Dog Park!!!

One of the things I find myself enjoying most when I visit proper urban areas are the dog parks. Columbus just doesn’t seem to have many. So when I travel, I am one of the weird ‘petophiles’ you see hanging around outside the fence at dog parks, watching other people’s puppies romp. I miss my pups when I’m on the road ! Plus, I just love dogs, all dogs. I love watching all of the various city pooches playing together. So imagine my joy when I learned that a new park  that just opened near me included a dog park. Thrilled doesn’t even cover it.

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Abe, Gus, and Chico running with a new friend in the big dog dog park.

Walnut Woods Metro Park is opening piece by piece. Tall Pines? That was the first area of the park to open. The Buckeye Area is the second stage of the park. A lovely 2 mile paved bicycle path winds through it, weaving through groves of crabapple and other trees (this was also part of the tree farm) and then down along Walnut Creek for a stretch. A third part is scheduled to open in October. But best of all, the Buckeye Area features a 4 acre dog park.

Actually, 2 dog parks.  There is an area for smaller dogs (maybe 1  acre) and then a separate area (maybe 3 acres) for larger dogs. Both times that we have taken our dogs, we were the only small dogs and a lone dog watched from the big dog area. After checking with that dog’s owner, we brought our dogs into the big dog area.  It’s sort of magical to me how immediately the dogs all decide to run around together, no issues with varying sizes. Just romping!

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Splash pond in big dog area.

The dog parks are quite well planned.  Both are pleasingly spacious, have good fences, and include thoughtful details for the people bringing the dogs, like benches and picnic shelters for shade. The big dog area also includes a little splash pond for the dogs. Mine mostly weren’t too interested about going in the water, except for Abe. The first time he ventured in was hilarious. He was following his new friend, a boxer/shepherd mix who ran straight into the water. About 2 feet from the shore, Abe stopped and sort of just stood there, processing and not sure exactly what to do next. Eventually, he backed up, only to splash back through the shallow part a few more times.

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Happy pups!

The dogs all seem to flat-out LOVE visiting the dog park. It is a pure joy to watch them tearing around and having fun. Chico in particular seems to really love the wide open spaces, running at top speed all around like a wild thing, looking for all the world like a miniature greyhound. The fact that the dogs are all well-behaved, sleepy lap nuggets when we get home? Gravy.

Where We Stayed: Memphis

For our road trip to New Orleans, we booked through www.airbnb.com for the first time.  The hotel we usually stay at in NOLA was booked so we checked with friends for recommendations and one raved about airbnb. Intrigued, we browsed the site.  Many of the accommodations are like micro bed and breakfasts:  maybe a guest room or a guest house, but not 8 rooms or anything.  And the prices were often really great, with all sorts of cool places ranging from dirt cheap to completely reasonable.  We stayed in Memphis, New Orleans, and in Nashville during our trip and we tried slightly different options at each stop.

In Memphis, we stayed in the cheapest, least private of the accommodations we booked: in a very sweet couple’s guest bedroom. It was a 1920’s bungalow that they’ve been lovingly restoring in the eclectic Cooper-Young neighborhood in Midtown Memphis. Picture a funky, hipsterish neighborhood in the midst of gentrification and you’ve got it: coffee shops, bars, restaurants, and shops all within walking distance of where we stayed.

615024495There were pros and cons to staying here: our room seemed like it had been perhaps an office at some point and was set up more like a pass-through with doors on each end of the room than like a private room, so I was kind of always double checking the doors. I was a little shy to be in a room right in the middle of a stranger’s home, you know? The bed was small but not bad.

On the plus side, the price was super inexpensive and the house was quite nice. And although it was down a shared hallway, we had the use of our own bathroom and it was really great: nice big pedestal sink and a delicious cast iron tib, plus the shower had wonderfully strong water pressure. The neighborhood was cool and comfortable –easy to get to several great places to eat.  I had the best cheesy spinach and turkey grits ever at a nearby coffee-house, and my husband appreciated being so close to the Goner Records store.  Oh, and I got a completely brilliant pair of sunglasses in the neighborhood at a groovy, thoughtfully edited antique store that specialized in mid-century modern wares and the Young Avenue Deli deserves its good reputation. The deep-fried stuffed artichoke hearts we had there? Improbably light and delicious.

Our hosts were mostly invisible, but for all that were friendly and had some great suggestions concerning places to check out while in town. Jeff said that the dance floor at the Stax museum, with episodes of Soul Train projected on one of the walls was not to be missed and he couldn’t have been more right. Plus they had an adorable chihuahua (that’s his portrait over our bed) who graciously let me cuddle him.

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I took this pic of my husband…

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and then he took this one of me at the Young Avenue Deli. Yum!

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Some seriously good, seriously authentic Memphis barbecue here at Payne’s. No frills, just straight-up awesome.

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Must visit for any vinyl geeks.

All in all? Even though being right in the middle of a stranger’s home pushed me outside of my comfort zone a little, I loved where we stayed in Memphis. It was a cool way to get a different view of the city than we’d have had at a big chain hotel. Definitely a win!

In Bloom: Trees

A frosty night put a quick end to the glorious display our magnolia was putting on, so I’m glad to have snapped a few pictures the other day. The unusual creamy yellow of our magnolia is delightful. I love watching it grow and become more and more wonderful every spring:

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Yellow Magnolia Tree

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Close-up of blossoms.

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Weeping Cherry Tree and Yellow Magnolia Tree

The weeping cherry tree isn’t bad, either! There is something magical about watching the cherry blossom petals gently drift down now that the peak of the bloom is fading.

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Cherry Tree in our backyard.

The March of the Ducks

As much as getting some Memphis barbecue was on my husband’s list (yum!), taking him to see the Peabody ducks was on mine.  As a girl, I remember being pretty enchanted listening to my dad talk about the ducks in the fountain of the hotel he’d stayed at while in Memphis on business. As a young woman, I saw them in person for the first time. I’d been trying to explain the whole thing to my husband for a while and never felt like he quite got it. It’s a Thing, and I knew that lounging in the lobby, cocktail in hand, watching the ceremony unfold, he’d get it.

He thought I was a little nuts to want to get there as early as I did.  The evening march of the ducks is at 5:00 PM.  We got there at 4:30, and the place was already packed.  No room at the lobby bar.  We got drinks and staked out a place on the second floor balcony to watch from and waited, sipping our drinks and people-watching, with my husband snapping this pic of the fountain while getting said drinks:

069It’s a small fountain for a big fountain, if that makes any sense? I remember being a little underwhelmed the first time I saw it. In my mind, the ducks that spend their day paddling around a hotel lobby fountain before parading down a red carpet to a waiting elevator which then whisks them up to their rooftop penthouse lair? They’d be spending their day paddling around in more water than this, in a more fantastical, over-the-top fountain than this.  My husband was likewise underwhelmed, maybe rolling his eyes a little, but bemused by my palpable excitement.

More and more people gathered, with children lined up three-deep along the path to the elevator.  The ducks, one male and four female mallards, knew it was nearly time to do their thing and were gathering near the part of the fountain where the rolled up red carpet was waiting.  Then the Duckmaster (an awesome job title if ever there was one!) came out.  The red carpet was unfurled and he gave a monologue about the history of the ducks and how there came to be mallards in the hotel’s fountain.

Short version? It all comes down to booze, which is why it is so much a part of the experience (as an adult) to watch the march with a drink in hand! The fanciful revisionist version presented in the charming Patricia Polacco book “John Philip Duck” tidies things up for the children quite a bit. The real story? In 1932, the hotel’s general manager was quite inebriated following an unsuccessful hunting trip.  He and his hunting buddies thought it’d be hilarious to put their live decoy ducks in the hotel fountain, which they drunkenly did in the wee hours of the morning that fateful day. Luckily, the ducks stayed in the fountain and the hotel’s guests were charmed. A tradition was born! The current ducks are raised by a local farmer. Each team lives in the hotel for three months before being retired and returned to the farm to live out the remainder of their days as wild ducks. This whole deal seems to typify Southern Eccentricity to a T.

Following the speech, some little stairs were pulled next to the fountain, and the speakers began blaring “King Cotton March” by Sousa.  The Duckmaster tapped the side of the fountain with his wooden staff, and pretty as you please, the ducks, single file, hopped out of the fountain and began their majestic waddle down the red carpet to the waiting elevator. I looked over and found my husband, who had clearly been humoring me up to this point, grinning a goofy grin and chuckling. He got it! The ducks were, he agreed, “a Thing”.

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The Duckmaster about to invite the mallards to march.

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Ducky cocktail spears I saved from our drinks –perfect cheap souvenir!

If you find yourself in Memphis, I recommend stopping by to see the march.  Or I’m sure it’s posted on YouTube somewhere. Other Peabody hotels now feature ducks, but this is where it all started. How this hasn’t been stopped by PETA? I can only say that the ducks seemed content and well-cared for, although you’ve got to wonder what it’s like for them to go back to the wild after their 3 month stint in the lap of luxury.

Meet Bernard Blanc

Bernard 017The moment I saw the Craigslist posting last night, I was lost.  It read:

Antique Polar Bear Lawn Decoration  This was a gift from a neighbor who was moving to a tropical climate in which he would not fit her new decor! She fell in love with him in a French ice cream shop over 30 years ago and had him shipped to the States. He has moved with her throughout the mid-west since. When she moved she left him with us. He would be great in a restaurant, ice-cream shop or as a school mascot. He is aprox. 4′ tall and heavy!  A two person move for sure!  Cash only please.

There was a lopsided picture of the bear, sitting forlornly outside, dead leaves gathered at his paws. He was a little dirty, and one of his bottom paws was mutilated, but he was special and I just needed to make him mine. The asking price of $50 seemed completely reasonable to me. But I would need help retrieving him, and my husband maybe should have a say in such a matter. So I showed him the listing. Absent-mindedly (he was watching a baseball game at the time) he said, sure, okay. Good enough!  I contacted the owners immediately. They said the bear was still available and that we could pick him up either Saturday or Sunday.

In the cold light of morning, my husband was dismayed. Dismayed that I hadn’t bargained when I contacted the owners, hadn’t even tried. He wasn’t saying no, mind you, but I knew it would bug him eternally if we paid the full asking price.  I emailed the owner once again, explaining that my husband was needing a bit of convincing and that a price drop would probably seal the deal.  Would she take $40? She would! My husband was satisfied and so off we went.

Bernard 035I am ridiculously pleased.  I don’t, however, plan on using him as a garden decoration.  He’s now an indoor bear. My polar bear is ceramic, quite heavy, and very handsome.  And, according to stamps on his insides on the bottom, he really is French.  One, in English, read, “Made in France” while a second one read “Produit de Normandie” or something along those lines?  I don’t speak French and he’s so heavy that I just don’t feel like lifting him again right now to confirm, so that’s probably not spelled correctly or is grammatically displeasing or somehow incorrect.  (It’s really a 3 person job to move the bear, except that he is such an awkward shape.) Nevertheless, with that inscription, we even know what region of France he’s from!

I can’t help wondering how old he is.  I’m thinking kind of old.  Supposedly, he was shipped here 30 years ago, and I suspect he wouldn’t have been new then. And making a bear of his size out of ceramic seems costly —that’s a lot of clay, and you’d lose so many in the kiln while firing, I’d think.  And he’s pretty detailed.  An ice cream shop would find cement or fiberglass a more cost-effective way to make an advertising figure like this, no? So maybe he was made before the fiberglass technology got refined? Or maybe that’s just a very American material and the French are still popping out giant ceramic advertising figures to this day? I’d love to know more.

He strikes me as a boy bear, so I thought “Bernard Blanc” nodded suitably to both his bear-ness and his French heritage.  However, apparently the owner’s children had been calling him Aurora. In a weird coincidence, we’re supposed to have a great shot at seeing the Northern Lights in our area tonight.  So maybe the bear is a she and I should call her Ursula Borealis? Aurora Bearealis? Decisions, decisions…

Bernard 002Luckily, the pups seem mostly to be ignoring the bear. One of our cats is pretty fascinated and seems to want to climb him. I’ll take it.

Foxy!!!

My husband came home from work yesterday looking positively giddy.  On his drive home he’d seen a vixen and her kits romping in a nearby field!  We hurriedly bundled straight into his truck and drove back out to where he’d seen them.  They were still there!

foxy 002foxy 004Much too close to the road, the kits were pouncing and chasing each other.  The vixen was watching them and the road warily.  I hope she moves them to somewhere a little safer soon.  Between the traffic of the road and people who might wish to do more than take pictures, this spot seems like a bad idea.  But what a delight to see them!

Yea and Boo in the Garden

On the “Yea” side?  More and more varieties of daffodils are doing their thing.  Lovely!

004012015Oh, and here’s what the Japanese Cornel Dogwood looks like now that it is blooming: (I showed the buds a while ago here: https://withthemoonontheirwings.wordpress.com/2013/03/20/sprung/) 006

On the “Boo” end? This. 019Look at that bold behemoth! Just one of the giant not-so-dandy dandelions already overtaking the garden.  Boo!