Sow: basil bouquets

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More basil bouquets: this time with a cute sticker and a handwritten note

Today I continued spreading a little garden joy: I brought a couple more unexpected basil bouquets to work.

If you have extra basil, I recommend it highly. First, most people like surprises of free stuff.  Second, you get to talk about your garden and maybe you’ll inspire someone to try growing something—or trade tips and hints. Third, basil grows back if you give it a good trim. I swear the stuff I cut down on Sunday is already growing back despite the crazy heat that we have this time of year.

Plus, we still have tons of basil which is absolutely fine with me.  I still plan to make some pesto and dehydrate even more.

Fransi over at Three Hundred Sixty-Five and I did a little brainstorming the other day and we’re both convinced that herb bouquets would make terrific little gifts when someone invites you over for dinner. If you invite me over for dinner, this time of year your bouquet would be made of rosemary, basil, sage, thyme, oregano, and chives. I killed my lavender some how, but it would have looked pretty in the bouquet.

I’d probably tie it up with garden twine then wrap the whole thing in brown paper so I could write something on the outside and close it with a Mortroski Midcentury sticker. And they’d change with the seasons of course. Fall would bring cilantro and dill. And I now realize that I could use some Italian parsley. That would look pretty in a herb bouquet.

Imagine receiving an Italian herb bouquet: Italian parsley, oregano, thyme, basil. It would smell amazing. And you could chop it all up and make some sauce. Don’t worry, I’d bring some wine too. Or maybe dessert. Or some fancy chocolate. Or some okra (it seems to be very well received down here).

From a practicality standpoint, these bouquets could be great for people with small households or single people. A little of this, a little of that and you’d have a lovely centerpiece that you could use in your recipes all week. Maybe you could even pick and choose what you’d like. I could see the yuppie-hippie grocery store making them, although they’d be exquisitely lovely, but tiny and $20 a pop. Wouldn’t surprise me at all when small packets of even non-organic fresh herbs are $2.50 each.

So, if you saw a herb bouquet at a farmers’ market, would you pick one up?

 

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So: calm

Barter Books in Alnwick Station, Northumberland looks like the kind of place I could lose myself for hours, days even. It is a secondhand bookshop that looks like so much more than just a bookstore. It’s a destination with wifi, a restaurant/cafe, fireplaces, and big comfy chairs. Heaven. If you’ve been, please tell me about it—I’d love to visit one day if it’s fabulous as it looks.

I found out about it today, thanks to my friend Clare when she posted this video to Facebook:

Encouraging messaging is very important to me because sometimes when things aren’t going right, all I need to hear is a few words to get my head on square and my courage in the right place. And when the going gets tough or I have to do things that I’m really not sure that I know how to do (or that I’m brave enough to try), I often think of the words on this poster:

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Image from Barter Books

It was my avatar on Basecamp (a workflow system) at work for a good long while and seeing it every time I logged in worked wonders for me when the workload was extremely heavy and the pace was hectic. It reminded me that others were watching.

You’ve heard the phrase “fake it ’til you make it”. There’s a bit of that in here. By keeping calm and carrying on, you don’t have to say a thing. By just doing what needs to be done, you calm yourself down, you give yourself purpose. And when others see how you are reacting, they realize that maybe it’s ok to do what needs to be done too. But most of all, it gives you focus. And breathing room to think while you do.

I’m certainly not suggesting that you lie on your back in the face of adversity or challenge. You should know me well enough by now that I’m not passive. And I’m opinionated. But there’s something to be said for collecting your thoughts, pulling yourself up by the bootstraps, putting nose to the grindstone, and moving forward positively, verses wasting energy getting angry and not completing what needs to be done. There seems to be a lot of that in the world right now and maybe if we all just calmed down, things would be better.

Anyway, after yesterday’s beastly rant, even with the gratuitous bulldog photos*, I wrote this post to remind myself that my silly first world problems need to be addressed as such. And I am, as Fransi reminded me, I was overly tired and that made Monday worse. Still tired, but Tuesday was significantly better. But tonight is a “bye” from the DIY. We are focused on keeping Guinness calm so he can carry on tomorrow and feel a lot better than he has.

Guinness is a great, but seriously dopey patient

Guinness is a great, but seriously dopey patient. He is spending the evening bonding with the sofa and so are we.

Guinness is doing great. His fractured and abscessed tooth was pulled and the rest of his teeth were cleaned. I’m not poking in his mouth tonight, but I bet his smile is dazzling. His skin tag by his eye has been removed via cauterization so he may not have to wear the comfy Cone of Shame after all. Apparently a thorough pedicure was our free gift with purchase—definitely a bonus for a black dog with black nails. He’ll also have to eat soft food which as you might guess will be such a hardship. He ate an entire packet tonight no problem. I only hope we can ween Guinness back to his usual mostly dry stuff with a touch of wet!.

Godiva and George each reacted to Guinness’ leaving for the vet this morning in different ways. Godiva got mopey as expected and refused to hang out with me while I watered the veggies. When Guinness and Bruce were leaving for the vet, George tried to squeeze out the door, just like he did when I took Guinness to the vet last week. He stood at the window and watched Bruce’s truck roll out, but unlike Godiva, I think George just wanted to go wherever Guinness was going!

waiting for Guinness to return

waiting for Guinness to return

There were lots of sniffs all around when Guinness came home, especially Godiva. Both George and Godiva are extra tired tonight, as if they stayed up all day patrolling, waiting for Guinness’ return.

 

*Yes, Daisy was ours. That bulldog was the first dog Bruce and I had together and came into our lives when she was 8 weeks old. We lost her nearly 4 years ago and a month later we got Godiva.

So: family affair

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I know. I know. No more awards for a while. But when Amy at LifeBeam gave me this one this week, I was really touched. And humbled. Thank you, Amy! I like the company I am keeping with the blogs you are following.

This award seems to be a new one, has very few strings attached, and came to me from a talented blogger who frequently reminds me of the power of positivity. Like Amy, the blogs I’ve discovered or had recommended to me are very special. Each one gives me a little gift when I read them, so greedily and gluttonously, I try to read them as often as I can, wherever I am (thank you, iPhone). They lift my spirits and provide me with encouragement for life, work, writing, staying positive, being grateful, beautiful art, new ideas, connecting with far away friends, new friendships, and so much more. This award celebrates the WordPress family that we create through the blogs we love and really connect with.

The big thing of this award is spreading the love. So before I do so, here are the simple rules for this award:

  • Display the award logo on your blog (done)
  • Link back to the person who nominated you (Amy)
  • Nominate 10 a bunch of others you see as having an impact on your WordPress experience and family (sorry, but I can’t help myself)
  • Let your 10 Family members know you have awarded them (you guys will probably see this post before I alert you all, but I’ll get around to it in the next few days)
  • That is it. Just please pick 10 people who have taken you as a friend, and spread the love to more folks.

Drum roll please for my WordPress Family (I wish we all lived closer by! I’d throw a swell dinner party so we could all hang out in real life. Can you imagine that night? Trust me, it would be excellent. So thank you all for being you, inspiring me, and keeping up the good work!):

Happy Weekend, everyone! Make it a good one. If you need to find me, I’ll be moving furniture/spring cleaning/tearing out carpet, digging in the dirt, and harvesting lettuce.

So: oh Canada

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Bienvenue au Canada!

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

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

view from the Starbucks where I met Fransi

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

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

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

Bay station in Toronto's Yorkville neighborhood

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

Sow: spring forward

According to my Facebook feed, it would appear that Daylight Savings Time is universally loathed in North America*. I actually like it a lot, despite accidentally oversleeping today (I blame my new super duper pharmaceutical strength allergy drugs and the fact that I haven’t slept well for about 3 weeks) and having a pile of work that has filled my conscious and subconscious thoughts for the past week or so.

Here are the top 10 reasons why I love to spring forward:

1. Goodbye to Headlamp Harvests. And headlamp watering. And headlamp yard cleaning up after the 3G Network on Garbage Night Eve. Since I get home from work after 6 pm on a good night, I’m often out mucking about in the Urban Farm when it’s dark. The solar lighting helps somewhat (thanks, Bruce!), but it’s still not as nice as being able to see what’s going on until 9 pm or so.

2. Happier plants. Longer days equal more sunlight. More sunlight equals better, faster growth so that when the temperatures turn North Texas into the surface of the sun (July through September), the spring crops should be harvested and I’ll only be stressing about keeping the fall transplants alive.

3. Better visibility for the 3G Network. Guinness, Godiva, and George prefer days with two long walks. Guinness usually insists upon them. I, on the other hand, am afraid we’ll all die if we do our walks much past dusk, despite light colors and a flashlight to show oncoming traffic where we are. A lot of our walk route does not have sidewalks (our street for example) so I fear the happy hour revelers, the soccer moms, the late for dinner parents, and the senior citizens returning from early bird dining. I’m a much happier walker when it’s light (or when no one is awake at 5:30 am).

4. Patio action. Until North Texas becomes the surface of the sun, it’s awesome to gather up friends, sit outside, and sip something refreshing. Sometimes this also involves a swimming pool if the gathering isn’t at our house. If it does, it’s better to have a longer day so the water is warmer and more people will get in. (I don’t mind what the water temperature is as long as there’s a towel waiting for me. Neither does Godiva.) If it’s at our house, there will be lots of dogs running around since our visitors know to BYOD (bring your own dogs) because the backyard minus the Urban Farm is a dog park. And “Uncle” Bruce usually is planning to smoke/deep-fry/grill something dog-friendly.

5. Flowers galore. I’ve stopped buying cut flowers even though I love them. When it gets warm here they just do not last. And I like flowering plants because they usually keep giving you more flowers if you remember to water them. But in spring about this time of year, everything that flowers is. The only parts of me that minds this are my nose, eyes, head. Damn you allergies.

6. Trees with leaves. There’s nothing uglier than a crape myrtle without leaves. It looks like a pile of bones standing upright on the grass. It looks dead and uninviting. And then the local landscapers decide to decapitate it and it looks like an awkwardly trimmed pile of bones.

poor crape myrtle

poor crape myrtle!

crape myrtle in spring at our first texas house

crape myrtle in spring at our first texas house

I’m glad to see leaves popping out on trees of all kinds, but especially crape myrtles.

7. Green grass. Although it doesn’t get all that cold here and only snows on important days like Christmas Day or when the Super Bowl’s being played in town, our grass goes dormant. It looks like straw from November until now. By the time I get back from my business trip this week, I’m hoping all the grass will be Ireland-green.

8. Rain. It’s a problem around here. We don’t get enough and when we do get some, it’s like God’s just pouring a bucket on the whole area and it just runs off. So I look forward to this time of year to fill the rain barrels, decrease the chances of drought, and make my friends with boats happy. Because you know what they say about boats: the best thing about boating is having a friend with a boat.

9. Happiness. Despite it never really staying dark, gray and gloomy around here for long, when it does, my coworkers aren’t as fun to be around. Everyone gets a bit down in the dumps. I think it’s because most people after living here for a while don’t like wearing socks. Last night at dinner one of my friends who is a native Texan explained how he feels happiest when he is wearing flip flops and shorts so even if it means being a little cold or wearing a sweatshirt when it’s windy or cold, he does it.

10. Pedicures and sandals. Open toe shoe season means that feet need to look pretty says the gal who desperately needs to head to the nearest nail salon. Even if you’re a dude. It doesn’t make you metrosexual, men friends, it just means that your feet will be presentable and clean. Ladies, even if you don’t let your feet experience a professional’s touch, lotion and polish will make your sandal wardrobe look even better. And as you dust off your sandals, be sure to be ruthless. Even if you love them, worn out shoes don’t do your body any favors.

Happy spring, y’all!

*Except for Fransi at Three-Hundred Sixty-Five. She actually used the word “Hallelujah!” in today’s post referencing Daylight Savings Time. I agree with her 100% as you can see.

So: super sweet

It was super sweet of Lifebeam to nominate me for the Super Sweet Blogging Award (and I love the cupcake visuals). It’s wonderful to be recognized by the excellent writers I’ve “met” through SowSewSo and it definitely prods me to the keyboard on those days when I’d rather be baking (or in my case, digging in the dirt, gaining a lovely farmer’s tan).

Without getting too gooey, thank you, Lifebeam, for including me in your baker’s dozen of noteworthy blogs and I appreciate the reference. I’ve enjoyed reading Lifebeam‘s posts and love the “one picture, one positive thought” philosophy that drives each post. Do check it out if you haven’t visited there yet.

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Here are the deliciously straight-forward set of rules for Super Sweet Blogging Award:

  1. Give credit to the person who chooses to nominate you. (DONE!)
  2. Answer the “Super Sweet” questions
  3. Nominate a “Baker’s Dozen” (I imagine that one must also let each know of their nomination)

My answers to the Super Sweet Questions:

  1. Cookies or cake? Neither. Cupcakes!
  2. Chocolate or vanilla? If it’s a cupcake, it should be vanilla with vanilla frosting. Maybe a few sprinkles on top just for fun. Or red velvet with cream cheese frosting.
  3. What is your favorite sweet treat, cheesecake or frozen yogurt? You can’t tempt me with cheesecake, but I do love fro-yo despite nearly OD-ing on it in college. You CAL friends might remember a little place called Yogurt Park…
  4. When do you crave sweet things the most? At work!
  5. If you had a sweet nickname what would it be? Petit Gâteau (aka Cupcake, see a pattern yet?)

Here is my yummy baker’s dozen of my blogging delights (and yes, you may notice repeats from sharing other awards but that’s because I really, really like those blogs):

1. TurtleandRobot.com

2. Lesley Carter

3. The Daily Golden

4. cupcaketravels

5. Winebbler

6. Expressions of my life – an evolution of art

7. The Grammar Belle

8. Ps & Qs & Ws

9. Three Hundred Sixty-Five

10. Daily Echo

11. Seth snap

12. Gnawing the Bone

13. leafandtwig

And there you have it. Check out the lucky 13 blogs and see if you find something new and fun to sweeten up your day.

Thank you again to Lifebeam for the nomination!

So: encouragement matters

After a long hiatus from blogging (and non-work writing of almost every kind, except letters/cards/notes), I decided to come back and write daily, inspired by Fransi Weinstein and her wonderful blog Three Hundred Sixty-Five. A former creative partner introduced me to Fransi’s blog at some point last fall because she thought I would really enjoy reading it. Not only did I enjoy reading it, I also connected with Fransi via Facebook.

All of this might sound relatively unremarkable in the social media world. It’s easy to connect with people if they want you to. But Fransi is someone that I always wanted to know in “real life” and a writer/creative director I wanted to work with when I lived in Toronto. We knew lots of people in common and we probably spoke at an industry party or two, but life being what it is, we never worked together. But through the magic of the internet, I’ve gotten to know her—and relearn blogging from her. She’s been a great help and answers my silly questions quickly and graciously. I appreciate her—and her encouragement—so much.

And then today, Three Hundred Sixty-Five was nominated for the REALITY Blog award. Yay, Fransi! And then, something completely unexpected happened: Fransi mentioned SowSewSo among the blogs she’d like to share her award with. Even though it’s only been around for such a short time (um, 6 days, people). And she said I am a great writer. Wow!

I am humbled.

I asked her what I needed to do, when someone shares an award with you. Fransi said there are no ‘rules’ that go along with this one.  There are some questions to answer, so here goes (and if I do this incorrectly, please let me know):

1.  If you could change something about your life what would you change?

I would change nothing. I am fortunate to have had a very extraordinary life so far. As a child I lived in many different places (Arizona, 3 cities in Indiana, Georgia, Southern California, Northern California). Many of my dreams have come true (where I went to college, agencies where I wanted to work, trips I’ve taken). I met my husband Bruce through a mutual friend and our relationship blossomed despite living in two different countries, 3 time zones apart. He and I have had many adventures together including our current one deep in the heart of Texas. Hopefully you all will find my life entertaining enough to keep reading about it.

2.  If you could repeat an age, what age would it be?

This is a funny question for a 40-something. My 20s were interesting times and I am fortunate to get to witness what life is like in your 20s every work day. Same goes for my 30s. I’m actually pretty happy with how those decades turned out for me, but I see why having the perspective I have now would be helpful, especially at work. It really helps with understanding how to pick your battles.

3.  What one thing really scares you?

As an American who has lived in Canada and is now back in the US, the ignorance and intolerance I have witnessed in the past several years scares me. I worry that the American public is forgetting how to be human and loving. Even though the tv news feeds my worry daily, I am often surprised (and delighted) by unexpected kindnesses and tiny demonstrations of love.

4.  What one dream have you not completed yet and do you think you will be able to complete it?

I dared to speak of this dream with a friend yesterday: I would like to get my already written children’s book published. I don’t think I’ll be able to complete it; I KNOW I WILL. I’ve done many things lately that I never thought I could do, so why not complete this dream I’ve had since I was a kid?

5.  If you could be someone else for the day, who would you be?

President Obama. Without getting too political, I’d like to see first hand the chaos that he has to deal with on a daily basis. I’m sure it would make any troubles I have at work look completely ridiculous.

If you keep reading this blog, I have a feeling that some of the above answers will get fleshed out as posts. But enough about me. Thank you again, Fransi, for believing in me and believing in this writing experiment.

I believe I also need to say who I would share this share with. So here are some of the other blogs that have inspired me to start again:

The Grammar Belle is written by my friend and colleague Brandy Slater. A born and raised Southern belle who speaks three languages (English, Spanish and Russian), this life-long lover of all things grammatical has made it her life’s mission to help the English-speaking/writing world fix up their cringe-worthy and erroneous ways. Her grammar lessons are practical, educational, and funny as hell. She also peppers her posts with original cocktail recipes.

DirtyHandsCleanSoul is a blog I stumbled upon when looking for advice for my gardening adventures and made me think that my experiences might be post-worthy. Seana and Colleen are college students who started a blog to record their adventures in gardening. But they write about other things including their foodie travels. Yesterday’s post was a special favorite since it was a reflection on the Central Market in York, Pennsylvania, a wonderful farmers market located in the heart of the town where my mom grew up and my 98 year old grandma still lives.

Finally, I’d like to thank all of the blogs that I’ve discovered through friends and friends of friends. Over the past week, I have found so many interesting blogs and it’s exciting to think that I always have cool stuff to read whenever the mood strikes me. Thank you! Now, I must back away from the computer: today is my first SEWING lesson.