Sow: Gilroy experience

While I’m not a Native Californian, the years I spent in both Southern and Northern California have definitely shaped who I am. My love of dirt may be genetic (my paternal grandparents were farmers), but my appreciation of produce comes directly from California. Until we moved there when I was 12-ish, vegetables were mostly frozen or canned. Oranges came from nearby Florida (we lived in Savannah, Georgia). Then we moved to California, where produce was everywhere. My memories? The Irvine Ranch market. The citrus groves. Strawberries and artichokes. The lemons, grapefruit, loquats, and avocados in our various backyards. The Los Gatos farmers’ market. My mouth still waters thinking about the produce I purchased a million years ago as a new college grad—I sure could make $20 go far and provide a week’s worth of meals thanks to farmers like Dirty Girl Produce.

There really is something amazing about getting your food directly from the people that grow it. Hearing the stories of how it came to be, the trials of the weather, the experimentation with new crops and varieties, makes you feel like what you’ve been allowed to buy is a real miracle. Because it is.

I spent my teen years near the Garlic Capital of the World. Gilroy, California claims that title. Driving through there with my family and later as an adult on my own cross-California adventures, I was fascinated by the distinctive smell of millions of cloves of garlic growing in the hot inland Northern California sun. It was strong. It was pungent. It made me hungry even though it was so overwhelming.

One late summer I visited the annual Gilroy Garlic Festival with a pal from college. We tasted garlic ice cream and garlic wine (don’t bother) but also delicious aioli and artichokes and scampi. The very smell of garlic makes me think of California. Not just driving through Gilroy with the windows down, smelling that heady vampire-repelling smell, but also walking through North Beach in San Francisco. If I had to pick an official culinary scent of California, it would be garlic. Sorry oranges, strawberries, and wine. You are definitely in my top 10, just not in the coveted #1 position.

And I’ve always wondered how garlic grows.

So when Farmer Megan at Pure Land Organic posted that she needed help getting next years’s garlic harvest into the ground, I jumped at the chance and volunteered for a few hours of labor, a free lunch and a bag of amazing organic veggies (gonna need to make some roasted peppers and another batch of cowboy candy with the bounty). How cool would that be? Bruce got volun-told I’m afraid, but he was excited to help too.

It’s how we spent today:

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Farmer Allan, me, Farmer Megan taking a break • photo by Bruce

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Garlic planting volunteers • photo by Farmer Megan

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Farmer Pop’s planter • photo by Bruce

In short it was awesome! Bruce and I put around 2300 garlic cloves into the ground. And it was super easy thanks to Farmer Pop’s (Megan’s dad) handy dandy John Deere ride-on planter.

 

All Bruce and I had to do is sit side-by-side for a couple of hours and push root ends of  garlic cloves into the holes that the planter made, then pinch the soil over the holes. Easy peasy! Such a nice day to hang out outside.

And now I know how to plant garlic. I’m going to add it to the rotation at the urban farm and get some in the ground next weekend. Thanks for the planting lesson, Farmer Megan!

Today’s gratuitous dog photo of the day comes from last night’s surprise on Bruce—he’s got a big birthday coming up and we have a very busy next couple of months so the friends who visited us last night decided to celebrate his birthday early. Here, Gidget is helping with the birthday candles and Guinness is asleep on the sofa!

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Happy (early) birthday, Bruce!

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So: fall evening

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It’s a lovely cool fall night. We are hanging out outside with some friends. Bruce made a fire even!

It’s funny how the weather works here. Last weekend it was hot–like over 90. But not this weekend. I love it–it’s a delightful change.

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The summer veggies are still growing though. But I fear that the okra is almost done. Peppers are going crazy still.

We spent time at the vet today. Guinness has a hurt foot–seems like he has something stuck in his paw like a piece of a burr. So he’s the gratuitous dog photo of the day–isn’t his sock cute?

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Until tomorrow! I’ll have an awesome farm story to tell.

So: only ten?!?!

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I keep getting tagged on Facebook (thanks, fellow book lovers, Stuart and Sheree!) to share the ten books that have made the biggest impact in my life. This started happening right before I went on vacation a few weeks ago and until now, I haven’t had the bandwidth to address to this mind-blowing ask.

Mind-blowing because I have been reading forever—and there are a lot of books that have impacted me. No joke since my mom was a teacher and taught me how to read before I was in pre-school, probably so I would amuse myself while she looked after my two years younger brother. Instead of napping (which I hated), I’d head to my room to read. And stay there for hours. No one ever had to encourage me to go to the library. Teachers never had to prod me to challenge myself—I read what I liked and looking back on it read books I probably didn’t fully understand when I was in elementary school.

But in the past 8 years, I’ve gotten out of the habit. Reading social media posts, blogs, snippets of information, and magazines have replaced the books in my life. TV too. It’s easy to keep looking at screens after looking at them all day. And that’s why I decided to abandon my iPad. Although I love the convenience of having lots of reading material at my disposal, those books and magazines are languishing behind the glass. I forget that they’re there.

A BIG thank you to my sweet friend Melissa for giving me the book Carry On, Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life (perhaps a hint, but a nice read regardless) because it really and truly was the catalyst to reigniting my passion for reading earlier this summer. And reminding me just how much I really loved to hold a real book in my hands.

Then I read two books (Mad World: An Oral History of New Wave Artists and Songs That Defined the 1980s and Divergent) during my vacation and they applied a swift blow to my noggin with the long-lost steel-toed Doc Martins of my youth. “How could you have forgotten us? We’ve been friends for most of your life? We will not be replaced!” they said, speaking on behalf of the shelves of their brethren I’ve plowed through and cast aside. So now it’s back to paper for me.

I’m frequently mocked for being a fast reader. Truth is I’m a reading glutton. If I love a book, it’s a deliciously gooey and decadent feast. No matter how much I get through, I can’t get enough. I will devour that book—sleep, chores, whatever, be damned. If I don’t love it, I know myself well enough that it needs to be donated to charity immediately. Or returned to the library. Or left in an airplane seat pocket. Otherwise, it will languish on a dusty bookshelf until we move to another dwelling.

Yes, my name is Julie and I’m addicted to reading. Now that you know another of my dirty little secrets, you’ll understand why I’m reading more again. It’s a great vice for a middle-aged writer. And it won’t make me fat or put a hurting on the bank account.

Without further ado, here are 10 books I love that influenced my thoughts, perspective on many things, and writing. Admittedly I am cheating just a wee bit with the excesses presented in my list. And my list could change tomorrow once I ponder what I’ve forgotten, but today’s 10 are a certainly a diverse and motley crew:

1. Ogilvy on Advertising: Without a doubt, this is the book that made me realize that advertising was the right career for me. I was given it as a first day of work assignment by my first “adult job” boss and I polished it off in a couple of hours. Then I re-read it. And thought to myself, “One day, I want to work for this guy.” I never got that wish, but many years later, I worked at the place with his name on the door.

2. Neuromancer by William Gibson. Yes, I love sci-fi. And dystopian fiction. And all of William Gibson’s books. Nerd!

3. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. Canadian content that I didn’t realize was Canadian when I read it back in high school. And more dystopian fiction.

4. Anything by Dr. Seuss. I’m a big fan

5. The Bobbsey Twins entire series/Hardy Boys entire series/Nancy Drew entire series. And I am thrilled that my three little nieces will get to enjoy the ones my mom squirreled away in a box in her garage (they were hers too!) in a few more years.

6. The Little House on the Prairie series.

7. Lord of the Rings series (If it’s not obvious yet that I really, really, really like books that come in series, you may need to know that I also loved the Twilight series and all the Harry Potter books, although not the movies. Also all of the Shopaholic books and anything by Sophie Kinsella. Truthfully, I don’t really like the stories to end and the characters to leave me.)

8. The Diary of a Young Girl. It gave a face to something completely incomprehensible to me. Another book I’ve read many times.

9. The Catcher in the Rye. Yes, I could be a moody teen. I loved all of Salinger’s works and really do hope that he left us a manuscript.

10. tie: The Riverside Shakespeare and New Oxford Annotated Bible. Both of these books were critical to my undergraduate degree in English and what I learned in the classes where I used them has proven to be extremely useful in adult life for a whole variety of reasons.

And if you’re wondering if my book choices are similar to others, here’s a cool infographic.

If you’ve been missing the gratuitous dog photos because I’ve been too busy reading/gardening/working/vacationing/a whole bunch of things I’ll catch you up on later, don’t worry, here’s a cute one:

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George snuggling with Guinness during a thunderstorm

 

PS: In the past few weeks I’ve been reading whole novels in one sitting. Real books, not on my iPad. I’m thinking I’d better renew my library card. I seem to be loving young adult novels: Tuesday night’s was The Fault in Our Stars and I plowed through Divergent on our flight back from London. Both were exactly what I needed to relax and enjoy some time well spent.

So: eating okra

I’m not from around these parts, so plenty of people find it very humorous that I grow okra. Usually these native Texans tell me how much they hate okra, how it’s yucky and slimy. Maybe their moms or grandmas made them eat it, but I never ate it regularly as a kid. My grandmother put it in one of her soups and I always thought it was pretty cool since it looks a bit like a flower, but since I didn’t see my grandparents all that often, it wasn’t on the normal vegetable rotation. Still I always scoured my bowl looking for the “flowers.” She probably thought it was pretty funny that I liked it so much.

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how okra grows

Bruce definitely NEVER ate okra until we moved to Texas, at least not knowingly. In Toronto, I don’t remember ever seeing it in the grocery store except in the frozen section. And while it probably grows in California, my mom never bought it.

So here we are in a climate where it’s super hot and dry. Okra likes both of those things as does Malabar spinach, peppers of all kinds, tomatillos, and black eyed peas.Can you tell  I like being a successful gardener (remember my tomato despair)? That’s why we’re eating what grows locally. Just a few okra plants will produce several meals worth per week for two hungry adults until the killing frost comes in November. Nothing is fresher than heading out to the urban farm and picking what’s for dinner right before dinner!

We’ve already had a couple of okra meals in the past two weeks. In North Texas, most people will fry their okra. A few pickle it—I love pickled okra but it’s still too early in the season to do it. You need volume and that won’t really come until August or September. Some people now roast it or even grill okra. All four of those ways are very good, but since we’re of the age where you shouldn’t consume much fried stuff, fried’s not really on our table.

Here’s how we usually eat it:

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Sauté some chopped onions and a jalapeño or any pepper you have on hand in your favorite olive oil (I use a garlic one from Trader Joe’s).

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Chop up some okra into rounds and add to your skillet.

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Let the okra start roasting, then add some frozen corn (or fresh if you have it). 

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Add a can of diced tomatoes (or fresh if you’re lucky enough to live somewhere where you have nice big tomatoes) and let the whole thing cook down for a few minutes.

Now you could season it all up with hot sauce, salt and pepper and pour it over rice or pasta or quinoa and eat it as is, but we usually throw in some fish and have a one-pot meal. I’m also going to try it with chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans) this summer.

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This is thawed frozen cod. I just put it on top and let it cook until done. No flipping necessary. I’ve also used tilapia and other white fish.

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The finished product served over a quinoa/rice mixture! See all the little flowers? Add hot sauce if you like — I usually do.

An easy-peasy delicious weeknight dinner that we’ll enjoy many times over the months to come. Let me know if you try it and what special touches you put on it. If I have cilantro, sometimes I add that. Or I use salsa instead of canned tomatoes. The main thing is if you are afraid of slimy okra, do something like this and cook it with something acidic like tomatoes. There’s no sliminess at all, just deliciousness. You can make it with frozen okra too—I freeze our okra whole, then thaw and slice when I’m ready to use it.

Today’s gratuitous dog photo:

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Guinness and George are snuggling together a lot more these days. Not sure what has brought this on, but Guinness doesn’t seem to mind at all. Photo by Christine Watson.

Sow: long weekend landscaping

It’s been a long day with a very tight deadline for work, so I’m up late and writing more as a little wind down, despite my laptop feeling like it’s overheating from the exuberant pounding I’ve been giving it all day. Whenever I am away from the office for a week, there’s usually some sort of fallout. I expected today to go exactly the way it did and I was not surprised.

On the plus side, the weekend was a long one (Memorial Day here in the USA), so today, you’re getting lots of photos. First up was our long weekend landscaping project which fortunately was not hampered by all the (much needed) rain that we’ve been getting since Sunday.

A few days ago, I mentioned that Bruce and I were very unimpressed at the high cost of the type of patio planters we were looking for so we looked to the Urban Farm for a little inspiration: Stock Tanks! These mini stock tanks from Tractor Supply Company are absolutely perfect for some patio accents. Now we just need to find some patio lanterns (ah, a wee bit of Canadian content for you hosers).

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Look at me all covered with dirt and happy as can be. We picked up two tiny stock tanks for the new patio and put blue agave and lemon coral sedum in them. I like ’em! • Photo by Bruce

And guess where they're made...

And guess where they’re made…and if you’re wondering what the blue thing is in the driveway, it’s Gidget’s and Godiva’s wading pool • photo by Bruce

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Mini stock tanks in context after the first of the weekend’s rain storms. At least all of the plants, the grass, and the Urban Farm are super happy with all the water. Our new rain gauge said we received 1/2 of an inch yesterday.

Lots of good stuff to harvest yesterday…and more today.

The gigantic harvests are starting. Lots of good stuff to harvest yesterday…and still more today. From left: power greens mix (spinach, chard, kale), big bag of mint, a huge head of curly lettuce, a bell pepper, a bunch of beets, two jalapeños, and a big bowl of salad greens. 

As a special treat, it’s gratuitous dog photos galore!

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George could finally relax and sleep through the night again. • Photo by Bruce

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And here’s a little update on my sweet pal Murphy: here he is with his new sister Harley. He looks pretty content, don’t you think? • photo by Debbie

So: trip down memory lane

I’ve spent the past couple of days visiting with my parents. The place where they live these days is not one of the many homes I grew up in. It has become somewhat familiar over the past 14 years, but truthfully I have not visited here as much as I should have. I’ve met up with my parents in another of other places, usually with lots of other people around.

This time I had them all to myself.

There was a lot of show and tell, mostly because my parents are avid travelers these days. So there were hours of hearing lots of stories, showing of souvenirs, flipping through amazing photos of exotic and not-so-exotic locales. We ate a lot of food. We drove around in their golf cart. My mom and I spent a couple hours at the pool. We just hung out.

But one of the other things that I did was go through a big box of stuff that my mom tells me that I wanted to save so she’s moved it several times. And at this point, she wants it out of the garage. (She also offered me some vintage Daisy covered 1960s outdoor cups, a matching ice bucket, and a matching pitcher that she had in the garage. She’ll ship them to me.)

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picture from etsy of a similar daisy ice bucket and tumblers that my mom wants out of her house


By the way, I had no recollection of this box or putting things into this tattered box.

I put off digging through it until after dinner tonight because there was so much reading involved. You see, in amongst certificates earned for playing the piano, programs for long ago violin concerts, science fair programs, attendance and field day certificates, a couple of sweet love letters from a very articulate high school boyfriend, a few pieces of jewelry, 80s LPs, some trinkets from my grandparents’ vacations, and a bit of random proof that at one time in my life I could do math, I found many reasons why there was no other life’s work meant for me besides writing (well, maybe except for farming, but I consider that a Plan B career possibility).

I also found BandAid's "Do They Know It's Christmas?"

In addition to this classic, I also found BandAid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”

 

The box was crammed full of paper. But what was obviously important to me were the words on the piles of paper (and the grades earned).

So tonight I:
-read a completely incoherent “story” that I wrote and illustrated in kindergarten.
-found countless book reports and essays marked with neat A+ grades, some with the occasional comment in red about my atrocious spelling.
-saw how I could put together very technical hand drawn graphs, charts, maps, and handwritten copy and make a lovely presentation.
-enjoyed a “book” I titled Absurdities which had bizarre drawings of things like a four-legged woman and a pink cat and crazy descriptions that made me wonder if my teachers in the 1970s were feeding us kids mind altering substances.
-continued to see a pattern with poor spelling and frustrated teachers who wanted to give me a lower grade for my sloppiness, but couldn’t because they were amused by the work (and the drawings).
-laughed at heartfelt (but horrible) attempts at poetry, elementary school journalism, and even 4th grade marketing.
-chuckled at a couple of “memoirs” that date back to high school days.

But one thing was clear as I flipped through these ancient relics of my childhood, I loved to write. And I found my voice, my life’s work, and my joy at an early age, but didn’t know it. I am so lucky to have these gifts—and to have had them with me for such a long time. I must never forget that they’ve been a part of me since practically the very beginning — and kindergarten was oh so very long ago. And I can rest easy knowing that spelling has always been an issue for me. I am not losing that gift. I never had it!

I’m trying hard not to be a packrat (I’ve already gone through many “treasures” from high school and college and whittled them down to a very few pieces that are stashed in my closet at home.) While most of this crumbling debris is destined for the recycling bin in the morning, some of it is coming back to Dallas with me as a not-so-subtle reminder that no matter what, writing is what I’m meant to do.

Today’s gratuitous dog photo features the boys:

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Stoic Guinness and anxious George anxiously await my return home • photo by Bruce

 

 

 

So: Verde Camp

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photo by Simone

I’m getting ready to head back on the road again (this time for a business trip) so I thought I’d share a few photos of Verde Camp, the wonderful place where Simone and I stayed in Austin. It’s a grouping of little houses that were built in the 1930s and lovingly refurbished by a husband and wife team.

Bruce and I discovered Verde Camp in 2010 when we wanted to get away from the Big D for the weekend and see Austin. We also wanted to bring Guinness and Godiva along since we had heard Austin was super dog friendly (it is!) and thought it would be a fun trip for all of us.

We liked that it was dog-friendly and eco-friendly, plus we’d have our own little cottage with a kitchen so we could have breakfast, cocktails, and snacks. It’s in easy walking distance to lots of fun stuff: Town Lake, South Congress, the Continental Club, Homeslice Pizza, the University of Texas, the downtown area, Zilker Park, and the Capitol. It’s certainly better than a hotel in my opinion—it feels more like a vacation home or cottage up in Ontario.

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Since then we’ve been down a number of times with Guinness and Godiva, then Guinness, Godiva and George (Gidget has not made the trip yet). One time we even brought some human friends along and had a blast. I’ve always thought it would be really awesome to get a big group of friends together and rent a bunch of cottages so we could all hang out during the day but have our own spaces at night. Maybe one day—seems like it could be a fun way to celebrate a birthday….

This time Simone and I stayed in Cicada House. It’s super cute with a nice little porch and has a great loft (that’s where I slept).

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cute Cicada House • photo by Simone

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the loft and the loft dweller • photo by Simone

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the cute planter

Check out the website when you get a chance and you can see a bunch more photos and get all the details about the amenities. And if you’re ever planning a trip to Austin, definitely consider staying there. And tell ’em who sent you!

Today’s gratuitous dog photo is from our very first visit in May 2010:

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Guinness and Godiva at Verde Camp in  May 2010 • photo by Bruce

 

So: Keepin’ Austin weird

My dear friend Simone and I were in Austin for a few days. She flew in Thursday from Toronto and we headed to Austin directly from DFW. We left Saturday morning since she headed back to Toronto this morning and needed cuddle time with her favorite G, Guinness, and her favorite shoe-a-holic Bruce so they could clean out DSW (Designer Shoe Warehouse) before she left. Just doing her part for the US economy!

It’s only a three hour drive to Austin from Dallas and now that the highway is vastly improved, it didn’t really seem like that big of a deal. Besides we spent the whole time gabbing and catching up, eating lunch and looking for signs for the huge outlet mall in Round Rock (if you are in search of bargains on summer clothes, I highly recommend it.)

Besides horseback riding with our pals Topper and Julius on Friday evening, Simone and I made sure to do plenty of touristy stuff (including more shopping on South Congress Avenue):

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Food truck on South Congress! And yes, the cupcakes are delicious.

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We bought t-shirts (although not these exact ones)

We ate the best pizza in the universe Friday night after our backcountry adventure—and I am not kidding. I’ve eaten a lot of pizza in my life (hazard of late nights in the advertising world) and I would drive three hours to Austin just for Home Slice Pizza.

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the queen of pies neon sign

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One of their amazing pizzas and their awesome caesar salad

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they make me feel special

Don’t worry, we’re bringing Bruce our leftovers and a little gift so he doesn’t feel so bad missing out on the deliciousness. He was so jealous!

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A major touristy thing: Austin Duck Adventures! This bus is also a boat.

 

We even went on the Austin Duck Adventures city tour on Friday morning (it leaves from the aforementioned Visitor’s Center). Our driver/guide Vic was hilarious. I highly recommend this tour just for the novelty of it since you drive all around Austin and learn the history, then drive around Lake Austin and feel the cool breezes coming off the water. But if you don’t appreciate little kids blowing duck calls along to funny songs, don’t bother. It’s a little noisy. I loved it.

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this is the gift they give you with the tour: a beak-shaped duck call

Splash down into Lake Austin

Splash down into Lake Austin

Did you know that the Texas State Capitol is taller than the US Capitol building in DC?

Did you know that the Texas State Capitol is taller than the US Capitol building in DC?

When we got back to the visitor’s center where the tour starts, I heard a couple asking where to buy cowboy boots. They looked like fashionable people with a little bit of discretionary income burning a hole in their pockets.

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Simone at Austin Visitor’s Center

The cashier recommended Allen’s but said, “it’s really expensive,” which is true, but not if you’re in the market for perhaps the only pair of cowboy boots your East Coast self might need for an entire lifetime. She also mentioned that it’s far from the visitor’s center, which it is not if you are fit and sporty looking which they were.

They looked sad so I said, “do you have a car? You could try Cavenders, it’s where I got my boots.” (Yes, both Simone and I purchased cowboy boots a couple of years ago when she was visiting. They came in handy for horseback riding.) Again, they looked sad and said no. So I said, “You should check out Allen’s. They actually have boots in a variety of price ranges and if you’re only thinking of buying cowboy boots once, it will make a good story.”

They perked up and I said “It’s not that far, but we’re going that way, so we can drop you off.”

They were surprised, but thankful I offered. So we drove them over even though they said, “we never accept rides from strangers.” I said, “we’re not strangers, we’ve been on the duck tour together for the past 2 hours.” They laughed.

They were nice people from Binghamton, NY (him) and NC (her). Seemed like they were old friends, on a fun getaway, just like Simone and me. After making a couple of jokes about the potential of two Canadian ladies being serial killers and asking us to at least have the courtesy to call their parents and let them know what happened, we headed out. We chatted about Toronto and the CN Tower, how awesome Austin is, and how my Prius reminded the guy of an Alero (I think that’s an Oldsmobile, but I’m not sure). We drove them through the back roads of the South Congress neighborhood so they could see the cute little cottage houses and beautiful landscaping and told them a bit about Verde Camp, the place where we stayed and where Bruce and I stay every time we come to Austin. (more about Verde Camp tomorrow)

It took us all of 15 minutes to leave the parking structure and get to Allen’s by car. It was hardly out of our way since our next plan was to walk around on South Congress after we dropped off the purchases we made at the Visitor’s Center.

They thanked us when we dropped them off and waved bye to us. Hopefully they got the boots. Maybe we’ll run into them again on another adventure.

Yes, I did my part to keep Austin weird during our weekend, but so did Simone. And she started early.

As I mentioned earlier in this post, on the way down, we stopped at the giant outlet mall in Round Rock for a little retail therapy. We both were looking for stuff to wear to work as the weather got warmer. Well, Simone is a good shopper and has a knack for helping people find the perfect outfit. That is why I have a huge bag of work clothes to bring back to Dallas—I managed to find nearly all of the things on my shopping list and my spring/summer/fall wardrobe will look awesome.

Not only did Simone help me, she also helped a lady that we met at the Loft outlet find a dress for her son’s upcoming June wedding. Anna was really unhappy and hadn’t found the right dress even though she had been shopping for days. She had friends, the bridesmaids, her kids, her future daughter-in-law help her to no avail. And the wedding would be outside which is going to be surface of the sun hot down in the Austin area. Lots of roadblocks!

After unsuccessfully trying on dresses at Loft, Simone convinced Anna to follow us to Ann Taylor and try on a few things. She started to protest that it wasn’t the kind of store she shopped in and they would have nothing for her. Simone wasn’t having any of that. She told Anna if she wanted to find a dress she needed to come along.

Well, like usual, Simone was right. Anna left with a beautiful sleeveless blue dress that really flattered her body and made her look like the mother-of-the-groom. And we gave her another friend’s contact info so she could get jewelry help (she sells it online).

Simone even told her what shoes to get (nude or black) when she went to DSW—Anna is a fan also. She was so happy she wanted to pay Simone or give her something, but Simone said to just pay it forward and help someone else.

It was a great trip. And we lived up to the Austin vibe.

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One of the official beverages of Austin

And here is your gratuitous (and funny, at least to me) dog photo:

Gidget, mid-bark

Gidget, mid-bark

Sow: better than baking

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Ingredients for life: bok choi, mint, spinach, and salad greens


Yesterday morning, I had the pleasure of meeting one of my neighbors. She lives in the next little town over and is another Duck Team 6 outreach volunteer (she is in charge of donation collection). And I surprised her with a big bag of produce that I picked minutes before she arrived.

Mindy and I don’t know each other. She and Bruce work more closely together so I had heard her name but never met her. But she had come by the house the night before to drop off a couple hundred pounds of donated dog food and she and her two kids had been in driveway (it’s in the backyard) and saw the Urban Farm. Bruce said the girls were really excited about the idea of growing food. He showed them how to pick a radish to take home and told Mindy that she should also throw the greens into that night’s salad (try it, it’s delicious if the greens are super fresh). He was happy that the kids showed so much interest, but didn’t think anything more of it, since our next door neighbor kids love looking at the garden too — he even cut them a window in the wood fence so they can see the garden and the Gs playing.

Well, that night, Mindy texted Bruce to say that her kids are bugging her to start a garden! They never had a vegetable so delicious! They wanted to get right to it on the weekend! Unfortunately, it’s too late for that, unless all they want to grow is Malbar spinach, okra, and black eyed peas! But they had the right idea.

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I had to do something to keep those kids loving vegetables. So I picked gallon ziplocs of bok choi, salad greens, and spinach. Threw in a bouquet of mint. And when Mindy showed up with more dog food yesterday morning, I had a nice surprise waiting for her. She was thrilled and knew the kids would be too. And I told her if she let me know when she was coming to drop off food, there was more where that came from (at least through the very hottest part of the summer).

Used to be when I wanted to make friends with a new neighbor, coworker, or volunteer, I’d bake something. I dare to say, that a big bag of just picked organic produce makes people even happier than cupcakes these days. You should see people’s faces light up when I share the bounty. I have my “regulars,” like Tracy, the lady who looks after the Gs. She also looks after the Urban Farm when we travel so it’s only fair that she gets a weekly delivery. Same with my sweet admin who makes my work life so easy and keeps me running smoothly. But dropping off a veggie treat to someone who’s not expecting it is almost more fun for me than the person receiving it. I love to hear how they enjoyed it and the recipes they made.

And now for your gratuitous dog photo of the day:

Duck Team 6 Volunteer Guinness taking guarding the donated dog food very seriously • photo by Bruce

Canine Duck Team 6 volunteer Guinness taking his job guarding donated dog food very seriously • photo by Bruce

Even if all you can grow is a tiny planter of herbs on a window sill, next time you go to dinner at a friend’s house, cut a tiny bouquet and tie it to the ubiquitous bottle of wine with a bright ribbon or rustic cord. I’ll bet you a quart of okra, you’ll get a similar reception.

 

 

 

So: the Murphster

Meet Murphy. He was our foster dog for 3 weeks. You'll love the post I'll be writing about him (hint: it has a happy ending). Photo by Bruce

Meet Murphy. He was our foster dog for 3 weeks. Don’t worry this post has a happy ending. Photo by Bruce

Murphy was dumped. He should have been returned. Yes, he was adopted as an adorable little ball of puppiness. He was a Duck Team 6 dog, a cute puppy that went to what Duck Team 6 thought was a nice, responsible home with people that would love him and give him a wonderful life. He was loved for a little while. But then, their life got busy. Kids came and the sweet brown and brindle dog with the expressive ears became a pain in the ass. He was, after all, still a puppy, since he was under 2 years old.

So, one of the humans he trusted dumped him. At the local kill shelter near where the family lived.

Luckily his microchip told the city shelter that he was a Duck Team 6 dog or he might not have been around in 72 hours. He was supposed to be returned to Duck Team 6 for rehoming if the family couldn’t keep him for whatever reason. Instead, like cowards, they dumped him at the shelter with vague information that didn’t provide enough information. But the microchip did. And that’s how he came to the Mortroski Midcentury Bed and Breakfast and Home for Wayward Dogs for a sweet three week vacation filled with friends, food, playtime, wrestling, napping, lots of pets from nice visitors, walks, and fun. And had we not already had four dogs, we might have found a nice G name for him.

Here are some of our favorite photos of Murphy:

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Isn’t he cute? Aren’t those ears ridiculous?

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The Murphster looks a bit like Scooby Doo. With George photo bomb.

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Sleepy buddy.

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He’s a snuggler.

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Murphy liked to try to con me out of my breakfast.

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Gidget was his best buddy.

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This is the photo that got him adopted.

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Murphy fit in the pack just fine.

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Obviously Murphy’s former family never let him on furniture.

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Learning the finer points of Squirrel TV from Guinness. Gidget supervising.

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How could anyone resist all this cuteness?

So here’s the happy ending: after the three week stay where Murphy went from scared and sad and hating the crate (he was quite the escape artist) to a well-adjusted, happy-go-lucky boy, he found a new home. One of my coworkers and her husband fell in love with him. He has a new loving family who will spoil him, give him lots of toys and plenty of walks and play time. And his new older sister dog to continue to teach him the ropes. 

Gratuitous dog photo of the day? Really? Don’t you think you’ve gotten enough dog photos for one day?

To help more dogs like Murphy, consider a donation to Duck Team 6.