Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Ladies First . . .

I have so many stories (and tons of pictures) from our time in Arizona. Most involve our hikes with Dad. But in our little corner of the world chivalry is not yet dead, so it seems only fitting to start with our day trip to Phoenix with Mom . . .

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Blake and I get our love of sports from Mom. We timed our hikes each day so we would get back in time to sit down and watch the NCAA tournament games with her. And when the Cincinnati Reds announced that they were moving their Spring Training operations from Sarasota, Florida to Goodyear, Arizona, we had to set aside one day to make the trip to see the new facility.

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The Reds share this complex with the Cleveland Indians. Each has a nearly identical training complex, with six fields and a concrete building.

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And they share a main ballpark where they play their spring training games. Sunday, the Reds were playing the Los Angeles Dodgers. And it quickly became obvious that Los Angeles is much closer (500 miles or so) to Goodyear than Cincinnati is (nearly 2000 miles) – there were many more Dodger fans in the house. When we bought our tickets, our only concern was keeping the sun behind us, so we ended up on the Dodger side.

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Outside the ballpark, there are big murals of current players in the windows – Reds on the third base side, Indians on the first base side. This is the only hint of personality in the entire park – otherwise, it is incredibly vanilla. Bronson Arroyo is known for his very high leg kick when he pitches, so Blake and Mom fit comfortably under his left leg! Inside, we had great seats – we were only two rows from the field. Before the game, there was a line of autograph seekers pleading with the Dodger players for a moment of their time. Now I realize two things – the players are working, and some of the autograph hounds were sleazebags who were looking for a free signature that they could sell. But a lot of them were little kids who are the future of baseball and longed to get at least a wave from a star. It made me sad to watch the millionaires walk past without even acknowledging them. All but one . . .


I have never been a Manny Ramirez fan, but I am now – he walked over and spent ten minutes signing autographs and talking with the fans. And I should also mention James Loney – he isn’t the attraction that Manny Ramirez is, but after playing seven innings, he was taken out of the game and walked out of the dugout carrying a duffel bag, headed for the clubhouse. But a couple of kids yelled his name, and he walked over and spent five minutes signing and talking before the next inning started and he had to get off the field.


There was an announcement before the game that George Foster would be signing autographs in the concourse during the game. During the Big Red Machine days of the 1970s, George Foster was a feared slugger of the pre-steroid era with his jutting chin and big black bat. So in the fourth inning, I walked over to the first base side to watch the fans pay tribute to this Cincinnati icon. There was no one there. My first thought was “Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore . . .”

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Best moment of the day for us was the weather report, which was a welcome contrast to the picture that Blake’s wife Lisa texted us on Friday morning to keep us abreast of what happened the night after we escaped Ohio . . .

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Last, but certainly not least, no trip out west is complete without a run to In-N-Out – burgers for us and this year’s t-shirt to take home for Ryan . . .

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Arizona on My Mind . . .

I have decided that the hardest thing about returning from five days in Arizona is staring longingly at the pictures on my first day back at work. So feel free to enjoy some of my favorites – they are in no particular order. I still have no words to describe them – hopefully, those will come over the next few days. For now, suffice to say that it was nice to be Joe & Carolyn’s son and Blake’s brother for a few days . . .

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Report from the Bunker . . .

Those of you who have enjoyed being blissfully blog-free the past week or so will be saddened to learn that it won’t last much longer.  I have been in the bunker since last Tuesday, working on the website rebuild and frantically adding products to the long-promised shopping cart.  Along with it comes the even longer-promised search box.  Once we’re done, you’ll finally be able to shop our site at 3:00 a.m. in the comfort of your own jammies without having to remind yourself to call us in the morning to place your order.

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The picture at left is the view behind the curtain at the guts of the shopping cart, where I have to add each product, along with color, size, package, and price variations.  For a paper like Stardream that comes in 26 colors and two sizes and three package sizes and two weights (you get the idea), there are eighteen pages of variations – all of which make it possible for you to search “Stardream” and have the package you want in your shopping cart three or four clicks later.  I have no idea what the front page is going to look like, but it will be different from what you’ve seen for years.  Some of you will love it, some of you will hate it (hopefully not as many), but hopefully all of you will find it more functional than before.  Stay tuned – it should be a reality in the next two or three weeks.

Even with the time change, I have been leaving the house before daylight and getting home near dusk.  So it was a surprise when I got home at 6:00 last night and realized that Mother Nature has been busy . . .

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Even the grass is beginning to green up a little.  One more thing that I have to share, because I thought it was pretty funny . . .


Couldn't resist taking a picture of this -- Five Guys has recently come to our area. I'll admit that their burgers are really good – I sometimes eat there when I'm traveling. But apparently someone who works for them knows that the best burgers here in Centerville are at O'Leary's (right next door to my office) . . .

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Ah, Spring . . .

I know better than to think it’s here for good, but Spring seems to have finally sprung.  Somehow, I managed to be home on a glorious Monday, with temps in the low 60s and bright sunshine and birds singing (and you get the idea).  I’m back at work today, but it’s almost exactly the same – except now I’m looking longingly out the window.  But I still have memories of yesterday . . .

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The crocuses that were just about ready to pop last Thursday are in full bloom now.

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And I got a couple of good shots of them before the camera hog jumped into the picture.  So Zoe and I moved on to the backyard.  I can’t remember when the lawn has been so matted from the weight of several months of snow.  But we’re supposed to have rain for the next few days, so I’ll bet by next week the first blades of new grass will start peeking through.

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Soon Zoe’s ball came out for the first time in the new year.  This is her favorite game – we learned the first day we had her.  Zoe loves to chase the kickball, and sometimes she even brings it back.  Hopefully, those piles of snow will be gone for good in a few more days!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Blog Comes Full Circle in the Circle City

I have been pondering (my dad likes that word – it even sounds like you’re thinking) how I would handle convention stories on the blog once we started revisiting places.  We have reached that point – the blog will be a year old on March 12, and the first pictures I posted were from last year’s Indianapolis show.  So in a sense, here we are again . . .

I decided that, at least this time, I would look for some different perspectives – maybe even stuff that I haven’t seen before.


Like the building.  The show is held in the Agriculture/Horticulture Building at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.  We have been coming here since 2004, and this is the only view I have ever seen of it – from the back.


So I walked out the front door this afternoon and took a picture of the building as you folks see it.


This is another view that I always see.  Because of the regulations at the fairgrounds, we’re not allowed to park our truck near the building.  Most of the vendors with trailers can leave them in the infield on the racetrack, but you have to go under a bridge to get there and our truck is too high for the clearance.  So have to park way on the other side of the racetrack.  I walked over that bridge several times each year on the way to and from the building.  Two years ago, a covered bridge was erected in its place.

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The building also has something that I rarely see anymore – a pay phone.  You hadn’t noticed?  I’m not surprised – it’s next to the entrance to the men’s restroom . . .


The day got off to a good start.  Today is Polly Weed’s birthday (no, I didn’t ask which one).  Karen and David stopped by and picked her up flowers and a balloon . . .

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And Sheila and Nikki from Heirloom made her a crown that she wore all day.  Sheila also led a chorus of Happy Birthday over the loudspeaker.

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The obligatory Sue Rothamel Draws a Crowd Everywhere She Goes pictures . . .


Another view has changed.  Gary Burlin’s booth has never had a sign – they always just hung shopping bags like this around the perimeter of their booth.

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Now they have a bright lime green sign – and bright lime green shirts to go with it.  I asked Russell (on the left) if Gary bought him a shirt as well, and he lifted the bottom of his Ohio State sweatshirt to reveal his lime green shirt.  In his defense, I will admit that it was chilly in the building.

Oh yeah – two things.  One, that sign was on the back of their booth, so the only way you saw it was if you were coming back from the restroom.  Two, I did not say this, but I thought it was funny enough to repeat – rumor has it those shirts may be used by trash collectors on Monday . . .


This shot also serves a dual purpose.  Yes, that is a man demoing in the PK Glitz booth (Jim always does).  And as soon as Andrea Hampton (holding the white shopping bag) sees this, she will drag her daughter Katie to the computer to show her that Mom made the blog.  When I first met Katie, her mom was pushing her around the show in a stroller.  Now, she is getting ready to go into high school . . .

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I’m still trying to get that great shot of Nikki and Sheila for their Stamping Shenanigans blog.  Thought I had it until I cropped it – the glare from outside on Nikki’s glasses means I may have to try again another time.

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One final view, that started with these three ladies who set up shop by themselves behind the booth about 15 minutes before the giveaway.  By the time 4:00 rolled around, I could barely see them back by the pole from my perch on the ladder . . .