So: great house


Pretty in pink (photo by Trish at Three Dog Bakery Plano)

As you can guess by the big smile on Gidget’s face, she’s pretty happy that Bruce bought her a puffy coat last weekend in preparation for the earliest frost in 13 years that came on Tuesday night. Buying dog jackets/dog clothes of any kind is new territory for us since our bulldog didn’t need any additional insulation and the other 3Gs have thick natural coats. Poor Gidget doesn’t have a lot of insulation and her white coat is very short. Now she’s protected from the elements and won’t shiver during her twice daily walks with the rest of the pack. And believe it or not, she really does seem to like the jacket.

Other dogs are not so lucky. While our Dallas weather is unpredictable at best, sometimes it gets below freezing and that’s not good for outdoor dwelling dogs. So this week, Bruce built a dog house for Duck Team 6‘s Outreach Team to give to a nice dog named Goliath (and I helped). On Monday evening after work to be exact. For about 4 hours until we figured our neighbors would call the cops on our use of power tools in the later hours of the evening. Should have started on Sunday!

This dog house was different than other dog houses. You see, Goliath is a senior Great Dane who has lived outside his whole life. And like most GD’s, he’s very tall. So he really needed a mini shed. Unfortunately, a mini shed wouldn’t fit in Bruce’s truck assembled. So Bruce designed a modern dog house that was made of a preassembled floor, walls, and roof which could be joined together in Goliath’s yard.


The floor: plywood base with deck posts to raise the plywood off the ground and keep Goliath warmer


Bruce assembling the frame for the first wall. He attached plywood to one side of each frame.


Test filling the walls together. The back wall is higher to allow water to drain easier off the single sheet of plywood roof.


One wall done, on to the opposite wall.


Gidget making sure Goliath’s house will be sturdy enough.


Two walls done, on to the sides


Framing up the side walls


Final assembled house with Goliath inside—he likes it! It just needs a coat of paint.

More photos are available on Duck Team 6’s Facebook page Operation Goliath if you want to check them out. Bruce got Goliath setter in before the temperature dropped and he said Goliath seemed very pleased with his new digs.

However, on Tuesday night, one of the Gs was not so pleased with her home:


Naughty Gidget decided to remodel.

And while I did have a lovely harvest on Sunday afternoon:


Sunday’s harvest from left: bok choi, tons of basil, mixed salad greens, Russian kale, Swiss chard, nero kale, haricots verts, Malabar spinach, bell peppers, Anaheim peppers, jalapeño peppers


salad greens growing away

it was not a great week for the urban farm. With several very cold days and frost, some plants couldn’t handle it. I have yet to assess the damage thoroughly (I was traveling for business starting early Wednesday morning and got home late last night), but it looks like even with the frost cloth as protection, several of the pepper plants and the Malabar spinach have bit the dust. Oh well, more compost for the spring!

Today’s gratuitous dog photo features four familiar mugs:


4G Network on a coat buying mission (photo by Trish at Three Dog Bakery Plano): Guinness, Godiva, George, and Gidget


So: mostly photos

I’m on another business trip and I’m kind of wound up, although I really should be sleeping. Rather than toss and turn, I’m going to post a photos until I start to feel tired.

Gidget the foster pup has been making herself right at home. She’s got the 3Gs twisted around her paw, especially George who is going to lose his extra 10 pounds (he likes to eat the other Gs food when no one’s looking)  pretty quick. Gidget’s got him enrolled in puppy boot camp and giving him quite a work out with toys, wrestling, and lots of chasing around the house and yard. He’s quite smitten.

Gidget also shares George’s love of dirt and also thinks that the raised beds are great places to lie in. This weekend, the twine visual deterrents are going back in since I’m planting bok choi, carrots, radishes and other seeds. Hopefully it works as well on Gidget as it did on George in the spring.

Gidget likes the garden a little too much

Gidget likes the garden a little too much (notice how tall the okra has gotten—it’s a crazy plant)

The bush beans are sprouting, that is, unless Gidget and George have flattened them all while I’ve been gone:

bush bean seedling

bush bean seedling

The fall tomatoes are progressing nicely too:

fall indigo rose tomato plant is already growing tomatoes

fall indigo rose tomato plant is already growing tomatoes. Time to fertilize.

And then there are more gratuitous dog photos for your visual enjoyment

Guinness looking handsome

Guinness looking handsome (photo by Bruce)


Godiva and Gidget napping (photo by Bruce)

Gidget looking cute

Gidget looking cute (photo by Bruce). Doesn’t she look like Petey, the dog in Our Gang/Little Rascals? Love her black and white face.

Say aw and I’ll say ‘night, y’all!

So: on the road again

Goodbye, North Carolina! This morning I’m off to the Garden State, an ironic nickname for the New Jersey I’ll get to see since I’ll probably be indoors except when going from airport to car to hotel to car to client to car to airport. More like the Fluorescent State or the Air Conditioning State.

Luckily my own garden is enjoying plenty of free water from the sky (saving Bruce from watering twice a day) and a bounty of tomatoes:

Last night’s tomato harvest. Photo by Bruce

Those tomatoes would have been an excellent addition to my hotel buffet breakfast. Ever since the above photo sparked a discussion on Facebook last night regarding best ways to eat tomatoes, I’ve been thinking about a tomato sandwich. Yes, mayo, some kind of delicious bakery bread (sourdough perhaps), lightly toasted, thickly sliced, warm from the garden tomatoes, sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, maybe a few basil leaves.

Or maybe some roasted sweet 100s, tossed in olive oil with slivered garlic, finished with some roughly torn basil, tossed with a bit of pasta. Or on top of some fish.

Now you know my dirty gardening secret: I’m only doing it because I love to eat good things. Growing my own lettuce has ruined most restaurant salads for me and tomatoes are consistently disappointing during my room service dinners.

As you may have gathered, I’ve been eating lots of room service and hotel food during this intense work week. But in addition to traveling to see clients and building powerpoint decks, I’ve dusted off my writing skills and I’ve been making copy late into the night.

Despite the crazy hours, it’s been a lot of fun sitting in my hotel room cranking out the work. It’s been a personal way back machine to late nights and amazing work–the work that was the path to getting to where I am today.

It’s been rejuvenating, exhilarating even.

Good thing I’m liking the pace: I get to do it all over again tonight.

So: excuses excuses

Yesterday, I was traveling and I was supposed to arrive back in Dallas at 8:30 pm. Plenty of time to write my post. Or so I thought.

Our flight was delayed over an hour due to weather (storms in the midwest). It was turbulent. My fellow passengers were cranky and inconsiderate to each other. I finally arrived at home around 10:45 pm, much too tired to write anything coherent.

That’s why yesterday I broke my “rule” about writing every day. I could give you all of my excuses: I was traveling with a colleague (my boss) and wanted to talk with her so I couldn’t write in the airport when we were delayed (like I usually do), the plane was too small to have wifi, my laptop battery was dead, I was tired. All of those things were true. And pretty weak excuses.

In the past, none of that would have stopped me. I would have found a way somehow…or stayed up a bit later to write. I would have pushed myself just to do what I was supposed to do. But I just didn’t have it in me. There was nothing to push through, no energy reserves. And unlike some of my blogging pals, I don’t have a stockpile of awesomely entertaining posts waiting in the wings ready to go. (Perhaps now I’ve learned and I’ll create some to keep handy.)

My point of writing this blog was to be daily. I wanted it to be like hearing from a friend, catching up, checking in. Conversational. Last night, I wouldn’t have been a friend you’d want to hear from. Trust me, if you saw my number light up your cell phone last night, you should have hit “ignore”.

I was exhausted. Spent. Tapped out. I dozed off on the plane for a while and I never am able to sleep on the plane. Turbulence woke me up. Hopefully I didn’t snore as I usually do when I’m worn out. Or grind my teeth. I was almost too tired to drive myself home from the airport. I barely managed 30 minutes of niceties with Bruce while petting each of those needy Gs and making sure everyone felt enough love so that they were not jealous that someone else got a belly rub when they only got a ear scratch.

I was out cold as soon as I hit the pillow.

It was hard to wake up and motivate. Even today, I’m not exactly a sparkling conversationalist. And certainly not filled with writing prowess or creativity (a slight problem given my line of work). I’ve been dragging all day and I don’t know when I’ve been this tired after a business trip. It wasn’t even the usual cram-packed meeting-a-rama marathon I usually have. And although it’s Friday afternoon, I’m not thinking about our exciting weekend full of projects, the Urban Farm’s weekend harvesting, going for a walk with the Gs, sitting on the patio relaxing, errands, friends I might see, my to-do list, what’s for dinner. None of that.

I’m thinking about pajamas, a pillow and a solid 8 hours of glorious shut eye.

And so, I’ll conclude this excuse-ridden post with a gratuitous dog photo of the Mortroski Midcentury’s favorite patient:


Guinness is feeling much better.            Apparently he chewed on a bone last night.

Hope you have a relaxing weekend. I’m going to do my best to start it well-rested.

Sow: water


One rain barrel is empty and the way things are going the next one will be empty soon. Good thing we have three viable rain barrels. It helps when we are only allowed to water two days per week (ok, you can water by hand more often).

Hopefully the rain storms will come to Dallas again before the weather heats up. It’s been a wet night here in Greensboro, NC where I am visiting our other office for a meeting tomorrow. I bet it will be beautifully green tomorrow morning. But no rain tomorrow night when I’m traveling back — the little commuter jets are too small for a good storm to be anything but scary. Hello barf bag!

Everything on the urban farm is doing amazingly well. I am looking forward to picking snow peas this weekend. And beets. And radishes. And of course plenty of lettuce, chard, and spinach. It should be a great photo!

Nerd that I am I read the latest issues of Urban Farm and Texas Gardener magazines on the plane this afternoon. Just haven’t had the time to catch up on my reading lately for some reason…

PS: If you haven’t watched this video, you really should. I promise it will be worth your time, whether you are a new graduate or graduation was ages ago:

Sow: Earth Day delay

Have to say that after being gone from home for a week, I’m craving digging in the dirt, picking stuff, seeing baby fruits, buds and flowers, watching for new seedlings. As much as I love living out of a suitcase, airports, airline travel, hotels with closed kitchens, famous djs and forestry professors, and tons of meetings, nothing really beats the walking around the urban farm and seeing what’s going on.

Except this:


the sensitive one



the strong and silent type, unless there’s someone in the front yard



the big mouthed goof

And of course, this:


the handy romantic with a sore back

I’m really looking forward to the canine greeting committee since they’re really not all that fond of FaceTime, texts and cell phones, although I hope I don’t get knocked over. Apparently George has been a little mopey since he is not as used to me being gone as the others in the household. Hopefully they’ll be so happy to see me they’ll decide to forego sleeping on my side of the bed tonight. I could really use a solid eight hours of rest tonight. And some tail wags and snuggles.

And although Bruce’s jar of Kraft Peanut Butter was confiscated at the border (the nice Air Canada worker said she will use the offending “gel” and not throw it away unlike those a-holes in Canada’s version of the TSA were going to), I have a few treats and some nice gifts that I’m sure he’ll like, especially since they’re not available in the U.S.


A nice light snack, anyone?

I think Bruce may have missed me just a little bit, especially this weekend as he moved 5,000 pounds of bamboo into our house to acclimatize. Apparently there’s quite a “honey-do” list waiting for me that involves relocating all of our furniture in the non-bamboo rooms to the two bamboo-ed rooms and the garage. Hopefully work cooperates this week and there no late nights. The rest of the rooms will be bamboo-ed (by the same professional crew who did the living/dining room) on May 4. After the dust settles, we’re done projects for 2013, well, except for finishing the others we’ve already started.

But I digress. While I’m zooming to Dallas from 10,000 feet or more above the earth and we’re not going to be delayed landing (shouldn’t say it, I’ll probably jinx myself), I’m not getting home until way after dark. And while I don’t want to wait, I’d like to see the urban farm for the first time in a week in daylight and not by headlamp.

So my personal Earth Day celebration will have to be postponed a day. I will celebrate the bounty and marvel at a week’s progress. Maybe I’ll pick something. Hopefully the beans and peas are higher up on their trellises and the tomatoes have moved up to the next level of their cages. I’ll inspect the peaches and plums. See if Lisa’s transplants are doing their thing. Learn if okra is taking over the entire farm. Perhaps join Guinness, Godiva, and George for a good roll in the grass.

You better believe that as soon as the Gs are walked and the sun comes up tomorrow morning, the urban farm will be my first stop. I feel a lunch salad that needs to be picked.

Happy Earth Day, y’all.

So: modern technology

It’s pretty impressive that no matter where I am I can work. A hotel. An office. A plane. A house. They’re all the same.

Well, kind of.

While I spent today working at my friend’s dining room table and I got tons done in a 9 hour period, the thing I missed was seeing people.

Sure, I talked on the phone. Answered plenty of emails. Had meetings. Did necessary things. It was a highly productive day.

However, I found myself thinking of naps. Watching tv. Reading a book. Part of that was because it was dark and rainy. Another part was because I was tired from my traveling adventures and meetings. But truly it was because I was alone.

With no people around, I lost track of time and it was noon before I knew it. I got lots done. But I missed having people pop by to say hi and tell me about their tomatoes. Or kids. Or dogs. Or the book they finished last night. Or where they were going for the weekend.

I missed the interaction. Often it signals switching tasks for me. But today, I soldiered on from a dining room table in Toronto. And waited for a 5 year old to blow the quitting time whistle.

PS: Bruce is writing tomorrow’s post. Not sure what he’s going to say so tune in. I’m going to! I’ll be taking tomorrow off for a girls’ day break with two dear friends and will resume regular programming on Sunday.

So: oh Canada


Bienvenue au Canada!

Last night I was so happy to finally arrive at Toronto’s Pearson Airport (YYZ), that I actually got a bit misty. Customs and Immigration only took minutes since being a Canadian passport holder let me skip to the automated machines. Whoooohoooo! The super nice officer said, “Welcome home, ma’am”  as he barely glanced at my passport. The taxi driver who drove me to my hotel was happy to tell me all about what has been built, torn down or is currently under construction since I’ve been here last. And when I got to my hotel, I received an upgrade to a nicer room. There was room service to be had and it was delicious. A fine welcome back all around.

After a great night’s sleep, a productive breakfast meeting with my colleagues, and a successful (and fun) work meeting, I headed out to meet up with Fransi Weinstein from Three Hundred Sixty-Five (seems to be a week for bloggers to meet up with each other). It was just a short walk down Bloor Street to meet at her favorite Starbucks, one with big windows, bright light, and lots of academic energy from all the University of Toronto students filling the cafe.

view from the Starbucks where I met Fransi

view from the Starbucks where I met up with Fransi—yes, that is the CN Tower

A couple of details that might help our meeting make more sense: Fransi and I were introduced to each other years ago, but when I lived in Toronto, we never met or worked together. We do know a lot of people in common. And we both work in the same business. We had a lovely chat, filled each other in on a lot of stories, shared details (like which hotel I stayed at in NYC), answered each other’s questions, and made a pact to meet up when Bruce and I come back to town at the end of May for a wedding. I even managed to get a bit of excellent advice. It’s pretty darn cool that I’ve made a friend who I’ve admired from a far for a long time.

After that I went back to my hotel to collect my stored bag and went to the nearest TTC (Toronto’s subway) station to head out to the western edge of Toronto and get picked up by my favorite five year old, my godson Ben, and his wonderful momma.

Bay station in Toronto's Yorkville neighborhood

Bay station in Toronto’s Yorkville neighborhood (I also love the Hays X-Case with all the Canadiana on it)

It’s pretty sweet  to hold hands with a five year old, especially when you know that someday soon he will be too cool show much affection to his old Auntie Julie. (Well, until he turns 19 when his momma says I can take him out for his first beer in a bar.) Once we reached his momma’s car, we zoomed to their house and he decorated my sunglasses case with stickers of fancy fish and characters from the movie Cars. It is now a one-of-a-kind work of art and a very special souvenir of my trip to Toronto.

I’m lucky to be working from their house tomorrow. I have reviews to write and conference calls to do, a meeting on Monday to prep for, as well as whatever else comes my way in the course of the day. I’m lucky to have a job that allows me to be able to work from pretty much anywhere, even a friend’s dining room table in another country. And I am thankful for wifi, cell phones, and many other modern conveniences that allow me to set up shop and be productive.

Being here until Sunday (and then leaving directly for a meeting in NC) will give me the opportunity to catch up with old friends, visit places that I love to go, and have a proper girls’ day on Saturday with a ladies’ lunch and shopping. As grueling and chaotic as business travel can be sometimes, it’s opportunities like these that make me very grateful to do it. And as nice as staying in a hotel can sometimes be, give me a guest room or sofa in a friend’s home any day. Especially if their five year old promises to provide a personal Rooster-style (can’t wait to hear it) wake up call in the morning.


PS: Bruce assures me that the Gs and the urban farm are doing fine despite none of the Gs really wanting to go outside in the rain this morning and the temperatures dipping to 38° F tonight (whole farm operation is covered). He tells me that he is writing the blog on Saturday so please stay tuned.



So: deja vous

I need a travel exorcism.

Or maybe American Airlines needs new planes. A better maintenance schedule. A back up plan when there are mechanical issues. Something.

Right now I’m waiting at gate #3. My flight is delayed 2.5 hrs so far. Funny, I think this is the third time in a row this has happened to me.

In fairness my new pal Tom Horton sent me a lovely “I’m so sorry” email and gave me 2,500 AA miles. I’m sure he (and his marketing team/agency) think it’s an awesome PR move. I am glad for the miles, but I’m not sure they’ll be enough for some people.

Just like my hotel from last night. They left every guest a breakfast pack on their door and had Starbucks in the lobby. However, they didn’t explain why. As I checked out, every guest asked about the restaurants. And asked if their were health code violations. A terse “an investigation is ongoing” and “I assure you that the food and coffee provided was made off premises” was all the explanation offered. I still feel queasy. And I bet some travelers will make a big scene. I’m going to write the GM a note and let him know what I thought of my experience.

But lest you think I’m just bellyaching, I’m actually very grateful. My team at work is kicking ass without me, just as they always do when I take my show on the road. I was in a great city today. With people that I absolutely enjoy working and spending time with. It was a much better day than yesterday. The taxi drivers were fantastic–and told me a lot about their city.

Here are a few photos I took from the zooming cabs:






And I’m looking forward to getting on the commuter jet to my next destination. Meeting two awesome colleagues there tonight. Meeting new colleagues tomorrow. Seeing some people who mean the world to me.

So wait I will. Patiently. You’d be surprised just how much I can get done with pen and paper and this little phone.

If you still haven’t figured out where I’m going, here’s another hint: it’s my home and native land. Ok, not really since I’m a naturalized citizen, but that’s how the song goes, eh!

(Thanks to Bruce for helping solve the travel mystery)

So: comedy of errors

If you’re living in the U.S., you may have heard about today’s airplane travel adventures already. If you, like me, were lucky enough to have a ticket on American Airlines to go somewhere today, you probably reached your destination much later than you were intended to get there. Or you might still be at the airport waiting on your plane to arrive from somewhere else. I am lucky to be at my destination, although I arrived late.

Apparently some sort of massive computer system shut down/failure caused the problem. Even the back up systems failed. If you watch the video I posted, you’ll learn that it was a software issue. Originally we were told it was the reservations system that went down and that’s what caused the problem. But once I started chatting with fellow passengers, I found out that the problem was much worse, since the airline had taken full flights and brought them back to their gates then unloaded the planes. Or made them sit on the tarmac for hours.

I got off very lucky. When I got to DFW, I was surprised to see so many people everywhere in the middle of the day. Usually it’s super busy first thing then again at the very end of the day. I didn’t think much of it and grabbed some lunch. Hindsight being 20-20 I should have noticed that there was a disproportionate number of day-drinking business attired folks, not just the usual retirees, college kids, and vacationers who know that it’s 5 o’ clock (or noon) somewhere.

My first real indication was at the gate. When it was time to board, the staff was more stressed looking than usual. Lots of shouting into phones. Staff on their cell phones, especially smart phones. At first they made it sound like it was just a gate change to another terminal. Ok. Get on the little train and walk to the new gate. Once at the new gate, more stressed staff who explained to us that the computers were down and they weren’t sure that this would be our final gate and to sit down and wait for further instructions.

After a couple of hours, it appeared that things were up and running again. Kind of. Back on the little train to another gate. After an hour, get on the plane. Then sit on the plane until they could fill it with more irate (and honestly irrational) passengers. I 1000% get that it’s annoying to have your expectation of leaving on time and getting to your destination as promised dashed (remember my last travel tale?), but if it’s a system wide computer failure, you’re not going anywhere fast. Yelling and being a jerk will not get the planes moving faster. I sat back and watched some people at their finest and many at what I hope was their lowest since they are really rotten S.O.B.s if they can get much shittier than they were to the airline staff.

Once on the plane, grumpy passengers almost rioted when the wifi didn’t work. WTF people? Just a few years ago, planes were the only place a business traveler could really turn out and unhook from the Matrix for a few blissful hours. Today people acted like it was the end of the world. First world problems, flying public. Read a book. Look at a magazine. Talk to the people you’re sitting next to. I did and met a DJ from Finland who played at Cochella last weekend. I checked out his YouTube video from Cochella and decided that I’ll follow him on Facebook (too tired to go to his midnight show tonight). See, talking to strangers can be fun!

Being nice to the flight attendants and not complaining earned me a freebee, which I’m sure you know makes whatever you’re eating or drinking taste even better. I felt so sorry for them because they had nothing to do with wifi, computers, the flight delays, etc., but yet from the way they were being treated you’d think they pulled the plug on the Internet out of spite. Sheesh.

Once we got here, I hopped in a cab, told the driver I wanted to go. First, we ended up where he wanted to take me, a hotel with the same name but in a different part of town. I had to nicely, yet firmly tell him that I gave him the correct address and it was his responsibility to take me where I asked and that I would not pay for his mistake. Needless to say, we had a difference of opinion which quickly ended up in my favor when I told him I had written his license information down and would be happy to call in a complaint if we didn’t head off to the right hotel immediately. I also suggested that I could easily get out of his cab without paying and find another.

I arrived at my lovely hotel. Checked in. Checked in at home. (Gs are fine, but needy. Bruce was puttering.) Then since it was so late, but I hadn’t had dinner, I called for room service. No answer. The second time I called, I finally got someone. The voice told me that the hotel restaurant was being renovated (code for shut down by health department, perhaps?) and would be out of service for the next two days. No dinner food. No breakfast food. She could give me some phone numbers of local places that could deliver or addresses of places in walking distance. Um, ok. Wish they would have said something when the reservation was made. Or maybe when I checked in. Good thing I had a snack on the plane. I’ll hunt for coffee in the morning. City this big has to have a Starbucks (or if I’m lucky, a local mom and pop cafe) around the corner.

Whoever suggests business travel is glamorous lies. It has fun moments (free drinks, Finnish djs), but also annoying/scary ones (transportation situation). And like any other day that’s out of whack (mercury in retrograde again?), it’s over. It’s already tomorrow at least in this time zone. I’m still on Dallas time, so I’m going to call it a night and wake up ready for a fun day. A day where I get to see a bunch of people I usually only talk to on the phone. I like these folks a lot so I’m pretty excited that I get to spend a whole day with them. Then after that, I’m going to get on another plane and head for one of my favorite cities. I’ll give you a hint: it’s in North America, requires a passport, and I lived there for a while. So tomorrow’s going to be awesome.