Sunday, July 26, 2015

The benefits of a flooded basement

In a normal spring, like most people who have an older home with a basement, our lower level is at risk of getting a little wet at least once.

Our basement is finished on one side with a large family room/Jeff's baseball and bill-paying HQ, a full bath and large bedroom. We carpeted it when we first moved in and quickly discovered what a futile investment that was when we experienced our first -- and worst -- flooded basement. The red tile floor we have now is a perfect conduit for the occasional water issues, and area rugs warm it up.

As the rain kept falling, we did prepare for what seemed inevitable. We rolled up the rugs, moved the furniture and readied the equipment. A couple weeks ago, the water started seeping in, so we flipped the switches. We've emptied gallons of water sucked magically out of the air by our fleet of dehumidifiers.

It's been dried out for a while now, but we hadn't put everything back yet, weighing the forecast and whether it would be premature. We did assemble down there to watch Skarknado 3 Friday night, which might have been the catalyst for this morning's action.

We had a clear agenda this morning, and Jeff declared he was going to put the rooms back together. I don't like to do that until I can mop the place down with a light bleach mixture. It inhibits any sneaky mold growth and cleans up the place a bit.

Well today, we were a family that cleaned together. It was awesome. Alison got to choose the playlist and Jeff blasted it through a little portable speaker. She has about 40 songs that range from Pitbull to My Chemical Romance to the "Pitch Perfect" soundtrack to Carrie Underwood and the Zach Brown Band.

"Yes, it's country," she intoned. "Don't get excited."

While I scrubbed down the floors and floorboards, dusted and polished the furniture, killed a few spiders and took down enough cobwebs to knit a rug, Jeff and Ali discussed the merits and origins of each tune. Their assignment was largely in doing the second scrub with the CLR on stubborn spots, clearing paths for me and tackling the bedroom.

Regardless of the myriad parenting mistakes we've made, Alison Reed is going to have one helluva music, pop culture and cinematic reference library. At school the other day, she was getting to know some new kids and they were comparing musical tastes. Most of the kids prefer hip-hop or rock.

"Yeah, don't hate me," she said. "My mom has infected me with some country and my dad loves everything else so I kind of like a lot of stuff."

At one point, she tried to skip over a song. Jeff stopped her. "If it's on your playlist, I think we can hear it," he said.

"Well, it kind of has a lot of references to naked people," she said.

He was pretty sure he could handle it. We worked for a few hours and I heard more than my fair share of naked people references, wondered a few times if I needed to chat with Alison about ways to deal with a cheating boyfriend without committing criminal mischief (Thanks Carrie Underwood) and thought I might go crazy if I heard "teenagers scare the hell outta me" one more time.

It was a lot of cleaning during what could have been prime couch potato time. At one point, I thanked Alison for being willing to pitch in without complaint and for sticking with it.

"Well, you know, Mom, it's not like I'm not thinking of lots of things to say sometimes," she said. "It's just that I can control myself."

And that, my friends, is another facet to the beauty of Alison Reed. It's not that she's not rolling her eyes or protesting the idiocy, oppression, nonsense of her parents. To-date, she's been able to CONTROL herself from bursting out with it.

That's a life skill I'm still trying to master.

Oh no she did-ant!

Alison has been wanting to add a bright green streak to her hair. We've been doing our best to be cool about it while stealthily trying to get her to changer her mind about it and think it was her decision.

Is it the worst thing in the world? Is it normal for a 14-year-old to want to shake stuff up? Is it 100 times better than a facial piercing or a tattoo?

No. Yes. Hells to the yes.

Alison was blessed by the genetics genie when it comes to her hair, her long legs, her smile and her metabolism. I like to think she's got the whole package, beauty inside and out but I'm biased. But even the most objective review of her hair begs the superlative. Charlie Brown would have fallen into a stupor to see her naturally curly red-gold locks.

And that, of course, is part of her angst. Everywhere she goes -- from the time the hair sprang in -- strangers have stopped her to inform her that she has the prettiest hair they've ever seen. She couldn't have been 5-years-old when she found extra toys in her McDonald's lunch. "It's the hair, mom," she sighed.

She's not ungrateful or even impolite at the compliments. But she's also kind of over it. When she asked if she could cut 10 inches of it off to give to young cancer victims, we were both 100 percent supportive. We'd even gotten used to the shorter cut. But then she started talking about this streak to her bangs.

Yesterday, she and I had hair appointments. Ali sees Nicole, a beautiful, waif-like stylist whose combat boots weigh more than she does. She's new to Ado, the salon I've used for years. In the handful of times I've seen her, Nicole has been bald, blond, ebony and an asymmetrical blend of shaved and buzzed. Each style emphasized her delicate, beautiful features. "It's hair," she shrugs. "It'll grow back."

My stylist, Julie, is equally beautiful but a veteran, a mom, much younger than me but older than Nicole. It was Julie who created the chemical magic that lets me match my hair -- somewhat -- to Alison's while also covering my gray.

My appointment started at 9 while Ali was due at 10. I didn't even see her when Jeff brought her in and left her in Nicole's able hands. I was surprised to find him still there when I emerged.

"You said she was just getting a cut; I didn't think it would be this long," he said when I interrupted him taking a Cosmopolitan magazine quiz.

I introduced him to Julie, and the subject her green streak idea came up. Jeff informed Julie that while we were trying to forestall it, he thought Ali was talking it over with Nicole. There was a pregnant pause as we each mentally did the math of what could possibly be taking so long. "Uh, Nicole's not really the one you might want helping her with that," Julie said, already turning to go peek in on Ali as I started to ask her to do it so I wouldn't seem to be checking up on them.

When Ali emerged, Nicole was in tow. About 3/4 of the red tresses Ali had woken up with, however, were on the floor.

"Well, I guess I'm glad we talked about it," Jeff said, echoing the phrase he pulls out for me when I've made an executive decision he thought would have been improved by his input.

The silence that ensued must have laid there a while.

"She can't start high school without a great, new cut," Nicole offered. "And it's perfect for Herron."

It's a beautiful cut. Ali is thrilled with it. Jeff's getting used to it. I love it, I really do.

My hesitation isn't with the cut at all. I know that. My issue is that this is the latest, billboard-sized sign that my little one isn't little anymore. She's a lovely young woman highly capable of making her own decisions. Dammit.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Inside Out

We may be the last family in America to have seen Inside Out. But  we crossed it off our movie list today.

Initially, I was thinking Disney had done it again: marginalized the mom. Which is better than Old Disney, which alway killed off the mom. Progress right.

But I either was inartful in my protest or Jeff was really dead-on because he's convinced me that the mother DID get full credit for being supportive. So I'm reflective. It's possible I'm not 100 percent on this one.

Also, I'm in a food coma.

We'd started the day with a long bike ride and a short walk already and had planned to have a healthy dinner with grilled vegtables and chicken burgers and sausage as part of our latest lose weight effort. Indiana right now is about as comfortable a place to be outside as a Mississippi swamp in August. 

Instead, Jeff remembered a dining promotion for our little village and we walked into town for 317 Burgers. No one told us the burgers come with fries and the Chow Down Midtown deal was 3 items -- drink or dessert, appetizer and a burger.

Jeff and Ali ordered poutine. I opted for fried pickles instead of hummus as I'd had hummus for lunch. Jeff ordered two beers -- he'd made us a champagne cocktail before we decided to walk to dinner -- so I was happy to offer him my beer. Ali was set to try the funnel cake even though we wanted to try the Brics sampler platter after dinner.

Then the burgers and fries came. Even the black bean burger, which I got, was tremendous. And we all had a huge pile of fries on our plates.

We're big fans of the clean plate club but none of us made it. We offered Ali's dessert to anyone who wanted it and took a hard right home instead of a left to Brics.

Jeff asked me on the walk home -- as Ali walked ahead of us like she didn't know us -- if she "got" any of the important themes of the movie.  I said probably not. She's a great kid, but she IS 14 and sometimes it IS all about her.

I convinced her to bike with me to lunch on Saturday. I was meeting a friend from work she didn't know and she both loathe to exercise and hang out with me and a friend. "Why, again, am I going?" she asked.

"One, I like to hang out with you; Two, I want you to try these tacos; and Three, I think you'll like Anna a lot. You like most of our friends."

She sighed and probably rolled her eyes but she was behind me so I didn't see it. Turns out Anna was 16 when she took her first solo, international flight. Her cool factor shot up like a geyser.

We  were treated to a dissertation on how overprotective I am, how I'm to blame whenever Alison slips into colorful language and Alison's deep knowledge of alcoholic beverages courtesy of her mixologist father. Anna was very sweet to listen without rolling her eyes. Well, she was beside me and I couldn't see it if she did. (I don't know that I would have blamed her.. Ali was full-out on.)

 And then, unexpectedly, Jeff and Duane Jasheway strolled in.

They were at a bourbon tasting a few blocks away but I thought they'd be there all afternoon. We'd talked about Indy Tacos being a good place to soak up their samplings.

They helped clean up our plates and then ordered their own. It was a fun gathering and may lead to a bigger gathering at Chez Reed when Kirsten can join us. I've been threatening a summer party for a while.

The biggest laugh from the movie for Ali was the boy's emotions when he bumped into Riley. Jeff and I liked the parental unit's internal voices -- but for different reasons I suspect. We're all agreed on the importance of shoring up our little family island for those rocky times ahead. 

A good burger, every so often, is a good part of that.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

She came back!

We have our girl back and while the adult only zone has been fun -- some parts admittedly a caloric-alcoholic haze -- it's good to have her energy back in the house.

Not that she's had a lot.

After retrieving her from Flat Rock River Camp Saturday, we trekked over to Cincy again so she, too, could take in the wonder of Jungle Jim's International Grocery. Excited to re-connect with the Digital Age via her phone, she quickly gave us the rundown, connected to her phone to check texts and then slept most of the way there.

I woke her when we arrived. As she fought her way back from the fog of car-ride sleeping, she said, "Is this what a hangover feels like?"

As if I would know.

Inside, she flitted from here to there. She was totally reluctant to enter the Porta-Potty doored bathroom and delighted to find a regular sized commercial bathroom inside. She oohed and ahhed over the crazy varied selection but found her way to the giant box of Coke bottles.

"Hannah can never find anything with her name on it," she said, digging in.

Jeff was immersed -- again -- in the booze collection so I joined in. Focused, I didn't hear her snicker. but when she tossed the rubber snake she'd come across at me, I might have shrieked. A little. Maybe a lot.

She cackled like a demon.

I should say a savage, which was her name at camp this year. A fan of corn-on-the-cob, they serve mini cobs. She'd apparently powered through three of them before looking up and taking a breath.  Jenna and Bre were staring at her, holding their first mini ears.

"What?" she said.

"You are disgusting," said her life-long buddy Bre. "Hungry much?" asked Jen.

Later in the week they had fried chicken. My delicate flower re-enacted her Tasmanian Devil act, leaving no shred of meat on her bones. The table had a lone piece left at the end of dinner. "Just do it, Ali," they said. "I do love fried chicken," she reported.

We spent a good long time at Jungle Jim's  but had to get home because it was Bunco night for me and another night at Fat Dan's Deli for Jeff and Ali. Jeff and I are part of a 10K step challenge so I had to walk to Annmarie's to make up my steps. I was stil 700 short when I go there, which seems really wrong.

Bunco was fun and I snagged a ride in Uncle Jeph's sex-mobile of a van. He'd claimed he was going to save it for Jenna, who loooooves it. I don't know if we convinced him it's a bad idea to give a teenager a tricked out van but I'm pretty sure Team Tokash will burn it before letting either Drew or Jenna to even drive it around the block.

I almost felt obligated to make out with him when he pulled into the drive. It's that much of a make-out-mobile.

As for the rest of our culinary journey, I can't say that we have tons to report. We saw Ted 2 and snacked a MacKenzie River, which we'll visit again.

Monday some of the Euchre Club girls and I biked to HopCat, which was super fun and has spawned what we hope to become at least a monthly Bike to Drink gathering.  Biking home with Megan and Tina down darkened Broad Ripple streets made me feel like I was in 5th grade and scooting home after curfew. None of us reported falling off our bikes as, rumor has it, at least one of us has done in the past after imbibing before biking. 

Tuesday was a dinner part at our house with Joe, Lauren, Josh and Cassie and it was also super fun and will be repeated. Wednesday was a Book Club-Bunco mash up to celebrate Bree's launch of The Joint in Zionsville. We visited the Stacked Pickel, which as far as bar food goes, was good and worth a return visit on Wednesdays, which is $3 draft night.

Thursday found Jeff out with work friends and me catching up with myself at home. Gloriously alone. I had kale, cottage cheese, pineapple and water. Man, did I need that. Seriously. My fat cells have been jumping up and down, partying it up at the return of some of their oldest friends I'd evicted years ago.

It's gonna be hell going through that again.

Friday was a lovely dinner with friends at Peterson's. We'd never been to the restaurant despite it's always being ranked as one of the best places in town. Special note to Jennifer Chase -- they offered Maine lobster tails for something like $39.

Jen will laugh because Ali wanted to cook for Jen, Peter and Grandpa one night and had her heart set on lobster tails. Jen shopped around a bunch of places trying to find just the tails, but everywhere she went she garnered funny looks. "We just don't cook lobster that way here," she said. 

Silly inlanders. They finally bought live lobsters -- which is how it's done -- and Peter chopped them up for Ali to do the tails. They cooked all the parts and made lobster rolls with the other meat. Grammie Reed would have been proud.

It's in Fishers. Sure we'll drive to Cincinnati to buy cheese, but travel 30 minutes north? No way, man.

Jeff may have had the best tiramisu of his life. If I was a betting man, I'd say we'll be trekking to Fishers before we make the next trip to Ohio....

Ali and I went to Acacia's bridal shower down home today. It was fun to see everyone and great to see Kait up and about almost back to normal. Ali goes back to summer school tomorrow and we go back to our normal routine. 

Sunday, July 5, 2015

On the road again

Alison has been flying since before she emerged into the world and is highly anxious to rid herself of the escort service we pay for when she solos to Maine for the summer.

It's not going to happen until the airlines bring back the direct flight to Portland. Or until she's 18. 

Of course she kind of thinks she IS 18. 

But then you find her with Pink Bunny in the morning or in a skirt and Converse playing soccer at a street fair. 

I think I like her better with the bunny and/or sneakers.

She had a great time with Team Reed Maine at Jen & Peter's camp. Word on the street is that she's a much better paddle boarder than her Uncle James. 

As you can see from Auntie Jen's photoshoot, it was Hell Week in Maine. On her last morning, Jen left Peter in charge and went off for a walk. She comes back to find Peter in the house but no Alison anywhere in sight. "Where's Ali?"

Pete, with all the nonchalance of a veteran father and grandfather, says, "She went out to paddle board right after you left."

Jennnifer looks at her watch then her husband and says, "That was 45 minutes ago!" 

She dashes out the door to scan the lake and sure enough Ali was out there wringing out the last bits of summer-in-Maine. 

No wonder she didn't want to come home. Next week it's more of the same, but with an Indiana flavor. She'll be at Flat Rock River Camp with Jenna and Bre.

It's a hard life for Alison Reed. She gets back to face another few weeks of summer school, but it's her PE class, so don't feel too sorry for her. Jeff and I will resume our culinary explorations while she's gone.

We'll all be sorry to see summer end.  The last shot is of Ali saying goodbye to Jen's lake.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Diamonds in the Sky

For many years, Jeff and I and then Jeff and Ali and I would spend the Fourth of July in Columbus, Indiana, where Jeff and my uncles would blow stuff up and act for all the world like they were each 12-years-old.

We stopped going there when civilization had so encroached on Uncle Larry's property that his fear of setting a neighbor's house ablaze overcame his delight in the fire in the sky.

Aunt Shirley would invite their friends and a few of the neighbors. Uncle Ed, Aunt Joan and my cousin Beth and her family were always there. Aunt Shirley's cousin Jimmy usually drove over. He was more a spectator than firestarter, though.

As the kids got older, they were allowed to help, under the Captain's supervision. One year Uncle Ed devoted some weeks to constructing an elaborate set up that would allow him to wire dozens of bottle rocks or some such blow-up items so they'd go off in one, long kaleidiscope of color and noise and smoke. I can't remember if that's the year a rocket went wonky and almost set Beth's hair on fire. 

Sure it wouldn't have been funny had she gone up in smoke, but she didn't, so it was hilarious. Other the birdbath, which Jeff decapitated in a rush to avoid a similar catastrophe one year, there were never any serious injuries.

It was hell on the ears, both human and canine. But the kids -- gray hair and curls just coming in -- loved it.

The next day, Uncle Ed would go drag Christopher and Cory Lehman (Beth's boys) out of bed and make them comb through Uncle Larry's yard to clean up debris. It was the least they could do, he'd say. He always volunteered them before everyone had trotted off for the night. I'm not sure they were happy janitors but Uncle Ed was a fabulous uncle and an even better Grandpa, I suspect. Anytime spent with him would have been pretty special.

Both he and Aunt Joan are gone now, but I think of them throughout the year and always on the Fourth. The sound of Uncle Ed and Larry's giggling in the dark will be forever with me. Especially as I still have Jeff and he titters like a little girl at just the thought of getting to blow stuff up.

Since the moratorium on the Columbus fireworks, we've been traveling back home for several years, blowing stuff up in the country, generally with a few volunteer fire department folks in attendance. This  year, though, Alison is home only for a day from her week with Auntie Jen and Uncle Peter in Maine before she goes to Flat Rock River Camp.

So we opted for blowing stuff up at the local park. Jeff primed our favorite retail firebug, Tom Vielee, with alcoholic root beer and bourbon, to restock his firework supplies. Our friends, the Jansens down the street, and Team Ogden contributed some firey goodness as well.

We drew a fairly nice crowd and Jeff got lots of oohs and aahs. Once, when he didn't get what he felt was his due, we heard, "Hey, where's my audience?" 

"It's just like the Christmas CD," Karin stage whispered to Kirsten Jasheway. "If you don't show the proper appreciation you might get taken off the list."

So back to the oohing and aahing we went.

This morning, chock full of the spirit of Uncle Ed, Ali and Jeff went back to the park to clean up. I joined them a bit later. We got a lot, but might not have gotten all the debris. Especially any that rained down on the neighborhood across the Monon. But I figure that's the price of admission for anyone who enjoyed the unexpected show.

As for those not pleased? Well. I don't know who was making such a blasted commotion at Canterbury Park last night. 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Culinary Adventures Part 2

With Alison gone for the week, Jeff and I have been exploring the city looking for great food within walking distance of either home or work. In addition to the walkable rule, we can't have had already had a meal at the establishment.

We violated the walkable rule with a day trip to Jungle Jim's in Cincinatti with a side trip to Rooster's there. Also, we drove to the Lincoln Square Pancake house over lunch -- which we've been to before but that was a date set with Chris Austin before our other rules were established. 

By happy accident so far, we haven't yet spent more than $50 for any of our meals. The asterisk is that it really was an accident caused mostly by either snacking/drinking at home before we made it to the restaurant.

We discussed the North End BBQ  already and the leftovers meal at home Saturday.

Sunday was Roosters. I won't cross the road for wings, but we were on the Cincy trip with Team Jasheway and Duane and Jeff love their chicken wings. And beer. It was worth stopping, but I wouldn't drive two hours for it. Both Jeff and Duane would, I suspect.

The only real disappointment was that our waitress couldn't explain what the "Donkey" sauce was. "We get that question a lot," said Brittany. Despite the prevalence of the question, she wasn't curious enough to figure it out. We assume it has a kick, a revelation that came about only on the way home.

Jungle Jim is a huge grocery store with more beer, wine, cheese and olives than anyone needs. There's a section for every nationality you can think of and stuff I'm not sure was really food.  I'm fairly certain the US Marines could be fed for a few years before the place would run out of foodstuffs. 

On Monday, we went to Twenty Tap, which we've been planning to go to for the year or so it's been operating up the street from our house. A-MAY-zing shrimp and grits. Jeff had a beer, of course. There are tons of them to choose from. He had a Reuben, which he said was better than my meal. As he's not a fan of grits, he's not qualified to judge. I win.

Tuesday found us at the movies where we had drinks at home to prepare then diet popcorn and bits of coconut dark chocolate bark from Jungle Jims that we smuggled in. Yeah. Not our finest culinary experience. But it paired well with Ted2. I DO recommend the chocolate.

Wednesday I had a work outing to the Indianapolis Indians game so I was kind of wiped before I got home. I had a black bean burger, peanuts and a beer at the game. I'd meant to have my standard chocolate ice cream cone but the machine malfunctioned and I ended up with about 1/2 gallon in a cup. Not a wasteful person, I felt compelled to finish most of it. Indians won 2-1.

Dinner was at Ambrosia, outside. Neither of us was super hungry so we skipped appetizers. The bread was great though, and my ravioli was super good. Jeff had Rustico (I think) penne pasta with sausage. It was the spicy opposite of my pillows of creamy spinach goodness. We switched plates about 3/4 through the meal.  Perfection.

Today, Jeff and I met our friend Chris Austin for pancakes. Chris and I work together and had gotten into an IHOP pancake habit. Jeff joins us when we can get it together. It's always fun. 

Dinner tonight was a triumph. Indy Tacos -- a newish, authentic Mexican place on 54th Street just west of Keystone. It will be on our favorite dive list for the rest of our lives. Corn tortillas that brought us back to our days of old Cancun with Eric and Tracy. It's not fancy. But the tacos are fabulous.  Dinner rang up at $17 and it was too much food. 

It helped that we'd shared guacamole and mojjitos at home made with mint and cilantro from the Angie's List garden.  But really. It's a great low-key place if you like authentic tacos.

I'm going to have to eat nothing but from the AL garden or start working out harder if I'm going to make it through Alison's time away from us and still be able to wear my clothes. I should probably stop letting her have a life away from us.

Speaking of Alison, while away at camp with Auntie Jen, she prepared lobster tail, her famous spicy zuchinni and rice for Grandpa and Uncle Peter (and Jen) as a late Fathers Day treat. Grandpa declared it wonderful. I wonder where she gets this taste for great food?