Monday, April 29, 2013

Ravens Pride

On Saturday, we took a taxi from our front door and in ten minutes were wandering among the hor d'oeuvres stations for Alex's annual work gala. We didn't manage to get pictures at the beginning of the we got them at the end. (This is actually us in our new bathroom.) Look at that handsome doctor I landed. She actually rented a tux for the occasion, but I admit that I nixed it when I saw it. Poor thing, she had such a good time getting it, too. She always wants to match when we go out, so as soon as I landed this purple number (which she picked out, by the way), she was on the hunt for a matching tie. The genius of this outfit is that it is also Raven's purple...which automatically makes any piece of clothing formal wear in Baltimore. I admit, I really loved matching. Turns out, I'm super into the prom look.


Events like this have become much, much less painful for me now that I've learned to simply pay professionals to handle my head! I made an appointment with Lindsay at Flaunt (who did a phenomenal job on my hair for the wedding), who did quite nicely with my instruction of "offside chignon." I also cannot be trusted to put makeup on my face and not look I wandered two doors down from Flaunt and Deb at "Kiss and Make Up" did a really nice, light look that I managed to not smear around too badly. It was so sweet to wander around the Avenue in my filthy athletic shorts, old flip-flops and a hoodie, with my head all perfect and my fancy earrings twinkling. I must have looked photoshopped.


The nice thing is, we're slowly getting better at these kinds of events. So much so, that we may start seeking them out. I told Alex that I'm totally down for hitting the DC spring fundraising circuit, but we have to learn to dance together and that the Virginia Reel doesn't count.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The most amazing parking job

On Monday, we went to the last show of the Stoop for the season.

We meet our friends Joan and Jon there, and we are usually late and it's always a little tough to find a space that you don't have to pay for. It's not expensive - it's only $5, but it's the principle of the thing, you know?

So, we were driving along and there - right in front of the theater, was a parking space that looked way too small for the car. I decided to try it anyway because, well, you never know if you'll fit unless you give it a good try.

I made a perfect first pass, and from there on in it was just a matter of rocking back and forth - about 3 inches in each direction. However, when Alexis got out to check out the job, she was astounded -- the space was actually SMALLER than the car I parked in it. This is me bowing, by the way.

How is this possible you may ask? Simple: our front bumper rode slightly lower than their rear bumper, allowing for a few more inches of wiggle room:

The hardest part of the whole thing was making sure that we were not pushing up against either car. I am totally paranoid that someone will raise a horrendous stink if my car is touching their car, so I assiduously avoid it. I couldn't just put it in park, because we were on a hill and rolled back at least 3 inches, causing us to firmly press the rear-end of the Focus against the front lips of the car behind us. So, I pulled as far forward as I could, rolled back only slightly, and pulled hard on the parking break. As Jon said when he came back after intermission: you can see daylight on each side, but NOT MUCH!

Total high-point. Also, the show was great.

Putting in a new garden bed

I'm putting in a new raised bed. Last fall, mom and I built a very nice bed in the front yard which I promptly filled with a bunch of crap I dug out of the compost pile rather than buying soil.

I'm morally opposed to buying soil.

Instead, I MAKE soil. Often out of improbable things...

Leaves? Certainly.
Used tissues? Yep.
Orange and other peels? Der.
Twigs? Unwisely, yes.
Jeans? Sometimes.
Opossums? I have.
XXX XXXXXX (redacted due to potential health code violations)? Yes, but don't tell the neighbors.

All this comes together, with some deftly applied rainwater and tincture of time to create...well, dirt: the matter that makes up the part of the planet we interact with. I believe, and would argue, that this makes me an earth mother.

It's nice dirt, too. And I'm not saying that just because I'm its mother. It's nice dirt -- rich, giving, a haven for organisms both uni- and multi-cellular, varied and fascinating, and continually changing. It's real earth, like, you would be so happy to turn over the sod and find it healthy and happy and ready to please. And it's amazing to make it on a regular basis, and I make a lot of it.


Concurrently, I also am creating more and more growing spaces around the house. This year, I have decided to put in a full 16 feet of prime tomato real estate along the wire fence on the east side of the house. I took out a bunch of sod...

...put down a digestible weed-blocker (which was actually the cotton cover my mom made for the futon she gave us...the cover that Luckey-Haskins ruined in the months of litter angst that followed our move)...

...and started layering in whatever I could find. This method of soil-creation is called "Lasagna Gardening" because of the layers of compostables, paper, cardboard, and whatever, that you neatly stack together. The strata break down and become a garden bed over time. I started the lasagna with newspaper, which is recommended, and then a layer of the bolted collards I'd just pulled out of the other lasagna bed in the front.

I also layered in a bunch of half-rotted stuff from Fall clean up. Unfortunately, we'd taken down a bunch of trees and all I'd managed to do is snip the twigs into 3" bits which matted together into an unmovable mass which broke my pitchfork.

I don't mind the twigs, really. They'll break down like all the rest of it. Besides which, I am way into this new/old permaculture gardening practice called hegelkulture, which is the creation of garden beds over a mound of rotting wood debris. I figure any wood will work, even if it's the trunk of our Christmas tree (the branches long since stripped for mulch):

You just keep layering. Tossing in the box and paper that carried your raised bed corners. and digging deeper into your partially-rotted compost...

...until you hopefully run into this fine, fat specimen. That's a Bic pen next to it, and stretched out, he's probably 7 inches long. As I dig down, I go through strata of different worm species. I find these guys at the bottom, where it's always wet and cold. I move him, then, with the rest of his more-active neighbors, to a bed that is sunny and hot. I hope he was able to make his way down, down, down to where it's always cool and always moist. Perhaps he found solace snuggled against the cotton futon cover.

I think he's a Flobber Worm.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Lake Tahoe - February 2012

We have been skiing and riding all winter (such as it has been) at our small local resorts (such as they are). Working our way, in speed and endurance up and down Roundtop, Liberty, and WhiteTail - with occasional forays to Seven Springs, Timberline, and Snowshoe. This was the year I really learned to ride, for I fell in love with boarding way too late last year to make a real go of it. And The Better Half, as well, has been becoming something new as well - a Telemark Skier (AKA a "Knee Bending Tree Fairy" or KBTF). Thus, it was with no small amount of high-pitched, excited squealing that I planned out our end-of-season ski trip.

Tahoe had been recommended by three different sources, so with that in mind, I planned out a detailed adventure out West.

The Lake:
First of all, the lake itself is pretty damn incredible. On quiet days, it's so glassy and clear that they say you can see 75 feet down (it used to be 100 feet, but it's getting a bit cloudier).

And for many of the skiable mountains, the lake is a constant reminder of where you are. It is an ever-present vista from the top of many lifts. In fact, the first day, we downloaded (meaning, rode back down) the primary lift at Homewood. It was incredible...but terrifying to those of us with height issues. First, let me clarify that there was no restraining bar, so the only thing keeping me on the seat was my death-grip on the arm rest. Second, the chairlift really did go straight down a fairly upsetting incline, with an amazing view:

The first few days were so beautiful - intense blue skies and 60 degree weather. We started at Homewood, a small resort on the (less popular) West side of the lake...relatively low so as not to exacerbate our altitude adjustment. We then moved on to Sierra-at-Tahoe, an incredibly fun resort nestled in the El Dorado National Forest.

We went to Sierra for two main reasons: first, they are one of the two Tahoe resorts that explicitly offers both Telemark lessons and gear, and second, they were advertising this free "Interactive Geologic/Historic Mountain Tour." We were so excited about the tour, and we were sore afraid that we would be too late to get a spot in this amazing offer! Of course, when we arrived, the Telemark school was literally a Telemark shack (referred to as such), which was tiny, but they'd still found room for three cases of beer and some Red Label. And when, after the grueling two-hour lesson (during which the instructor told Alex that if more than two turns were possible, they were being performed incorrectly) beer was offered, it was gratefully accepted. In addition, that tour that we thought would be full-up? When we arrived, we asked breathlessly at the ticket office if there was still space. She had no idea because nobody had ever asked to go on it before. Ridiculous!

Nobody had any idea what we were talking about, either, but when we informed them that the tour was very clearly listed on their website, a phenomenal retired high-school teacher took us on a 1.5 hour meander through the tectonic reason-d'etre of the Sierra Nevadas, and the mythos of the mountain men who poled mail through on 10-foot skiis. It was such a great time, we're going to see if he'll come back-country camping with us next year!

Our third day, we spent at Heavenly. A resort accessed directly from South Lake Tahoe, where we stayed. There is a gondola that leaves from lake-level and rises about 3,500 feet directly up the mountain. It also travels almost 2.5 miles along the ridge's a pretty awesome engineering feat.

We also got great reception:

The coolest thing about Heavenly is that it straddles the Nevada/California state line. At the top of certain hills, you are literally looking down the East towards the desert and down to the West towards the lake. The bottom of Lake Tahoe is actually at a higher elevation than the desert below. So the surface of the lake is much, much higher.

Heavenly is alright, but it was my least favorite mountain. It shore is fancy, though...owned as it is by the Vail group. Turns out, I'm kind of a "rickety-lift" sort of boarder (and not necessarily a "signature cocktail" type). Also, Heavenly is big, not that well marked, and, dare I say it, a beginner mountain. When you're a boarder and the trails are so flat that you have to get out and kick? Not happy.

Surprisingly, I'm happy on the steeps.

Our final day, it was due to snow. And snow it did:

There were all sorts of flashing signs warning of the need for chains. We had made sure to rent an All-Wheel Drive full-size SUV, and boy did it come in handy. That big, bulky Mitsubishi got us to the best riding day of my life.

We took a women's clinic, and I was the only boarder. This meant that my awesome teacher, Megan, led a two-hour clinic on exactly what I needed. My riding was fine, she said, my turns and control looked great. So, she opined, any reluctance I had to riding steeps was purely a fear thing, which was easily dealt with by just making me do it. She took me to the tippy-top of the mountain and made me ride down a wide open bowl. Then she taught me some asshole moves (seriously, she showed me how to spray bystanders with snow). Then, most importantly, she taught me to ride the gully. The gully is basically a naturally occurring half-pipe, but uneven, with trees and rocks and narrows and other fun stuff. She told me one thing - to crouch at the apex of the turn, just as the board is slowing down. This unweights the edges, and you rocket down towards the other side. The result is, you go faster and faster until the force of the swing smears you up the side and the turn is a moment of weightlessness. Once I got the hang of it, I did it over and over and over until the lifts stopped.

It was the best time I have ever had in my entire life. Best.

This video, which shows only the first slow turn up the gully side, reveals something quite clearly: On my snowboard, I am a big jerk. You can tell this by the fact that my Flow bindings allow me to strap in faster than everybody else, so I just take the drop in. See those guys? They were in front of me, but I didn't give a shit. I was ready and I was damn well going. Like I said, a jerk.

On the last run, I was so sad to go that I wailed into the storm...for boarding season is now well over. As I type this back home in Baltimore, the daffodils are blooming, the birds are singing. Spring is most definitely here, and now I say: winter is so short, so fleeting, but with luck will come around again.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Florida Keys - New Years 2011

We jetted ourselves down the the Florida Keys for the week between Christmas and New Year. We try to spend this week somewhere warm, just with each other, every year. Well...let's say we've tried to do it every year, with varying success. As my better half says, there's no better way to ring in the new year than under the rustle of a palm-frond roof, a gently lapping shoreline limned with Tiki torches. Tough work if you can get it.

This year, we went to the Florida Keys to paddle and snorkel - and met up with the guys we'd paddled with in the Finger Lakes, and serendipitously, a couple with whom we'd shared a very lively conversation over beers and burgers. We were guided through some particularly magnificent spots, where the mangrove channels get so small that you have to stow the paddle, and haul yourself through, hand over hand...sometimes while lying on your belly.

We also went snorkeling in a lively and healthy coral reef about five miles off the Sombrero Beach in Marathon, where we were staying. I will attempt to share any pictures that come out of the underwater camera we got for the occasion. Highlights from this included swimming over a seven foot nurse shark and then an even larger stingray, hanging out with a small sea turtle as it nibbled its way along the reef, and bravely making our way through throngs of foot-wide moon jellies.

We took a sunset cruise around Key West on a boat that, by day, is occupied by frequently naked gay men, and by night is opened up to those of us who don't mass together in nude groups. Behind Alexis is Julie, half of that fun Upstate couple, and then Cody and Ryan from Finger Lakes Paddleboard.

We stayed in this unbelievably crappy hotel in Marathon. At first, we felt really far away from everything centered in Key West. It's funny, we just didn't understand that the Keys stretch about 127 miles from upper Key Largo to Key West. But, in fact, much of what we really would want to do in the Keys is better in the Middle Keys than in Key West at the Southern Tip. The Snorkeling was fantastic, the beach (Sombrero Beach) is the best of the Keys, and there is even great Mangrove and Wreck paddling. Next time, we will just head directly to the Middle Keys and ignore the drunken Croc-wearing crowds of Key West.

Even though our hotel was atrocious, we had great meals:

A great dock to share with the pelicans:

And the first Mimosas of the New Year:

As we drove north on U.S. 1 to Miami - salt drying in our hair from a final swim and listening to oldies WWUS (U.S. 1 radio broadcasting out of Big Pine Key) - I turned to Alexis and said what I'll say to you: It's going to be a great year.

Monday, November 14, 2011

In the B&O trainyard

We have a world-class railroad museum in downtown Baltimore. We had planned to make a late-afternoon Sunday dash as a work break. I accidentally left the tickets at home, but we did get to wander the train yard. This beauty is a gigantic steam engine, just sitting there and waiting for you to cozy up to it.

Sunday, November 06, 2011


This is a real problem! I thought the nomming would stop when the weather changed...but the weather never changes inside the hoop house. I picked off one particularly well-fed fellow yesterday and held him aloft. He was curled around the tip of the straw I'd used, and in the golden sun of late fall, his little yellow dashes seemed particularly dashing, and his collard-colored skin looked vibrant and velvety. I sighed and put him back in the hoop house. It's his only little life, you know? He only gets one, I only get one.

Friday, November 04, 2011

On losing weight and being game

Between last fall and this fall I've lost about 50 pounds.

It's not so much that I see my body much differently. I still look the same to me as I ever have...though I can see the change in my face. The picture on the left is from our 2010 trip to England, and the picture on the right is from today - from my desk (I am sick, by the way).

What has really changed, is that suddenly, after all these years, I AM GAME.

I am game for it, man.

I was never game. Not as a kid, not as an adult. Kids would start to race and I would yell: "I'm not racing!"

Well, I'm still kind of like that -- I don't like to compete and when I do I expect to roundly lose, which is often the case. However, as a grown-up, I have found out that - surprise! - this is not the only way to be physical. I have run, on and off, for years, but I've never liked it. But, this year, being game as I am, I experimented and found two things that I am head-over-heels for: Snowboarding and Stand-Up Paddleboarding.

I didn't know.
I didn't know that by being game, I would find so much joy.
I didn't know, but I'm happy I know now.