Monday, July 29, 2013

A lovely fall weekend ... in late July?

Oh, I'm not complaining. Our weather has been glorious - windows open, needing a sweater in the evening, not wanting to get out of bed because it's just a wee bit chilly... who am I kidding? I can find any number of reasons to not want to get out of bed. It did rain on Saturday, both literally and figuratively. Our weekend definitely had its ups and downs.

Friday evening we continued the Restaurant Odyssey.

I think Aaron's eyes are closed as he remembers "the best cocktail ever."

Saturday we woke up to the news that our neighbor Amy's sister had died, very suddenly and unexpectedly. Julie was only 56, she'd been married for 33 years and had three children and one grandchild, with two more on the way. Amy and her family are what we call framily (friends who are family, per Steph) and we are shocked and saddened by this loss. It's also another reminder to not take life for granted and to savor every moment we have together.

Julie (second from left) with her sisters and her daughters, June 2013

Later on Saturday, we went for lunch/brunch with another couple to Hangover Easy.

Left, my cinnamon french toast with praline pecan topping. Right, Theresa prepares her pancake (it's a gift).

Sunday we did some chores, which for Aaron included working in the garden:

We had a late lunch/early dinner at another Restaurant Odyssey stop, Arch City Tavern. Later in the evening we gathered the troops to rally around Amy and her husband Colin. It's so good to be able to mix laughter with the tears.

And just to end this post on a happy note, here are various pictures of the cats.

Clockwise from left: Bella took my spot on the chaise; Clover and Gato are thinking about going to the porch; Bella now seems to like toilets, first on the one in our bathroom; then a few minutes later in the other bathroom; Clover and Gato love the windowsills; how can that be comfortable?; Sunday nap on Mom & Dad's bed.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Honoring a Birthday Twin

When Aaron and I were first married we religiously watched NFL Primetime on ESPN on Sunday nights. The show always featured Chris Berman and Tom Jackson, but for a few years in the early 90's, Robin Roberts was also a co-host. I have to be honest and say that a lot of female sports reporters fall short of the mark in my opinion, but there's something about Robin that draws you in and makes you feel comfortable, and she was fun. She was known for the catch-phrase "go on with your bad self!" And oh, by the way, we share a birthday - not the same year, but we were both born November 23rd.

In 1995 Robin transitioned to Good Morning America and worked for both ABC and ESPN (they have common ownership so they're sister networks). I didn't watch her much for a while because if I watched a morning news program at all it was Today. But after Robin became the co-anchor of GMA (and especially after Today seemed to implode), I was drawn more to ABC in the morning.

People I know who have battled cancer or other awful diseases shrug off the label "brave," because they certainly would prefer to not be in the situation and they say that they don't have a choice in the matter. I say, yes you do have a choice because you are fighting the battle when you could just feel sorry for yourself and give up.

Robin Roberts not only fought TWO potentially fatal diseases, but she did it publicly, letting viewers in to see her battle. It was so touching to turn on GMA while she was on medical leave and see her coworkers give her a shout out each day. I was amazed to hear of the enormous increase in bone marrow donors after she went public with her second illness. Robin is an absolute inspiration, and when she was presented the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at this year's ESPYs, I certainly felt there was no one more deserving.

Below are two clips from that night; the first one is the introduction and pre-taped piece, the second is her acceptance speech. Together they last about 20 minutes, but it's time well spent, I promise (you might want some tissues handy).

In honor of Robin's college basketball career, here's an oldie but a goodie for #backthatazzup Friday:

Basketball by Kurtis Blow on Grooveshark

Venus Trapped in Mars

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

You're the Inspiration

Too cheesy? Oh, well.

Today two of my favorites, Helene and Sarah, are doing a linkup asking "what inspires your blog posts?" This has the potential to be a heavy topic, but if you're even a semi-regular Gila Monster reader you know that my blog posts go all over the place. One day I'll talk about civil rights, the next I might be talking about my nail polish of the week or my cats.

As you know if you've read my little bio blurb over there on the right, I'm an accountant. People are often surprised by that, and frankly so am I a lot of the time. I've always had a knack for numbers, but I suck at science so trust me, those two don't always go hand-in-hand. I've also always had a love for reading and writing. In high school I once aced a paper on "The Old Man and the Sea" without reading the book or even the Cliffs Notes (my love for reading as a 16-year-old didn't extend to Hemingway). I also had a paper entered into some contest after totally bullshitting my way through it (and likely writing it at the last minute). The topic was freedom and all I remember is that I twisted it around and the title of my paper was "Freedom?" By the way, it didn't win but that was expected since it was a bit controversial.

In college, I've mentioned before that I originally wanted to double major in business and music but didn't do it. What I did was immerse myself in the English department as much as possible. I took English courses whenever I could to fulfill the various liberal arts requirements. I also worked in the department, eventually proofreading tests for professors.

In my accounting career, I've often been asked to proofread reports (accountants stereotypically suck at writing). But I've always wanted more. I don't write in a diary, but a couple years ago I finally got up the nerve to start this blog. I really only shared it with family and friends and Facebook, but then I got brave and jumped into the blogging community and now it's out there for all to see. Or not. Regardless, I'm so grateful for the ability and the outlet to share my feelings or rantings or observations.

Most of my posts aren't thought out too far in advance. Sometimes I stare at the blank page and then all of a sudden I remember something I saw the day before and the words just come out. I certainly get inspired by other bloggers and linkups are often really helpful to jump start the creative process. And I'm inspired by knowing that people are actually reading what I have to say, no matter how goofy it may be some days. In the blogging world I'm not a big blogger. I don't have a massive number of followers, at least not that anyone else can see. But I often have people tell me that they enjoy my blog, and I didn't even know they read it!

So to each of you reading out there, even though I can't see you, I "see" you. Thanks for keeping me going.

Happy Gwensday!

Helene in Between

Insert Classy Here - Gratitude

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

You want me to put my hair in a tornado?

Before I share my latest brilliant mind-numbing thoughts, you should check out my appearance on Insert Classy Here. Steph G (I have to use the G so y'all don't confuse her with my other Steph) asked me to answer which songs I would choose in various categories and we now have a new playlist that's eclectic and fun. Plus Steph G has a fab blog, including a weekly link-up about gratitude, and who couldn't use some of that?

OK, so last night I could NOT fall asleep. I should have just gotten up and done something productive but of course I did not. Instead I watched Pitch Perfect for roughly the 7th time (Fat Amy rocks) and a few Criminal Minds episodes on Ion Television. I love that channel because it has marathons of some of my favorite dearly departed crime dramas like Cold Case and Without a Trace.

While drooling over Derek Morgan and wondering just how many pairs of funky glasses Garcia owns, I saw this commercial:

A-ca-scuse me?! I thought it was a joke. "Just like a cotton candy machine, air curler spins your hair..." Huh? Who the hell wants to put their hair in a cotton candy machine? The cheap attachment actually reminds me of a popcorn air popper. This thing is just bizarre. Now, I have curly hair so I wouldn't be drawn to it anyway but I hope that none of you straight-haired ladies out there are so desperate for curls that you'd put your hair in a bladeless blender.

Until next time, you'll find me napping at my desk drinking pitchers of coffee.

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Great Flea Eradication, Part 2

First things first, Friday afternoon I had my overdue hair appointment, and here are the after pics (before pic here):

Left - What it looked like right afterward | Right - After I styled it

It's not drastically different but I did get a bit of length taken off. Moving on.

The weekend was mostly spent at or very near home. Friday night we went to the neighborhood bar, Saturday we hung around the house and each did some work. But Sunday our mass genocide of fleas continued. (See Part 1 of this story here.) I've spared you new pictures of my legs but suffice to say that, along with the still-healing bites of a couple weeks ago, I have new bites as well. And our poor kitties are still scratching away and Aaron is finding fleas left and right. So all day yesterday we went on the attack (causing me to miss Phil Mickelson win the British Open, AND we didn't get to watch or listen to the Reds/Pirates, AND we missed our niece Lauren showing her pig Minnie at the Knox County Fair - bastard fleas).

Saturday morning Aaron set up homemade traps: a bowl of soapy water with a lamp shining on it. We had these set up in the FROG, our closet and the living room. The closet only caught four fleas, the living room caught quite a few, but here's what the one in the FROG looked like:

Awesome. So we laundered all our linens and bedding in hot water, took apart the FROG and the living room, vacuumed the hell out of everything, put Diatomaceous Earth on the carpets and rugs, sprayed the house and screened porch with Siphotrol, sprayed the back patio with Cutter Backyard Bug Control and ordered another round of Capstar pills to give to the cats.

The cats around 10 am, just before the massive cleaning began and they found hiding places.

Tools for extermination

Then Aaron flossed the house. On the first level we have concrete floors and there are cuts in those floors (see below). He took a flashlight and a thin blade and the vacuum and cleaned out those cuts and I'm glad I didn't have to see what came out of there but it sounds gross and it included lots of (live) fleas. SERIOUSLY?

By 6 we were done and wandered over for dinner with neighbors. We set an alarm for ourselves and were in bed by 10. Oof.

I hope you all had a wonderful, flea-free weekend!

Sami's Shenanigans

Friday, July 19, 2013

Freaky Friday - the hair edition

This is me today:

I have no idea why my right eye is squintier than the left one, but I digress. This is my hair today. It's a hot mess. The grey is out of control and I think my hair is thinning which depresses me. But this afternoon I have an overdue appointment for a cut and color. Come back Monday to see the results - no matter what they may be.

So in an attempt to connect this to Sarah's Fan Friday linkup, I give you just a few of my favorite hairstyles on athletes (and of course they're Pittsburgh-related):

Andrew McCutchen – Pittsburgh Pirates
There's just something about (well-maintained) dreadlocks that I can't resist.
Don't worry, Aaron knows this and he also knows that I like clean-shaven heads so we're all good there.
Also, the Pirates and the Reds start a weekend series tonight so keep a good thought for peace in our house.

Larry Fitzgerald – Arizona Cardinals

Even though Fitzgerald plays for Arizona, he DID go to the University of Pittsburgh.
And how stinkin' cute is he when he wears his glasses?

Troy Polamalu – Pittsburgh Steelers

Did anyone NOT see this coming? Head and Shoulders has a $1 million insurance policy on Troy's HAIR.
I can see why; it's freakin' gorgeous.

Now I'm even more depressed by my own hair. So to #backthatazzup with Whitney, here's a little song that will by my mantra today.

I Am Not My Hair by India.Arie on Grooveshark

Venus Trapped in Mars

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Gwensday Gratitude

So I'm in a bit of a slump right now. Writing, reading, working, working OUT, eating right ... I don't feel like doing any of it. It could have something to do with the high temps and 874% humidity. I'm also desperately hanging on until Friday, not just for the weekend but because I have a hair appointment and my hair is just ridiculous right now. Yes, I'm vain. I own it. Moving on.

I was just going to skip blogging today, like I did yesterday, but then I pulled up Steph G's blog, Insert Classy Here, where she has a Wednesday Gwensday linkup about gratitude.

So all those things above that I don't feel like dealing with? Let's flip that around.

Writing - I'm grateful that I have this little piece of the blog world to utilize that creative side of myself that doesn't get to shine in most of the rest of my life.

Reading - I'm grateful for the love of reading that I've had since I was a wee child, and that I share with my mom. My books aren't going anywhere; they'll be waiting for me when I'm ready.

Working - I'm grateful that I have a job.

Working OUT - I'm grateful that I have a body that works, however out of shape it may be.

Eating right - I'm grateful that I can afford to eat at all.

That felt kinda good. Thanks, Steph!

Happy Gwensday!

Insert Classy Here - Gratitude

Monday, July 15, 2013

Today I suck at blogging

Totally phoning it in here, people. Not even sure why I'm bothering but I just felt like writing ... anything.

We had a great weekend - full of friends and food and vegging out and even a little exercise. But I have no pictures because I was a sucky blogger. We did manage to knock out two Restaurant Odyssey stops and I took pictures but those are for future posts.

So you'll just have to trust me here. Friday we went to the grand opening of our neighborhood bar. I got there early and left early when it got super crowded. That's one of the perks of having the bar a block from home: if I want to be lame and go home at 9:30, I can and I can leave by myself and it's no big deal.

Saturday morning Aaron worked and I ran errands, then we just hung out on the screened porch doing nothing. We went to dinner and then stopped by Colin & Amy's house (even though they weren't home) so Aaron could try to hook up a CD changer (which ended up not working anyway). So we sat on the back patio with their dog (and this I do have a picture of).

Then we went back over to the bar and some neighbors joined us and we got home around 1.

Sunday Aaron made the declaration that we needed to do something good to our bodies (get your mind out of the gutter - not THAT kind of good) so we went for a bike ride. I hadn't been on my bike in over a year so we just went 10 miles and it was fun, but that was plenty! We went out for lunch, then to a fundraiser at another closeby bar, then back to Colin & Amy's house for a cookout. And I may have snuck in a wee nap.

If you read all this, I'm sorry. I'll do better next time. Maybe.

Sami's Shenanigans

Friday, July 12, 2013

House Divided

I've mentioned before that Aaron and I are both sports fans. Aaron grew up in the Cincinnati area and I grew up near Pittsburgh. When we got married, even though we liked different teams, it wasn't a huge deal. But then two things happened: Penn State joined the Big Ten (meaning they were in the same conference as Aaron's beloved Buckeyes) and Major League Baseball went through realignment, placing Pittsburgh and Cincinnati in the same division. Really?

While I'm more of a football fan than baseball, I still enjoy going to games. I was 12 when the Pirates last won the World Series in 1979 (yes, I'm that old) and oh, how we loved Willie Stargell. In 1992, when the Pirates lost the National League Championship Series in a heartbreaker to the Atlanta Braves, I cried the whole way home from the bar where I was watching. I still have a soft spot for Jim Leyland, the manager at the time, even though he's now in Detroit.

PNC Park is a kick-ass place to watch a baseball game. Aaron and I have gone a couple times, including for our 20th anniversary (we're so romantic).

Aaron is a huge baseball fan. There's not much he likes more in the summer than sitting on our screened porch listening to Marty Brennaman calling the Reds' games on the radio. A while back we went to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown and they had a display about radio and this sign sums up Aaron's feelings.

And yes, we've been to many a Reds game and as long as they're not playing the Pirates, I'll wear my blinged-out Reds hat. Fortunately, we're good-natured about the rivalries, although this year both the Reds and Pirates are playing well so things could get ugly at our house.

But the other day I came home to this:

My husband rocks.

And speaking of rock (or disco), what else could I choose for my #backthatazzup Friday tune but the Pirates' theme song from that fabulous year of 1979?

We Are Family by Sister Sledge on Grooveshark

PS - But wait, there's more! Today I'm guest posting at my friend Steph's blog, Life According to Steph, while she's frolicking down the shore. Check it out!

Linking up with Sarah and Whitney!

Venus Trapped in Mars

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Stop #13 - Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams

It's been far too long since I posted a Restaurant Odyssey visit. If you're unfamiliar with this journey, check out this post. Previous tour stops can be found under the link at the top of the page.

If you don't think ice cream constitutes a meal, well ... you're wrong. Even though I don't have a huge sweet tooth, there are times when I just can't resist ice cream. In Columbus, we're lucky to have Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams, the labor of love from Jeni Britton Bauer, who abruptly quit studying art at Ohio State to make ice cream. She started with a small location in the North Market and now has about 10 shops, a presence in grocery stores across the country, and a book of recipes (Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home) now in its 8th printing. I've never tried making any of the ice cream because ... why would I? I can just walk down the street and buy some (warning: it ain't cheap, but that's probably a good thing because then I don't eat it every. single. day).

Aaron and I went to Jeni's one Sunday in March when the weather gods had smiled on us with sunshine and warm temperatures. We each got a Trio, you know, for the sake of research. I had Salty Caramel (Jeni's signature flavor), Pistachio & Honey and Double Toasted Coconut. Aaron had Dark Chocolate, Black Coffee and Whiskey & Pecans.

Mine is on the left, Aaron's on the right.

Jeni's also makes sundaes and ice cream sandwiches, and they use local ingredients as much as possible. Some of the ice cream flavors are pretty daring: Queen City Cayenne (yes, it's spicy and yummy), Goat Cheese with Red Cherries, and Juniper & Lemon Curd are just a few. My summertime go-to combination is Cherry Lambic Sorbet and Lemon & Blueberries Frozen Yogurt. So refreshing! I'm also a fan of the Mango Lassi Frozen Yogurt and the Brown Butter Almond Brittle. Dammit, now I want some ice cream! Jeni's also recently started selling this:

Yes, please.

The Short North location always has a line out the door on sunny days (and sometimes even on un-sunny days) but if you're an ice cream fan, it's worth the wait!

Next up: Piece of Cake!

Spidey and the Gila