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Monthly Archives: August 2010

That’s okay, Sparky

My long weekend: Day Four

Today I found out that I am not actually dating Fredo from The Godfather. I am dating Clark Griswald of National Lampoon. Oh, he still looks like Fredo but he (self admitted) acts like Clark. Perhaps I should elaborate.

All summer Fred has wanted to go to an amusement park. We missed out on one during our trip to Michigan because of unfavorable weather. I’d been shuffling my feet back and forth as Fred attempted to talk me into a trip to King’s Island in Cincinatti. Fred seeks thrills while I prefer to keep my feet firmly on the ground. But a good partner will challenge you to face your fears and that’s what Fred did. So we decided to take a road trip to Holiday World in Santa Clause, Indiana (in the southern tip) because it has the tamest rides of all the parks around. After dropping Jess off at the airport early on Tuesday, Fred and I made the three and a half hour trip to the amusement park.

It was a beautiful day so we drove with the windows down. The roads cut through farmland and tree spotted hills. As we finally neared Holiday World, the crest of one of the rollercoasters rose out of the trees. Surprisingly, I didn’t wet myself. We turned the corner and immediately noticed that something was wrong. The rides were stilled and the parking lot was completely empty.

“I can’t believe it!” Fred exclaimed. We both cursed a little bit but then started to laugh. It was more of a “If I don’t laugh I’ll cry” kind of a laugh, though.

“Well, what now?” I asked. There wasn’t anything else to see or do in Santa Clause.

“Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom isn’t too far from here.”

“Okay,” I replied, “but first why don’t you look up their hours on your Blackberry.”

Fred scrolled through his internet search and then cursed again. “Kentucky Kingdom permanently closed their doors earlier this year! I can’t believe it! I never got a chance to go there!”

“Well, what about Mammoth Cave?” I suggested. It was no amusement park but we enjoyed walking around nature.

“That’s kind of far. How would you feel about King’s Island?”

I shook my head. “Also too far.”

We got out the road atlas and looked around the area for someplace to go, something to do. We were determined not to let our day be ruined.

“Spring Mill Park has caves and it’s on our way home,” suggested Fred. I nodded in agreement and we headed off.

It was another hour and a half before we came to the park. As we approached the entrance we read a sign warning that the caves were closed to stop the spread of some disease. But we decided that we’d come this far so we might as well go in.

There was a pioneer villiage at the park. We walked around there and watched cornmeal be made at the mill. We then walked up the small path to the dam in the river but the rest of the trail was closed off. There was a cave up ahead but we couldn’t even get close. We were about to leave the park when Fred said he wanted to see the Gus Grissom memorial that they had there. He’d seen it before, years ago, but I’d never seen it. We pulled into the parking lot and got out. Before we could even get to the end of the car, a securiy guard popped her head out the door. “We’re closed!” she announced. “Of course,” both Fred and I muttered in return.

We made our way home and, upon arrival, watched National Lampoon’s Vacation. We laughed and while I noticed some similarities between Fred and Clark, there were more differences. Fred did not go crazy then hold up a security guard at gunpoint, forcing him to go on all the rides. He did not tie my beloved pet to the back of the car and then drive off. And he most certainly did not go skinny dipping with Christie Brinkley, though he probably wouldn’t mind that.

 
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Posted by on August 27, 2010 in About me, Travel

 

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Mini-golf should require helmets

My long weekend: Day Three

Jess and I love to play putt-putt. Since our youth, we’ve been on many a putt-putt course throughout the country. In Florida, where both of our grandparents resided, was a jungle-themed course that we frequented when we visited the family. It was set up as if a plane crashed in a jungle (there was an actual plane on the side of the hill). Alongside one hole was a quicksand pit with the frame of a body and only an explorer’s hat visible. Another hole was on a sloping, sinking boat.

Now, just because we’ve played a lot of putt-putt, that doesn’t mean that we’re good. Once I nailed Jess in the knee with a wayward ball. Another time I hit the ball so hard that it was closer to the next hole than the one we were on. And I can’t count how many times my ball has fallen in the water trap.

For Jess’ last day visiting me, Fred and I took her out to our favorite miniature golf course. Fred had played the course his whole life and had introduced it to me on our first date. I have yet to beat him but I will prevail one day!  But I digress.

Miniature golf is different from putt-putt.  With putt-putt, the fairways have fake grass and obstacles are spinning windmill blades or strategically placed rocks.  Miniature golf is played on real grass and the holes are surrounded by real sand and are farther away from the tee than in putt-putt.  It’s also a lot harder.  There are still obstacles, but there are no windmills.

When I play mini-golf, I start off by hitting the ball too hard and usually send it flying past the hole.  Usually, though, by the back 9 I get the hang of things and actually make par on a few holes.  The opposite happened for Jess.  She started off well, but then progressively got worse.  It culminated near the end.  One of the toughest holes had a 5-foot high fence surrounding it.  We had to tee off from about 15 feet away, get through the one opening in the fence, over the stone bridge (I’d gotten stuck on that for 3 strokes once) and then there was still another 15 feet to the hole.  Jess shot first and got close to the opening of the fence but didn’t get through.  I went and, miraculously, the ball sailed through the opening, across the bridge, and landed within a couple of feet of the hole.  Fred went last and lobbed his ball far to the left, nowhere close to the fence’s opening.  This made me laugh because Fred rarely messes up this bad on the mini-golf course so I have to take advantage when he does.

I stood back when Jess took her next shot, and it was a good thing, too, because in effort to get her ball through the fence opening, she lobbed the ball pretty hard.  It flew up in the air and hit the wooden railing that surrounded the top of the fence, and then bounced into the grass outside the fence.  I laughed at that as I watched Fred attempt to putt around the side of the fence to the opening.  Then Jess went again.  “I’m going to try to hit it over!” she said.  What happened resulted in me doubling over, clinging to my club as if it were a cane to keep me from falling over.  Once again, Jess lobbed the ball high and it angled to her right, bounced off the railing, and flew toward the hole.  Unfortunately, it was hole 4 and we were on hole 12.

Back and forth Jess and Fred took turns trying unsuccessfully to get their balls on the green.  At one point, Fred told Jess, “It might be easier if you just putt the ball through the holes in the fence!”  Perhaps it would have been, but it wouldn’t have been nearly as much fun.  Or hilarious (I’d cried all my makeup off at this point).  Once they both reached the 6-stroke limit, I putted my ball in.  Two strokes.

The next hole, Jess was up first.  This was another tricky one.  There was a well and the hole was beyond the well, down a little slope.  Newbies would think that going through the well would be the fastest way.  Maybe in putt-putt where tubes help lead the balls through certain obstacles, but not in mini-golf.  It was actually quite easy to get stuck in this well and was best to putt around it.  Fred and I advised Jess to do so.  I don’t know if she heard “putt around” or “putt over” but she decided to hit the ball with a greater force than she had been.  The ball sailed through the air and hit a large rock.  Because of the force, the ball bounced off the rock and sailed back toward Jess.  It looked like it might hit her in the head, but it didn’t.  Instead, it hit the par sign and flew off in another direction, far from the hole.  Jess and I were doubled over in laughter.  Tears streamed my face.  I was finding it difficult to breath.  Fred, who was also finding all this amusing, said, “That’s what we call a boomerang shot!”

 
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Posted by on August 24, 2010 in About me

 

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What’s “I love IKEA” in Swedish?

My long weekend: Day Two

After my rad 30-ish birthday party, Jess and my cousins, Missy and Kate, came over to my apartment.  We played drinking games and sang along to songs until we crashed.  Sadly, Jess and I crashed early (around 10pm).  We’d both been up since the wee hours of the morning, but her even more so because of an early flight.

The next morning we met up with Fred at a quaint breakfast place in town.  It came recommended to me from a coworker and it did not disappoint!  Usually, a veggie omelet and some toast will fill me up nicely.  But this place had a lot of items that looked too good to pass up!  So Jess and I decided to get our own meal but then split the “Dreamy French Toast”.  “Dreamy” doesn’t even describe it properly.  It was far beyond that.  It was nirvana.  I inhaled my slice like there was no tomorrow and drooled as I watched Jess eat her piece.  I wanted more!

After breakfast we said goodbye to Kate and Jess, Missy, and I piled in my car and headed east.  Missy needed a ride home, which was 2 hours away, and Jess wanted to go to IKEA, which was near Missy’s house.  Road trip!  We stopped at IKEA first and the three of us walked around, trying out chairs and couches as potential buys for Jess.  I always like looking at their organizational solutions and especially love all the bookcases and entertainment centers.  I have to be careful when I go into an IKEA so I don’t buy everything that I see (it wouldn’t fit in my car anyway).

When my blood sugar started to drop, though, I had to go ahead of Jess and Missy to the cafeteria and get something to eat.  I had to bypass the kids’ section, which is a lot of fun to look at.  I don’t have kids and don’t plan too, but I like looking at all the cute decor.  Usually I go through that section and think, “I would have loved this as a kid!”  After I got my food, I was waiting to get my drink from the soda fountain when a woman came up at the same time.  I stepped aside and gestured for her to go first.  She did.  Another woman, a bit older than me, walked up.  I told her she could go ahead.  “I just need ice,” she said.  I told her that was fine, all the more reason for her to go ahead.  “No, you should go.  You were here first.”

“It’s okay,” I told her.

“Here, I’ll get your drink for you.  What would you like?”  She grabbed my glass and started filling it with ice.

I smiled.  “Cherry Pepsi, please.”  She filled the glass and handed it back to me.  “Thank you.  That was very nice!” I told her.  She smiled and we went our separate ways.

Once Jess and Missy and I met back up, we were ready to start on the next floor.  This is the floor that usually gets me in trouble because I want almost everything I see.  As we descended the stairs, I squealed, “Oh!  New bags!”  I have several IKEA shopping bags (the big, rectangular bags with funky designs).  I like to use them when I go grocery shopping because they’re big and hold a good amount of weight.  These new bags even zipped up, which I thought was brilliant.  Jess, of course, just rolled her eyes at me.  But I was a good girl – I only got one (I have about 5 more at home).

Overall, the three of us only got a handful of small things (Missy didn’t even get something for herself; it was for Kate).  As I waited in line, a husband and wife went by, pushing their cart and their tell-tale yellow bag (yellow bags hold unpaid merchandise).  The cashier stopped them and said that there was no unpaid merchandise beyond that point.  The couple seemed a bit stumped.  I was amazed.  If you’ve never been to an IKEA, let me explain.  Once you wind through the entire store, you come to the checkout lanes that span the length of the room.  There is no way to get out without going through a checkout lane.  It’s quite obvious just by looking at one’s surroundings that one is to pay for her items here.  So, when the couple didn’t realize that they had to pay at one of the 25 checkout lanes, I was quite shocked.  Did they think that all these people were just standing in lines for fun?

One of the things I like the most about IKEA is the water efficient toilets.  For liquid waste, you push the handle up.  For solid waste, you push the handle down.  Depending on which way the handle is pushed, the toilet will use only the needed amount of water.  I don’t know how much water is saved, but could you imagine if more places did this?  We could save so much more water every day!

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2010 in About me

 

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Totally awesome

My long weekend: Day One

My birthday is in December and this year I’ll be turning the big 3-0.  I wanted to do something special but with my birthday being so close to the holidays, it’s hard to plan anything big.  Understandably, most people are too busy between shopping and office parties to add one more item to their “To Do” list.  Not to mention that money is strapped that time of the year for a lot of folks, myself included.  Take all that plus the fact that I never got to do anything outside for my birthday and you’ll understand why I decided to celebrate turning 30 early.

Of course, I had to have an 80s theme for the party.  Judy and Fred took care of the cake.  Judy had asked me for some suggestions earlier in the summer and my response was, “Just make it 80s themed.”  But then my mind started turning and I threw out some more specific suggestions.  “You could do Pac-Man.  He’s also 30.  Oh!  Or you could do Pizza the Hut from Spaceballs!  No!  Wait!  You could do Pac-Man eating Pizza the Hut!”  Judy stopped me after that.  The day of the party, Judy arrived with cake in hand and she did not disappoint:

The day was hot but there was shelter and plenty of cold drinks for everyone.  We grilled out because I never got to do that for my birthday before.  Fred’s mom was tending to the grill at one point and remarked, “It’s nice and cool over here!”  We also played a lot of games, including 80s Trivial Pursuit that Fred found at Goodwill on his way to the party.  However, there were some pieces missing from the game (which is probably why it was only $3).  The only die had colors on it and it was for a supplemental 90s Trivial Pursuit Travel Pack.  The wedge pieces were also missing.  So, we improvised.  We used the color die and assigned numbers to each color.  However, the die had brown on it and no purple.  The board had a purple space but no brown.  So brown became purple on the die.  It was a bit confusing but we made it work.  My favorite quote of the party was: “Brown is purple which is one which is blue which is headlines.”

I wasn’t expecting it, but people brought gifts.  Yes, I know it was a birthday party, but that wasn’t my intent with throwing a party.  I just wanted my friends and family to be all together and have a damn good time.  But still cards and gifts were given and it was all very thoughtful.  Lynn, one of my best friends from high school, had made a 3 hour trip to come to the party.  Her card quoted my blog on preferring cash for my birthday.  As soon as I read that, I got a pit in my stomach.  Growing up, whenever a friend had a birthday, Lynn would take some money and hide it in everyday objects and the birthday girl had dig it out.  It was funny – when it was someone else, of course.  She’s hidden money in jars of peanut butter and rolls of duct tape.  So, when I opened her gift, I was a bit relieved to see that I got a roll of toilet paper and not something sticky.

Later, when we cut into the cake, we found one more surprise:

I had a great time and I think everyone else did, too.  It was great to see my friends and my family (Jess flew in from the east and my cousins, aunt, uncle, and Grandpa K. drove a couple of hours to make it).  When I turn 40, I’ll definitely be doing something early and outside again.  However, I’ll make sure that I plan something for fall and not for one of the hottest days of summer.

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2010 in About me

 

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Scorching read

They were supposed to be safe once they solved the maze. But the Gladers were anything but that.

After only a night’s rest, Thomas and the other survivors of the maze are thrown into another test, something WICKED (World In Catastrophe, Killzone Experiment Department) calls the Scorch Trials. Tattoos appear overnight labeling each of them (the Betrayer, the Glue, the Leader, etc.) but one wonders if this just WICKED’s way of keeping track of them or if it’s another test. With their deadline ticking away, the Gladers don’t have time for questions. If they don’t make it to their destination in two weeks’ time, they will not get the antidote for the Flare, a disease that slowly turns people crazy.

Soon after setting out on their journey, the Gladers come across metal balls that feast on human heads and people infected with the Flare. Obstacles are thrown at them from all directions. There are storms that bring lightning that crashes into the ground with great force and sets people on fire. All through the journey, Thomas has memory dreams, including one about his mother when he was really young. Most of the dreams, though, are about being in WICKED’s faculties and learning ESP with Teresa.

Like The Maze Runner, this book draws readers in right from the beginning. Non-stop action keeps the pages turning as does curiosity. Who is behind WICKED and why are they doing these trials? What part did Thomas have with WICKED before his memory was wiped? What is the Flare? What has become of the world? Does Thomas have a family and are they still alive?

And the most important question of them all: when will book 3 be out?

 
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Posted by on August 13, 2010 in Literature

 

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If you have to be told…

If you’ve ever stepped inside a Starbucks’ bathroom, you may have seen a sign reading, “Employees must wash hands before returning to work.” That kind of sign is common, though, amongst eating establishments. What gets me about the Starbucks’ signs are the pictures depicting each step of the hand washing process. “Turn on water,” is written over a picture of a running faucet. “Wet hands.” A picture shows a pair of hands under the running water. This continues through every minute detail. It makes me wary. Why is Starbucks hiring all these people who don’t properly know how to wash their hands? Do I really want to be consuming food and beverage prepared by people who not only need to be reminded to wash their hands, but who also need graphic depictions of said actions?

A few years ago I worked with a barista who had no knowledge of hygiene. Several time I caught her leaving the bathroom without washing her hands. Other employees complained about her handling food without gloves. She once dropped a pen cap into an employee’s son’s drink and then fished it out with her bare hands. Disgusting.

It always flabbergasted me that people have to be reminded to do something that I think should be ingrained in them. On the plus side, though, that barista doesn’t work with us anymore, nor does the girl who always had her butt crack showing (but that’s a whole other story).

 
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Posted by on August 12, 2010 in Rants

 

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Tis the season

The radio station I listen to was advertising a canned food drive coming up later this week. Many people feel charitable between Thanksgiving and Christmas and donate then. But food pantries are open year round. Hunger for the poor and homeless doesn’t happen 6 weeks a year but 52 weeks a year. Many of the food banks in my state are low on supplies. Some have even shut down because they are completely out of resources. Chances are that food banks in your area are in the same boat. So, the next time you’re at the grocery store, pick up an extra can or two for your local food bank. A little act of charity can make a big difference.  If you don’t know where to donate, check out Feeding America‘s website.

 
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Posted by on August 10, 2010 in Food

 

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