Archive | June, 2012

“Hello Ohio, The back roads. I know Ohio, Like the back of my hand…

29 Jun

…Alone Ohio
Where the river bends
And it’s strange to see your story end
How I hate to see your story end
It’s so sad to see your story end.” -Over the Rhine, “Ohio”


It’s my second-to-last night in Kentucky/Ohio/USA, so we went down to the river for a delicious Mexican meal. I won’t miss hot summery weather in London, but I will miss Mexican food and giant cups of ice water loaded with ice that doesn’t melt by the time it arrives at your table. I got some nice shots of Cincinnati from across the river and had fun playing with the colors a bit.

The gates of hell have opened up so we took Squirt to get ice cream

28 Jun

It was 100 degrees today in northern Kentucky. 100 degrees. 100 degree is supposed to be a hyperbolic temperature, as in “I’d rather not sit on the patio, it’s 100 degrees out there!” but by 100 degrees you mean 84 with a nice breeze, but you still prefer air conditioning. It’s not actually supposed to reach 100 degrees in places that are not the desert. Yet somehow it did today in NKy and will again tomorrow. And Saturday. And maybe even Sunday but I don’t care as much because I’m finally heading back to London where the high is 64. Then 66 on Monday and 68 on Tuesday. I should probably get back to learning those temperatures in Celsius and look up how hot 100 F is so I can make small talk with the porter. (“How was your time in the states?” “It was 37.7 degrees.” “Blimey!”)

When we were at PetFest the other day we picked up a flyer advertising a Bruster’s Ice Cream fundraiser for a local dog rescue. If there’s anything I love more than dogs, it’s Bruster’s birthday cake ice cream. It’s heaven in a waffle cone, which is exactly what you need when it feels like the gates of hell have opened. So we took Squirt to the local Bruster’s to get him a free doggie sundae.

(Anyone who thinks Graeter’s has the best ice cream ever has not tried Bruster’s birthday cake ice cream. It will blow your mind, and the top button of your pants, probably.)

Squirt was panting from heat exhaustion and excitement when he saw his doggie sundae.

NOM NOM! He always looks a little deranged eating ice cream.

It was chop-licking good!

After we finished our ice cream and fed Squirt his (he is afraid to eat out of a bowl), we checked out the puppies up for adoption. One of them tossed his toy in the water bowl so my dad helped him fish it out.

A portion of our ice cream sale went towards Pawzitive Petz Rescue. Awezomeeeee!

Viva Forever Spice Girls Musical: My 10-year-old self is freaking out

27 Jun

Every once in a while I think about how grateful I am to not be a full-fledged child of technology. I can use a computer or iTouch like a pro, but I also typed my stories on a typewriter as a child and didn’t have a cell phone until I was 16, and even then it was “just for emergencies.” But I think I am most grateful that YouTube did not exist when I was younger.

Let me back up a bit. When I was in elementary school my neighborhood friends and I were obsessed with the Spice Girls. I have since had other musical obsessions like Meat Loaf and Over the Rhine, but the Spice Girls will always be my first. My friends and I often karaoked to Spice Girls, which involved two boomboxes, one to play the cassette of the song, the other to record our singing on a blank tape. I shudder when I imagine my 10-year-old self innocently singing, “I need some love like I’ve never needed love before, wanna make love to ya baby.”

But the karaoke wasn’t the worst of it. We made “music videos.” That involved bugging my dad to come to my friend’s front yard and film us with his giant video camera as we danced and lip-synched to multiple Spice Girls songs. I was always Sporty Spice because I had long brown hair and liked gymnastics. I couldn’t do a back handspring like Mel C, though, so I mostly did haphazard cartwheels and front handsprings that looked like I was about to snap my neck. If I remember correctly, there were often multiple Sporty Spices in our videos because we couldn’t agree on who could be her. I think my favorite part of one of the videos was when we made my dad pan to my friend’s front door during the “Say You’ll Be There” line “If you can’t work this equation, then I guess I’ll have to show you the door, ” and my friend’s mom was there pointing at the front door. Now that I think about it, maybe this video could have went viral on YouTube and I could be sitting on mountains of theoretical Internet dollars now. Oh well. I’m still glad I didn’t grow up with YouTube.

I’m writing about this because I heard amazing news: there is going to be a Spice Girls musical!  And even better, it’s premiering in London in December! My inner 10-year-old is doing neck-snapping front handsprings. I don’t care if it gets crap reviews, I say I’ll be there.*

*Did you get that pun?

PetFest 2012, or, That time Squirt made a bunch of friends and I stalked a corgi

24 Jun

Since it’s 90 degrees outside, we decided to take Squirt to Boone Woods Park for the 10th annual Friends of the Shelter PetFest. Once I accepted the fact that sweat would be constantly running down my face, it was a good time. There were tons of vendors and — more importantly — tons of cool dogs. Of course I brought my camera. Within minutes of our arrival I spotted a corgi. He was on his way out so I coyly followed him like some kind of corgi paparazzi. I ended up with a nice photo of his butt:

Hehe he has no tail!

OK, enough corgi gushing. Check out the Neuterville Express! And the lady who suddenly realized she was being photographed:

Squirt met many Chihuahua friends. I really like this photo:

This Chihuahua wanted to say ‘Hi’:

I was surprised to see a French bulldog there, since they’re rare and expensive. This poor guy sounded like he was going to pass out from the heat! I was sad that I didn’t see any pugs there, but I hear they handle heat even worse than I do.

This Chihuahua (or is it a min pin?) was hanging out on the table:

This guy was adorable:

Squirt saw a little bowl of dog food near a booth and went in for the steal. Within seconds this little guy came out from under the table and scared him away from his food!

Cute puppy up for adoption:

A Boston terrier rescue had a booth. This guy made me miss Boris and Natasha, the dogs I used to watch in Chicago. (Boris even had a red harness like this!)

I think Squirt wanted us to adopt this little girl for him:

There were a lot of cute Chihuahuas there:

Squirt making another buddy:

This little girl was really shy:

Just as Squirt was crapping out — Exhibit A:

Something amazing happened — I realized the corgi never left, he just went to hang out near the parking lot! So we brought Squirt over to give me a reason to get closer to take pictures. Mr. Corgi was either not too sure about Squirt, or he sensed my intentions to kidnap him:

He finally decided Squirt was OK to talk to:

And I took one last photo before we left. It was hard to get one without his owner’s legs.

Overall it was a nice way to spend an afternoon. I got to see all my favorite dog breeds (Chihuahua, corgi, Boston terrier, French bulldog, Dachshund), except a pug. Squirt seemed to have fun and could not stop panting on the drive home. Check out the drool!:

Breaking baking news

23 Jun

We interrupt your regularly scheduled blog post for this special report.

I successfully made meringue.

If you remember, a year ago I tried to make French macarons, which are basically meringue, and everything that could go wrong, did. I could not beat egg whites for the life of me. Now I realized it is much easier when you actually have a mixer. I made some peppermint meringue cookies and they turned out wonderfully, no runny half-burnt, half-undercooked messiness.


(They may not look as professional as I had hoped, but they taste amazing!)

If you’re curious, this is the recipe I used.

On Wings of Harmony Butterfly Show at Krohn’s Conversatory, or That time I took a buttload of butterfly photographs

21 Jun

Since yesterday’s post was full of anger towards technology, I figured today I would praise some technology: my camera. The other day we went to the Krohn Conservatory to see the On Wings of Harmony international butterfly show. My mom had never been to a butterfly exhibit before and was excited to go. I, on the other hand, have been to butterfly enclosures twice — once in Niagara Falls, the other time at the London Zoo, and both times I was a little freaked out. The butterflies are beautiful, yes, but they land on you. I do not like things landing on me, no matter how beautiful and colorful they are. So I went this time with a mission — take lots and lots of pictures! If you recall, I got a new camera not too long ago, and I am obsessed with close-up, shallow depth of field photographs. What better place to take those than at a butterfly show? So while everyone was marveling at the beautiful wings of harmony (what does that even mean?…) and children were attempting to grab the butterflies despite being told not to, I was trying to take a photo of every single butterfly, which took a little while since there were 16,000. No joke. I don’t want to toot my own horn, but I think my photos turned out pretty good considering I don’t have a big DSLR with expensive lenses.

This one was hard to capture because it kept flapping its wings rapidly:

One landed on my mom’s arm. Check out its tongue!

Then it curled its tongue back in:

Random giant butterfly hanging out on some lady’s back. That’s the kind of thing I didn’t want to happen to me!

They brought out some new butterflies while we were there:

Then the new butterflies proceeded to land on random kids:

According to the website, the aluminum structure was built by Cincinnati’s Vulkane Industrial Arts. If you look closely you can see the butterflies in action I captured.

Kids and their chubby fingers were constantly ruining my photos/bothering butterflies:

I kept taking sneaky photos of butterflies on people:

I’ll spare you the rest of my 15,983 butterfly photos. And in case you were wondering, I managed to make it through without a single butterfly landing on me, maybe because I was wearing a black shirt. One did land on my camera for a second, although that may blow my black theory since my camera is black. Overall it was a fun experience, especially with a camera. If you’re in the Cincinnati area, I recommend checking it out — it’s at the Krohn Conservatory through July 15.

“But I still love technology, always and forever”

20 Jun

Technology and I did not get off on the right foot this morning. It started with my phone, which wouldn’t turn on. I tried the two things that always seem to correct technological problems — I tried turning it on and off, and I smacked it. Neither worked.

Let me back up and tell you the story of this phone. I got it for my birthday last year in December — well not this particular model, but one identical to it. While the rest of the world is obsessed with smart phones, I was set on getting another dumb phone. I feel like I’m not in one place long enough to sign a two-year contract on a smart phone, plus I already have an iPod touch, which is basically an iPhone without a $40/month data plan. So I found a dumb phone with a qwerty keyboard and my parents bought it for me for my birthday. It worked great for two days until my friend with an iPhone sent me a multimedia invitation to a New Year’s party and my dumb phone went into anaphylactic shock. The screen went blank and wouldn’t turn on. Then when I eventually did get it turn on, half the screen was frozen. So I took it to the AT&T store because the phone says “AT&T” on it. When I pulled it out the guy at the counter gave me a “Seriously? There are iPhones and Droids and 3D phones out now and you just bought that phone?” look. He basically told me the phone was crap and that’s why only stores like sell it. must have known it was crap because they would not give me a refund, they just told me to send the phone back and they would send another one. And they did, three days after I went back to London. So when I arrived in the US this time, my shiny new dumb phone was waiting for me. Like its predecessor, it worked fine for a few days, but then it decided to shut off. It wasn’t dead, it just felt like shutting off. And it’s been doing that at least once a day, every day since I got it. Usually I just pop the cover off, remove the battery, replace it, then slap it, and it works again, but my phone wasn’t having it this morning. It would not turn on. After multiple attempts to charge it and several angry slaps, I gave up and put my sim card in my trusty old Sony gsm phone, which isn’t as trusty as I thought because I didn’t receive any of Stephen’s texts. I just ordered a new battery for my dumb phone and hope that will solve the problem.

So I was already angry at technology when I plugged my iTouch into my new computer this morning. Yes… I said new computer. Remember “I am absolutely not buying anything else in the US?” I bought the new Macbook Air. My old Macbook Pro is three years old and I finally decided to take Stephen’s advice and try to sell it before it dies and ends up in the laptop graveyard in my parents’ basement. At least this way my old computer will pay for half of my new one. (Hopefully — I still need to wipe it and list it on Craigslist, which is a whole ‘nother project I’m not ready to attack.) While I was visiting my family last weekend my cousin told me he didn’t like Apple products. I converted to Mac three years ago and have been generally happy with it, but after this morning I know what he meant. “It’s always trying to sync or something,” he told me. So I plugged my iTouch in just to charge it, but iTunes didn’t like that. Alerts kept popping up — “Do you want to transfer photos from this computer to your iTouch?” it asked. “Do you want to update to the latest version of iTunes?” (My computer is brand new, why doesn’t it have the latest version of iTunes?!) “Do you want to update the software on your iPod?”

First I updated iTunes, which took a few minutes. Then I tried to update my iPod, but first it said I had to transfer my purchases. I always avoid synching with iTunes, as nothing good ever seems to come out of a synch. I remember Stephen’s boss’s wife asked us to help her synch her iPhone calendar with her computer. We ended up replacing her full iPhone calender with her empty computer calendar and we weren’t invited back to their house for a while (I kid… I think.) But I think that’s what my cousin was complaining about — why does it assume you want to replace your full calendar/iPod etc. with emptiness? I almost made that mistake with my iPod today. Finally I got my iPod updated and decided to exercise using a video on my computer. I opened the video, which I store as a .avi file, and QuickTime said it wouldn’t work. I had been using this video on my old Mac with no problem, but suddenly QuickTime doesn’t want to play .avi files? So I hit the Mac forums trying to solve my problem. An hour and three programs later, I was able to exercise, but I was already exhausted from technology. I was going to try to erase my old computer today, but I don’t think I can handle the technological stress.

Thanks a lot Steve Jobs, Tim Cook, or random workers at Foxconn (I’m not exactly sure who I should be angry at, but I feel like being mad at someone.)

Father’s Day 2012, or The First Time I Saw a Dirty Magazine

17 Jun

I just returned from some fun times in Cleveland. Most of my dad’s family lives up there and it’s always good to see them. As always, there was good conversation and copious amounts of food. I could go on about the visit, but I think I’ll just share this gem:

My parents and I were getting ready to leave my grandparent’s house for our four-hour drive back to northern Kentucky. We had just filled the cooler with pop — a necessity in my family, you must take road pops — when my grandpa pulled out two rolled documents.

“We just painted the upstairs bedrooms and had to move the dressers,” he said. “One of the drawers was stuck, and when we finally got it out we found these.” First he unrolled a poster of a car and asked if it was my dad’s. He said he’d never seen it.

And then he unrolled a Hustler magazine.

“Your brothers denied this was theirs, is it yours?” my grandpa asked my dad. Of course he denied it. We then studied the cover of the magazine looking for a year that might help us determine the likely culprit.

Let me paint that picture again: my mom, dad, grandma, grandpa and myself, all standing in my grandparents’ garage, staring at a dirty magazine cover.

And then we drove home, Joe Henry’s “Dirty Magazine” stuck in my head.

Happy Father’s Day!

The Great Murray Sighting of 2012

8 Jun

I don’t know if I’ve made it clear on my blog or not, but I really like corgis. In fact, I have a folder on my desktop titled “Cute pics” which is full of photos of corgis, pugs and pandas that I’ve collected over the years.

Exhibit A:

Maybe if I “secret” (read the book/watch the movie “The Secret”) hard enough, a cute corgi puppy will appear in my mailbox. (Although that might be hard… in Kentucky our mailbox is connected to a bunch of other boxes at the end of the street, and in London the post comes through a slot outside the door and lands on the floor in our flat. But I’m getting sidetracked here…)

If Squirt, our Chihuahua, knew how much I liked corgis, he would be even more crabby with me than he already is.

According to my parents, there is a corgi named Murray who lives in “the other neighborhood.” Whenever it’s a nice day or Squirt is being particularly stubborn, he goes for a walk in the neighborhood across a major street from ours, dubbed “the other neighborhood.” I hate dragging Squirt across the main road and waiting for the traffic to clear, but my mom always cons me into walking with her over there with the prospect of a Murray sighting.

“Murray sightings are really rare,” my dad warned. “We’ve seen him maybe four times over the course of 12 years.” Murray the corgi likes to stay inside and rarely goes for walks. My parents met him and his owners once on an “other neighborhood” Squirt walk. One time my dad even took a photo of Murray on his cell phone and sent it to me because I was beginning to think they invented Murray just to get me to walk farther.

So yesterday my brother was home for the day and the weather was relatively pleasant. “Let’s walk Squirt in the other neighborhood!” my mom suggested after lunch. Full of cookies and brats, my brother and I groaned. “Maybe there will be a Murray sighting!” she added, as she always does, knowing full well we had a greater chance of being struck by lightning and it wasn’t even storming, but we went along with it. When we got near his house I noticed a boy playing in his yard.

“Look, his owner is out!” I said. “Maybe Murray will be out too!”

And then I saw him. He was sitting on the steps outside, just chilling out, like he was expecting us.

“Holy crap, holy crap, holy crap!” I started to spout. “He’s out! Murray!”

At first my mom and brother thought I was joking because they didn’t see him, but the minute Murray caught a glimpse of Squirt he came barreling over on his stumpy little legs.

“Murray!!” I shouted like a giddy 5-year-old and started petting his thick hair. It was almost like petting a baby panda. He said hello to Squirt and lavished all the attention.

“I want to take him home!” I said, probably a little too loudly, because before I knew it the boy appeared and started pulling Murray away. I didn’t even get a chance to try to pick him up!

The entire walk home we talked about Murray. I may have asked several times if we could go back and see him again. My brother and I talked in detail about how we could have kidnapped him, so much that my mom asked us if we were serious. If only Murray were small enough to fit in a carry-on under the seat…

When we got home I immediately gushed about Murray on Facebook and texted my dad about the Murray sighting. He wrote back “cool,” but I knew he was jealous he missed it. It’s been 24 hours now and my family still talks about the Great Murray Sighting of 2012, which is probably an indication that we need a life… or a corgi. I would get one in a heartbeat if my life weren’t so up in the air, literally and figuratively, although I’m convinced there’s some kind of royal edict that only the queen can have corgis in London because I never see them anywhere. Perhaps I can find a way to be the Official Caretaker of Her Majesty’s Corgis.

Renee, Who Used to Be Rich Before She Came Back to America

6 Jun

Wow, listening to old familiar music with new headphones is like listening to a whole new song — I keep hearing sounds, thinking they’re outside, but they’re in the song, I just never heard them before with the crappy standard Apple earbuds. The sound isolating helps too, I don’t even know if Grandpa Daycare is still happening outside my window. (Our neighbors watch their grandkids every single day and they are often outside running around and screaming. I swear I saw a little girl with a pretend AK47 while we were eating dinner. Kids these days…)

So I bought new headphones. I told myself I wasn’t going to buy anything else and would save an expensive headphone purchase for Christmatime, but I had an Alexander moment — Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday. I memorized and recited that book for my high school’s speech contest years ago. The basic premise is this kid gets money from his grandparents and decides he’s absolutely, positively going to save it, but then he keeps seeing cool things to buy (which of course aren’t that cool, like a deck of cards missing cards or a melted down candle), then before he knows it he has no money left. That’s how my life has been since I’ve been back in the states.

I was absolutely not buying any more stuff to take back to London. I was absolutely, positively not buying anything else. …But then I saw these headphones. $200 headphones on sale for $35. I had to have those headphones. Headphones won’t add much weight to my suitcase. …Goodbye $35.

I am not looking forward to the day when I must pack all this stuff into one suitcase, one carry-on, and one “personal item” (ie the new laptop bag Stephen asked me to buy for him. Yes, I am not the only one with this “I am absolutely not buying anything else… after I buy this” mentality.)

And for those of you who were wondering, I did managed to find a decent human being who made me a reasonable offer for the laptop on Craigslist, so I got that taken care of.

Since this post is lacking closure, here’s a photo of a panda eating a carrot: