.)

St. Patrick’s Day is a rather big deal in North America, so it’s only fitting that we gave Guinness, a great big black lab, a day of massive celebration for his made-up birthday. Guinness was a stray so we don’t really know what he thinks of the name we gave him, but we know he’s appreciated the three days of celebration he’s had in 2014.

First, on Saturday, the Gs all got a delicious buffalo shin each for their chewing delight.

We were hoping to distract them from being a little sad since their new pal Lacey went to her real foster situation on Saturday afternoon. We all really enjoyed having Lacey around. She was a wonderful houseguest and a super sweet dog that will make her new family very happy.

Once she warmed up to having four larger dogs sniffing her and trying to get her to play, Lacey enjoyed being around everyone. She was great on the leash too, which was surprising for a street dog. She tried really hard to fit in and even slept next to the Gs when we all were watching tv in the office. She loved her crate and went in it on her own (probably to escape Gidget).

Guinness especially enjoyed having a new lady friend. He was quite smitten with her.

A few photos of Lacey during her stay at the Mortroski Midcentury Doggie Bed & Breakfast:


pre-bath: Lacey was a real trooper and once she got in the shower seemed to enjoy soap and hot water, but she loved the fluffy towels the best. Her new family will be thrilled with her bath time manners and fast drying time.


We weren’t sure how Lacey would get along with fellow former street dog Gidget, but once they got to know each other, the girls enjoyed each other’s company


being too big to be a lap dog didn’t stop Lacey from wanting to be held — or wanting to sit in chairs with people before they had their coffee


Lacey was great in the car and was pretty chilled out as we headed to Take Me Home Pet Rescue, the group that found her foster


Carpool buddies

At Take Me Home Pet Rescue, we took a last photo with Lacey (we are in our Duck Team 6 shirts):


We all had fun together and while we were a little sad to see Lacey go, we know she’s going to be an awesome addition to another family. 

Well, with Lacey gone to her new life, the Gs have had to deal with going back to “normal” at the Mortroski Midcentury. Weekends are made for DIY projects! And digging in the dirt!

This past weekend we did a bit of both. Gidget the garden dog was very curious about the dirt digging (a favorite activity of hers).

Guinness spent his time rolling in the not yet green grass (and in the part of the yard which is being turned into a patio this week):

post rolling

Guinness, post rolling (he got up covered with little bits of dead grass and dust)

So far for Urban Farm spring 2014, we’ve got sprouting mixed greens, kale, swiss chard and spinach in Raised Bed #4, radish sprouts in Stock Tank #3, three kinds of beets, green beans, and two kinds of bok choi seeds in Raised Bed #3, red velvet lettuce seeds in Stock Tank #2. I replenished the kitchen herb garden this morning (yesterday was too cold for transplants) and have my fingers crossed that we will have lovely weather from now on. This weekend I’m going to get bell pepper and jalapeño transplants in the ground. I promise food pictures as soon as there’s something more to show.

Our DIY project is to get the office/tv room and attached bathroom finished up. We have a cool panel treatment that we’re going to continue throughout the office/tv room and a wall treatment that we need to install in the bathroom. We purchased the wood and metal tracks yesterday, then cut the panels tonight. We’ll install them tomorrow and then Bruce can paint them while I’m traveling for work on Wednesday and Thursday.

In the meantime, we have some outdoor work going on and will have an expanded patio in the near future. I’m excited about adding some flowering plants in planters and maybe some fun lighting. We love being outside.

After Sunday’s wood getting and seed planting, Guinness’ second birthday treat was an extravaganza for the entire family, 4-leggeds and 2-leggeds: steak eating! Yes, it was the people’s dinner and the very spoiled Gs all got meat juice and a fair portion of meat along with a bit of their usual kibble. We don’t have red meat that often around here anymore so it was a real treat.

After we cut the panels for the office tonight (table saw! lots of saw dust! minimal cursing!), Guinness had his third treat: Peanut Mutter Bars from Three Dog Bakery. Yes, it’s a bakery for dogs. You could eat the “cake” if you wanted, but it is not sweet, even though it’s made with all sorts of good ingredients like yogurt, carob, peanut butter, whole wheat flour, etc. Guinness shared with Godiva, George and Gidget but our old man would have loved to have all the treats for himself.

We figure Guinness is now about 10 since we got him 4 years ago in January. At the time the vet figured he was 4-6 years old. We really have no idea. His chin is getting whiter and he’s got more sparkly hairs on his face, but Gidget has brought out the puppy in him and he plays like a maniac with her. Hopefully he gets to enjoy many more St. Patrick’s Day birthday parties.



Sow: bugged


Even though it was Monday after a long weekend, I wasn’t sad to get back to work: my muscles and back needed to rest!

Even better: today was like my birthday all over again. Whoohoo! Two shipping delayed gifts arrived and I enjoyed a fun online shopping spree (thanks, Reesa) and sharing (and eating) delicious chocolate during conference calls (thanks, Mel)!

I also saw my sweet boss for the first time in a week or so and she gave me gifts for the urban farm!

She is an avid digger in the dirt too and found a super cool ergonomic shovel from Canadian retailer Lee Valley. Now I can’t wait to plant something this coming weekend — or sooner if I can figure out what container plants to add to the patio. And I have on my calendar that this weekend is time to plant okra, a plant that apparently does awesome in our surface of the sun summer temperatures.

She also found me a new bug for the garden (photo at top of page). Isn’t he cute?


He’s going to live in the stock tank with the spinach and red velvet lettuce. Both are growing like crazy! I guess they’re happy with the weather change. So am I!

So: birthday

Today is my birthday. I’m 44 now.

So far it’s been absolutely wonderful.

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




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

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



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

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


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




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


But they look pretty tasty:


We will be turning off the lights for this:


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

So: new beginnings part 2

So I promised earlier this month that March, the month of my birth, would be a month of new beginnings. Of change.

Well, it’s certainly delivering in the project arena. And that’s just fine with me.

It’s like I’m physically waking up from the (short) winter’s hibernation. And as sick as it is, I’ve been enjoying the sore hands. The tight back. A few bruises here and there. Dirt under the nails and coloring my skin. Sound sleep from a weekend of manual labor. Finding red paint in my hair and orange paint on the back of my arm. Even liking the twinges from too many squats. My left buttock has never been so toned. And my body feels alive.

Last weekend we painted. Poured some concrete. Installed hinges. Planted stuff. Grouted. I can’t even remember what all else. We still have lots to do with the laundry room/office/bathroom project. But we’re chipping away at all that bit by bit because it’s the catalyst to the biggest project of all.

You see this spring, we are going to start getting rid of the stinky, dirt trapping carpet throughout the Mortroski Mid-century and put down bamboo flooring (you wouldn’t expect anything less from a tree-hugger like me). First room is the office. And, like the office, we will do most of it ourselves, saving only the really tricky room, the family room aka “the lounge”, for the professionals.

Here’s why: in the 1960s apparently exterior brick was a popular flooring choice here in Dallas. I’m thinking the mason who installed it must have enjoyed liquid breakfasts and lunches. We have seen it  uncarpeted when the big hole under the house needed to be dug to ensure that we continued to have indoor plumbing. It is not pretty nor even. I can’t imagine that someone thought it was a good design choice since it looks like they just decided that the middle of the house was a good place to get rid of the leftover bricks. It will be nice to have it covered with a dog-friendly, easily cleaned flooring choice.

We have hardwood in one room right now: the kitchen. Note to anyone that has large dogs that drink water enthusiastically: hardwood is not a good choice for the feeding/watering area. So we will also be tiling the kitchen sometime between now and 2015. A shame really, but truly the floor the previous owners selected is not a good choice for animals, my somewhat sloppy cooking and washing up skills, and North Texas weather (we have a door to the backyard and hardwood is not the best for muddy paws).

Some might think, “Poor Julie!” But don’t feel sorry for me at all. I’ve enjoyed learning a plethora of new skills ever since becoming a first time homeowner back when I was 27. Who knew that I, a bookworm who paid little attention to her dad’s piddling around in his workshop,  would ever helm a tile saw? I have in several of our homes now and I am not afraid. I am not scared of cutting flooring. I am an amazing taper. I can dig great holes. I have used a jackhammer. I can drill. And while I am still somewhat apprehensive about the nailer, I’ll use it. I just make sure to have the protective eyewear on because I had a friend with a construction worker boyfriend and he shot a nail from a nailer through his eye. His misfortune ended up ok (a short hospital stay with lots of tests, workman’s comp, and a week off with no loss of eyesight). I benefited greatly by accompanying his girlfriend to see Rod Stewart using his ticket. Score!

Speaking of new beginnings,  Bruce found me a great gift this past weekend: a dual action composter. You fill one side and then let it do its thing and while it’s doing that, you fill the other side. It’s in about a million parts in its box right now, but once we get it together, we can get our own free compost/recycling system going. In Toronto we had garbage, a green bin (compostables), and recycling. While our home compost system won’t be able to reclaim as much as the Toronto system, we will be able to reduce our trash considerably AND more importantly, create our own compost for the urban farm.

I’m really excited to get it up and running. It’s going to go in the part of the yard where we have the plum and peach trees which is very close to the raised beds/stock tanks. I just need to get the inside bin to collect the peels, shells, scraps, etc.

It’s kind of like this one in case you’re wondering:




Hopefully it’s not as complicated to assemble as it looks. We should save it for Friday as a fun date night!



So: new beginnings

Tortoiseshell butterfly on marigold flower

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but January and February have flown by. I can’t believe that it’s March tomorrow.

One of my friends calls March, “Kate Month”. She loves her birthday more than anyone I know* and plans to celebrate it all month in a wide variety of ways and in an assortment of places.

March is also “Julie Month” and “Aly Month” and “Frances Month”. A whole bunch of my coworkers can also claim this month as their own. And I’m not joking when I say it seems like everyone I know is having a birthday this month. I’m definitely going to need to restock my birthday card supply when April rolls around.

I plan to celebrate my birthday all month too. Since my new year’s resolutions really haven’t stuck and I haven’t been actively working on my vision for 2013 (minus a bit of sewing and lots of gardening), I’m going to celebrate myself by investing in myself.

More about that in a sec.

I gave my first March birthday gift last night. You see, Frances is my hair stylist/colorist. She’s absolutely amazing and I always trust her to send me home looking way better than when I arrived. Of course, I usually visit her on Saturday mornings wearing no makeup and looking like I’m planning to spend the day digging in the dirt (because I probably am). Last night was different. I sped over to the salon after work. And I had a plan.

Frances’ birthday gift was also a gift to me. You see, I told Frances to go nuts and do whatever she wanted with my haircut. She’s already been hinting that that’s what she’s been wanting to do. I give her complete freedom with color as long as she sticks to colors that people could actually be born with (she has also hinted that the primary pallet would be fun, but unfortunately, I’m not sure my clients at work would agree) and she’s always done a fabulous job.

I’m not the client who tells a stylist “cut off exactly 1/4 inch from the back” or anything like that. But lately I’ve been in a hair rut and I have just told Frances that I liked the style, just trim it. That’s why I knew she’d love the opportunity to hack it all off.

She cut about half of my hair off. With a straight razor. It’s now piece-y and can stick out in all directions if I choose to do so. It dries in minutes, doesn’t use much product and the messier it looks, the better.

It’s perfect. And I’ve been enjoying the compliments from coworkers, friends and total strangers.

Photo on 2-28-13 at 9.54 AM #2

the new ‘do

So I’m starting March with a new look. I’ll be embracing newness all month.

March here in North Texas is truly the start of spring. Our bipolar weather still has cool nights, but the days are getting warmer (we usually have to turn the AC on starting some time near the end of April). We’ll wake up one day and the plum and peach trees will be in gorgeous pink full bloom. The urban farm will be going full tilt. The grass will go from hay-like to lush green in what seems like hours.

I love it. And while I am honestly not a fan of my birthday (a story for another day), I intend to celebrate new beginnings and fresh starts all March.

Won’t you join me?

*Except for my friend Brandy (aka The Grammar Belle) who loves November with a fevered passion and constantly reminds everyone exactly how many days remain until her birthday.