So: welcome back

Hello! I am officially starting my 2014 today. I realize that it’s March. So far there’s nothing about 2014 that’s been a normal year. Sad things have happened (will get into that another post). Things are looking up, however. My ankle is healed (though it hurts with weather changes). Good news abounds. And there’s so much to look forward to.

It’s going to be an awesome year.

First, the Mortroski Midcentury is going to have a ton of visitors. Many dear friends will be coming for quick visits and long weekends. It’s going to be fun to catch up and hang out. The first visitor of 2014 comes this Friday for dinner. I have not seen her in many years, perhaps since she graduated from college (she was one year ahead of me). I love that Facebook has helped us reconnect after all this time.


the last polar vortex incident

Second, it’s almost time to get outside and play in the dirt. Today I trimmed the fruit trees and cleaned up the front beds, but I am yearning to plant the spring seeds for the Mortroski Midcentury Urban Farm. Perhaps next weekend. Planting would have happened sooner, but we’ve had a thing called a polar vortex this winter—it’s returning tomorrow to bring frosty temperatures (below 32° F/0°C) to North Texas. A winter advisory on March 2?!?Early appearances of the polar vortex (with accompanying snow and ice) pretty much wiped out all of the winter crops. Kale, carrots, and collards are all that’s left. Coincidence that they all start with the same sound?

As you may have guessed, I’ve officially given up on tomatoes in 2014. If you are in North Texas, I will trade you some of my salad greens, green beans, herbs, kale, collards, peppers, spinach, okra, or black eyed peas for successfully home-grown ‘maters. Seriously. I’m done.

Third, Bruce and I have ramped up on our volunteer activities with Duck Team 6 so you’ll hear more about it.

Fourth, we are taking off on a little adventure in April. Just a long weekend, but we’re treating it as a scouting mission for retirement. And we get to spend some quality time with family members that we rarely see.

Fifth, Bruce has a big birthday this year and decided that he really wanted to attend a big UK 80s music festival in August. So we are in the process of planning a trip to London and then a train journey to the north for a weekend of “glamping” (glamorous camping) at the Rewind Festival.

Sixth, I am going to be an aunt again. My brother, his wife and their darling twin 4 year olds are adding a little sister to the family in September. I’m excited about the princess party potential!

See, 2014 is going to be awesome! And while I will definitely get the sowing going as soon as it’s safe to put the seeds in the ground, I’m also planning to finally get the sewing going. So, please stay tuned and Happy 2014 to you!

Gratuitous dog photo of the day: Guinness enjoying the last polar vortex


frosty paws for Guinness



So: blue weekend


tiny piece of inspiration

Hooray! The makeover of the formerly boring beige laundry room is pretty much complete—we finished the blue touchups on Sunday afternoon. I still need to get out white paint for the trim and the door, but the ultra blue (the paint color is called Azurean) makes me smile whenever I see it and it really brightens up a room that’s really not known much for fun.


glass tile countertop works great with the wall color, just need to get that white counter trim done

We’re really pleased with how it turned out and I plan on getting the cabinets all organized during this long weekend. There’s a ton of space for the laundry stuff, some cleaning supplies that don’t need to go in the utility closet.

It may even be the home of Morty, the much neglected sewing machine (he really needs to come out and see some use in this last part of 2013). Morty would look pretty slick in this room because he’d stand out. Of course, the sewing basket and all of the fabrics I’ve been saving (truthfully old clothes I’m either going to repurpose or just practice with) should probably live here too.

While the color is certainly not a typical midcentury color (maybe too extreme—you think?), it makes me happy. So does the ironing board cabinet.

Do you have one of these babies in your house? This is the second house that we’ve had that has had such a built-in. In Toronto, we removed one to free up some needed space. Here, it’s perfectly fine where it is, although we don’t really use it. I just love the lattice screen at the bottom. The knob is not original and it’s not what I would have chosen, but it’s here. If I find something cool, I may replace it just for kicks. For now though, it’s fine.


we kept the original ironing board cupboard and ironing board —a little visual interest for the room even though we don’t use it at all

The new ceiling light makes me happy too. The circles remind me a little of soap bubbles which is fun for a laundry room. The designers probably intended some grander purpose for it than lighting up the sorting and folding, pouring and spraying that will happen in here. Maybe a dining room or kitchen—or even a foyer (in Texas, it’s pronounced FOY-yer by the way, so I usually say entry, lest I be accused of putting on airs by Frenchifying the word).

It puts out a ton of light so it’s great for the laundry room. And for lighting up Guinness, who has recently rediscovered his love of the laundry room now that there are no paint cans, tools, and tarps in his way. It’s also a nice place to hide from the younger ones and their rambunctious romping and destroying of toys. Bruce calls George and Gidget the NGs (new Gs) and Guinness and Godiva the OGs (Old Gs).


A bit of the fancy ceiling light…that we picked up at Costco Canada last summer

Speaking of the Gs, Gidget got a bright blue ear on Saturday afternoon as Bruce was painting behind the washer and dryer. That makes her even more official as a member of the 4G Network. Now, every one of those dogs has now gotten paint from this house on them. Guinness and Godiva have gotten orange and avocado green on them, George managed to paint himself with bits of gray while we worked on the office/tv room. And I always manage to get some in my hair too. Not sure what that says about me except that I’m klutzy.


we painted the cabinets blue since leaving them white looked funny and made your eye just look at the wall of white

So that’s what we were up to last weekend. Bruce wants to put a shelf above the washer and dryer, but that’s a project for later once we see how we like the new set up.

We also took Gidget to our vet and found out that she’s not 11 months old. Dr. Hutson thinks Gidget’s probably 8 months old tops.

Now that explains a few things! Gidget decided last Monday that she might like the taste of the bay window sill and moved on to the surfboard coffee table. Luckily, Bruce is handy at fixing wood things, she didn’t hurt herself, and we have gone back to using the crate while we’re gone for during the workday. It’s just too long of a stretch for her to be left to her own devices—and the naughty 3Gs didn’t police her very well. Still, I know she looks forward to the Kong filled with peanut butter (I freeze it for less mess).

At the vet we decided to get her DNA tested like we did for Godiva (lab-bull terrier-chow-English setter) and George (lab-golden retriever-pomeranian-some other small dog). We’ve assumed Guinness is 100% lab but several people have remarked that he might have some Great Dane in him. Looks enough like a lab that we’re not bothering with DNA. I’ll let you know what we find out about Gidget. We should know in a couple of weeks. Any guesses? We think terrier of some sort for sure, but who knows?

Gidget’s gained a few pounds (yay!) and seems to be getting a little bit taller. She also was a wee bit sick and the vet found out she had giardia. Unfortunately, it’s contagious when you have a pack so It’s meant treating all the dogs this week. They haven’t minded much since we mix the medicine (it’s a powder that must taste delicious) with their favorite wet food. They’re going to be sad tomorrow when they take their final dose. They all line up and sit when they see us doling out the wet food and sprinkling the powder on. We have to hold each dog’s bowl to make sure each gets their own dose (it’s by weight). As you know, George would be glad to take everyone’s medicine.

I hope that you’re all doing great. Thank you for your kind words about my last post. We are all so glad that Gidget found her forever home.

PS: I’m sorry that I haven’t written much lately. Work’s been a little nutty. And having a puppy in the house again is keeping everyone on their toes. I’m hoping that things have settled down a bit now.

So: out of shape (extra long post)


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.


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:


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:


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:


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.

So: weeknight workout

No, silly, we’re not going back to the gym…yet. Tonight will be another exciting evening of brute strength and blunt force. And dual shop vac/Monster vacuuming action. Oh yes, more of the same fun we had yesterday pulling up smooth edge, tearing out trim, destroying ill-conceived “closet organizers” and “shoe holders” so that the flooring install can go swiftly and smoothly (and so the nice men are not installing the new floor on top of 47 years of dust and dirt).

Bruce and I went to Home Depot at lunch to get some supplies that we will probably need tomorrow night (I may put the bird net up over the tomatoes tonight, just as a fun break and chance to play in the garden for a few minutes). Or maybe if we’re ambitious we’ll get to the next step on our destruction tour de force tonight. Nothing like planning ahead and reducing the chance of excuses for why we can’t do something.

I also need to figure out where to put a bunch of my clothes since the dresser is in the garage at the moment. Nothing like piles of clean laundry on the sofa. Doesn’t it scream “adult homeowner”? Maybe I can scavenge some cinder block and a few boards and make a college style bookshelf. Or perhaps some nice trash bags could be pressed into action. Sigh. It will all be over on Sunday, May 5.

Surprisingly I am not all that sore from the weekend’s shenanigans. Bruce is but as he says, he’s been sore for weeks now. It may be a slight exaggeration but I doubt it. Last night while we were sitting on the patio enjoying a glass of wine after yesterday’s labor, Bruce said something that shocked me: “You know, I think after we get all of the projects that are currently underway done, we should probably take a break.” I almost fell over, but that might have been exhaustion or wine fumes getting the best of me. Maybe I can get back to sewing this summer!


break from DIY talk: gratuitous George de-fluffing a toy photo since empty rooms are not that photogenic

Speaking of dogs, one of the Gs is visiting the vet tomorrow afternoon. Guinness seems to be having a mouth problem of some type. He’s eating and drinking pretty normally, but he is pawing at the right side of his mouth. His lower lip looks like he may have bit it (or perhaps someone else may have during a roughhousing session or fly catching expedition).

the patient

the patient prior to the mouth situation

Since we don’t know how old he is or his medical history before he moved in with us, we’re thinking that maybe he’s got a toothache. He’s not really letting us check it out much. Don’t worry, he’s always good at the vet and will be sweet to the vet and the vet tech(s) because he knows they’re going to help him. He’s no stranger to clinics after all. And since of course, I’ve done a bit of web research I’m going to take his temperature and see if he’s running a fever (could be an infection then). His vet is pretty awesome but she was only available tomorrow afternoon since Mondays are the busiest vet days (they close at noon on Saturday until Monday morning). Poor big boy. Maybe we’ll just give him wet food tonight and give his mouth a break. I’ll let you know what the vet says.

Must get to work. If you hear loud sounds in our neighborhood after 7 pm, just close your windows.


So: stupid Hallmark holiday

Woman holding heart, close upIn the Mortroski Midcentury, we’re not big fans of today’s Hallmark holiday. As I mentioned yesterday, it’s cards only between us.

That doesn’t mean we don’t share the love with a whole lot of other people.

For me, it’s not a party without cupcakes. And if you check out my LinkedIn profile, my coworkers expect me to show up with them. So holidays mean cupcake baking the night before the “party” (and when I say party, realize that it’s a bunch of art directors and writers with beers and snacks, nothing fancy).

So, I got to work:


I spent part of last evening with Duncan and some friends…


(my secret to fluffy white cupcakes is high speed mixing for exactly 2 minutes)


(my other secret weapon: a cupcake portioner so I get the 24 cupcakes out of the batter that I need)


getting baked

Bruce was also busy last night. Because of our other projects around the house, we didn’t get the wine bag we needed to get done started or finished last weekend. So Bruce decided to take on that task and it wasn’t very easy (Bravo, Bruce!):


Bruce had lots of supervision: Godiva (brown), George (yellow), Guinness (black)


Cursing at Morty and the fabric


the final product — a bag of wine from the 3G Network for their pal Tracy (isn’t it pretty?)

Meanwhile, I got the cupcakes out of the oven so they could cool off.


24 plain old white cupcakes. boring!

And iced them up, knowing they would disappear in mere moments.


festive sprinkling and finished product. fun!

Today’s creative department Anti V-D Gathering was a smashing success. However, unlike some parties we have had or attended, no cupcakes were thrown or actually smashed. Most were in fact eaten as everyone complained about the stupid Hallmark holiday and all the chocolate around the office that was causing them to break their New Year’s resolutions and/or Lenten sacrifices.

After all of that frivolity, what’s on the schedule for tonight? An elegant dinner of leftover chili with a side of festive home projects! The ordered online curtain rod arrived today so perhaps we will have a Valentine’s Day curtain rod hanging! Or maybe a Valentine’s Day fireplace caulking! Yeeeeeeehaaaaawwwww!

In the Mortroski Midcentury, we do Hallmark holidays right!

So: gratitude

IMG_0023Thank you.

I appreciate that you are reading my blog. There’s lots to read on WordPress and elsewhere on the Internet, so thank you for stopping here.

I really enjoy reading your comments. I enjoy reading your blogs too, although sometimes I can’t think of a witty comment or much more than a sincere “thanks for sharing”. Or a like. I’m learning a lot and I thank you for your wonderful writing.

As I covered the raised beds tonight in the Urban Farm (it’s going to be below 40° F tonight), I thought how nice it is that you’re interested enough in my adventures in gardening to  comment on the photos and words that I’m putting out there. And offer suggestions, comments and kudos.

I think it’s great you’re encouraging my evenings with Morty (the sewing machine) and that you think wine bags are a step in the right direction to develop some real sewing skills.

So thank you. I appreciate you!

So: started with fabric

"before": Bruce is removing trim, Guinness is looking on

“before”: Bruce is removing trim, Guinness is supervising

Friday seems like a very long time ago. Many things changed over the course of the weekend, including the weather that messed up our loud, dusty, chop saw action. But don’t worry: we found something else to do on Sunday.

It all started when after sewing class on Saturday, Bruce said, “You know that West Elm catalog that Tom gave you thinking you’d like that mid-century style bedroom set? I saw some curtains in it that could work for the Lounge.”

The family room (aka: the Lounge) is a big room with a high, beamed ceiling, a sliding glass patio door, a space for a television, a giant olive green sectional, a dark wood coffee table, a huge floor lamp that arches over the sectional, and the Mad Men favorite, a wet bar. It’s pretty groovy since we spruced up the white trim and previous owner’s beige walls with bright orange walls behind the tv and the wet bar. It’s bold and some might say, brave. In this house, we are not afraid of color at all, especially if it’s takes the brain back in time to somewhere around 1966.

We’ve been debating what to do about the patio door. When we moved into the Mortroski Midcentury, only one window had any covering and that was in our bedroom. We quickly put up paper blinds (slightly classier than sheets) and started shopping for something more permanent. Now, we have some non-descript, but very useful, blinds throughout the house. But we wanted something more special for the Lounge, especially since the window covering would be mostly for decoration (we plan to keep the curtains open most of the time).

Originally Bruce’s plan was to make the curtains from scratch. You know spin the thread,  hand dye it with plants we grew ourselves on the Urban Farm, weave the fabric, etc. Just kidding. We were going to look for some fabric, fire up Morty (that’s the sewing machine’s new name, thanks to Fransi), and get to it, hoping for the best.

But then, Bruce saw what he thought would help to tie the room together—and secretly he knew that curtains would be the catalyst to convince me that painting the fireplace brick was a good idea. So Saturday afternoon we headed over to SMU-land to visit West Elm.

Guess what: the original curtain selection didn’t look so hot in person. But all the curtains and rods were on sale and they had a huge selection of curtains in store. We found a pattern that we really liked and would work well with the room color and furnishings…and a newly improved dark gray fireplace.


the chosen curtains, though not in our Lounge.
photo is courtesy of West Elm’s website

Morty is still going to get pressed into service. He’s going to have to help us to join two panels to make a larger curtain for each side of the patio door. And he’s probably going to be doing some hemming. But the rod we wanted was out of stock so I had to order it online when we got home. Hopefully it comes by the weekend and we can finish our Lounge upgrade.

Curtains in hand, we headed over to one of the big box home improvement stores that we should have purchased stock in several houses ago. Shockingly, we found several paint options for the brick very quickly—and a great paint option for our home office. We didn’t purchase paint, however; Bruce prefers to bring a canine companion to amuse the other patrons waiting for paint to get mixed and none of the 3G Network was along for the ride. Besides we had to tape the little sample card to the wall and look at it and make sure that we were ok with the big (and scary, to me anyway) thing we were about to do.

Sunday, Bruce and George (he’s yellow goofy one) headed off to Lowes to pick up the paint while I scrubbed at the brick and vacuumed up dust, debris and disgusting stuff I’d really rather not think about. If you have exposed bricks, you may want to take the vacuum and a brush to them occasionally. Or not.

You may be wondering, “Why the heck are they painting perfectly good brick?” Simple: it’s not perfect and it doesn’t look as good as I had hoped. We left it as it was for about 1.5 years as we decided what to do with it. Or rather as I decided that I’d go along with Bruce’s original plan that he mentioned the minute he saw it as our real estate agent escorted us around the inside.

It is the brick of many colors: red, gray, light gray, black. And as you can see from the photo below, there is no rhyme nor reason for its color pattern. I’d like to say it’s charming, but it’s not.


the brick of many colors starting to get covered

After Bruce cut in around the edges and rolled the first section, it was my job to paint the lines (the mortar). Definitely not as fast moving as you might think, especially with bricks with lots of chips and holes and nicks and mortar which sometimes also filled with chips/holes/nicks.


painting the mortar (yep, that’s me)

I don’t usually time our projects, mostly because as everyone who has ever done any DIY project, if you think it will take 2 hours, it will certainly take all day. I’ve done enough projects to know that you really shouldn’t have any plans later in the evening (although we did, doh!) because sometimes you won’t be showering off the sawdust/paint/grout/metal shavings/dirt/etc. until well past the normal dinner hour.

But in this case, despite running out of paint because I used up too much filling in the lines and Bruce having to make a run back over to Lowes, this time with Guinness (that lazy lab lays down majestically in the paint department like it’s his home away from home), we knocked the whole thing out in around 3 hours including prep. Give or take.


George, who is clearly bored with his humans’ DIY silliness, watching paint dry

Not bad for a Sunday afternoon that turned out to be fairly sunny and nice despite the weather folk’s best predictions. It would have actually been an ok day to execute our original plans.

We spent a fair chunk of last night admiring our handiwork as we flipped around the tv and tried to find anything to watch besides the horrible Grammys (sorry LL Cool J, I love you to pieces, but the show was awful). And when we woke up this morning, we still liked it so we know we did the right thing.

Tonight, there is still a bit of work to be done. We need to seal the edges, add a bit of insulating foam, and caulk. We’ll need to touch up the beige walls in a couple of places where we were overzealous with the gray paint. And of course, we need to get Morty out and get the curtains ready. But that can wait until next weekend: I have a wine bag to make before Thursday. Maybe tonight’s the night.

Sew: lesson #1

Yesterday was a milestone day in domesticity at the Mortroski Midcentury. After purchasing a fancy sewing machine for Christmas (made possible by pooling multiple  Christmas gift checks, Bruce’s company holiday gift, plus anniversary gifts), we finally learned how to use it.

the sewing machine

the sewing machine (that’s my head behind it)

When you purchase a machine at Joann (a US-based fabric/crafting store), you also can take a few lessons for free. Despite our good intentions, once we picked up the machine on the last day of the holiday sale, we never even turned it on, nor read the manual. At all. Oops. We took it out of the box and put it on the dining room table though.

When we headed towards the class, we heard excited chatter. But then when we arrived, sewing machine in hand, silence. Why? A male entered the sanctity of the intro class! But of course, my sweet husband, the youngest of 4 with three older sisters didn’t even notice and made himself at home right away. Our classmates were all women from 8 years old to their late 40s. Most had been sewing for a while in some capacity, even the kids.

Um, not me. If the machine wasn’t a computerized dream with a screen and switches and plugs similar to every other electronic device in the Mortroski Midcentury, I doubt I would have even known how to turn it on or set it up. As a complete novice, I was a bit intimidated as we went around the room, introducing ourselves, our machines (because they were all different), and explaining what projects necessitated getting a new machine. Most of the women were planning to make clothing. The theatrical teen was planning to make a steampunk wardrobe (good for her), the 8 year old clothes for her dogs, the others were going to make clothes for their kids.

Not me. I was there to tackle a personal demon. A failure to learn how to sew at age 10 when my mother sat me down in front of her Singer. Despite being a professional early-childhood educator, her style of lessons managed to make me never EVER want to learn how to sew. And I didn’t. Until yesterday, I did everything in my power to avoid sewing (and ironing but that’s another post). When we lived in Toronto, we would bring our sewing needs along with us to Bruce’s parents’ house. Marge (Bruce’s mom) has a Singer and Bruce would get on it and fix whatever we needed. Yep, I’m lucky.

However, I didn’t ask him to shorten my pants. At 5’2″, I am no clothing manufacturer’s favorite leg length.Tailors love me and imagine putting their children through college on my tailoring needs when I arrive with my pile of recently purchased pants. Before you suggest trying the petite department, I do not have a “petite” body. The Petroskis come from hearty Russian peasant stock. Even with heels, I’m short. So as you might imagine, the sewing machine promises me much excitement: the ability to hem my own pants/skirts WHENEVER I want. No waiting a week to pick them up. We even learned how to do a blind hem yesterday. Fingers crossed that I will not screw up too many new pants in my attempts to tailor. Perhaps I need to pick up any new pant purchases from TJ Maxx or Marshalls until I get the hang of hemming.

Now, Bruce is very clear in what he wants to accomplish with the machine. To him, it’s just a new power tool to add to his arsenal. He is already planning a plethora of projects: patio door curtains for the “lounge” (what we call the Midcentury’s family room since it has a wet bar and an enormous sectional), all new cushions for our patio furniture since current cushions are looking tired, new covers for the 3G Network’s many beds scattered throughout the house, perhaps some throw pillows for the sectional in the lounge. He has no desire to make his own clothing.

I, on the other hand, was just thrilled to learn how to thread the thing, made much more simple than my mom’s 1970s Singer with the addition of an automatic threader. Who knew such a thing existed? We practiced on some small pieces of cloth and learned about which needles to use for which fabric (who knew?), when to replace needles (after every 6-8 hours of sewing), what kind of thread to use (I had no idea there were different types), different kinds of feet (again, who knew). Now, I feel confident in my ability to turn the machine on and perhaps thread it. I mumbled something about assisting with Bruce’s projects, but I was thinking about hemming my own pants.

On our way out of class, we purchased a number of needles, some thread, a mat and cutter, a couple of yards of fabric to practice with, and some bobbins. We also signed up for new owner class #2 which is next Sunday afternoon. But we’re on our way to curtains, cushions and more. And I’m no longer afraid of sewing. Maybe I’ll start by fixing my pajama bottoms—there’s a seam that’s coming apart.

Sow. Sew. So?

Summer Stocktank

2012 was start of the Mortroski Midcentury Urban Farm. We broke ground on St. Patrick’s Day, with one raised bed crammed full of the crops we thought we could handle: bell peppers, mild jalapeño peppers, tomatoes, radishes, cucumbers, radicchio, and a bit of lettuce. We didn’t know that we’d accidentally plant Ghost Peppers (naga bhut jolokia), the world’s hottest peppers. And we didn’t know that we were starting the garden about a month too late for the Texas weather.

Over the course of the summer we expanded. We now have three raised beds and two stock tanks and plan to add another raised bed and stock tank this spring.

What we didn’t know, we learned. And we learned that even if we knew, we didn’t. Even when we asked how to do something better, the most seasoned Texas gardeners would often shrug their shoulders and say, “I dunno, the weather’s the problem.” Or cabbage worm. Or squash borer. It’s really a combo of science, hard work, and miracles that anything grows here at all.

Our 2012 harvests were pretty good—certainly better than I expected since I had no idea what I was doing. Maybe it was naiveté. Maybe it was dumb luck. Not sure, but we’ve kept it up and even on December 30, 2012, we’re harvesting.Yesterday it was collards, mixed salad greens, and kale. And it snowed on Christmas and has been below freezing for at least 4 days. Today it was finally nice enough to uncover the farm.

We’ve been boring our Facebook friends with photos and updates on the urban farm for long enough so we decided to bring the adventures in gardening here. And we’ve decided to take gardening to another level and start sowing sees instead of purchasing transplants. We’ll let you know how that goes, but fingers crossed, it will go as well as this fall’s seed crops (mixed salad greens, baby bok choi, beets, carrots).

And then we decided that we needed another challenge and bought ourselves a sewing machine. We start our first sewing class next weekend. You’ll hear about that too.

It’s hard for us to be quiet about stuff that gets us riled. So, you’ll hear about whatever that ends up being too.

Thanks for reading!