Entries Tagged 'Kent Places' ↓

The corn is as high as an elephant’s toenail

Maybe my shabby little garden in Kent, OH pales in comparison to most midwest cornfields, but I’m proud. Damn proud. So here’s the skinny (and I’m including my ears of corn in that statement): little known fact, I’m an armchair gardener. Meaning I don’t garden but I read about it, look at seed catalogs, roam the aisles at nurseries, and wish I had a green thumb but my thumb tends to be several shades away of green and tends to kill all natural things in its path. It’s a menacing thumb, really. I point to something green and it wilts. Or screams in horror. Or shrivels up into a brown, slimy inedible ball. I have these dreams of moving about my beautiful vegetable garden in overalls (or maybe a cute jean skirt and pink gingham blouse), picking pecks of peppers, testing the tomatoes for ripeness, busheling beans (if that’s what you actually do with beans…I wouldn’t know, I buy them at the grocery).

This year, I had big plans. Last year it was all about the fence but now it was going to be all about being organic. A landscape designer told us the front area of the backyard would be perfect for a garden. This was my chance. Nothing like fucking up your garden in front of all of your neighbors! Woo-hoo!

The first task was pest removal — meaning the dogs. Being Aussies, the girls like patroling the perimeter. You know, just on the offchance some marauding sheep get loose. We dont’ call Macy the Vigilante for nothing. After several ramshackle, failed attempts to keep them out of the soon-to-be garden area, we bit the bullet and went for a permanent solution: more fence (which still needs painting but I’m still in the first stage of fence painting which is denial and I’m just pretending the fence will paint itself).

The fence idea worked perfectly. Except for the fact that early planting season was way over. I was not to be deterred. There was a sunny patch near the garage, outside of the fence that was suitable for a much smaller garden. It would be more Little Sprout than ho ho ho Green Giant. I rationalized that I didn’t want to go overboard the first year anyway. Who was I kidding? I wouldn’t have time to take care of the massive bounty that would grow in the original area so there was nothing wrong with going small. Beyond that, I seemed to have a knack for growing crabgrass because it was overtaking the yard and threatening to devour our house.

I planted some corn, beans, peppers and sunflowers according to the directions on the little seed packets. Oh yeah, I followed them to the letter. Then I pleaded with the seeds to grow. I watered them like a dutiful mother. But the garden goddess (that would be Flora) was against me. We had also decided to put in a backyard patio shortly after I planted (note the short, unpainted fence below). Unbeknownst to me, to install the patio, the contractors needed a Bobcat for digging. And this Bobcat rolled right over my fragile seedlings. The contractors, probably feeling more sorry for me because the seedlings were so shabby, shoved the tattered stalks into a tiny corner. Buh-bye garden of the gods.

I figured all was lost, no more pecking and busheling, no more cute overalls, no more feeding half of Kent. But my little seedlings persevered. When they first started growing, I had no idea what was what since everything was packed in tighter than John Candy’s thighs in spandex. Oh, and because I’d never planted anything before. Soon, things started taking shape in the shabby patch. A few stalks of corn, some green peppers, mini sunflowers, and some basil. Said another way, a mess. Nothing could breathe. The corn was coming in too close together and I figured I’d end up with those mini, pickled ears best eaten in salads or Chinese takeout. I thought maybe the corn would mix with the peppers and maybe, by some miracle, I’d accidently develop a weird hybrid vegetable — a corper or a peporn. Maybe Miss Flora or Mother Nature would deem me worthy of birthing a brand new vegetable. I’d be famous! I’d be swimming in overalls!

I might not have developed a hybrid but my little garden did grow, sans the silver bells and cockle shells. And sans the beans I’d planted. And sans most of the corn and sunflowers. But, I digress.

Tonight for dinner, I ate the first two ears of corn. Small but juicy and ever so tasty. A week ago we chopped up some basil for salsa, and the peppers are almost ready — though I don’t think we have enoug for a peck. The corn may not be as high as an elephant’s eye but who gives a rip about an elephant’s eye anyhow when you’ve got juice dribbling down your chin.

My shabby garden turned out to be not so shabby. It’s actually sort of chic in its shabbiness.  Take that, Flora!

The Seven Stages of Fence Painting

It seems befitting that we honored Labor Day Weekend by putting in several hours of manual labor painting our fence. We didn’t use a sprayer and, unfortunately, there’s no fancy invention, magic elves, or iPhone app that instantly paints the fence for you. All we had were paintbrushes, a couple of rollers, a little elbow grease, a lot of jokes about feeling like Tom Sawyer, and some outrageously gorgeous weather.

But when facing more than 200 feet of pickets, rails, and posts with nothing but a 4-inch-wide brush and a fuzzy roller, it’s easy to feel defeated before you get started. I’d even googled for fence-painting info and every blog and article I ran across basically stated that there’s no easy way to get the job done. So we settled in for the chore, Dave doing most of the painting on Sunday and me picking it up on Monday. Here then is my contribution to the chore of fence painting a la the seven stages of grief.

SHOCK – It came within the first half hour after I’d moved no more than four pickets and one post. And that was only the front side of the pickets. I started to do the math but, given my math skills, I abandoned that little task, because I was still too busy mumbling, WTF, WTF, WTF and my terrible math skills had us finishing the fence in 2016. Shoot me now.

DENIAL –  Seriously. This isn’t going to take long at all. I left to meet a few friends at the Taste of Cleveland and figured by the time I got back, Dave would be nearly finished. Sure he would! He would paint with two hands! We’d have a white fence by sundown! We would only need two gallons of paint versus the five I was certain we would need earlier in the day. Woot woot!

ANGER – Back to mumbling WTF. While Dave made great progress on Sunday, there was still a whole- hella-lot more wood than white. And Dave could barely stand up straight from all of the rolling, which requires bending over. Damn fence. Damn dogs that need the damn fence. We should’ve considered the electric fence. No one paints electric and who cares if the dogs got zapped 25 times a day? They should bark less anyway, the damn fools. And if one more person makes a joke about Tom Sawyer, I’m gonna swipe a paintbrush across my face and start singing every song from the musical because, sadly, I know them. Screw you, Aunt Polly! No wonder Tom thought you were a beeeyatch!

And would it be so wrong to tie paintbrushes or sponges to Alice and Macy’s paws and have them get to work. They are working dogs for pete’s sake. It’s about time they started earning their keep. They should be paying rent for the fence. And why can’t those super-genius iPhone people figure out some sort of super-genius application that will paint this fence for me? Argh!

BARGAINING – Monday, 9 am-ish. Okay fence, it’s just you and me and some partly cloudy skies on Labor Day. Really, we can be friends. I’m sorry about all that talk of going electric and singing “Smart Like That” because it aint everyday a boy (and girl) gets to whitewash a fence, Huckleberry, because (sing along now) “it don’t feel like work to me.”  Heck no, this isn’t really work. This is Fun with a capital F and F stands for fence. I mean, it’s not every day you get to paint a fence so here’s the thing, God. If you can make this fence painting go a little faster, I promise and swear on a stack of bibles that I will not buy any shoes or clothes for approximately one month, maybe two. Oh hell, maybe even forever. And I will give up shopping altogether.  And also potato chips. In fact, I will cut all salty food out of my diet.

DEPRESSION – Monday, Noon-ish. I suck. I suck at this fence-painting thing. I’m barely past another post, my hands are quite possibly permanently clenched around this brush, my hands are covered in paint as are the dogs who tromped through the paint tray that I left sitting in the yard and no Macy is decorating the sun room with white paw tracks but that’s not the worst of it. Oh no, the worst of it is that by my terrible math calculation, it is indeed possible that this fence will not be complete until 2016. Somewhere up in heaven, my dad is looking down and laughing that I-told-you-so laugh he had, thinking this is the biggest joke ever. Put his attention-deficited daughter on fence painting detail. Ha, she can hardly pay attention for one picket let alone the 18 kajillion that appear to be multiplying before her very eyes. Why oh why didn’t I inherit his patience for home improvement projects?

I will finish my masters in creative writing before I finish this fence. We may never finish this fence. Ever. And look at those globs and streaks. Aunt Polly would be appalled. She’d box my ears, for sure, just like she did to Tom Sawyer when she found out he ditched class. I am doing a diservice to Mark Twain right here in the backyard with this sloppy fence painting. 

I can just hear Tim Gunn from Project Runway if he were to see my fence-painting skills.  “Oh dear, oh my. Hmmmm….I’m not sure about that picket right there. It looks very…well…unfinished and untailored. Make it work, Amy.”

Sigh. Triple sigh. If nothing else, at least one of the neighbor kids was selling chocolate. I bought three candy bars. I’m thinking I’ll drown my painting sorrows in chocolate.

TESTING – Monday, 2 pm-ish. So, if I put the mini roller in one cramped-beyond-belief-and-looking-like-a-crab-claw hand and put the big fat paintbrush in the other semi-cramped-but-slightly-less-used hand, I can roll and brush, roll and brush, roll and brush. It’s a new mantra. I’m like sooooooooooooooo Zen with my new painting routine. Or, or, or, I could roll a whole section and then go back with the brush for the second coat. Or I could create a new invention that would be like a combo roller-brusher thingee and make millions. I’d be like bigger than the Ronco In The Egg Scrambler. Ron Popeil’s inventions would have nothing on the Purcell Miracle Insta-Paint-o-Matic-RollerBrush. Or I could chuck this freaking roller across the yard, get a beer from the fridge, and tell everyone our fence is a very large and very modern art installation and the “unfinished” nature of this fine piece of artwork represents the unfinished nature of ourselves. We are all like a fence being painted and in need of painting. Or I could put this whole scene in a short story even though Twain already did it. Mine would be way more postmodern. Or something.

ACCEPTANCE – Monday, 4 pm-ish, 3 gallons of paint later, and still not finished. It’s okay. I’m going to get through this. I’m going to paint the fence for the rest of my life and that’s alright. There are worse things that could happen because bad things do happen to good people, or vice versa. If you can’t beat it, paint it. Maybe this is my real calling in life. Maybe this is all a sign I should drop this crazy idea of writing the great American novel and get myself back to community theater because I’ve just hummed my way through the entire Tom Sawyer production and I still know most of the songs. I’m sure someone needs an Aunt Polly somewhere. And really, this whole thing is teaching me big, big lessons in patience, discipline and focus. I mean, I might be able to get through an entire conversation with Dave without getting distracted. This whole fence thing is a blessing in disguise. Yes, I am blessed to my whitewashed ears. And the fence looks grand. Really, it does. Seriously.

EXHAUSTION – I decided we need to add an eighth stage to fence-painting called exhaustion. ‘Cause this here party is pooped. Goodnight moon. Goodnight white-pawed dogs. Goodnight kind neighbors who brought us homemade salsa. Goodnight paintbrushes and paintcans. Goodnight picket fence. (Please for the love of god finish painting yourself.)

A Kent Kind Of Weekend

My mom and Designing Diva sister Mary visited our new digs in Kent this weekend. While my sister spent most of her time with a hammer and picture-hanging materials in her hand as she surveyed the walls of our new house, we did get out and about in Kent. It’s safe to say it was a Kent kind of weekend, complete with local food, local shopping, and local sight-seeing. Here are the highlights:

The girls arrived late Friday afternoon and were greeted by my girls with the necessary level of excited barking. I mean, the other girls were carrying in pillows so certainly this was a sign of a slumber party which could only mean more dog treats. After hugs and treats were doled out, we took a tour of the new house and Mary started outlining a plan for all of our artwork that was piled in a corner just waiting for her magic touch. We hung out for a bit while Mary began hanging up picutures. Then it was off to Pufferbelly for dinner. Despite the scorch-your-skin temperatures, we walked to the restaurant and enjoyed the view of some dude floating down the lazy Cuyahoga River rapids in his blue Speedo. Fortunately, we didn’t lose our appetites and he didn’t lose his speedo in the rapids. Black squirrel sightings: one.

After a good dinner complete with banana-caramel-pecan bread pudding (nom nom nom!), mom brought a few steak scraps back for Alice and Macy. Talk about insta-BFFs. They forgot who normally brings home their bacon and surrounded mom for the duration of the visit on the off-chance that she would magically produce steak scraps from her pockets. Friday night was spent in true slumber party fashion – watching tv, talking, and snacking. We watched the most hideous show imaginable because that’s what slumber parties are all about — bad tv, gossip, and lazing around. The show is called “Say Yes To The Dress” whereupon horribly spoiled women search for the perfect wedding dress, typically upwards of $5,000 or more. Valuable brain cells were lost while viewing this comi-tragedy. The only redeeming value of the show is that it gave me the perfect saying for the rest of the weekend. “Say yes to… ”

Saturday was spent shopping and doing what our family calls “tooling around,” meaning just doing stuff. We spent some time at the Haymakers Farmer’s Market whereupon our inner bread lovers went into overdrive and we nearly bought out the entire Backeri booth. We bought pretzels! We bought rosemary bread! We bought something called a snookie! Say yes to the snookie! And to counterbalance all the carbs and sugary stuff, I bought a giant melon that passed the thump test for ripeness.  Say yes to the giant melon! Black squirrel sightings: zero; it was too hot for them.

Next up was the Kent State Museum. The current exhibit is all about hats and worth a quick tour of the museum if you haven’t been. Of course, I set off the museum alarm because I was pointing too closely at a particularly gorgeous hat which then led to the museum docent following us through the rest of the exhibit. Clearly I’m not to be trusted around artifacts that aren’t encased in glass.  Say yes to touching artifacts and setting off alarms! My fave hat was a black and white picture hat made of straw, circa 1990s, that had more folds than a shar-pai.

Mary’s fave – and mom’s too – was a wide-brimmed black and white picture hat with bows, circa 1980s. It had some My Fair Lady appeal — that sort of whimsical fun swoosh that reminds you of when Eliza is at the Ascott Opening Race. How dooooo you doooo?

We think they would’ve been perfect fits if they’d allowed us to try them on.

We left Kent for a few hours to hit Don Drumm Studio’s August sale, most definitely a major say-yes moment. I bought a couple pairs of earrings, a necklace, and a keyholder. Mom offered to buy the switchplate I was drooling over as a housewarming gift and Mary instructed me not to argue with her over who was buying because it would turn into the normal scene that happens in our family — “I’m buying.” “No, I’m buying.” “Put that card away. I said I was buying.” “I’m going to be mad if you buy.” Apparently, none of us have learned how to say yes to letting someone else pay because this was round one of several rounds of this circular conversation. You’d think we’d tire of it but we can’t help ourselves.

Back home for a lunch of pretzels, Shearer’s potato chips, and melon. Perfecto! Mom and Mary saved enough room for a dish of ice cream at the Old Fashioned Ice Cream Social sponsored by Standing Rock Cultural Arts and other downtown businesses. With sugar levels  soaring, it was time for more shopping at The Figleaf. I bought a super cute one-shoulder top at an incredibly low price and Mary bought a super cute purse (she buys purses like I buy shoes) for another incredibly low price. I’ve been running past the window for weeks now on one of my regular running routes but was always too sweaty to stop in. I’m pleased to report that I will be saying yes to The Fig Leaf and adding it to my regular shopping-browsing routine.  As we walked through Acorn Alley, I spied the Shearer’s red potato chip bag. Mom was a convert to the chip produced in Brewster, OH — lots of “foldies” in the mix, her favorite kind of chip and mine too! Black squirrel sightings: zero, unless you count some of the Kent paraphenalia in the gift shops on Main Street.

Then it was off to buy supplies so my designing diva sister could complete her quest to ensure that all of artwork would be hanging at the appropriate height, in the appropriate places. Here’s the thing about Mary: she’s awesomely talented and she’s one of the most giving people I know. I am more than lucky to have her as my sister. I mean, who else would tell me that my pictures are hanging too high and that the mirror we’ve had for over a decade has outdated colors from the 90s (purple and teal, you remember that combo I’m sure). So Mary buys a bunch of paint and proceeds to re-do the mirror. Here she is visiting us and she’s working. She did take a break for dinner though.

Mom decided on Mike’s Place because of their humor-infused menu.  The proportions here were huge and the menu was a hoot to read. From the Walleye that ate Cleveland to the Mad Hungarian to the Rules of Dining — We serve breakfast all day ’cause we don’t know when your lazy butts get out of bed — to the 60-oz meat-eating challenge, Mike’s menu gives you plenty to laugh about while you’re waiting.

We closed out the night with mirror-painting and a movie. The dogs saw the doggie bag filled with chicken parmigiana go into the fridge and spent the rest of the night wondering how to grow thumbs so they could make a late-night raid. But their cravings were denied until morning.

Sunday we wrapped up the trip at St. Patrick’s Church and the Wild Goats Cafe whereupon Mary and I reminisced over our old waitressing days. Little known fact: I love to serve food. I can’t cook it but I am a helluva waitress.

All told, we had a terrific time on our Kent kind of weekend, and I am proud to be a new Kentite, Kentonite, Kenter, Kentonian, or whatever I’m supposed to call myself.  Kent might be a smaller city than some but it’s big on community spirit. I’m saying yes to Kent. And now I’m going to say yes to the remaining pieces of pretzel in the kitchen.



Hay Is For Horses, Doncha Know

Who knew? Hay really is for horses. I went to Pizzute’s Plant-N-Thyme Nursery yesterday on the hunt for a couple of bales of what I always called hay. You know, those golden square scratchy things that make allergies go into overdrive and are also associated with farms and Fall and hayrides and a couple of scenes from musicals like Oklahoma where everyone is baling hay or horsing around in it or sitting on it while people are square-dancing.

So, being the apparent city girl that I am, I asked the older woman, presumably Mrs. Pizzuti (whom I later ended up calling Mrs. Patootie when I was retelling the story to a friend), if they had any bales of hay. She cocked her head and looked at me for a moment and then said, “you mean straw?”

Um…I guess so?

Lesson learned. Straw, my fellow cityfolk, is what we put over grass seed and what is now covering 1/8th of our yard where we’re trying to grow new grass. Straw is also used as bedding for farm animals and has no nutritional value unless you’re talking about the Straw of the Straw & Hay dinner at Pompilio’s in Newport, KY whereupon you get white linguini and spinach linguini covered in a creamy alfredo yumminess along with some green peas. Now I understand that the green noodles represent the “hay” which is what horses, cows, and all other farm animals eat for nutritional value.

So I got my two bales of straw and came home seeking some definitions. Hay of the horse-eating variety includes nutritional grasses and legumes such as alfalfa or clover. It’s cut, dried, and then used as food for the moo-cows and ba-ba-black sheep. Straw, which is now covering my yard and making a sorry attempt at keeping the birds out of the grass seed, is nothing but hollow stalks of grain. It can be used as feed but the cows and such don’t find it as appetizing.

Never again will I make this mistake and be corrected by Mrs. Pizutti-Patooti. Now, it’s time to go shoo the birds off the STRAW. I’m thinking about making a scarecrow with the leftovers.

Girl Talk – An Interview With Mom

So, Alice and Macy, you’ve been in Kent exactly a month and two days now. The writer, editor, and loyal pooper-scooper of The Grist Mill would like to hear your thoughts on your new home.

Macy (burying face in sofa cushion): MOM! That is so unladylike! Please do not talk about scooping our poop!

Alice: Why not? I’m feeling like taking a big old dump right about now anyhow. It’s either that or back to napping.

Macy: MOM! Make her stop! Besides, Alice, you won’t even go potty in your new yard. Every time we go out there you just roll over and show your belly.

Alice: That’s how we dawgs from Kent roll. I need to get my walk on so I can spread the love around the ‘hood, so to speak. We’re in new territory and I intend to mark my five-mile radius as Alice Palace’s Happy Dumping Grounds if you know what I’m sayin’.

Mom: Ladies, please. Can we get this interview back on track? Alice, you need to get over your yard-pooping phobia and Macy, you need to stop barking at the new neighbors. Now, my first question is, what do you like most about Kent?

Alice (stretching and finding a corner to lie in): The laid-back vibe, dude. It’s all copasetic. All I need are some tasty treats, a cool breeze in the sunroom, and I’m fine.

Mom: Nice answer, Spicoli. Macy, what about you?

Macy: Well, I really like all the nice people in the neighborhood.

Alice (rubbing her nose): Know what this is, sis?

Macy: Your nose?

Alice: Yeah, and what color is it?

Macy: Brown?

Alice: Put ’em together.

Macy: Brown nose?

Alice: Xactly.

Mom: Go ahead, Macy. What else do you like?

Macy: Well, let me think. I know! I like the new magic food we’re getting.

Alice: That’s not magic, that’s diet food. It’s trickery is what it is. You’re getting the wet stuff so it makes it seem like you’re getting more but you’re getting less. And that’s because you are what they call a Fat Ass. (Alice stands and starts wiggling her bottom) “Macy has a big butt and she cannot lie. You other Aussies can not deny. Macy got back!”

Macy (jumping on Alice and nipping her in the neck): No fair. It was the stress of the move! I overeat when I’m stressed!

Mom: Girls, simmer down.

Macy (hopping on the sofa and curling up by mom): She started it. She always does. Anyway, like I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted by Miss Rude-A-Lot, I like the new magic food very much and I also like all of our walks together in the morning and I like the people next door even though they have cats and I like the Backeri pretzels with cheese because cheese is better than almost anything except Mom and I also like our new sunroom where I sit on grandma’s old sofa and I really, really liked that one time mom and dad let us run down the football field without holding our leashes — it was like total freedom and the wind in my fur and my paws were dancing on the grass.

Alice:  Yeah, that was pretty fucking cool. I almost beat you.

Macy: I thought you said you weren’t going to cuss in Kent since we’re on a college campus with professors and stuff.

Alice: Wrongo bongo, sis. I said I was going to cuss more. Professors cuss all the time. Get with the syllabus, little one.

Mom: Alice, how about you give us some more info on Kent instead of bugging your sister.

Alice: (whispering under her breath) Buzzcrunch. (pause) Okay, so like the Ak-rowdy was pretty cool. The Alice Palace ran that town and pretty much everyone knew when the Alice Palace was walking down the street that she meant business. The Palace had Bernie under her control and she guarded the house and took over the dog park. She was pretty much the mayor.

Mom: Why are you talking about yourself in third person?

Alice: Geez mom, don’t you know anything? That’s how all the superstars talk. Sigh. Anyhow, the Rubber City was good times but the Palace is digging Kent. If only someone in this family would take her to this place called the Zephyr where apparently you can drink beer and get tacos at the pick-up window. The Palace’s life would be complete then. She might never ask for anything else.

Mom: I find that very hard to believe. And what’s your position on the black squirrels.

Alice: Duh. Hate ’em. They’re squirrels. But I’m sure they’d taste good toasted with some marshmallows. Like a squirrel s’more. Mmmmmm….

Macy: They scare me. So I bark at them. A lot. I kind of can’t help myself. Also, I’m a little afraid of the mail slot. I think a mailman is out there but I can never see him and then all of the sudden there’s mail on the floor. Maybe he’s a ghost? I bark at that too.

Mom: What about the new fence? Are you glad we fenced in the yard for you?

Macy: YES! I love the fence. I have lots of patrolling to do every day! With all of this walking and patrolling, my nails are in perfect shape.

Alice: The fence is just a symbol of the man trying to keep us imprisoned in our role as working dogs. Believe me when I say the Buddies of the Highest Order (BHO) are working on this issue.

Mom: That reminds me. What do you think of the Elks Lodge that dad is making in the basement?

Alice: Tres cool. The new digs for the BHO are ultra-sweet. I mean, the garage was okay in Akron but the Elks Lodge has paneling. I’m thinking I’ll line one wall with stuffed black squirrel heads.

Macy: No! That scares me!

Alice: No worries, scaredy-pants. You’re not allowed in the Elks Lodge anyway. It’s only for the BHO.

Mom: Well, girls. Thanks for letting us know what you like about Kent so far. We’ll check in with you later. And Alice, you are allowed to poop in the yard, you know. It’s okay to do that. Just because we spent a month walking you several times a day doesn’t mean the yard is off limits now.

Alice:  Yeah, I’ll get to that right after bears stop shitting in the woods.