Sow: live, learn

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

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

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this is what I’m dreaming of

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy your Sunday evening!

 

 

Sow: mulch better

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

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

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

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ugh. untidy garden.

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

So we started ripping up the landscaping cloth

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

mulch applied over the wet newspaper

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"hey people, where are you gonna sleep?"

“hey people, where are you gonna sleep?”

 

 

 

 

sow: dirty gardener

 

IMG_3758Guilty as charged! It was a fantastic Labor Day long weekend for getting stuff done—with plenty of time for relaxing. Although I slept in for the first time in eons, I spent most of Monday afternoon outside digging in the dirt. Perfect timing too since it rained on and off all morning long—a lovely way to start the day lounging about and drinking coffee, although Guinness was not impressed with what the wet weather did to his morning walk.

Monday’s harvest was pretty awesome (notice the seed packet next to the pile of produce):

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The chard is the last of what I planted last fall. As you may have gathered from the seed pack, I planted more. The peppers are all still going strong as is the okra (it’s all as tall as me now so it’s getting harder to pick) and they’ll keep going until the first frost hits them. I decided to freeze the nearly 1.5 pounds of okra I gathered up since it will be nice to pull some out in the middle of winter and use it in soups or stews.

But picking wasn’t the most important part about Monday. Serious digging happened. And I’m not talking about the hole that Gidget and George have been making next to the driveway when no one’s looking.

Why? Well, because fall’s here. Ok, truthfully, fall’s not really here until September 21 or so and it’s still close to 100°F almost every day, but it’s time to get fall seeds in the ground. So I started by soaking some snow pea and beet seeds on Saturday evening. The snow peas are already sprouting and they were planted on Sunday afternoon!

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Monday, I dug, added compost and soil, pulled weeds. moved stuff around. And I did a lot of squatting which is why my body was a bit sore yesterday—and my brain was too tired after work to blog.

But not too tired to get one more thing done. Bruce and I worked on clearing out the flooded stock tank (#3) last night. I used about 1/2 of the dirt to augment the other beds and tanks on Monday, then he finished clearing the rest of the soil out into two wheelbarrows. We added three bags of crushed stone, then tested the draining (works fine now). So we loaded the 1/2 of the dirt that was left back in and I’ll get more dirt on the weekend so I can plant carrots and radishes.

Can you tell that I’m excited to get new stuff in the ground? Here’s what what I planted on Sunday (all seeds are from Botanical Interests):

  • Oregon sugar pod II snow peas
  • French filet bush beans (had to plant more since I think the birds may have eaten some of the seeds I planted a few weeks ago)
  • Gourmet blend beets (check out the seed pack above)
  • Detroit red beets
  • Five color silverbeet Swiss chard
  • Nero Tuscana kale
  • Red velvet leaf lettuce
  • Qs special medley mesclun
  • Cilantro
  • Italian parsley
  • Bok choi

Here’s what’s sticking around from the spring planting:

  • Malabar spinach (going crazy still)
  • Oregano (moved into a planter)
  • Thyme (moved into a planter)
  • Mint
  • Jalapeño peppers
  • Anaheim peppers
  • Clemson spineless okra
  • Orange bell peppers
  • Green bell peppers
  • Marigolds (moved to the bed with the fall tomatoes, they help attract bees)
  • Black diamond watermelon (a gift from a friend that is finally just starting to produce watermelons)
  • some of the basil (see below for details)

My arugula patio planter experiment is going very well. We’ve been harvesting handfuls for sandwiches and burgers—it’s really yummy. Definitely going to do it again next summer and maybe try a couple of additional planters to increase the volume.

I picked up some sprout seeds over the weekend and will be trying out growing those on the window sill just as soon as I get some quart mason jars (I thought I had some, but I only have 1/2 quart jars). I really love them on sandwiches and am a little worried about all of the illnesses that store-bought sprouts seem to have. (The instructions explain how to properly disinfect the seeds so there is little chance of getting sick.)

The fall tomatoes are cranking away. There’s fruit on the Indigo Rose and Celebrity plants, flowers on the rest and I’m already dreaming of tomato sandwiches and caprese salads. The warm days and cooler nights appear to be working their wonders. I pulled a tomato (sweet 100 so Bruce won’t care) and a bell pepper (green) plant that were formerly in the flooded stock tank and really didn’t appreciate being moved. They weren’t doing well, so it seemed a better idea to use the space to plant something else.

I’ve had an exceptional season for basil. I’ve made pesto several times, frozen some, given tons away. Last Thursday I gave away 10 1-gallon bags of the stuff to some coworkers:

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I love basil and it’s so gratifying to grow—that’s why it makes me so happy to share it. While I have had great plans to make another couple of batches of pesto to freeze (I have everything I need, just need to do it), I haven’t gotten around to it yet. But I did make a lovely basil-watermelon-feta salad from a recipe one of the basil beneficiaries suggested (thanks, Lauren):

 

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Martha Stewart’s Basil-Watermelon-Feta Salad

 

It was pretty and delicious and I plan to make it many times—I even made a small batch of it for our work lunches today.

The basil is also doing double duty as housing. If you look carefully at the photo below, you will see the toad that has lived in Raised Bed #4 all summer. He arrived when the tomato jungle was making tons of shade and has stuck around. Last night, I saw that he’s made a little hut from the mulch around the basil. Hopefully it keeps him hidden from Gidget (she keeps looking for him, perhaps because she has a taste for toads).

 

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Toad in a hole

But as cute as it is, a toad isn’t a dog.  And it won’t satisfy your desire to see gratuitous G photos from the long weekend. Here are a couple of my favorites of George and Gidget, who are quickly becoming best friends:

 

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George has a ball in his mouth that Gidget really wants

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Hope you’re having a great week!

Sow: distributing wealth

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Big bunch of fresh basil becomes a tiny jar of dried basil.

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But I still had more basil so I loaded it back up again.

The great basil dehydration experiment has been a great success. And very enlightening. Never again will I wonder why such a small bottle of a spice or herb costs so much. You saw how much basil I picked on Sunday. It had to be taken off the stems, washed, spun dry, then dehydrated for about 2.5 hours. Basically 1/2 of that became what’s in the tiny bottle in the photo above. That bottle isn’t full so I’m continuing to dehydrate to fill that bottle and hopefully at least one other the same size.

I also brought one of my work pals a huge bouquet of basil:

basil bouquet: like flowers but edible

basil bouquet: like fancy flowers but edible

It caused quite a stir—before I knew it, I was dispensing gardening advice since another coworker has been having bad luck with her basil. And by the end of the day, the bouquet recipient’s boss was looking for some basil too. Luckily I have plenty more where that came from so I can bring them each a bag (though not probably as bountiful as the basil bouquet) tomorrow.

The malabar spinach is also growing like crazy so I brought a bag (repurposed from the yuppie hippie grocery store) for another coworker who is working hard to eat right and exercise.  Picking the bagful didn’t really make much of a dent in the vines:

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big bag full of spinach

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Malabar spinach vines are surpassing the trellis

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Malabar spinach and the fall tomatoes

There’s lots happening in the garden so I also brought a small bag of okra to the basil bouquet recipient. She’s a fan of okra (I checked since it’s such a polarizing vegetable) and was thrilled to get some. I hope she made something delicious with it:

paper bag of okra with some red jalapeños thrown in for fun

paper bag of okra with some red jalapeños thrown in just for fun

I’m really loving the okra, but it will be at it’s end fairly soon. So this morning I planted the fall bush beans:

Fall bush beans got planted today

Fall bush beans: chopstick is for making a hole for the two beans that need to get planted in each hole.

I also saw a familiar friend. I haven’t named him yet because I wasn’t sure he’d stick around (or not end up in George’s mouth). Got any suggestions for a name?

My toad pal. He hangs out near one of the raised beds.

Look carefully for my toad pal. He hangs out near one of the raised beds.

And I’m continuing to hit the reset button: Bruce and I went to the gym again tonight for more cardio and abs/planks. Gotta say that I’m feeling it. Well, at least I know that my muscles are remembering what to do.

Have a great night!

So: Canadian content

It’s weekend like these that I miss Toronto the most. Never mind the surface of the sun temperatures here in north Texas. It’s not just that. It’s another three day weekend in Canada, people!  I miss all of the long weekends. If nothing else, it gives everyone who works for a living a chance to have an extra day to take a deep breath and enjoy an additional day off. Shops are closed. Businesses are closed. Everyone has to do something else.

No offense, but the US of A could really take a lesson from their neighbors to the north and add a few more holidays to the calendar…

But perhaps I need a break a bit more than usual since it was a crazy travel work week, spent mostly in North Carolina. That’s why you heard not a peep from me since last week at this time. Lots going on during the day and then of course, time to make up the work that didn’t get done well into the night. Rest assured it was all work and not much play, although I did attend a minor league baseball game on Monday night with some of my colleagues and their families. Good fun and so nice to meet their spouses and kids, plus how could you not smile with a grasshopper as a mascot?

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The Greensboro Grasshopper

As for the rest of the week, I’m really lucky to that I have great clients and colleagues from the other agencies to spend time with. Despite that, I was really glad when Friday at 5:30 pm rolled around.

Which brings me to the Canadian August Civic Holiday. Bruce and I did our part to enjoy an abbreviated one: we bbq’d, we listened to plenty of Canadian musical content this weekend, and we built something that even though it’s a southern US house party/tailgate tradition that we could bring back to the Great White North with us.

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a cornhole set

Yesterday, we put together our cornhole set. Yes, it’s a bean bag toss game favored by beer-drinking tailgaters and Texas bbq attendees. It’s a great way to spend an evening. Don’t worry, like everything in the Mortroski Mid-century, it’s not enough without a special paint job. A professional art director (thanks, Ward!) created graphics that will be printed on vinyl and applied as soon as I get around to sanding it and painting it ultra shiny white. Ward created the awesome red door logo for the MMC and we just love it. I promise to post photos of our cornhole game escapades in action.

In the meantime, here’s how to learn the game before you come by with a 2-4 and challenge us to a game: http://www.americancornhole.org/cornhole-rules.shtml. Canadian friends: want one for your cottage? If you do, invite us up for a week (or maybe more) and we’d be happy to build one for you too! It really is a lot of fun and a great way to hang out for an evening.

Basil-zilla

Basil-zilla

If you need basil, you may also want to come by. I’ve already given away a bag of okra to the G’s best pal Tracy because without me here in Dallas, it didn’t get picked or eaten (NOTE: apparently even more got given away and the stuff just grows like a weed too. Sorry, Bruce, I was not calling you out for poor caretaking of the Urban Farm.)

Holy cow, everything hasn’t been killed by the surface of the sun temperatures is just growing out of control. The malabar spinach is growing everywhere and we have to keep our eye on it to make sure that it doesn’t try to choke out a fall tomato plant. Gorgeous and leafy and insane!

If you live in Dallas and want some basil or spinach, let me know—you can come by and pick some at the Mortroski Mid-century U-Pick Farm. That basil in the photo is destined for the dehydrator and the food processor. Thinking of an Italian herb blend for holiday gifts and some pesto as a surprise and delight for friends this week. There’s still tons more. Please, help us out.

It was a catch up weekend across the board. We tore the spring tomato plants out so that I could plant the fall green beans tomorrow at 7 am. They’ll be ready in September, but I’ll be covered with sweat even at 7 am. It’s just too hot to work the garden much later than that. This morning we were out in the garden at 10 am and it was really hot and I feel like I got an insta-tan.

Despite it being so hot, it’s actually the time to start planning for fall. We also did bits and pieces around the house that we haven’t been able to get done and got the garage back in order. We’re busy hitting that DIY to do list right and left.

green yard

green yard

And an important milestone: our front landscaping has now been in for a year. Everything has established quite well and because of the unseasonable rain, it’s all very green. Usually this time of year, everything would be much more golden—we are so pleased with how it’s going so far:

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front yard: see what I mean?

It was a great weekend for the Gs. Thanks to our friends at Three Dog Bakery Texas, we finally have some toys that Godiva and George cannot destroy. Though the gator and clown fish in the photo with Godiva do not look very lively on their backs, let me assure you that they have no holes and no fluffs scattered throughout the Mortroski Mid-century:

graituitous Godiva photo

Godiva is exhausted from trying to destroy toys

Truly a record for the Gs. The gator has lasted three weeks with no wounds and the squeaker still working. A record!

Hoping you all are having a wonderful weekend and making the most of your summer. As for me, it’s back to the RUSH program on the Palladia channel. If you’re reading this from Canada, I’m more than a little jealous that you get tomorrow off.

So: cupcakes, ketchup, catch up

I made breakfast cupcakes for my coworkers yesterday. We trade off bringing breakfast. Some people buy it, usually from Taco Cabana (breakfast tacos) or McDonald’s (Egg McMuffins), but I always love it when they make it. It’s always more yummy and more inventive.

Some people really go all out. We’ve had omelette bars, breakfast taco bars, panini bars, pancakes. We’ve also had kiddie cereals, leftover pizza and beer, and WalMart donuts.

Throughout my work career and amongst my friends, I’m known as a cupcake fan and cupcake baker. Any excuse, I’m pulling out cute papers and whipping up a batch.

So, I thought it would be funny to make breakfast cupcakes.

Here’s the recipe:
http://www.tablespoon.com/recipes/bacon-breakfast-cupcakes-recipe/1/print/

I made 2 batches, first bacon as guided by the recipe:

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For future reference, it takes a whole pack of Oscar Myer bacon. And I didn’t even know refrigerated hash browns existed. I added some chives from my herb patch as sprinkles.

Then a no meat version for my veggie coworkers:

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I used southwestern hash browns which were spicy and delicious.

Everyone enjoyed them–the moms thought it was pretty kid friendly and good for a crowd. I would definitely make them again but experiment with the flavors.

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Egg mixtures

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Potatoes baking

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Filling the cups

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I have a handy carrier (I told you I was hard core when it comes to cupcakes. Bruce got it for me as a gift.) that I used to transport them to work.

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The trays. This model holds three dozen. It’s also good for carrying cakes.

After all that pre-work cooking, I decided relaxation was needed and picked up dinner at a nearby Thai place. I was really hoping it would be great since they deliver to our neighborhood, but it was not. We’ll keep researching, but it’s painfully apparent that we’re not getting Toronto-quality Thai delivered to our house any time soon.

Still someone else did the cooking.

After dinner, Bruce and I watched The Buddha finally. We missed it when it was first run and recorded it this week. I really enjoyed it–a little enlightenment and armchair traveling for a Friday night.

This morning we woke up to beautiful sage flowers. This variety of sage only blooms when it rains:

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After our long weekend dog walk, Bruce made breakfast and put out ketchup from one of the local hamburger chains:

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We have never tried their food even though we’ve lived here 6 years. So after our errands and morning chores, we decided to have a rare burger lunch. And as several of our friends said, it was great for fast food. But definitely only to be eaten occasionally.

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After lunch, I received an email from a college friend I haven’t seen since the mid-90s. She’ll be in Dallas for work this week. Unfortunately, I’ll be in North Carolina.

That’s ok, we made a plan: I’ll pick her up at the airport and bring her over to the Mortroski Mid-century for dinner tomorrow night so she can meet Bruce and the Gs. That way if she needs help or gets lonely, she’ll know who to call.

Today’s okra harvest:

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I’m going to pickle it in the morning.

And your gratuitous weekend dog shot, this time of Godiva:

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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:

Shannon's treat

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: summer’s here

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It was 98 degrees F at 9 pm so you know summer has arrived. As my coworkers and I left the restaurant tonight we all remarked that it felt cooler than when we entered. Maybe we hit 100 today.

But this morning the urban farm was nice at 6:30 am. Lots of anaheim chili peppers and okra picked, with tons on the way. Looking forward to grilling these veggies tomorrow! I’m thinking of freezing some of the peppers, then pickling the next batch. Anyone have good recipes? My pal Ed has also suggested that I make some green chili pork.

The Malabar spinach is already growing. It seems to like the trellises and it’s already climbing. It’s fun to watch already.

It was a long work day and there will be two more this week before I’m off for 10 days. Eye is on the prize so I’ll plow through the work, head down, nose to the grindstone.

So: out of shape (extra long post)

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I worked 62.5 hours last week. I know that, because in advertising, creative folk like me must complete timesheets (we do it via web portal these days, not paper or clock punching). In this photo, taken by Bruce on Friday night, you can probably tell that it was a tough week. (He also has video because apparently my snoring was so impressive. My whole body moved with each snore. Pretty.)Don’t worry: George was just being an opportunist for a human pillow and a sleeping snuggler.

The week consisted of important meetings in small rooms. Plane rides galore, mostly in the commuter jet kind of plane. Hotel beds, some better than others. Late nights. Early mornings. Lots of writing at the ends of already long days.

Needless to say, after last week, I recognize that I’m painfully out of shape for that kind of marathon. At one time in my career, weeks like that were fairly  normal. And it was exhilarating. Exhausting. Exciting.

There were definitely parts of last week that I loved. I did some solid work. I got to tap dance and sell my little heart out. I did my best to educate and entertain.

Like anything else, unless you use it, you lose it. And I must have lost my stamina and ability to keep that pace for 5 days straight or more about 5 years ago. By the time I arrived home on Thursday night, I was done.

But the week wasn’t over.

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It was so nice to get home and see how much had grown on the Urban Farm. Okra, sweet 100s cherry tomatoes and Anaheim chiles that were marked as poblano transplants were harvested. Good thing they are also delicious. The okra and tomatoes were rehomed since Bruce had been picking tomatoes diligently while I was gone. Several friends and neighbors have been enjoying this spring tomato crop — certainly our most successful so far, despite the weather issues.

And I didn’t want to disappoint this week’s canine coworker:

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Last Friday was Guinness’ turn to go to work. During the summer, we have Summer Hours which means that if you work your 40 hours before noon on Friday, you can head out and enjoy your afternoon. I like to bring a dog along because often I’m one of the last people in the office because it’s nice and quiet, making it the perfect time to get caught up.

Of the three Gs, Guinness is the best office dog because he’s a great listener (Sit. Down. Stay.) and he’s very chill. Plus, he makes every single person he sees feel like a million bucks. He wags his huge puffy tail for everyone like they’re his long lost best friends, sits on feet to keep people from leaving, demands to be petted by putting his big noggin in naps, and lies down on command during meetings, staying put through the whole thing, though he’s very bored. My boss, who isn’t the biggest fan of our dog-friendly office policy (it’s one of the reasons I chose to come to the company), loves Guinness’ well-behaved, laid-back vibe. Although she’d never admit it, she’d be cool if I brought him to work every day.

Friday was actually National Take Your Dog to Work Day in the U.S. I had no idea, honestly. I just planned to bring the Gs into the office one by one this summer and see how they did so I’d know if I’d bring them in again.

The photo above was sent in to a contest that The Three Dog Bakery was having — you just needed to show your dog at work and you could be chosen to win a gift card (the Gs love TDB so it would be awesome to win). I like that Guinness blends in with the office carpet, like he’s in camouflage. He slept under my desk when I wasn’t in meetings. I only knew he was there because I’d hear his soft snores every so often.

Godiva was very put out that again, she wasn’t the office dog, but she’ll be going next. I promise. When she was an only dog, she started coming to work as soon as she was potty trained pup. She had a travel crate, a bed, lots of toys. People bought treats and kept them at their desks just for her. And they bought her fun toys and balls. They had Godiva breaks. Then Guinness came along and separating those two wasn’t a good thing at all.

You already know what I did on Friday night. It’s also what I did on Saturday night. And Sunday night. I can’t remember being that tired in I don’t know when. It reminded me of times in high school when I had to pull all nighters to get the school paper out and study for an exam. Or when I had two finals on the same day in college because of my poor planning. On the plus side, three days later, I now feel back to normal.

Never fear that I rested all weekend. Saturday we needed to get countertops ordered for all of those cabinets. This photo kind of shows what we’re getting, although the photo is too dark. Ice snow is the name of the color:

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It’s whiter but this photo shows all of the flecks in it. The substrate is called caesarstone—it’s quartz and reminds me of travertine which was a popular flooring choice in mid-century homes. The installer will be coming out to do final measurements next week and hopefully it will be installed by mid-July.

It wouldn’t be a weekend without time digging in the dirt. I found out about this cool plant on Saturday morning while I was drinking coffee and reading gardening blogs:

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It’s not really spinach, but a juicy leafed plant that is grown in India and Africa for it’s spinach-like qualities. You see, salad isn’t really a summer food and leafy greens don’t grow very well in the North Texas surface of the sun heat. But apparently this stuff does. I’ve eaten a leaf and it’s delicious. A little citrusy in addition to spinach’s green iron-y taste. And it is a vine so it can climb the trellises that Bruce picked up for me. The photos of it are gorgeous and it would bring lots of visual interest to the months where not much is happy to grow (except okra). Stay tuned for further details.

photo[6]By Sunday I was feeling much better rested. Although it was very hot (98°F), I spent some time outside and did another big beet harvest, which I promptly roasted. We had lots of yummy tomatoes and some additional okra. I peeled, chopped, and froze the remainder of the peaches, although I saw a few in the tree up fairly high this morning. I guess it’s time to get the ladder out again. The jam will get made when it’s cooler.

I’m also thinking about making some pepper jams. Down here in the South, people pour pepper jam over cream cheese (or baked brie) and serve it with crackers or baguette slices. Since I couldn’t make plum jam, it might be nice for gifts.

Bruce made dinner (and extra dinners) on Sunday night. We’ve been enjoying the okra grilled. It’s very yummy and a quick side to just about anything.

photo[4]If we get enough okra, I’d love to pickle it, but we’ll have to see how it grows.

Last night I also ordered the fall seeds: beets, spinach, lettuce, collards, mustard, bok choi, snow peas, kale, chard, arugula, carrots, radishes. It’s funny to think about fall when it’s finally summer and it’s predicted to be over 100°F this week.

Yes, it’s back to “normal” for me. Get ready for more “sow” posts.

And I have something exciting to look forward too. Bruce and I will be starting a stay-cation on Friday (through the entire July 4/Canada Day week). Between now and then I have the usual work, plus a day trip to NC on Thursday.

I must rest up since we are going to use the time to get more of our projects completed. I want to break out the sewing machines. And plant the fall tomato crop. Don’t worry, I’ll post photos.

Sow: fall/DIY/dog saving

For a weekend, this ranks right up with our top #10 busiest. Friday, surface of the sun all-you-can-eat (or not) baseball for Bruce’s work.

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Yesterday?

Well, I was supposed to work. Instead I spent time up in the peach tree, harvesting:

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It was a fair haul. Not as good as last year but the fruit is larger. The composter got a lot of half eaten or bird pecked peaches, but I know it will be delicious dirt one day. George wanted to eat any peaches that fell on the ground.

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Lots of garden work. More tomatoes harvested. The first okra came in. The last cucumber.

We grilled the okra tonight–amazing. Just toss with olive oil and salt and pepper. Delicious. NOT slimy at all.

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Pulled out the last of the carrots.

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Lots of garden is cleared so we can start the fall planting in a few weeks. Hard to believe!

Another big beet harvest with more to come.

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Dunked all of the rain barrels (those are the little donuts).

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One of the beets was really big. That’s Bruce’s iPhone next to the beet.

Saturday was also the day we kept working on the family room/lounge. Our little fridge for beer, wine and drinks came in so Bruce and the Gs took the truck to go and get it. Bruce and I went to pick up the last cabinet after confirming the fridge’s dimensions in real life, in place, not just at the store. And a shower solidified my farmer’s tan.

And then there was the more somber purpose of today: saving the Gs and their pals. We spent 6 hours in a dog first aid and CPR class learning what to do if there’s an emergency. Sobering. But good. I feel a lot better since I am prepared for the worst.

Now, Bruce is assembling that last cabinet so we can do a preliminary countertop measurement.

Our pal the electrician is coming by on Tuesday since we uncovered another issue while attempting to install a replacement ceiling fan in the office/tv room. He needs to move the new fridge plug anyway and better understand what else still needs to happen.

The plumber needs to visit to remove and cap the wet bar sink, making it a more useful dry bar.

See what I mean about busy? And I’m traveling all week this week, leaving Bruce to harvest tomatoes, okra, peppers and chard. Back Thursday!