Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The First Tomatoes

In Tokyo, the fresh produce on offer was always of an exceptional quality. The fruit, in particular, was so perfect that it seemed unreal--much like the prices ($4 for one apple).

At some point during my two year stay in Japan and after shelling out more than my share of yen for fruits and veggies, I started thinking about the vegetables I wanted to grow when I returned to the US. I'd never had a garden before and wasn't sure I would have the yard for one any time soon. That's why it started with tomatoes.

A law school classmate with a green thumb suggested I start with a Patio Tomato. They grow well in containers, produce 3-4 ounce tomatoes, and mature quickly (70 days). For my first attempt at producing something edible, I didn't dare start from seed. Instead I bought my first Patio Tomato from Home Depot and later picked up another at HEB.

My efforts got off to a rocky start:

I let out a yelp when I found this caterpillar
chowing down on one of my first tomatoes.
After a little experimentation, I figured out where in the yard the plants would get the right amount of sun and how fend off pests. Pretty soon I had a little stockpile of ripe tomatoes in my kitchen:

Patio Tomato
Since I had also been growing some sweet basil, this means I've had more than my share of fresh, fragrant caprese salad lately:

Caprese with tomato and sweet basil from my garden
I've been surprised by how much I've enjoyed the process. There is something about the experience of growing edible plants that mirrors the excitement I felt in science lab as a teenager. The research, experimentation, and anticipation of results--there's a little suspense every time I walk into the backyard to see how things are coming along.

So much so that I've expanded my efforts. There are a few other varieties of tomatoes that I started from seed. I've recently started seedlings for a fall garden: broccoli, brussel sprouts, butternut squash, carrots, cauliflower, pumpkin and spinach. I also have mature herbs, watermelon and cantaloupe vines, and lemon and lime trees growing.

It all started with one little tomato plant from Home Depot. Thanks to TP for the encouragement!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Staycation

The new firm doesn't have vacation days. I can understand why: when I left my prior firm I had enough vacation to net me a parting gift in excess of $10k. From an employee point of view, I find the no vacation day (or, alternatively, so-called "unlimited vacation") policy difficult. This job is all about maxing out billable hours or at least meeting the minimum requirement. Due to bar leave and the slowness associated with ramping up both when I joined and post-bar leave, my hours aren't as great as I'd like. That makes it hard to justify a vacation.

So, I'm making the most of being back in Austin by getting out and about on weekends. There are so many places I didn't see while I was a student holed up at the law school. One such place is Mt. Bonnell.  I visited on a foggy morning this past winter:

View from the Mt. Bonnell platform.
This excursion is a bit over-hyped. The number of stairs you climb to get to the viewing platform is grossly exaggerated, but the view is nice.

What's your favorite Austin weekend spot? I'd like to add it to my list!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Made in the Shade

Over the last few months, I've spent plenty of time in front of my computer at the office, but--in my personal time--have made it a point to close my laptop, get outside the house and interact with friends and family. It's been fun, but it's also why I haven't been checking in here often.

On New People

After a flurry of first dates last winter, I met M, a smart, charming and handsome guy, who I dated for a few months. He had told me his divorce was complete, but later admitted that it was not due to a protracted custody battle over... wait for it... their puggle. I am a dog lover and had warmed to this fun, wriggly little puggle in particular, but M obviously wasn't ready to let go (of the puggle or the marriage), so it was time to move on.

Once you reach your thirties, there are a lot of folks in the dating pool with baggage and I'm no exception. As a result, I've long been open to dating divorced guys, but after one too many lies regarding the status of these guys' divorces, it's time to make a rule that I won't be the first post-divorce girlfriend ever again. (Demanding to see a filed copy of the divorce decree is not an appealing alternative.)  In what may have been an overly dramatic course correction, I'm now dating a never married guy that I've known since I was nine years old. More on that later.

Happily, there is more to life than dating and I've been working on some new female friendships too.

On Family

Before the rainy season descended on Central Texas, my family came to visit Austin and see my new house. It was a lot of fun. The highlight of the trip from my point of view was kayaking Ladybird Lake and checking out the bat colony under the Congress bridge:


We got on the water in the late afternoon, saw the bats leave the bridge, and paddled back to the east side as the sun set. The weather was perfect and the view of Austin from the water was beautiful:


My extended family is in the process of moving to Texas (Dallas, mostly, but that's a lot closer than California). I am looking forward to the day that outings like this will be more frequent.

On my New Home

Improvements to the new house are happening at a snail's pace. I follow a strict budget (big law salaries aren't forever!), but have found a side hustle that requires minimal time investment and generates cash flow that I use to fund projects around the house. Here's what my process has looked like so far:

  1. Brainstorm a wish list of home projects;
  2. Divide the projects into two groups--those that will increase/preserve home value and those that do not;
  3. Set aside those projects that do not increase/preserve home value; 
  4. Rank in priority order those projects that will increase/preserve home value; and
  5. Complete each project after the side hustle generates enough net revenue to cover the cost of the project.

I have to admit it's a daily struggle to say no to beautiful decorative accents or picture-perfect new furniture. Pinterest and Instagram, you tempt me so! I hope, one day, I complete the projects that relate to home value and get to take on some of the more fun, decorative projects.

My first priority was to install window coverings on street-facing windows on the first level of the house. I picked natural fiber roman shades from The Shade Store. Here are the installed roman shades on a couple of my smaller windows:


Some people may not like the translucency, but I find that the shades provide just enough privacy while still allowing sunshine into the house. One day, I want to layer on some floor-length drapes for a more finished look, but this is a good start!

Just last week, I had my fence sealed in order to preserve the appearance of the cedar and extend the life of the fence. I seriously considered doing this work myself, but after pricing out the materials and equipment costs (I don't even own a ladder!), collecting a few quotes and considering my work load, I realized I needed to hire someone for this task. I'm happy with the results:


On Work

No regrets about the lateral move. I'm happy to be here. I'm challenged. I have so much more to learn.

Generally

Life is good. Really and truly.

Austin sunset (June 7, 2015)