Friday, May 29, 2009

about last night

Josh Ritter put on a hell of a concert at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. The newly redone performance area is well laid out, and the roses are a stunning backdrop. We missed most of Justin Earle's opening set, unfortunately, but the couple songs we heard were as good as you'd expect.

The sun was just going down as Ritter and the band took the stage. They opened with a track I didn't recognized and went on to play a solid two-hour set that mixed up new songs with a nice spread of tracks from his first three albums. Their energy was spot-on, and even when he flubbed a line late in the show, he just laughed it off. I've said many times over that what I most look for in a good show is the energy and engagement with the crowd, and he had both in spades.

Among the setting-related highlights was this little guy. Frogs were all over the place, and Ritter joked about making breaks in the songs for them to sing along. Buttercup found this one near the pavilion. He seemed pretty happy in her hands and was safely returned to his home before we left.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

catching up — the market edition

The market is certainly picking up steam these days. We're up to three goat cheese vendors — 2 dairies producing some interesting varieties and Faith Farms who sells another farm's excellent chevre. In addition to the regular meat producers, a new one had arrived selling bison. Had I not already decided to pick up a fresh chicken, I might have added some bison to the week's purchases, just for kicks and giggles. Greens, broccoli, squash and the tail-end of the asparagus are popping up all over the place. Strawberries are still in — and deliciously sweet — for another week or two. There were plenty of plant vendors and flowers, but I opted not to pick up any since I have just begun to get my garden (now only in containers) in decent shape. The crowds were strong, which was particularly heartening to see on Memorial Day weekend The only problem with such strong crowds, however, was that Blanchard's Coffee was completely sold out of beans by the time I got there. Then again maybe arriving a little earlier than 10:00 might have made the difference...

The other highlight? Our little friend here. And, boy, did the crowd part when he came running out, squealing.

Friday, May 22, 2009

sad trombone

I'm afraid the blogging head is down this week. It's on the fritz along with the handy pocket koan generator.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Simple questions for strange moments

Another case of simple questions with what I imagine are complex answers... Why is Dick Cheney so forcefully and publicly attacking the Obama administration? What is he afraid of?

Just asking...

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Desperate times?

How can you tell if a company is in trouble? Massive discounts and constant sales might be a good sign. At that standard, Jos. A. Banks must be prepping for bankruptcy any day now. That or they really can afford to give away a suit, two shirts, and two ties — all free with the purchase of one suit. Yep, it's a clothing twofer.

Good luck staying afloat, guys.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Weekend notes, pt. 2 — after the show

Though slightly out of the blue and slightly off-budget, the Annie experience was surprisingly good.

We bombed out of the house with barely an hour and a half to spare before the performance. On the way, I called the box office and secured two tickets — including a half-price one for myself. We pulled up in front of Tarrant's to get a quick dinner. Tarrant's is one of those places in town that is generally reliable — sometimes very good, rarely bad — and it's location across the street from the theatre was ideal.

Service was quick and good. Buttercup was looking a little faded, but perked up when rolls appeared. I ordered a cup of the chicken and corn chowder for myself — perfect on a dreary day — and white pizza with spinach and tomatoes for us. I asked the waitress to add feta, without asking what the charge for an extra ingredient was. The question would have been a good one to ask, however, since apparently all pizzas are priced based on optional ingredients — whether they're listed as standard pies or not. The menu isn't clear about this, unfortunately, and I might have changed the order if I'd known that our $11.95 pizza was going to run $17.95 instead. Given the timing when we were asking her to box up half and bring the check, it wasn't worth saying anything; I might mention it next time though.

On a quick side note, it's also worth mentioning that the pizza was very good. The crust had a good flavor and the cheese and tomatoes were nicely done. Had I known that the spinach wouldn't be fresh, I might not have ordered it. The mushy green lent a bit too much liquid to the pie.

Dinner wrapped up, we headed across to the theatre. Theatre IV is a local theater group that puts on a few children's shows a year. They've done Peter Pan, The Wizard of Oz, and many other classics. They link in regularly with schools in the area and generally do great work. Tonight was no exception.

The sets were beautifully done, and the actors all seemed to be having a great time. This could have been last-performance bounce, but it seems more likely that they were just generally enjoying themselves. (This is only borne out by the tears streaming down the lead's face at the curtain call.) The singing and dancing were mostly very sharp. Two of the best parts: Buttercup asking if the dog was real, and her friend E asking if it was the real president up there. (For those who don't know, FDR plays a significant part in the show.) The only trick watching the show for me was getting past various anachronisms and implausibilities that are distracting, but hardly central to the story.

What also surprised me was how much of the show I remembered, and how much it touched me. Frankly, it was still a very good time when I saw Annie on its first national tour in Chicago in 1978. We were spending quite a bit of time in that city — a place I still remember very fondly — and all hell hadn't broken loose. At eight (or almost eight), the worst experiences of elementary and middle school were yet to come. My parents were still five years from telling me they were divorcing. In other words, it's a time that has deep and positive memories — the Cubs at Wrigley, Stuart Brent Books, the museums, the zoos, camping and skiing trips.

What surprised me tonight was how easily a cheesy, mawkish — albeit very catchy — libretto can pull out a whole flood of memories and associations that have laid buried for years. And how easy it is to welcome back the memories, and how much they put the present in perspective.

weekend notes, pt. 1

We will soon be going to see an expensive, local theater production Annie. Why will I do this to myself? Because the kid's gonna remember it. Sadly, I'll be singing the songs for days too. Ah well... these are the trade-offs.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


That odd speck on the earlobe is one more step in our journey. It's a big step too. Getting the ears pierced was a chance for Buttercup to grow up a little bit and do something before anyone else in her class. For me, it was a chance to negotiate another stage of the parenting waters — my plan was to wait on the ear piercing until she was eight, but Buttercup Mère decided she was ready. We went back and forth a bit until I accepted that there was no point in forcing the matter.

The end result? Buttercup came home, proud that she'd gotten her ears pierced. She was ecstatic that everyone was going to be so excited, and that she was going to be the first in her class with real earrings. What struck me was how much older she suddenly looked.

Of course, there was one more perk: the next morning, she was ready for school by 7:15, and we got out of the house before 8.


Buttercup. That's her new nickname.

It came about one Sunday a few weeks ago when we were walking back from a friend's house. As we walked along Meadow Park, she started picking buttercups. One after the other she started rubbing them on her nose until she'd given her nose a shiny gold tint. I joked that I was going to change her nickname from Banana to Buttercup.

The next morning, as I dropped her off at school, she stopped me. She said, "Daddy, it's Buttercup."

"Done, and done," I said. Declaring her own nickname — one more little leap in growing up.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


I was asked recently whether I wanted more out of my life. The question came in the context of how one fits travel and various other excitement and aspirations in with life as a parent. In the week or so since the question was asked, I've thought about it a lot — not just for the context in which it was asked but also as an exercise in thinking about my life and dreams.

When it comes to travel, these days I generally think of trips in context of where I'd like to take Buttercup. We have friends who live in Norway, Estonia, Switzerland, Denmark, and all over the States. All of these are on the list, as are plenty of other places, and while I hope to do "adult" trips again someday, I have begun to think of travels in terms of family. Does that limit my possibilities? Sure, but I'm okay with that.

When it comes to adventures, the other kickers end up being schedules and finances. Between my parenting schedule, work, school, ballet, and the detritus of daily life, it's hard to pull the time together for travel. I know people who manage it, but they are mostly dual-parent families and have significantly more resources in family (proximity) and money than I have. More family nearby means more alternatives for child care for "adult" trips. Two parents in the house means more hands on deck for taking care of life matters.

That brings me to the second hindrance: moolah. One of my shocks in the past few years is how quickly a decent salary gets eaten up by food, gas, utilities, school fees, activity fees, after-school care, rent, debt payments, car payments, random expenses around the house, and who knows what else. I keep a relatively small budget for incidentals and occasionally budget clothing purchases. In good months, some money goes into savings.

What this means is that it's often hard to think about adventures that don't fit the budget — both in time and money. For now, then, this means the adventures will probably continue to be smaller, closer to home. That's just the way it is, and it's not all that bad. In fact, it's a pretty good life.

Market report

Thanks to a rather late evening Friday night, I was late getting to the market this weekend. Compound that with having to run back for Buttercup's ballet pictures and the Strawberry Street Festival, and my trip was a bit quicker than I had hoped for. That said, the turnout still seemed excellent. Berries are beginning to come in, as are early season squash. The tastes I had of goat cheese from the dairy that is coming in this year were good, but I'm very spoiled about my goat cheese and haven't fully committed to buying any.

Looking around at the plants, I realized I need to spend some time thinking about the garden this week. The seedlings are a little beaten up after the torrential rains this past week, and given that Buttercup was a little random in her planting, I am not certain what we actually have coming up at the moment. So the goals of the week will be determining what can be salvaged versus what needs to be supplemented with plants and whether we will be able to do the garden bed versus containers.

That rambling aside, here's the quick rundown...

  • beautiful lettuces
  • carrots
  • asparagus
  • arugula
  • strawberries
  • wheat bread

If we make it on time next week, the list should be a little more interesting...

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

wrap your mind around this

I picked up on this on a news report on WNRN yesterday, and had to pursue it when I got back to the office. It was that absurd. Leave it to provincial officials in China to require people to damage their health. Or rather, leave it to become state policy. Regardless, it takes a special kind of topsy-turvy world where you require people to smoke 230,000 packs of cigarettes a year — just to stimulate the local economy.

Sad to say, it just validates whole other layers of bizarro-world that I experienced when I traveled there in 1996.

(Image picked up here. Check it out.)

Monday, May 04, 2009

Market wrap-up

Saturday was the opening day for the growers market at Forest Hill Park. The market's formal name is "the South of the James Market" which still strikes me as an unnecessary level of branding for a community market — but we like to give names and brands to things here in Richmond.

Anyway, the market had a stellar opening. Buttercup (aka the kid formerly known as Banana) and I were only able to make for an hour, but it was a busy hour. Vendors like Norwood Cottage and Blanchard's Coffee were already starting to run out of items. Victory Farms and Faith Farms both seemed well-stocked, but knowing our propensity for over-buying I stayed light on the purchases. Pleitez Produce (or whatever they are calling themselves these days) had been bumped from their anchor location at the end to a side stall where they continued to shill out-of-season items like huge grocery-store-ready strawberries for $5/quart and bouquets that were almost certainly not grown in the area.

The plants and other items available were beautiful, and I hope to pick some up to plant next week. We'll have to see what's actually coming up in my initial plantings, however. There were many, many craft vendors back for the season, and I suppose we'll see how the actual mix holds up.

That said, this week's finds included:

  • lettuces (several beautiful heads of mixed varieties)
  • carrots
  • italian raab, which Buttercup wanted but did not like when she tasted it later
  • scallions
  • pork chops

I tapped all of the produce for dinner that evening. I recommend sauteing the raab on an extremely hot griddle with scallions and a bit of olive oil and chili. Beautiful!

Friday, May 01, 2009

Friday Fun

In honor of the show I missed last night...


and Dinosaur Jr.