So: stay-cation day 3

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This post is going to look like all we did is eat today on day three of Stay-cation 2013. Or make food.

It’s pretty much true.

Today’s weather was amazing: much cooler. The Gs got their super long spring Sunday walk today. It usually comes to a grinding halt by mid-June, much to Guinness’ disappointment. They are all still wiped out and after they ate dinner, they started snoring.

Not a bad day off: I got banana pancakes and a manicure/pedicure plus plenty of garden time and kitchen experimentation (and some boring household chores).

Bruce continued his work on the now no-longer-wet bar. He’s repairing the dry wall where we removed the bifold doors and it’s solitary work at this point. The countertop fabricator is coming tomorrow to ensure our measurements are ok.

Look what Bruce found as he was working today:

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Looks like some previous owner thought painting over it would be a great idea verses doing the right thing and taking it down by steaming it off.

It’s under enough paint that it’s staying. There would be no way to take it out other than removing the drywall. And that’s not happening.

So I spent most of the time this afternoon with the vegetables.

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First up were the Sweet 100s. They are all ripening so fast that they do not last very long. So I decided to roast the ones I picked yesterday to preserve them for a few days.

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Olive oil, garlic, a bunch of tomatoes, salt and paper. Roast at 400 degrees F for 15 minutes. That’s it. I’ll add some basil when we eat it later this week, either on pasta or with fish. And if Bruce likes the roasted tomatoes, maybe I’ll freeze some for later.

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But there were more tomatoes (and basil) to pick today. We’re getting towards the end of the tomatoes’ life spans. The plants are getting straggly, dry, and ugly as they get zapped by the sun and by making tomatoes. Still, I’m pretty happy with the amount we’ve harvested. It’s a vast improvement over last spring.

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With so many tomatoes happening plus plenty of okra, I decided to try another experiment for dinner. Diced onions, chunks of okra, and some of tonight’s tomato harvest turned into stewed okra and tomatoes. Not bad with grilled chicken. And not slimy at all.

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Tomorrow I think I’ll make some pesto for later eating. It freezes well and makes for a yummy and quick weeknight dinner when we’re crunched for time.

The urban farm is looking pretty unattractive as we enter the hot months. I spent most of the time gathering stuff to feed the composter.

But this week, I’m also thinking about what I’m planting for fall because this week, it’s time to get the tomato and pepper transplants. Seems hard to believe!

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So: stay-cation day 2

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I finally roasted some of the Anaheim chilis and jalapeños last night.

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If you haven’t roasted peppers, you should try it. Not only is it an easy way to cook them but after you throw them in a bowl and cover it with cling film/plastic wrap, they peel very easily.

Right now we’re eating them as a condiment (like on tonight’s burgers) but I’m thinking of puréeing the next batch and using the sauce for fish.

But I digress. Today’s stay-cation adventures included sleeping in a little (thanks, Bruce!), a visit from the plumber, and a trip to a lake.

Jim the plumber pulled out the rusted out bar sink and fixed the leaking backyard faucet. I missed seeing him since I was out running errands like getting Guinness’ phenoxybenzamine.

When I got home we left for our friends’ house at a local lake to have lunch. We were also supposed to swim and jet ski but we ended up sitting on their patio and talking all afternoon. It was a real treat since these friends are very busy and that much time together is very rare. And it was beautiful to relax next to a lake and watch the boats drive by.

Of course, there was also harvesting that needed to happen:

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So: stay-cation day 1

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We started our first day off with the Gs morning walk around the neighborhood followed by egg, tomato, cheese breakfast sandwiches. If you have any doubt that freshly picked tomatoes from your own garden are worth the effort, today’s breakfast would have swayed you. And it was so good, we’ll be enjoying a caprese salad tonight. (Yes, the big ones are huge as you can see from the whiffle ball in the photo.)

Next up was a visit to our lawyer. After the Planning for Your Pets class a few weeks ago where we learned about the importance of ensuring that, in the event of our deaths, provisions are made for our dogs at a class a few weeks ago, we called the dude who did our will to amend it. The laws are different everywhere but in Texas, if no one is named to take care of your dogs, they can go to the pound. Also pets are considered property, just like a toaster or car. Suffice it to say, learn how where you live thinks about your companion animals and plan for it while you’re still able to.

So, now that’s all organized. Just in case. Not a very cheerful way to start a holiday, but it’s done.

The plumber was supposed to come by and remove the wet bar sink and fix an outside tap, but he got delayed and will be here tomorrow. That’s why we did a pile of errands to get them out of the way.

Our other pal David the electrician is coming by this week to do a bunch of stuff.

I’m hoping for some sleeping in time because I’m still tired from my crazy work week, but maybe I’ll just do what I did last Friday and fall asleep at 8.

So: faraway friends

Love or hate social media, it’s here to stay. To inform us of world events that our local journalists might not be reporting on. To tell us what’s going on in our hometown. To discuss PR gaffs and career suicides. And that’s only this week.

For me, it often brings wonderful surprises on days when things aren’t exactly going perfectly. That’s what happened yesterday.

I didn’t have much time to take breaks during the workday and it was a very long day. But when I checked Facebook quickly after a meeting ended a tiny bit early, I received Surprise #1: A post from my pal and former co-worker Shannon. While eating at Swiss Chalet (a rotisserie chicken restaurant) in Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, Bruce posted that we were there and, I think, took a photo and tagged me. Shannon, who now lives in the Caribbean (lucky girl!) saw it and messaged that she missed the Chalet dipping sauce (a hallmark of the restaurant). When I got back to Dallas, I messaged her and offered to send her a few packets (they’re sold in the supermarket and you just add water and boil to make it).

I’m not sure if she thought I’d really send it, but I did:

Shannon's treat

Shannon’s treat

 

She got the packets and my note yesterday and posted to Facebook the photo and a thank you. Apparently it got there close to her birthday (it’s taken several weeks to get to her little island) so she was doubly thrilled at the timing.

And so was I. As you know I love to write notes to people, even to strangers through More Love Letters. I was so glad to make someone’s day just a little better.

Little did I know that my somewhat stressful and very action-packed long day was about to get AWESOME. A while back, I saw that my “friend,” artist Lisa Loria had posted a photo of a beautiful jewelry box that she had painted and I inquired about it.

First, let me explain “friend.” Lisa and I are Facebook friends. We have never met. We do not live anywhere near each other. But we have tons in common including a love of gardening and making stuff from repurposed items. And we’re both pretty sure that we’d enjoy spending the evening together on a nice patio, wine glass in hand.

The main thing we have in common is a long-time real-life mutual friend (ok, he’s a ex-boyfriend) who we are also Facebook friends with. Our mutual friend is the same guy who introduced me to Bruce. I’ve known him longer than I’ve known Bruce—over 20 years!

Lisa and I were constantly posting pithy comments and liking each other’s zingy retorts to said mutual friend, so I thought she’d be someone I’d love to know. I knew she was an artist, but I didn’t know much more about her. Still she said yes to my request to be Facebook friends.

One day I saw that she posted a photo of a larger painted jewelry box that she had done for herself. I had a similar jewelry box from my childhood, a gift from my parents when I was probably 12 years old. I had kept it all these years for sentimental reasons, not because I actually used it. And I really didn’t like how plain it was. It was ivory and rather bland.

So I asked Lisa if she’d consider painting it for me. She would have carte blanche on the design because I liked her work I had seen on both Facebook and her blog. I said she could fit it in when she had time. I was in no rush to get it back.

She accepted the commission. Whoooohoooo!

I emptied it out—I sorted through it all, kept a few things for my brother’s daughters, “found” a few things I had forgotten about, and donated the rest. And off it went to California, the place where it had originally come from (well, it was probably made in China or somewhere else, but you get what I mean).

Yesterday, at around 7:30 pm CT when I was still at the office, working on a huge project with lots of moving parts, I saw Lisa’s post  and the picture that she tagged me in. The jewelry box was almost complete! Oh happy day! It was so beautiful and I absolutely loved it.

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By 8 pm, she had finished it and posted another picture. And by 8:30, her status was a blog post about the jewelry box and our unique friendship created by an ex-boyfriend and Facebook. You can read it here  at http://lisaloria.blogspot.com (she’s also got more pictures of her jewelry boxes if you’d like to see them).

It seems this is a week of retrospection regarding friendship. I’ve read several blog posts about friends they’ve never met, people have talked to me about reconnecting with long lost friends and the new friends they’ve made by participating in social media. My personal rule about being “friends” with people I’ve never met is that if we lived near each other, they’d have to be someone I’d sit down with in a café or bar and have a drink and a conversation. Or eat a meal with.

Bruce and I have some long-time friends that he “met” through a chat room (how ancient) on a singer’s website. He chatted with them for years and got to know people from all over the U.S.

One day, we decided to meet up with a bunch of those friends from Detroit so that we could all hang out, eat dinner and see a show. It was amazing – but really shouldn’t surprise me at all. They were all people that we had something in common with. And through the years there have been more concerts, visits, dinners, roadtrips, and backyard bbqs. Several visited us in Toronto, one friend has even visited us in Texas and another may be coming when the surface of the sun temperatures get cooler, perhaps in October.

Speaking of travel, I’m on the plane right now, so I should wrap up this post and get on with working since it’s about when my day normally starts. But here’s your gratuitous harvest photo from yesterday morning:

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Have a great day—maybe you can make a friend’s day today too.

 

 

 

 

Sow: summer’s here

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It was 98 degrees F at 9 pm so you know summer has arrived. As my coworkers and I left the restaurant tonight we all remarked that it felt cooler than when we entered. Maybe we hit 100 today.

But this morning the urban farm was nice at 6:30 am. Lots of anaheim chili peppers and okra picked, with tons on the way. Looking forward to grilling these veggies tomorrow! I’m thinking of freezing some of the peppers, then pickling the next batch. Anyone have good recipes? My pal Ed has also suggested that I make some green chili pork.

The Malabar spinach is already growing. It seems to like the trellises and it’s already climbing. It’s fun to watch already.

It was a long work day and there will be two more this week before I’m off for 10 days. Eye is on the prize so I’ll plow through the work, head down, nose to the grindstone.

So: out of shape (extra long post)

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I worked 62.5 hours last week. I know that, because in advertising, creative folk like me must complete timesheets (we do it via web portal these days, not paper or clock punching). In this photo, taken by Bruce on Friday night, you can probably tell that it was a tough week. (He also has video because apparently my snoring was so impressive. My whole body moved with each snore. Pretty.)Don’t worry: George was just being an opportunist for a human pillow and a sleeping snuggler.

The week consisted of important meetings in small rooms. Plane rides galore, mostly in the commuter jet kind of plane. Hotel beds, some better than others. Late nights. Early mornings. Lots of writing at the ends of already long days.

Needless to say, after last week, I recognize that I’m painfully out of shape for that kind of marathon. At one time in my career, weeks like that were fairly  normal. And it was exhilarating. Exhausting. Exciting.

There were definitely parts of last week that I loved. I did some solid work. I got to tap dance and sell my little heart out. I did my best to educate and entertain.

Like anything else, unless you use it, you lose it. And I must have lost my stamina and ability to keep that pace for 5 days straight or more about 5 years ago. By the time I arrived home on Thursday night, I was done.

But the week wasn’t over.

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It was so nice to get home and see how much had grown on the Urban Farm. Okra, sweet 100s cherry tomatoes and Anaheim chiles that were marked as poblano transplants were harvested. Good thing they are also delicious. The okra and tomatoes were rehomed since Bruce had been picking tomatoes diligently while I was gone. Several friends and neighbors have been enjoying this spring tomato crop — certainly our most successful so far, despite the weather issues.

And I didn’t want to disappoint this week’s canine coworker:

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Last Friday was Guinness’ turn to go to work. During the summer, we have Summer Hours which means that if you work your 40 hours before noon on Friday, you can head out and enjoy your afternoon. I like to bring a dog along because often I’m one of the last people in the office because it’s nice and quiet, making it the perfect time to get caught up.

Of the three Gs, Guinness is the best office dog because he’s a great listener (Sit. Down. Stay.) and he’s very chill. Plus, he makes every single person he sees feel like a million bucks. He wags his huge puffy tail for everyone like they’re his long lost best friends, sits on feet to keep people from leaving, demands to be petted by putting his big noggin in naps, and lies down on command during meetings, staying put through the whole thing, though he’s very bored. My boss, who isn’t the biggest fan of our dog-friendly office policy (it’s one of the reasons I chose to come to the company), loves Guinness’ well-behaved, laid-back vibe. Although she’d never admit it, she’d be cool if I brought him to work every day.

Friday was actually National Take Your Dog to Work Day in the U.S. I had no idea, honestly. I just planned to bring the Gs into the office one by one this summer and see how they did so I’d know if I’d bring them in again.

The photo above was sent in to a contest that The Three Dog Bakery was having — you just needed to show your dog at work and you could be chosen to win a gift card (the Gs love TDB so it would be awesome to win). I like that Guinness blends in with the office carpet, like he’s in camouflage. He slept under my desk when I wasn’t in meetings. I only knew he was there because I’d hear his soft snores every so often.

Godiva was very put out that again, she wasn’t the office dog, but she’ll be going next. I promise. When she was an only dog, she started coming to work as soon as she was potty trained pup. She had a travel crate, a bed, lots of toys. People bought treats and kept them at their desks just for her. And they bought her fun toys and balls. They had Godiva breaks. Then Guinness came along and separating those two wasn’t a good thing at all.

You already know what I did on Friday night. It’s also what I did on Saturday night. And Sunday night. I can’t remember being that tired in I don’t know when. It reminded me of times in high school when I had to pull all nighters to get the school paper out and study for an exam. Or when I had two finals on the same day in college because of my poor planning. On the plus side, three days later, I now feel back to normal.

Never fear that I rested all weekend. Saturday we needed to get countertops ordered for all of those cabinets. This photo kind of shows what we’re getting, although the photo is too dark. Ice snow is the name of the color:

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It’s whiter but this photo shows all of the flecks in it. The substrate is called caesarstone—it’s quartz and reminds me of travertine which was a popular flooring choice in mid-century homes. The installer will be coming out to do final measurements next week and hopefully it will be installed by mid-July.

It wouldn’t be a weekend without time digging in the dirt. I found out about this cool plant on Saturday morning while I was drinking coffee and reading gardening blogs:

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It’s not really spinach, but a juicy leafed plant that is grown in India and Africa for it’s spinach-like qualities. You see, salad isn’t really a summer food and leafy greens don’t grow very well in the North Texas surface of the sun heat. But apparently this stuff does. I’ve eaten a leaf and it’s delicious. A little citrusy in addition to spinach’s green iron-y taste. And it is a vine so it can climb the trellises that Bruce picked up for me. The photos of it are gorgeous and it would bring lots of visual interest to the months where not much is happy to grow (except okra). Stay tuned for further details.

photo[6]By Sunday I was feeling much better rested. Although it was very hot (98°F), I spent some time outside and did another big beet harvest, which I promptly roasted. We had lots of yummy tomatoes and some additional okra. I peeled, chopped, and froze the remainder of the peaches, although I saw a few in the tree up fairly high this morning. I guess it’s time to get the ladder out again. The jam will get made when it’s cooler.

I’m also thinking about making some pepper jams. Down here in the South, people pour pepper jam over cream cheese (or baked brie) and serve it with crackers or baguette slices. Since I couldn’t make plum jam, it might be nice for gifts.

Bruce made dinner (and extra dinners) on Sunday night. We’ve been enjoying the okra grilled. It’s very yummy and a quick side to just about anything.

photo[4]If we get enough okra, I’d love to pickle it, but we’ll have to see how it grows.

Last night I also ordered the fall seeds: beets, spinach, lettuce, collards, mustard, bok choi, snow peas, kale, chard, arugula, carrots, radishes. It’s funny to think about fall when it’s finally summer and it’s predicted to be over 100°F this week.

Yes, it’s back to “normal” for me. Get ready for more “sow” posts.

And I have something exciting to look forward too. Bruce and I will be starting a stay-cation on Friday (through the entire July 4/Canada Day week). Between now and then I have the usual work, plus a day trip to NC on Thursday.

I must rest up since we are going to use the time to get more of our projects completed. I want to break out the sewing machines. And plant the fall tomato crop. Don’t worry, I’ll post photos.

So: on the road again

Goodbye, North Carolina! This morning I’m off to the Garden State, an ironic nickname for the New Jersey I’ll get to see since I’ll probably be indoors except when going from airport to car to hotel to car to client to car to airport. More like the Fluorescent State or the Air Conditioning State.

Luckily my own garden is enjoying plenty of free water from the sky (saving Bruce from watering twice a day) and a bounty of tomatoes:

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Last night’s tomato harvest. Photo by Bruce

Those tomatoes would have been an excellent addition to my hotel buffet breakfast. Ever since the above photo sparked a discussion on Facebook last night regarding best ways to eat tomatoes, I’ve been thinking about a tomato sandwich. Yes, mayo, some kind of delicious bakery bread (sourdough perhaps), lightly toasted, thickly sliced, warm from the garden tomatoes, sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, maybe a few basil leaves.

Or maybe some roasted sweet 100s, tossed in olive oil with slivered garlic, finished with some roughly torn basil, tossed with a bit of pasta. Or on top of some fish.

Now you know my dirty gardening secret: I’m only doing it because I love to eat good things. Growing my own lettuce has ruined most restaurant salads for me and tomatoes are consistently disappointing during my room service dinners.

As you may have gathered, I’ve been eating lots of room service and hotel food during this intense work week. But in addition to traveling to see clients and building powerpoint decks, I’ve dusted off my writing skills and I’ve been making copy late into the night.

Despite the crazy hours, it’s been a lot of fun sitting in my hotel room cranking out the work. It’s been a personal way back machine to late nights and amazing work–the work that was the path to getting to where I am today.

It’s been rejuvenating, exhilarating even.

Good thing I’m liking the pace: I get to do it all over again tonight.

So: lucky

Apparently I write like Margaret Atwood, at least according to I write like. I get to collect frequent flyer miles for my business travel that I can use to visit my far away friends. I have a job that keeps me on my toes and stretches my brain. Plenty of free water is falling from the sky for the Urban Farm this month—and this week which is also lucky for Bruce. Three lab-ish Gs that will practically knock me over with joy when I return home from my travels on Thursday. And I have an amazing husband who holds down the household while I galavant all over the East Coast this week.

Someone didn't want me to go yesterday

Someone didn’t want me to go yesterday

I am very lucky.

Great friends who are loving and loyal. Coworkers who light up my days with their sense of humor and regional differences. The perspective that comes with age and experience. The miracle of a plant springing up from a seed. The tired feeling of a day well spent.

I know that I am lucky. I also know that in many cases, timing and chance is not enough. Being lucky is also a choose. Choosing to be positive. Choosing to work hard. Choosing to not take the easy way out. Choosing to try something new. Choosing to stand up for those who cannot.

And I try my best to be grateful for it everyday.

Last week, a former colleague posted a link to a blog post that I liked enough to share with some of the folks I work with. Even if you don’t work in the same industry as me, I think you’ll see that it applies to any vocation or job if you look at it with gratitude and appreciation.

Now on that note, it’s time to start the work day with gratitude and go out there and make some luck. Make it a great one!

Sow: fall/DIY/dog saving

For a weekend, this ranks right up with our top #10 busiest. Friday, surface of the sun all-you-can-eat (or not) baseball for Bruce’s work.

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Yesterday?

Well, I was supposed to work. Instead I spent time up in the peach tree, harvesting:

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It was a fair haul. Not as good as last year but the fruit is larger. The composter got a lot of half eaten or bird pecked peaches, but I know it will be delicious dirt one day. George wanted to eat any peaches that fell on the ground.

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Lots of garden work. More tomatoes harvested. The first okra came in. The last cucumber.

We grilled the okra tonight–amazing. Just toss with olive oil and salt and pepper. Delicious. NOT slimy at all.

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Pulled out the last of the carrots.

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Lots of garden is cleared so we can start the fall planting in a few weeks. Hard to believe!

Another big beet harvest with more to come.

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Dunked all of the rain barrels (those are the little donuts).

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One of the beets was really big. That’s Bruce’s iPhone next to the beet.

Saturday was also the day we kept working on the family room/lounge. Our little fridge for beer, wine and drinks came in so Bruce and the Gs took the truck to go and get it. Bruce and I went to pick up the last cabinet after confirming the fridge’s dimensions in real life, in place, not just at the store. And a shower solidified my farmer’s tan.

And then there was the more somber purpose of today: saving the Gs and their pals. We spent 6 hours in a dog first aid and CPR class learning what to do if there’s an emergency. Sobering. But good. I feel a lot better since I am prepared for the worst.

Now, Bruce is assembling that last cabinet so we can do a preliminary countertop measurement.

Our pal the electrician is coming by on Tuesday since we uncovered another issue while attempting to install a replacement ceiling fan in the office/tv room. He needs to move the new fridge plug anyway and better understand what else still needs to happen.

The plumber needs to visit to remove and cap the wet bar sink, making it a more useful dry bar.

See what I mean about busy? And I’m traveling all week this week, leaving Bruce to harvest tomatoes, okra, peppers and chard. Back Thursday!

So: hotdogs and peanuts

There will be no peach picking or harvesting or composting this evening. Bruce and I are  joining his coworkers for a company event at the Rangers Ballpark, home of such delicacies as a giant hot dog:

courtesy of the Dallas Morning News

courtesy of the Dallas Morning News

Everything’s bigger in Texas, right?

And the team they’re playing? Why none other than:

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Caveat: I’m not a huge sports fan. But I do like going to see a baseball game live every now and then. Unlike the dome where the Blue Jays play, Rangers ballpark is open air and styled like an old-fashioned ballpark. It is however, pretty new. And while it’s going to be a hot night (probably 100°F at 5 pm) there’s something magical about hunkering down with a program, a cold beer, a hot dog (something I rarely eat), and a bag of peanuts.

It takes me back to my childhood of course. My dad is to this day a guy who really enjoys a day at the ballpark (we took him to Rangers ballpark last time he visited Texas) even though it is definitely not my mom’s favorite way to spend an afternoon/evening. He knows how to keep score and even if he’s unfamiliar with the particular team, he can size up the players quickly.

The first baseball games I remember going to were Savannah Braves games. They were the minor league team for the Atlanta Braves. So much fun! Every time we went, there were giveaways and special activities for the kids. And apparently it was a rather inexpensive night out for a family of four. We’d get bags of peanuts and make a big mess. When we moved to Southern California, we went to Angels games in Anaheim (can’t remember what they’re currently called, something like the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim). We’d get bags of peanuts and make a big mess. Then when we moved to Northern California, we’d hop on the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) and head up to Oakland for the Oakland As games. We’d get bags of peanuts and make a big mess—can you see the pattern? My mom hated the chaos and debris, but it was how it’s done. As a college student and young adult I also went to San Francisco Giants games with friends.

But ask me about the inner working of the game and you won’t get much. I read the program because I like the articles about the players and the teams. I like being outside (no surprise there). I like being able to snack on peanuts and throw the shells on the ground, just like I did when I was a kid.

But most of all, I love the people watching. Always have. It’s like being in the airport, except better. Sporting events bring uninhibited yelling. Crazy fashions. Drunken behavior. Rudeness. Kindness. It’s all out there at the same time. And when combined with the game, it’s visually overwhelming. At least for me.

Once or twice a year I love it. But since this is Friday night after a long and busy work week, I’ll probably be ready to head home after two hours or so, sleepy from the heat and overloaded by the visual stimulation. Gotta get up early Saturday. Peaches are calling.