Tuesday, June 23, 2015

When In Doubt

Be the Golden Retriever.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Shock and Awe

Tomcat looks like he just saw a ghost. But what he is actually reacting to is The Corrections.

He can't believe what a terrible book it is.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Summa Summa Summa-time

Porch sitting has commenced in earnest.

Next up for summer 2015:
• Grill-outs and the Mt. Adams pool
• Picnics and scooter rides
• Helmet sundaes and crunch coat
• Nashville and Norris Lake
• Iced-tea and lemonade, together 
Time to sit back and unwind

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Constantly (Angry) Gardener

Ray sowing tomato plants in our enormous garden.

It's easy to buy pricey tomatoes - just go to the Hyde Park Farmer’s Market, where a pound of bruised tomatoes is more expensive than a Jeff Ruby’s dry-aged steak. 

But to grow expensive tomatoes, that takes skill.

Fortunately, Ray and I got ‘em. We have consistently grown the most expensive tomatoes in Hamilton County going on two years. Let us show you how it's done.

First, get some $4.99 tomato plants from Home Depot.

We prefer Home Depot over Lowe’s because the Wendy's is right there, so you can get a spicy chicken sandwich and a large Diet Coke on your way. And you're going to need that sustenance because shopping at Home Depot takes like nine hours, even if you're just going for some tomato plants.

Second, over-buy. Get all of the tomatoes!  

We usually buy 5-7 tomato plants; I have no idea why since our garden is about the size of a dining room table.

So take a guess at how big your garden is and buy triple the tomatoes that will actually fit into it. You want make sure that when they start to get big, they take over the entire plot, then the yard, then the neighbor's yard.

Third, notice that your green tomatoes are being eaten.

Realize too late that the squirrels and chipmunks are gorging themselves on your fruit. Be sure to realize this a) when the plants are gigantic and b) when half of your ripening tomatoes have been eaten or left with hunks out of them on the fence. (Squirrels are really proud of this and will leave your half-eaten tomatoes on the property line fence for you to admire their work.)

Fourth, scour the internet for weird pest control suggestions. Buy all the pest control!

Nothing is too strange or too expensive to try for your new war on squirrels and chipmunks. Buy loads of cinnamon, wolf urine and horrific smelling pest spray to keep the animals out. When that fails (it will), buy some talismans from a shaman and try that. (Specifically, bags and bags of peanuts. Maybe if you leave out gobs of peanuts in the shell for them to eat they will choose that over your tomatoes.) (They won't; they'll eat both.)

Fifth, search for fencing.

Now that the plants are enormous and there is no easy way to install a fence, definitely start looking for fencing. Search the Internet for "easy solutions."

When that fails (it will), go back to Home Depot and buy a bunch of garden/landscape aluminum fencing at $20 a panel. Wrestle with your 12 panels of fencing until they are (relatively) connected together (with zip ties) and fencing in the (dining table-sized) garden.

Stand back and admire your ingenuity in the face of overgrown plants, uneven ground and impossible fencing. Spending an entire Saturday afternoon in the heat of July to protect your tomatoes is going to be so worth it.  

Sixth, realize the fence doesn’t work.

As you are sitting on the deck drinking coffee one morning, notice another half-eaten, ripening tomato on your steps. Take back all those thoughts of you being an ingenious fence engineer as you realize that the squirrels can walk right through your elaborate fencing.

Go back to Home Depot for plastic fencing to line the inside of the aluminum fencing. Get the biggest roll of this stuff they have. Sure, your garden is small, but those squirrels are crafty and THIS IS WAR.

Make sure to get the kind of plastic fencing that cuts your hands when you maneuver it or try to reach for a tomato anywhere near it.

Use the entire roll to line the fence of your tiny garden. Next, use another big sheet of it to create a top. Use zip ties to lock the 'roof' on. When you run out of zip ties, use the spool of wire ties you found in the junk drawer... Because you are not freaking going back to Home Depot.

Seventh, realize you can no longer really access your tomatoes.

Hooray, you see a red ripened tomato that is ready for eating. (!!!!!) Now turn that excitement into disappointment when you realize that you've made it only slightly more difficult for the squirrels but nearly impossible for humans to access the tomatoes. No matter. When your hand gets cut on the plastic fencing and zip tied roof, proudly consider it a hard-fought battle wound.

Eighth, harvest your bounty!

We estimate that our "bounty" was about four tomatoes in 2014, which cost us about $200 a tomato, roughly.

Ninth, become fully aware of your failure.

Slowly realize what a bargain those $5 tomatoes were at the Hyde Park Farmer’s Market.

Monday, June 01, 2015

Vile Weed

The surest way to get poison ivy is to claim you are immune to it. Put that hubris out for the fates to hear and you will be promptly rewarded.

And for my money, it just can't happen at a better time than when you're going to be in a wedding, with a knee-length bridesmaids dress.

About a month ago, Ray and I went to the art open house at Brazee Street studios where we had to park out in a field. I was literally moseying through weeds, bragging that I'd never gotten poison ivy in my entire life because I am one of those special, blessed human beings who are immune to it.

Except, I didn't even realize I had parked in poison ivy. I was just making conversation about how special and immune I am.

So special. So immune. 

I'm also 98 percent certain I closed a few stalks of it in my car door. Ray and I thought it was funny that leaves we're dangling out of the bottom of my door while I was driving around.

Ha ha ha.

So funny. So dangly.

The first signs were innocuous enough - a welt across my ankle that didn't itch or turn red. Until it did.

At first it wasn't that bad.

No big deal. Just a few spots. I can still walk around in public like this.
Then it got severe. 

Turns out, I'm not immune.

The best part was that I'd wake up several times in the night overcome with itching. The second best part was the cankle it gave me.

Have you no mercy, poison ivy?! A cankle?

It was pure misery for weeks. I'm pretty sure poison ivy is an advanced interrogation technique for enemy's of the state.

But here's the thing that really blew my mind: If you get poison ivy and have to have a steroid shot, it will be in the butt. I thought after adolescence shots were upgraded to the arm. Nope. When the nurse told me to "pull your pants down and lean over the table," I thought she was joking.

It's truly the gift that keeps on giving.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Here Comes Auntie Gina

How are you supposed to choose one tutu? Trick question, you can't.

Despite my pleas for Ray to go back in time and have us a baby with a previous girlfriend so that we can be weekend parents, he has not been able to make this happen.

But nearly the next best thing has happened: Rachel is having another baby. And according to the sonogram, we're she's having a girl! The days of being the super close-by, super cool auntie is finally coming true for me.

I'd been on the edge of my seat for months waiting to find out what kind of baby it was going to be. (And I made no secret that I was gunning for a girl to fulfill my auntie dreams.) I even had the sonogram appointment in my reminders. 

It's a girl, I do WIN!

After I found out I immediately started planning the baby shower and shopping for baby sized tutus and leg warmers. Rachel, however, has refused my baby shower vision because, she says, a) this is her third child and b) she already has a lot of girl baby stuff 'from friends.'

From friends? Friends?

'Who wants their old stuff,' I lamented to Ray. 'But she refuses to let me throw her a shower.'

'I don't think she really gets to decide that,' Ray said. (Which is why I love him.)

And I couldn't agree more. 1) I The baby deserves her own party and 2) my soon-to-be God child deserves way better than hand-me-downs.

Oh! Speaking of, I've appointed myself God parent. When I told Rachel I'd make and excellent God parent - especially for a girl, no pressure, we can formalize details later - she said that her kids do not have God parents. So I was literally forced to appoint myself. (No big deal.)

And since I am self-appointing things, maybe the shower could be for me? As a God parent, I could throw it for myself and register for things for the baby would want from me. Would that be weird? I don't really think so but I know some people are uptight about things like showers for self-appointed God parents.

I had to stop texting Rachel about all this - When will she be born? What is your due date? Gina is a good name for a baby who is going to have me as a God parent. What kind of cake should I order for her shower? Do you think she'd like a yellow playhouse for my yard, or a white one? - because I suspected that I was being annoying.

I've since channeled all of my energy toward creating the baby's social media handles and first Tumblr. It goes without saying she's going to be really into scooters, owls, Bob Dylan, cats, blocks, tree climbing, dance, sea life, animals of all types, Polaroids, typography, rebellion and books.

Just like her Auntie Gina.

While I've stepped back outwardly - I've refrained from asking Rachel if I can be there for the delivery (so far) - internally I am still bursting with excitement and pride. And in my own home I feel safe expressing this enthusiasm by asking Ray to make the baby various wood toys - bikes, blocks, cars, rocking animals, very small chairs.

Do you think she'd like her own very tiny adirondack chair? Hey Ray, can we convert the garden shed into a playhouse? Don't you think flower boxes would look really cute on the playhouse? While you're in the basement, could you make a wooden train set for the baby?

And have you SEEN the clothes and accessories for infant girls lately?! I am danger to society right now, clicking this, clicking that, running through the baby aisle at Target throwing tulle skirts into my cart and picking out pacifiers with mustaches attached to them.

How can you chose from all this amazing stuff?! You can't, people. You can't.

She's not coming until late summer so that gives me some time to finalize her Amazon Wish List.

For her shower.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

How To Lose A Foul Ball

The first (and probably) only time I'll hold a foul ball.
I've been struck by lightning, ridden a zamboni and last spring at a Reds game, a got a foul ball.

Basically, I am on fire.

I had gotten us baller seats to celebrate Ray's birthday. It was to be a night of close-up baseball, stadium food and fireworks. Ray was already enjoying a gigantic basket of fries early in the game when a high-foul pop-up came into our section. I nudged him. 'Yo, life-threatening ball ricocheting into our section, look alive.'

He glanced up and promptly returned to his fries. A few rows behind us what looked to be about 10 dudes starting clamoring for the ball, grabbing and pulling and pretty much knocking each other out for it.

The ball bounced up a row up, then another and then the people next to me started grabbing for it.

That's when the ball rolled beneath my seat.

It was as if fate herself had gently placed the ball in section 115, Row W, seat 15. I snatched it from under my seat and proclaimed "I GOT IT!"

I couldn't believe it. A major league foul ball, in my grip. Gotten fair and square. I beamed. Three dudes a few rows ahead of me turned and scowled out of jealousy. I beamed directly at them.

I leaned over to Ray to note how amazing it was, how this ball just landed right here for us, and how cool. We couldn't believe it.

We started to wonder whose bat it came off of. In all the excitement, we weren't sure, but we could figure out.

That's when the woman a few seats down asked if she could take my picture with it. Sure! I held up my trophy as she snapped my photo and then she said, "If I ever caught a ball, I would give it to a kid."

My smile faded.


I briefly considered my obligation here. Am I supposed to start looking for needy kids in section 115? The needier the better? But what if I want to keep it, can I do that? What if I want to give it to a kid I know? Or my dad, a lifelong Reds fan?

I've been a Red's fan my entire life, thanks to my dad, who is also a life-long Reds fan. My dad took me to my first game when I was 8 at Riverfront Stadium to watch Johnny Bench catch his last game at Johnny Bench Night. I got a Red's pennant with Johnny Bench's photo on it.

Pack your bags, you're going on a guilt trip

A few minutes after the woman snapped my photo Ray said, "You should give it to the kids behind us."

I stopped beaming.

I didn't want to give it to the kids behind us. I was excited. No one ever gets foul balls at baseballs games and it wasn't as if I took it from the kids or like they were even trying to get it. I think they were playing on their iPad or something.

Besides, I knew he only said it because that woman had said it.

"What are we going to do with it," he asked.

What are they going to do with it, I wondered.

I looked at the ball and admired the scuff mark left by the bat. I envisioned writing the date on it, our seats, who's bat it came off of and who pitched it. I was going to tell my dad how awesome it was; he was going to be so pumped to hear this story. I thought maybe I'd give it to him for Father's Day.

But between Ray and the woman, I felt like there was some rule that I was supposed to give it to a kid. That I wasn't allowed to keep it, or that keeping it made me a jerk when there were kids in the stadium.

So I had Ray take my photo with it so I'd at least have evidence it happened before I gave it away.
Ray snapped the photo and I turned to the dad behind us and asked him if he'd like to give the ball to one of his kids.

He looked at it like it had the plague on it.

"Uhh, I guess," he said, and just stared at me.

Ingrate, I thought. So I turned to his son directly behind me and asked if he'd like to have the ball.

The kid just looked at me like, "Uhh, whatever stranger lady giving me some random baseball."

They couldn't have cared less about that ball, but it was too late. I had handed it to the kid. He didn't thank me. His dad didn't thank me. I think they only took it to be nice. Which is what I get for succumbing to peer pressure.

I immediately regretted it.

It was as if the ball lost its magic as soon as I claimed it. It went from being a ball I got at a Reds game to a ball some random lady handed to them 10 minutes later. I don't think they even knew it was a foul ball.

Misery loves company

The next day I called my dad to tell him the story. Misery loves company and I knew he'd be as miserable about it was I was.

He went from incredulous: 'YOU GAVE IT AWAY?! YOU GAVE IT AWAY?' To quiet resignation: 'I can't believe you gave it away...'

We were beside ourselves. I told him I'd forgive him if he gave me up for adoption.

'What you should have done is told Ray to have some more fries and keep his mouth shut.'

'Yeah, he and that lady both should have kept their mouths shut," I said.

It felt good to have someone on my side, someone who thought giving it away was as dumb as I did. (Even though I was the dumb one.)

My dad then explained his decision tree on worthy and unworthy kids to give a foul ball to.

'Now, if me and the kid were both going after it and I got it, sure, I'd have given it to him and been happy to do it. But I can't believe this... What'd that kid behind you have to do with anything? He wans't even going for the ball! I'll tell you what, if I ever catch a baseball at a Major League baseball game like that, nobody's getting my ball. And if that kid is healthy and can walk, he's definitely not getting it. I've never even held a Major League ball!"

I cracked up laughing. Basically, if you are a kid who can walk without crutches or a wheelchair, you are not getting my dad's imaginary foul ball.

Ray tried to make me feel better by telling me that the kid's dad was a jerk and that the kid was probably going to be really excited to have the ball when he got home. He'll probably take it to school to show his friends, Ray said.

He's probably home schooled, I snarked. 

Well, It's a Good Story (Sort of)

It's been nearly a year since this happened and it's always entertaining to hear the mixed reactions from people about it. Mostly people feel sorry for me and console me by noting it was good deed. Others just think I'm a moron.

Why do kids automatically get the ball? Screw those kids!

Deadspin offers this chart to determining if you deserve a foul ball, which I see their point. But this Dodgers fan's post called Please Let My Dad Keep His Foul Ball is my favorite. He hopes that his old dad will one day get a foul ball while also fearing that the surrounding crowd will angrily make his dad give it to a kid.

I am still seething at myself for giving away that baseball. It was stupid. I regret it. So if I ever get another one, which is likely never, I'm keeping it and I don't care what squalling kid is around me to complain about it. And then I'm going to give it to my dad, because there is no way that a kid, even a kid I know, but especially a stranger's kid, would be more excited to have it.


Epilogue: It's good to know people who know people... A friend of mine who works for the Reds was able to get me a ball for my dad for Father's Day, so at least he could hold a Major League Baseball. It doesn't have the scuff of a bat on it, but it is an authentic ball that COULD have been someone's foul ball, or home run, or Grand Slam. (Giving this ball it's own imaginary future has been half the fun.)

My dad keeps it on his desk in a plastic baggie... "so it won't get dusty," he says.