Wednesday, August 31, 2011


A quick heads-up for all the locals.  I have previously professed my love of consignment stores for kids' shopping and while Once Upon a Child is nice, I have to say my favorite is Truly Blest in Loveland.  They are a charity shop, so all items are donated.  The con to this is it's a little more hit-or-miss on the merchandise.  I've found wonderful, big name items and I've also found much cheaper merchandise.  The pro?  The prices are excellent.  And they have frequent sales.  When I'm looking for something in particular, such as Foghorn's white Easter shoes last spring, Truly Blest is my first stop.  It's a relatively small store, but they pack quite a lot in there, the merchandise is well organized by size, and there are always a couple of 50% off racks.

Now, about that sale...  I got an e-mail this morning that read:

Indoor Sidewalk Sale

Saturday, September 3, 2011

9:30 - 4:00

Hundreds of Summer and Winter items all

25 Cents!

 And because they are a charity shop, they have a seasonal need to get rid of the old to make way for the new.  I've done really well in the past at similar sales, getting huge bags of future-sized clothing for $10 or so.  Obviously, there's never a guarantee what they'll have or the sizes, but if you're within a decent driving distance of Loveland you have a shot at some bargains.

Truly Blest is located at 910 Loveland-Madeira Road, a couple miles from the Loveland-Madeira Road exit off 275.

** Please note that I have no affiliation with the actual charity involved.  I simply shop at the store. 


Every year on the first day of school my mother, usually a nice and kind woman, tortured me.  I'm not a morning person and never was, yet she insisted on waking me with a cheerful little ditty that went something like this:

 Wake up, wake up, you little fool.
It's time to get up and go to school.
Wake up, wake up, you little fart.
It's time to get up and make a start.

My senior year of high school that song got her hit with a shoe.

 My own back to school ritual with my children is far less annoying.  Well, I think so anyway.  They may grow up and tell their therapists about it.  (Hell, that's what moms are for.)

Just before my son started kindergarten, my brother-in-law's mother (thanks, Alice!) gave me the idea of taking a picture on the first day each year in the same location.  That way it's easy to see the changes in height and build from year to year.  I've done it ever since for both my kids.  It may get me a shoe in the face when my son is 17, but for now I outweigh him and can force him to do as I please.

Over the years, The Professor has gone from smiley to stoic (but I can always count on him to take an acceptable picture with a pleasant expression).


Second Grade

Seventh Grade

And Foghorn has gotten more...well...Foghorn-like.



Second Grade (and crazy as a loon)

Over at JDaniel4's Mom there's a nice set of links to other mothers' back to school rituals.  Hmmmm...I think I have a couple ideas for next year (starting with a suit of armor for protection against flying shoes).

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No School on Mondays?

I Heart Kids Consignment Stores.


Tuesday, August 30, 2011


One of the things I love most about Debbie Stoller of Stitch 'N Bitch fame (well, besides her sense of humor and clear instructions) is all the new terminology that's now made its way into my vocabulary.  No, I'm not just talking knit and purl.  How about Kitchener stitch, fake grafting, and two-fisted Fair Isle?  (That last one's not dirty...really, it's not.)

Today I give you, unfortunately, my most-used term:  frogging.  Nope, I'm not talking about hitting up watery areas with my spear to catch the little green darlings.  In this case frogging is unraveling your knitting and I mean huge chunks of your knitting, not one little row.  (Imagine a little knitting frog cartoon saying "rip it, rip it" and you understand the term.)  I think I've unraveled as much as I've knitted since I started five months ago, but today I actually get to show you an FO.  (That's "finished object", for the non-knitter.  Yeah, they've got some good acronyms, too.)

Kanani (on left) with Kit.
Back in July, Foghorn received a new American Girl doll for her birthday.  Since it was Kanani, the Hawaiian 2011 Girl of the Year, I thought maybe a new afghan for the doll's bed would be in order.  I found this super-chunky variegated yarn  that yelled "Pacific Ocean" to me and I tweeked a Warm-Up America block pattern I liked for the design.  When I was finished, it totally didn't thrill me.  The yarn was so chunky that the pattern didn't really show up in the finished product.  I gave it to Foghorn anyway and it was tossed onto the back of a little rocking chair in the family room.  And there it sat...all summer long.

The lonely American Girl afghan, unraveling.
As I was going through the yarn stash I found the remaining ball and a half of the yarn and decided to just use it all to make something new.  That's when I started frogging.

The recycled scarf.

Since the yarn is so thick, I decided on a scarf.  It's a very simple pattern and came out way longer than is ideal because I didn't want any of the yarn left over.  Frankly, I'll never use yarn this chunky again.  The patterns don't pop as they do with a worsted yarn and I have to use size 13 needles, which makes me feel like I'm knitting with a couple of cigars.  Not meditative knitting at all.

I'm fairly pleased with the finished product.  I have no idea who's going to actually use it, since my winter coat is red and the thing is too dang long and wide for Foghorn.  Maybe there's a nice homeless person somewhere who'd like a hand-knit scarf...

If you're interested in making this scarf, the free pattern can be found here.   (You'll need to sign up for a free account with Lion Brand to access the pattern.)  Specifics on the scarf I made can be found on my Ravelry page here.  (You'll need a free Ravelry account to access.)

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Monday, August 29, 2011


At Grandma's house, we always know to beware when Foghorn gets into the art supplies.  On Sunday she took only a small break from creating to have some tomatoes for lunch, then disappeared back into the living room.

As we were having dessert, she appeared with a large sheet of paper and snarled, "OK, I'm investigating this case.  Whose hair is this?"  On the paper she was holding there was a fingerprint, the outline of a shoe, and, indeed, two fairly large clumps of hair.  "That's your hair!," I shrieked and demanded to know from which part of her head she cut it.  I didn't get a satisfactory answer and said that she'd get hers when Grandma took her for a haircut this week and they'd have to even all that up.  She replied with, "Touche."  She went about examining fingertips before deciding Chester was the culprit.  When Chester claimed innocence she sighed and said, "Oh, fine.  Mom did it."  I hope she never becomes a real police detective.

She returned from the living room with a paper briefcase and pulled out a pair of paper handcuffs.  I was secured and marched to the living room where she had six pieces of paper taped together hanging on the wall.  I realized this was one of those height charts they use in mug shots.  I was given my number and had my photo snapped.

Foghorn led me to Grandma's bedroom and I knew I wouldn't be emerging from my cell any time soon when I saw she had put my Project Linus knitting project on the sofa bed.  She locked me in and I spent the most pleasant half hour I had all week, knitting away in silence.  It didn't last long.  I heard sounds outside the door and when I made inquiries I simply got a nasally, "Don't open the door."  There were obvious construction noises and I began to panic.  I thought of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Cask of Amotillado" and wondered if I was being bricked in.  I soon found out what she was up to.

Shortly thereafter I heard shouts of "new prisoner" and my cellmates appeared -- my mother and her dog, Rusty.  We were soon joined by Moose, who was in for murdering a mouse, and Bunny Boopie, whose crimes are unknown.  Last to be locked in our overcrowded cell was Foghorn herself, along with Oinkers (whom she said was her).  She flopped on her prison cot and began to play an invisible harmonica.

A prison fight broke out, but Grandma and I managed not to get shanked.

We finally staged a prison break when we realized both my dogs were unattended and probably eating an entire Margarita Cake.  It was decided that K9 work might be the best form of rehabilitation for Foghorn, so we gathered leashes and headed for the park.  I have this feeling she'll be a repeat offender...

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Sunday, August 28, 2011


And my apologies to Mr. Stephen Sondheim.  Sundays around here are usually pretty laid back.  I take the Inmates to Grandma's for lunch, ensuring I get at least one home-cooked meal a week.  Kinda pathetic that the only sure way to get one is to have my mommy make it for me.

Grandma and Rusty
Today the weather in the Cincinnati area was absolutely gorgeous.  Those blue skies, that low humidity, and that 80 degree temperature.  A little slice of heaven before the 90 degree heat comes back later this week.  We took advantage of the day to take the dogs for a nice, woodsy walk.  One of their favorite trails is at the Meade Property on Lebanon Road in Symmes Township.


Life was simpler when we only had Frank, our lab mix who showed up in the backyard eight years ago and has been loved by us ever since.  When we adopted St. Jimmi from Recycled Doggies in March, we suddenly found ourselves with two fairly large dogs who absolutely can not be walked together by one person.  They're both strong and can pull a person off her feet.  Believe me, it's happened.  Now that The Professor is twelve, though, I figure it's about time he learn to control a dog and I put him in charge of Frank, the least unruly of the two.
Foghorn, The Professor, and Frank

The biggest problem The Professor has is that his mind is usually anywhere but on the task at hand.  That means he's wandering along, holding the leash, and thinking about Pokemon.  Or Doctor Who.  Or getting back to Grandma's for some Rolos.  Then a rabbit darts from the bushes and Frank makes a lunge and the boy is completely unprepared.  I keep a careful eye on the two of them, as I don't want damage done to my son or my dog. 

Today, all was smooth.  Well, as smooth as an outing with The Inmates ever can be.  Foghorn had emerged from the basement last night with her ancient Dora the Explorer princess carriage and horse.  She then decided to ride it around the house.  Understand, this girl is 4-1/2' tall, with legs that reach up to her armpits, and the carriage is meant for a 2" tall Dora.  It's preposterous, to say the least.  Nonetheless, she insisted on bringing it to the park and riding it along the trail.  It worked fine until, despite my warnings, she attempted to ride it on the unpaved part of the trail and quickly flipped onto her behind.  Carrying seemed the best option after that...

All the dogs had a lovely time, although they seemed fairly hot and thirsty and tired by the end.  St. Jimmi especially seemed to have been tuckered out by the experience.  Twenty feet from the van she plunked her massive backside onto the ground and made it clear she had no intention of moving.

And I leave you with a dog walker's question:  Why does the dog always decide to squat two minutes after you get on the trail, ensuring you have to go the rest of the mile carrying a smelly bag?

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* The Loveland Bike Trail.


Saturday, August 27, 2011


One of the fabulous things about growing up in Oakley?  Aglamesis Bros. Ice Cream and Candy.  This family-owned operation has been in business since 1908 and has had their Oakley location since 1913.  (There is now another location in Montgomery, 15 miles northeast of downtown Cincinnati.)  Their Oakley location is my favorite.  While the food is great anywhere, you can't beat the ambiance of the old building.

 Thanks to 21st century technology (namely a Facebook post), we found out they have a special flavor of ice cream at the moment -- Pineapple Pecan.  Well, that's as good of an excuse as any to head over to Oakley.  So, after stops at Half Price Books in Kenwood and Michael's in Hyde Park, I headed over to Oakley with Chester, Grandma, and The Inmates.

Aglamesis has, for my money, the best ice cream in Cincinnati.  (No offense to Graeter's, which is also very, very good.)  The Oakley location is like stepping back into an early 20th century ice cream parlor with tiled floors, marble-topped tables, and pink upholstered iron chairs.  On one side is the long ice cream counter adorned with Tiffany lamps.  On the other is the glass candy case with unbearably delicious chocolates, caramels, and marzipan.  Had I not been stuffed full of ice cream when I left I might have had to pick up a half pound of white chocolate covered cranberry clusters or sea salt caramels, both new to me.  My old stand-by is the vanilla nut caramels -- rich, buttery caramel mixed with walnuts.  Oh, my.....

 When eating in, we always sit at a table in the back, as far away from other customers as possible since we're never sure of Foghorn's antics.  Both side walls in back are mirrored and Foghorn spends the better part of the time looking at herself and making faces.  I would judge her harshly if not for the fact that it is an inherited behavior.  Not long ago my mother was talking about a letter she had sent my older sister (Chester) at  Ringling Bros. Clown College in 1977.  In recounting an evening out with me, my mother wrote:

...then walked up to Aglamesis where Shannon had a strawberry soda.  It took her so long to drink it, while looking at herself in the mirror, that they came back and asked if we wanted anything else and started cleaning up the table.  They even took the bill and my money and brought the change back while she was still preening and sipping."

Change the kid's name, and the strawberry soda to a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and you have a pretty good idea of what Foghorn's like at Aglamesis.  At one point The Professor started singing the theme to "Welcome Back, Kotter" and Foghorn started shaking her groove thing while staring at herself in the mirror (and wearing my sunglasses, which she had stolen).

But back to the important part...  The Pineapple Pecan ice cream gets two big thumbs' up from my mother and me.  We opted for the Tutti Frutti Split, which covered the ice cream in maraschino cherry sauce, real whipped cream, and nuts on top, hugged by two slices of banana.  We both agreed that it was delicious and that the ice cream by itself would have been just as good.  Chester got the Dutch Holland chocolate soda (I'm in love with those old fashioned metal glass holders) and The Professor got the vanilla malt (I'm in love with those old fashioned metal shake cups).

Oakley is 15 minutes from downtown Cincinnati, on the east side of the city.  Aglamesis is always worth the trip, whether eating in or grabbing some candy and pints of ice cream to go.  The Oakley location is at 3046 Madison Road.  Parking is available from a public lot just northeast of the store, next to the Blue Manatee children's book store.  For hours, history, and the sugary concoctions available, please check their website here.  If you have no plans to be in Cincinnati, please note they have an online catalog of wonderful items you can have shipped across the country.  Yummmmmmm...

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Alms Park

Friday, August 26, 2011


Cincinnati is a city full of entertainment, history, culture, and just plain fun.  Whether you're an out-of-towner or a local just looking for a weekend destination, I've compiled a list of some of my family's favorites in the greater Cincinnati area.  With two children of my own, my list tends toward the family-friendly and away from the bars and nightlife.  This list is a work-in-progress and I'll continually add to it as new experiences come up or past outings are remembered.  If anything's of interest, please click the link for further information.

  1. Ride the Ducks Tour, Newport, Kentucky.
  2. Hofbrauhaus - Newport, Newport, Kentucky.
  3. Cincinnati Observatory.
  4. Loveland Bike Trail.
  5. Cincinnati Golf Center Mini Golf.
  6.  Alms Park.
  7. Aglamesis Bros. Ice Cream and Candy.
  8. Spring Grove Cemetery & Arboretum



If you're an avid star-gazer or have offspring who are future astrophysicists, the Cincinnati Observatory is a must-see.  History buffs will enjoy the two 19th century buildings, as well as the oldest working telescope in the state of Ohio.  The buildings alone are a joy to view.

My family's experience at the Observatory can be read here (towards the bottom of the post).  The Cincinnati Observatory website can provide you with program dates and times, as well as history and directions here.  Check out the links under "Public Events" for what's coming up.  There are weekly Astronomy Thursdays and Astronomy Fridays (we attended the former) which involve a lecture, followed by a brief tour and then a viewing through the telescope.  The particular Astronomy Thursday we attended had a mix of age groups, although it was a little technical for my kids and they got squirmy.  My son, though, declared that getting to see Saturn through that telescope made everything worthwhile.  In addition, there are a variety of special events throughout the year.  Check their calendar for the latest information here.   Please note that the rooms with the telescopes are the same temperature as the outside air.  Therefore, if you go on an extremely hot or extremely cold day, be prepared for feeling like you're outdoors.

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The greater Cincinnati area is known for its beer.  It's also known for its large German population.  If you like food and drink with a German flair, check out Hofbrauhaus - Newport in Newport, Kentucky, just across the river from downtown Cincinnati.

You can read my family's experience of the restaurant here.  In short, this restaurant is modeled on the 400 year old Hofbrauhaus in Munich, Germany.  You can get your standard German fare, as well as a wide variety of beers.  Being a non-beer-drinker myself, I can't vouch for the lager, but I'm assured by those who know better that there are some great choices.  I can vouch for the cream puff, which is one of the best I've ever had, with a light, fluffy pastry and delicious cream filling.  This sucker is big, so it's made for sharing.  You can download the menu here and check here for hours and special events.  Hofbrauhaus Newport is a short walk from Newport on the Levee

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If you're looking for a fun way to get a little history of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky while seeing some of the better known sights, check out the Ride the Ducks Tour in Newport, Kentucky.  This amphibious vehicle takes you from Newport, across the river into Cincinnati, and then into the Ohio River, which of course is the coolest part.  Once back on shore, the tour continues into downtown Cincinnati, then back into Northern Kentucky.

You can read about my family's tour experience here.  Further information about the tour, times, and ticket prices can be found at the Ride the Ducks - Newport site here.

Ride the Ducks kiosk with Newport Aquarium in back
Newport, Kentucky is just across the river from downtown Cincinnati.  Tickets can be purchased online ahead of time or at the Ride the Ducks kiosk outside the Newport Aquarium at Newport on the Levee.  You can park in the Newport on the Levee parking garage and then take an elevator to street level.  The tour boards at the meeting place near Toro Bar and Grill.  Look for the Ride the Duck umbrellas and sign.

The loading spot outside Toro Bar & Grill.

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{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. -- Inspired by SouleMama



I hit the jackpot this school year.  With nobody else catching the bus at the corner with me, the bus drivers were nice enough to grant my request that my kids be picked up at the driveway.  What this means, for someone like me, is that if I'm having one of those mornings and still happen to be in my jammies, The Professor can catch the bus without me and I don't have to fear an early morning kidnapper.  (Anyone even slows down near my kid and you'll see how fast a 41 year old woman can run in bare feet and tie-dyed pajamas.)

As I waited for the bus yesterday, however, I discovered that one of the branches of our tree was hanging pretty low.  It came to my attention when a bus passed by and the branch scraped along the top, making unbearable noises.  I got an image of some guy in one of those trucks with the huge tires suing the pants off me for causing damage to his roof.  I was leaving for The Professor's parent information night at school, so I left my husband in charge of getting that branch down while I was gone.

Let me explain something about The Vulcan.  He almost never leaves his home office.  Seriously, his kids suspect he's actually a vampire and sleep with crucifixes over their beds.  The Vulcan is monstrously good at his work and really not very good at anything else.  He buys tools, but then he never seems to know where they are when a home repair crisis comes up.  He has plumbers, electricians, and landscapers on speed dial.  If someone's computer gets a nasty virus, he's the one to call.  For anything else, check the Yellow Pages.

I realized he'd had no more success than usual when I arrived home from The Professor's school.  I had left with a low-hanging branch in my front yard.  I returned to find one that was now hanging perpendicular to the road and reached to within two feet of the street.  I found an e-mail from him asking me to call the city and see about removing that branch.  My opinion was that the city wouldn't do it and it was his opinion that it was causing a hazard to public property and it was their problem.

I called this morning and the nice lady on the phone said she'd look into it.  She called back 10 minutes later to say that it was our tree on our property and therefore our problem.  She was very nice about it, though.  With dread in my heart, I watched as The Vulcan got out the ladder and the big, long tree branch cutter.  My job was to hold the ladder, which he placed on a slope in the gutter so that it tilted at a precarious angle.  I said I didn't think it was a good idea.  He said if it started to tip, just hold it.

Let me tell you, that branch was a son of a b*tch to get down.  It was about 6" in diameter where it was cracked and required repeated snips from the tree branch cutter, which wasn't wide enough to actually get its blades around the branch.  The routine basically was The Vulcan went up the ladder, did a bunch of snips, descended the ladder, then grabbed the branch and went around in circles trying to make it give way.  (I helped by serenading him with "Ring Around the Rosy" and "Here We Go 'Round the Mulberry Bush.")  After 20 minutes the thing was barely hanging by a thread, but that woody thread was tough.  I suggested The Vulcan go up the ladder, hold onto the branch, and then jump from the top like Tarzan.   He merely snarled in reply.

After another 10 minutes of this snip and spin routine (along with my rendition of "The Wheels on the Bus Go 'Round and 'Round"), the branch finally fell with a crash.  Since this was the first manual labor the man had actually done in three months, I offered him the chance to pose making a manly muscle with the cutter in his hand.  He declined...and ran from me as quickly as someone can with a ladder in his arms.


Thursday, August 25, 2011


Friends and family of The Warden know this about her if they know nothing else:  she has a Dooney and Bourke purse addiction.  Seriously, I need a 12-step program.  It started when I was deathly ill one weekend and had the t.v. turned to QVC as I was in and out of consciousness on the couch.  The Today's Special Value was a Dooney & Bourke satchel, which I thought was horribly expensive.  Then I kept seeing the purse as they showed it over and over and over throughout the day and by midnight I had ordered one.  It was my downfall.  It was that first potato chip or that first bite of Ben & Jerry's.

Now, before you start thinking I'm some horrible spendthrift with credit card debt up to my boobs, let me assure you that I do not spend all our income on purses, no matter what my husband says.  I do, however, like to save money where I can and to that end I love, love, LOVE kids consignment stores.  I've shopped them for so long I get sticker shock and have to be resuscitated when I go in a regular store.  And I feel very virtuous, since the money saved at the consignment store can then be put in the kids' college funds, the IRAs, or used for...well...PURSES, if you must know.

I ran up to Once Upon a Child this morning after receiving an e-mail that they were having their summer clearance, with 50% off marked merchandise.  (Cincinnati-area residents, make note of the sale!!!)  I came home with about half a dozen each of next year's shirts and shorts for Foghorn and an equal number of shirts for my every-growing son, who's been eating so much lately I'm convinced he has a hollow leg.  Including one special non-sale item I picked up for Foghorn, the grand total was $50 and change.

Now, about that special non-sale item.  I just purchased tickets for Grandma, Uncle Chester, Foghorn, and me to see Wicked at the Aronoff Center in Cincinnati this November.  (Tickets go on sale to the general public tomorrow, August 26th, if you're interested.)  Well, as I was slapping through the racks of clearance items, I spotted this little beauty out of the corner of my eye:

And the first thing that went through my head was, "Oh, my God!  It's a ruby slippers dress!"  The pictures don't do it justice, as the color is much richer, the fabric beautiful, and the sparkles catch the light and twinkle like mad.  My girl likes a little bling, so the red sparkles will thrill her.  And it's just the style of dress that suits her tall, lean body.  She looks good in anything, while I clomp around looking like an Irish potato farmer (but with a fabulous giraffe-print purse).  She didn't need the new dress for Wicked, but you just know how the other girls will be dolled up for the occasion, so I thought a $7.00 splurge was in order (particularly since it still has the Kohl's tag hanging from the sleeve).

Oh, and regarding that 12-step program I need, let me add that I've been clean and sober since Christmas.  Yep, no new purses this year...yet.  See, I have this anniversary coming up in October...