Wednesday, November 05, 2014

They Grow Up So Fast

Chuck Norris and Hunter S. Tomcat turned one year old this summer.

We threw them a big party with a pinata filled with Pounce. It was pretty amazing watching them hit it with tiny little bats.

Chuck Norris is a natural athlete, able to leap tall buildings - with style and grace - in a single bound. He eats shoes (awesome) and his favorite subjects in kindergarten are nap time and bird watching.

Hunter S. Tomcat is a true cat's-cat - meaning, he will prowl up on you, debate eviscerating you but then just head-butt you for affection. He favorite subject is entomology, specifically, eating stink bugs.

They've both joined a old time string band. They play at the Southgate House Revival if you ever want to see them.  

Needless to say, we adore them. And they've really grown into their ears and personalities.

Kittens, age 3 months.
One year old.

Turns out, it's much harder to hold two grown cats than it is kittens for a family portrait.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Like A Boss

Don't I look fantastic in this corner office?

I mean, just look at me. Talking on the phone, wearing glasses, drinking cappuccino.


Some people who have corner offices think they are the boss, but they don't own it like I do. They can't just put on someone else's glasses and expect to get things done (because the glasses are so thick they can't see out of them), but I can. Because I don't need to see... I can send 40 emails in less than a minute, and I can write them while holding a phone and coffee.

I write them with my MIND.

I'm so busy one computer isn't enough for me, I need two. Two computers. Two computers to send emails, give orders, write content, edit copy, retouch photos... create beauty.

All that while reading children's books, shuffling papers and printing edicts.

And I do all this with my foot up.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

We'll Always Have Paris

The first place we ate in Paris was the mall. It served steak and had a stained glass dome.

It was a kind of upscale food court with windows lining the dining room that looked out over Paris. You could see the Eiffel Tower. Which, I guess technically, was the first time I saw the Eiffel Tower - from the mall food court.

What I remember most about our first meal in Paris wasn't the food, but rather, the wine fountain. It was like a soda fountain, only instead of Diet Coke, you put your glass under the fountain and got Chardonnay, or rosé, or whatever. So we all had wine with our food court food steaks. 

Gabriel, who is well traveled in Paris and speaks French - he doesn't consider it a "good year" unless he's visited the City of Lights -  insisted we go to this mall first thing because the view from the top is a hidden gem, he said.

And he was right. The rooftop terrace rewards you with a beautiful view of the Eiffel Tower, the Opera House and the Paris rooftops. 

The view from the Galeries Lafayette.   

But the first real "Parisian" meal I remember was at Le Fregate, across from the Louvre. It was the real hidden gem. The Louvre is so enormous, so many city blocks, that Le Frégate was a bit out of the way for Louvre goers, and when we went that first night we had it nearly all to ourselves. Plus, restaurants in Paris don't really stay open that late. When we arrived about 9, it was nearly empty.

It isn't the best restaurant in Paris, and we probably didn't drink the best wine. But it was my favorite because it was the first, and because we sat outside on a cool fall evening and overlooked the Seine in those classically Parisian wicker chairs at one of those round, classically Parisian tables.

Gabriel speaks French and told the waiter that I wanted my filet with no pink (well done), and I thoroughly enjoyed the waiter hardly and hilariously tolerating me pouring my own wine. (It was his job and he wanted to do it, so he stopped me when I tried to do it myself. If this is the notoriously bad French service, I'll take it, I thought.)

Gabriel and I post-dinner at Le Frégate in Paris.

Sean and Gabriel, our travel companions to Europe that trip, eat at Le Frégate whenever they go to Paris. It's their thing.

It's soon to be Ray and I's thing as well.

We went to Paris this time three years ago, and we're returning in a few weeks for my birthday. Definitely on our agenda is having dinner at Le Frégate again.

When we first went to Paris I wasn't sure if I'd ever be back, you know how way leads on to way... But, happy birthday to me! We are celebrating October 17 with a picnic at the Eiffel Tower, followed by a stroll across the famed Pont des Arts 'lovers bridge.'

On our last visit, we stumbled upon this gorgeous pedestrian bridge that links the Louvre and the Institute de France by accident.

We had hopped off the double decker tour bus at the Louvre when we idly decided to walk across. It was filled with people milling about, some of them sitting on blankets having picnics and drinking wine. (Life is better in Paris.)

Ray noticed the locks first. On closer inspection, they were everywhere, all the way down the bridge, on the fences down both sides.

Engraved. Blank. Ornate. Simple. Masterlocks. Antiques.

Locks of all kinds with names from all over the world - Alan, Stephanie, Amelie, Bikounet, Lulidle et Doudeu.

We poured over the locks - the names and dates and types.

I especially loved the message on this one.

Leaving a lock is controversial now, but stumbling upon this lover's bridge is one of my favorite memories from Paris. This time around, I hope we're one of the people on the bridge having wine.

But my favorite place in Paris is the Latin Quarter, just over the lock bridge on the Left Bank.

The famed Shakespeare and Company bookstore is right across the Seine from Notre Dame Cathedral. It gets all the ink and is a worth a visit because of its history, of course. And it makes an excellent cameo in Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris. (Love that movie.)

But the true wonder for bibliophiles are the outdoor booksellers in the Latin Quarter, whose bookstalls line the Seine with stall after stall of paperbacks for next to nothing. The titles are all in French, as opposed to Shakespeare and Company, which is English speaking, but I preferred the French books. Browsing titles in French was much more fun.

I told Ray I wanted a copy of something very American, in French. We opted to search for something by Hemingway, which was harder to find than you'd imagine given that Hemingway is intertwined with Paris.

Is there a Hemingway in here?

But what a great mission to be on - to find a French copy of a Hemingway among the thousands of titles in French along the Left Bank.

Finally, Ray found a copy of A Farewell to Arms. L'adieu aux Armes.

It is one of my most prized souvenirs ever. It is still covered in the cellophane that was used by the seller to protect it from moisture and wear. It sits prominently on our dining room bookshelf among the English Hemingway titles.

Me among the books.

It wasn't a few blocks from here where we had another of our most memorable meals in Paris. I don't remember the name of the brasserie but we were exhausted, hungry and needed a break, and the outdoor tables were just what our weary legs needed.

We filled up on wine, bread and an assorted cheese plate. Despite the steaks and delicious crepes we had at other restaurants and take-aways, it goes down as our favorite meal in Paris.

The perfect meal.

Before we went to Paris I had written that I didn't want to do anything but walk around and eat and drink and see the city and the people living it. And that's my goal for our trip in a few weeks.

You can do a lot when you're doing nothing.

Lying in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower.
One more for scale.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Breaking A Leg

Ray and I were lucky enough to get tickets to the Lumenocity dress rehearsal this summer. I knew there would be a lightshow, but other than that, the only thing I knew about it for sure was that we needed to get there early. 

So for two hours we sat in Washington Park with nothing really to do but shovel pasta salad into our faces and look at Music Hall as we waited.

I knew there would be a light show but I did not expect everything to be so uniquely Cincinnati.

Ray’s favorite part was the Charlie Harper tribute. All of Harper's stylized animals - cardinals, mallards, lady bugs, flamingos - all playfully making their way across the building.

We giggled as alligators snapped up from an invisible swamp and looked on amazed as flocks of Harper’s birds flew 5 stories tall across Music Hall.

It was a whimsical and loving tribute to Cincinnati's favorite artist.

But it was the Cincinnati Ballet that took my breath away. Principal dancers Janessa Touchet and Cervilio Miguel Amador were staggeringly beautiful and graceful projected onto Music Hall.

When it was over, I looked at Ray and said, ‘That was delightful.’

It was understatement.

In truth, between the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra's beautiful rendition of Nimrod, which I had never heard before, and the dancers elegantly pirouetting across the building, I debated tearing up it was so beautiful and lovely and sublime.

It all reminded me that I don’t see nearly enough classically trained dancers, musicians or artists.

It also reminded me, listening to the talented, hard-working musicians of the CSO, that I haven’t done anything with my life.

I do not play an instrument. I cannot dance with the poise of a Cincinnati Ballet ballerina. I couldn't have even run the light show. At best, I could have written the program for Lumenocity. (And I’ve have gladly written that program!)

And in truth, I saw Music Hall really for the first time. If there is a better way other than Lumenocity to expose people to our own unique cultural arts in Cincinnati, I don’t know what would be.

Bravo, Cincinnati.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Another List

Remember a few years ago when those '25 Things About Me' lists were going around on Facebook and you learned strange things about people, like that they're addicted to the ass-slap dance move?

Well, I love reading those lists.

Since a few of you might be new here thanks to Soapbox Media's feature Girl-Powered: 9 Must-Read Cincinnati Bloggers featuring yours truly, I thought I'd redo my own list of useless facts about myself.

1. A few summers ago I got caught in a rip current and had to be saved by a lifeguard. My husband (then boyfriend) had to be brought in with me. He says he wasn't going to come back without me, and that if I was going to drown, he was going to drown trying to save me. So basically, I saved his life by yelling for that lifeguard.

2. I've seen Bob Dylan in concert about 12 times.

3. I ride a baby blue scooter. For Christmas, Ray put racing stripes put on it. It used to go 65 miles per hour, but with the stripes, it will go at least 67.

4. I have about 374 (roughly) unpublished blog posts in my draft folder.

5. It pains me to watch someone damage a book by bending a page corner (use a book mark, ya morons), crack the spine or deface the cover. That said, I underline passages and write in the margins of mine. (Completely different... I do that out of love.)

6. In my head, I look like J. Lo. Hourglass figure, honey-colored Latin skin, juicy booty, phenomenal dance moves. Imagine my surprise when I look in the mirror. But I do have phenomenal dance moves.

7. I am extremely practical. For example, my car is 10 years old. I flirt with getting a new car occasionally, but I will likely drive my car until the wheels fall off and burn. The conversation in my head goes like this:

Wow, look at that amazing new car. I bet it has a USB outlet. I could jam to some Katy Perry from my iPhone with that.
You don't need a new car, you love the Baby Blue Angel!
True, and she's paid for. What you love more than USB outlets is not having a car payment - more new shoes!
But not driving a stick shift would be terrific. It's really hard to eat sandwiches, drink a pop and shift gears, you know.
Yes, but the Baby Blue Angel would be very upset to be replaced. Others might have a USB outlet, but you, Gina, have a tape deck. No one else can listen to cassingles in their car but you.

SOLD on the Blue Angel!

8. I used to hide under my bed when I was a kid and when my mom would call for me that it was time for bed, I'd take swipes at her and pull on her pant leg. She was not amused, but my dad and I thought it was hilarious.

9. I also used to hide behind the curtains and under the kitchen table and spy on my parents when I was a kid. Prowling around the house was my favorite activity. 

10. I was also the only girl in school who could climb the rope to the top of the ceiling in the gym;  I also thought the Presidential Physical Fitness Award in elementary school was 'my time to shine.'

11. Quitting hobbies is my favorite hobby. My favorite thing to do is nothing.

12. I spend most Sunday mornings with the New York Times. I'm old school. I have it delivered - in paper form - to my house.

13. I like to host parties and then hunker down in the kitchen heating up appetizers from Trader Joe's and drinking. I am social but solitary.

14. This summer Ray thought I had drowned in Norris Lake (separate incident from when we had to be saved by lifeguards), but really I was getting tipsy at the Tiki Bar with one of our friends. We were waiting for Ray and the group to come get us from the marina and at first we were like, "Damn, where ARE they?" But after a few hours and a few beers we were like, "Oh bummer, there they come." We were sad to leave to the Tiki Bar.

16. When I was little I wanted to be Stevie Nicks. Now when I grow up I want to be Blondie.

17. I moved to Virginia for my first newspaper job. My apartment was at the corner of Stonewall and Jackson Streets; not to mention everyone still talked about the Civil War. It was a culture shock.

18. I keep telling Ray we should have kids, but what I really want is another cat. I know he doesn't want kids or more cats, but he definitely doesn't want kids more. So getting a kitten is only a matter of time.

19. I've had a pen pal since the 6th grade. She is a pediatrician at Brooklyn Hospital in New York and grew up in Florida. She's fabulous. We wrote letters to each other - actual letters! - up until a few years ago when we became Facebook friends. Stupid Facebook.

20. The first time I snuck out I was about 11 years old. I snuck out so I could dance under the street light. It was so exhilarating that I excitedly twirled and jump and did cartwheels at the corner of Poplar and 40th Streets in Marion, Indiana. I'm sure the neighbors were like, "Aww, Ray and Susie's daughter must be going bonkers. It's so sad... they seem like such nice people."

21. Things I like: Vinyl, record players, cats, kittens, scooters, swimming (which is to say, sitting by a pool reading magazines), books, traveling, photos, blogs, art, delicious food, Totino's Party Pizzas and sitting on the front porch.

22. Things I do not like: The band Rush, noise, the book Eat, Pray, Love, double spaces after periods, and like every other sane person, moving.

[Since I can't think of anymore things about myself, I am going to write things about Ray.]

23. Ray really is addicted to the ass-slap dance move. I don't even think he knows he's doing it.

24. He was super fat when he was in middle school; and he had an afro. (Those girls who turned him down obviously had no idea he'd grew up into the stud he is today.)

25. His first job was as a garbage man. He was 15 and rode around on the back of the garbage truck dumping people's trash. It's also how he lost a bunch of weight and became normal sized again.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Hey-Ho I'm Going To Idaho

Icebergs near Palmer Station, Antarctica - photo by Kelly Jacques, National Science Foundation, used with permission via

In the span of three hours on Saturday, this happened:

  • Reading the preface, I discover the book was written as an accompaniment to a museum exhibit called Race to the End of the Earth.
  • An exhibit?! Ooh, I wonder if it's still open.
  • I Google the exhibit and find that it started in New York and received wonderful reviews.
  • I breeze through the exhibit photographs, details and YouTube walkthrough.
  • I Google where the exhibit is now and find that is at the Museum of Idaho in Idaho Falls.
  • Idaho?! Sweet.
  • I realize the exhibit ends Sept. 1 and recognize there probably isn't enough time to get there before then.
  • I call the Museum of Idaho to find out where it is going next; the operator tells me, "I think it's going to France."
  • I go outside to tell Ray that there is an exhibit on the race to the the Sole Pole featuring Scott and Amundson and depending on where in France, we should maybe go see it when we go to Paris in October.
  • "Wouldn't it be easier to go to Idaho," he wants to know. I tell him about the time crunch.
    (Ray was mowing the lawn; our tiny lawn looks like a very tiny golf course when he's done.)
  • I go back inside and email the author of the book and curator of the exhibit, Dr. Ross MacPhee, of the American Museum of National History, to ask where - exactly - the exhibit is going in France.
  • I look at a map of Idaho Falls and notice the exhibit is currently driving distance from Yellowstone.
  • Ooh… I've never been to Yellowstone.
  • I Google "how much are flights to Idaho Falls."
  • Those prices seem reasonable, I think.
  • I go back outside to show Ray calendar dates of when we could make this trip to Idaho work. Then I tell him how much flights are to Idaho Falls.
  • I casually remind him that we didn't go on vacation this summer.
  • "No way. That's too expensive," he says.
  • [Ray is covered in sweat from mowing and he's wearing his little clear safety glasses that he got so that he doesn't get a stick in his eye. He looks adorable in those glasses.]

    I push aside my feelings of his adorableness and respond firmly:
  • "It's not that expensive because it's all the way across the country. It seems like a pretty reasonable price for a flight to IDAHO."
  • I tell him there are only four flights left at that price. "And Yellowstone is right there."
  • "You in or out? Come on, let's go… We'll see the Scott and Amundson exhibit and go to Yellowstone!"
  • That's in three weeks and it's peak vacation season, he reminds me.
  • "Oh my god, you're right, I'll go book it right now!"
  • "At least call a travel agent," he says. "Everything will be booked in Yellowstone. We'll get out there and have to camp, and I'm not camping unless it's at a Marriott."  
  • I call a travel agent who tells me that National Park Service bookings go through Xanterra.
    "Go to their website and see if there is anything left. Call me back if you can't get anything in Yellowstone and we'll try to get you somewhere nearby. Good luck!" the lady says.
  • I call the National Park Service and say we need hotel rooms in Yellowstone in three weeks. The guy actually laughs at me. When he's done he offers to look to see if there are any cancellations. They have one room available for each date, but the rooms are in different spots each night.
  • "Great! I'll reserve them."
  • "There are 38 other agents on the system looking at rooms," he tells me.
  • "We've got to hurry then!"
  • We bond over our winning the race to the rooms and he tells me he went to some training at Milacron way back in the day in Cincinnati. 
  • He emails me the confirmation and I tell him, "I guess I better book the flights now, eh." He says, "Probably."
  • I go outside and tell Ray that I reserved us some rooms at Yellowstone and that they have a fun looking bus that will drive you around to the big sights.
  • "Oh, and by the way," I add this as if it's such a non-event it's hardly worth mentioning, "the rooms in Yellowstone do not have Internet, radios, telephones, TVs or air conditioning."
  • So basically, it's not like the Marriott at all. (But I don't say that.)
  • Ray is painting a portion of the privacy fence in the back and says, "Well, it's a National Park. What can you expect. I'm sure it's fine. Plus, we've never been to Yellowstone."
  • Hmm... don't even know who this person is who just said this to me, but I'm running with it.
  • By 8 pm I've booked the rooms, the flights, a rental car and researched and planned our entire itinerary, complete with must-sees, hikes and an excursion through Grand Teton National Park.

In sum: That beautiful, $20 book cost us about $2,000 by the time we go to Idaho for the exhibit and go on to Yellowstone.

But! This is actually much cheaper than the cruises I was originally looking into at Antarctica itself, which between flights to Buenos Aires to get to the boat plus the cruise itself, the price was astronomical.

The way I see it, I just saved us about $15,000. (I'm not kidding.) I mean, just the coats and boots and thick socks you'd have to buy to make it through the cruise and not freeze to death would probably be $2,000. 

Meanwhile, Ray has essentially been widowed the entire summer because I am gripped by the book The Worst Journey in the World, by Apsley Cherry-Gerrard, which is what started this whole preoccupation with Antarctica in the first place, and how I ended up ordering Race to the End.

I've spent the last several months completely transfixed by Cherry-Gerrard's account of the Scott expedition to the South Pole - the men, their science, the horrible conditions, the penguins, the fate of the ponies, the dogs, the entire exploration team.

Adélie penguins, Antarctica  - photo by Sean Bonnette, National Science Foundation, used with permission via

I recount details of the book to Ray as though it just happened, and the journey ended in 1913. I make these "news announcements" while he's trying to fall asleep, or when he's painting a fence, or making dinner.

(I would help do these things but... I'm reading.)

"Ray, are you awake? Two of the ponies fell off of an ice floe and they couldn't get it back onto the ice; they had to shoot them. I'm sorry to tell you this."

"Ray, the dog sledge team fell into a crevasse. They were able to rescue 8 of the dogs with an Alpine rope and the other two Scott fished out of the crevasse after being lowered 60 feet down. Only two of the dogs died, so that's good news. But a few of them probably have internal injuries from hanging for over an hour in their harnesses into a crevasse. It's very sad."

"Oh. No... Ray, you're not going to believe this... The depot crew woke up with their tent having broken away from the ice barrier, so now they are floating out to the sea on an ice floe and killer orcas are surrounding them and conniving to eat them."

"Hey, what are you cooking? Is it pemmican? Just fyi, the Winter Journey to the penguin rookery is bad, really bad… the temperature is -60º and the tent just blew away in a horrific blizzard. They're singing hymns to stay awake and trying to not freeze to death. They're pretty certain they're going to die. Things are grim in Antarctica right now."

I even cried got a little upset the night they had to shoot the two ponies who fell into the Ross Sea.

When I'm not reading the book I'm marveling at the photography of the expedition's photographer, Herbert Ponting. (You can see all of his photographs of the journey thanks to the Scott Polar Research Institute's website.) And I spend my free time absorbed with more books about Captain Scott, his rival Amundson, Antarctica, Emperor and Adélie penguins and ice floes. 

If you haven't read The Worst Journey in the World, start on it immediately. We can live the summer of 2014 in Antarctica together. It's truly riveting and deserves it's status as National Geographic's best adventure book of all time. And I cannot wait to see the exhibit.

[I am still waiting to hear back from the exhibit curator and author to see where it is actually going after Idaho. If he tells me Greater Cincinnati, I'm just going to keep that information to myself.]

UPDATE: Dr. MacPhee (author, curator, professor) wrote back thanking me for my charming note and stated: "The show goes next to Lyons, France, for an October opening at the Musee des Confluences. There are, sadly, no other venues on the horizon at the moment."

So basically, we've all got until September 1 to get to Idaho!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

It's a Grass Farm

There is this sod farm on the way to the Newtown Dairy Corner, which we go to a few times a week occasionally. When we had our front yard redone last month I asked Ray where the sod comes from. 

"A sod farm," he said.

I thought he was joking. 

"A sod farm? That's ridiculous. It's grass. It's comes from grass farm?!"

Umm, yes, and we pass it all the time, apparently. The last time we drove by Ray pointed out the sign that says "Sod Farm." 

I still think it's hilarious.