The Lizard Chronicles

Some of this is true. Some of this is better. –Too Much Joy

Northeast Road Trip Part 5: Seizing the Day and Relaxificationizing July 22, 2015

It was the penultimate day of our trip (and the last one that wouldn’t be taken up almost entirely by driving), and we were ready! The socks I wore said it all.

Hell yes!

Hell yes!

There was a threat of rain that day, but the forecast looked most promising in the morning, so we decided to hike first and beer/wine taste later. Off we went to Watkins Glen State Park, which had been described to us by scores of people as a must see. Indeed. It was stunningly beautiful.


Behind a waterfall

Behind a waterfall

Living (not very) dangerously

Living (not very) dangerously

All that hiking and beauty and nature and stuff made us thirsty, so we went to Wagner Vineyards, which is home to a brewery, a winery, and a cafe–what more could we possibly want? Well, it had a lovely view to boot!

Our view while beer tasting at Wagner

Our view while beer tasting at Wagner

Beer rainbow

Beer rainbow

We tasted beer and wine and then fortified ourselves with lunch so we were ready to move on to our next stop: Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards. There we encountered some of the friendliest and most entertaining staff members in recent memory. Also, the tasting glasses and many of the wine labels had a cat theme going, so I was sold.

RedcatWe weren’t done yet. We tasted spirits at Finger Lakes Distilling, more wine at Heron Hill, and cider and mead at Earle Estates.

Selfie at Finger Lakes Distilling

We were in good spirits at Finger Lakes Distilling

The choice of discerning herons

The choice of discerning herons

At that point, we considered the day pretty well seized and headed back to the hotel (excuse me, castle!). We strolled around the grounds for a bit and enjoyed the view from the patio as a we watched a rain storm roll in on the other side of the lake.

Neener neener, we're on the dry side!

Neener neener, we’re on the dry side!

To top the day off, I coined a new word: relaxificationizing, to describe the combined effects of wine and a soak in a hot tub.

Diem carped.

The next morning, we ate breakfast under guard of the brave knights at Belhurst before beginning the trip home.

Brave guardian of the buffet

Brave guardian of the buffet

We had plans to visit two wineries on our way out, but between the breakfast and the car ride, I began to doze off and was unable to help navigate. We missed the turn for our first intended destination and didn’t realize it for several miles, at which point, we didn’t feel like turning back. So, we proceeded to the next spot on our agenda: Bully Hill. This delightful place is home to many delicious wines, the labels of which bear the beautiful artwork of the late Walter S. Taylor, who was one of the winery’s founders and, by most descriptions, quite a character. A sign in the tasting room indicated that, after one complimentary tasting, additional tastings were one dollar each, but our friendly server assured us as he poured that he was absolutely not keeping track of how many wines we tried and told us just to leave a few bucks, whatever we thought was appropriate.

Last selfie of the trip!

Last selfie of the trip!

During our travels of the preceding week, we had collected about a case of wine, some beer, several gifts, various other souvenirs (including the all-important rubber duck, Isabella), and a lot of great memories. It was time to head home. The drive was long but mainly uneventful save for a traffic jam outside of Cleveland. Isabella enjoyed the scenery and looked forward to seeing her new home.

Homeward bound

Homeward bound


Northeast Road Trip Part 4: The Great Ducky Controversy July 17, 2015

For a brief time, Ian and I thought we might have to take up residence in Cambridge upon finding that we were unable to extricate our car from the small lot of our B&B. However, vehicles were shuffled, the situation was resolved swiftly, and we were on our way. Our destination: the middle of nowhere (also known as Cooperstown, home of the Baseball Hall of Fame).

Cooperstown is not the kind of place you could easily stumble upon, particularly when trying to drive and navigate in very hard rain, interspersed with periods of only moderately hard rain. Eventually, though, we emerged from wilderness into a sea of baseball umbrellas on a street containing, almost exclusively, restaurants and baseball-themed stores. Yup, we were in the right place. The Hall of Fame and Museum were worth the visit, even though one can only look at plaques and memorabilia for so long. It was interesting to see some of the old equipment (from before safety was invented) and to find one of the few places on Earth where Ian was more interested in the gift shop than I was.

I want to join!

I want to join!

Such phanatics!

Such phanatics!

Before I married Ian and changed my last name, people often asked me if I was related to Mel Ott, a right fielder who played for the New York Giants and whose name pops up in a lot of crossword puzzles. Although we’re not related as far as I know, eventually, I started answering in the affirmative to amuse myself. “Oh, yeah, sure. Good old Uncle Mel! I heard tons of stories about him when I was growing up.” Hey, why not? I got a picture with his Hall of Fame plaque, and Ian got pictures with those of some of his favorite Cubs.

Uncle Mel!

Uncle Mel!

Ian with Mr. Cub

Ian with Mr. Cub

When we were done at the Hall of Fame, we had lunch at the Doubleday Cafe and perused some of the shops. Then it was time to get into the car again and head back toward the Finger Lakes. We arrived at our next place of lodging, Belhurst Castle, checked in, and proceeded directly to the wine tasting room (before even going to our room) so we could get a tasting in before they closed for the evening. There we tasted what was probably the best dry Riesling we’d had in recent memory.

Belhurst Castle

Belhurst Castle

When we got to our room, I was delighted by one of the first things to catch my eye: a rubber ducky bearing the name and logo of Belhurst Castle. Alas, my delight quickly turned to consternation when I offhandedly mentioned taking the ducky home with us and Ian reacted with shock and dismay. I had assumed that the duck was a promotional item, a complimentary souvenir of our stay. Ian, on the other hand, supposed that the duck was akin to the wine glasses and coffee maker in the room–meant to be used only for the duration of our visit. Our debate became heated. I took informal polls on Facebook, and although “complimentary souvenir” won in a landslide, Ian was not convinced. My distress grew, quickly becoming completely out of proportion to the situation. For reasons I do not fully understand, I really wanted that duck. However, I did not want Ian to think less of me. He seemed to fear that he was married to a larcenist who was precariously perched atop a slippery slope leading toward a life of crime.

I had to settle this. The next time we passed the front desk, I approached and announced. “I have an extremely silly question.” The three staff members looked at me expectantly, so I continued. “The rubber ducks in the rooms–are those meant for guests to take, or are you not supposed to take them?”

A pause followed. The desk clerks seemed puzzled that someone would think to ask about this. “You can take them,” one finally said.

Yes! The ducky was mine!

I named her Isabella after a ghost that has been alleged to roam the grounds of Bellhurst.

Isabella enjoys the view.

Isabella enjoys the view.

"I want some!"

“I want some!”


Northeast Road Trip Part 3: No Escape! (Also, Beer and Cupcakes) July 14, 2015

We rolled into Cambridge on Sunday afternoon. There was some short-lived navigational confusion owing to road construction and street closures, which was only compounded by an electronic street sign announcing road closures, not for construction, but rather for a dance party. At first, I thought the sign had been hacked, but there had indeed been a dance party. Alas, we’d missed it. Anyhow, we were able to recombobulate our bearings and find our way to the apartment of my brother (Chris) and his husband (David), where we hung out, chatted, and drank some of my favorite beer until it was time to check into our B&B. The inn was quite lovely, with the exception of the weird mosaic in the bathroom of our room. The old buttons, watch faces, and pieces of tea cups were charming enough, but every now and then there was a disembodied foot from a porcelain doll or a creepy old photo.

Can you find the missing extremity?

I’m afraid this child wants to eat my soul.

I will forgive this one piece of disturbing decor, especially since the inn had a beautiful winding staircase, and our room had a loft and a funky dresser. Also, there were delicious cupcakes.

I had to restrain myself from sliding down the banister.

Feeling lofty



The rest of our evening consisted of cocktails at Alden & Harlow, dinner at the West Side Lounge, and attempting to escape from a room. Perhaps that last one requires explanation. It’s an interactive game in which you are locked in a room with nine other people and have one hour to find clues, solve puzzles, and escape to freedom. I was a bit apprehensive knowing that, if we failed and were trapped there indefinitely, I was likely to be the first one eaten. Actually, the game makers are legally obligated to let you out of the room, even if you fail to solve the puzzle, which is good because we didn’t solve it. I must note, however, that in walking us through the puzzle solution after our time was up, our game maker discovered that one of the clues to the puzzle, a joker playing card, was missing. It had never been placed. Although it would have been possible to solve the puzzle without that clue, I’m going to go ahead and blame our failure on the missing card. We totally would have crushed it if we’d had that joker. Just try to prove me wrong!

Friggin' Joker

Friggin’ joker (Photo credit: Escape the Room Boston)

The next morning, Ian and I had the entire breakfast room to ourselves at the late (9:30) breakfast seating, as we were, apparently, the only guest of the inn who like to sleep in. Beer sounded like an excellent follow-up to breakfast, so we headed to the Sam Adams brewery for a tour and some beverage appreciation. Because Ian is a home brewer and I’ve taken brewery tours before, much of the information from the tour was not new to me. However, I did learn the following fun “facts” from our tour guide Zach.

  • Yeast is not only where bubbles come from but also where fun comes from
  • The Sam Adams “perfect pint” is the most stolen piece of glassware in the US
I like some whimsy with my beer.

I like some whimsy with my beer.

It's funny because one of my cats actually likes beer.

It’s funny because one of my cats actually likes beer.

That's totally Bob Cannon behind me, not just a cardboard cutout of him.

That’s totally Bob Cannon behind me, not just a cardboard cutout of him.

A tour of Fenway Park was next on our agenda. One of these days, we’ll actually get around to attending a game there–just like one of these days, we’ll get around to taking a tour of Wrigley Field and seeing parts of it that we normally don’t.

Hard to argue with that

Hard to argue with that.

At Fenway

At Fenway

I've heard of keeping your eye on the ball, but apparently, your butt works too.

I’ve heard of keeping your eye on the ball, but apparently, your butt works too.

The Green Monster

The Green Monster

Those are not *real* bleachers, but I do like the one red seat.

Those are not real bleachers, but I do like the one red seat.

From Fenway, we headed to the Top of the Hub to enjoy the view and some cocktails.

Boston from above

Boston from above

Then we met up with Chris and David again for drinks (yes, more drinks, we’re on vacation, dammit!) on the patio at our inn and dinner (and three shared desserts–again…vacation!) at The Foundry. There, our topics of discussion included

  • How much does Chris know about sports these days? (Apparently, a lot more than he used to! He’s come a long way from thinking that there were 21 outfielders in baseball. It’s not as much fun to quiz him anymore.)
  • What if Antonin Scalia were a baseball umpire? (Of course, he’d be wearing his robe)
  • How can David not like chocolate and peanuts together?? (It’s not as bad as hating penguins, but it’s still weird.)
  • My super awesome idea for a new twist on seemingly played-out vampire stories is sure to be the next big thing! (I’m hesitant to even mention it here for fear that someone will steal it and run with it, but knowing me, I’ll never get past my fantastic tagline. Vumpires: You’re Never Safe!)

Northeast Road Trip Part 2: Deep Thoughts and Penguins July 10, 2015

The bulk of our second day in New Hampshire was spent lounging at a small beach that was just a short walk away from the cabin. The day was warm but not too warm. We had the beach all to ourselves, a cooler full of beer, and some tunes going on a Jambox. All in all, it was quite conducive to kicking back, relaxing, and even pondering some deep philosophical questions. Together that day on the beach, my friends and I determined the following:

  • Breathing is the best!
  • Not breathing is the worst!
  • If, for whatever reason, we should all be trapped together and need to resort to cannibalism, I would be eaten first. I posited that, since I’m a vegetarian, I’m likely to be the tastiest. Besides, if I were to start eating meat again after more than 25 years without it, I’d prefer not to begin with one of my friends. Alas, I’m small, so I’d be little more than an appetizer. Everyone agreed that Jerry, the largest member of the group, would be next on the menu.

Perhaps these do not seem like particularly profound thoughts to you. Fair enough. I think we might have been more successful in our philosophizing if it hadn’t been for the Jambox, which after about 15 minutes at the beach, began complaining that its battery needed to be charged. It continued to play music for a good couple of hours, interrupting every few minutes to whine about needing a charge, thus disrupting our sagacious musings. Surely, we would have solved most of the world’s problems and pinned down the meaning of life that afternoon if it hadn’t been for the Jambox.

Later that day, we astonished ourselves when, despite the slightly panic-inducing ratio of 1 bathroom to 8 people, we all managed to shower and get ready quickly enough to arrive almost half an hour early for our dinner reservation. None of us were quite sure how this happened, and I highly doubt it could be repeated. After dinner, we returned to the cabin for some Cards Against Humanity and tastings of some of Ian’s home brew. There were some tense moments when we discovered that one amongst us (I’m not naming names, but I’m giving the side-eye to Angela) hates penguins, and we had to considered whether we should continue to be friends with her. I mean…who hates penguins?? They’re adorable and look like they’re wearing tuxedos, and their lives are narrated by Morgan Freeman! Later, she indicated that she might have been thinking of ducks, but I think she was just trying to backpedal to avoid persecution.

Don't hate me!

Don’t hate me!

The next morning, I decided it was time to dazzle everyone with my inability to properly operate Keurig coffee maker by brewing an overflowing cup of hot brownish liquid that tasted like it once might have been near coffee. Ah well, even if I fail at coffee, I’m probably delicious, and at least I’m not a penguin-hating weirdo. Soon after that, it was time for Ian and I to bid our friends goodbye and set off on the next portion of our trip. Cambridge ho!

(Left to right) Nestle, me, Pear. I really wanted to take these two home with me.

(Left to right) Nestle the moose, me, Pear the bear. I really wanted to take these two home with me.


Northeast Road Trip Part 1: Real Rain, Metaphorical Rainbows, and the Dreaded Ditch Monster July 8, 2015

Ian and I had not gone on a significant road trip in quite some time, so for this vacation, we decided to pack the amount of driving we typically do in about 6 months into a single week. Part of our trip entailed visiting wineries (as so many of our vacations do), and we rejoiced at the freedom of simply being able to stow our wine purchases in the trunk rather than worry about putting them in our checked bags or shipping them home.

Hoping to stay well ahead of the morning rush, we hit the road at 4:30 am, an hour I rarely see unless it involves rolling over, glancing at the clock, and delighting in the fact that I don’t have to get out of bed for a couple of hours. We left that Thursday morning amidst light rain, which, not 20 miles from home, turned into a deluge. Showers alternated with blinding sheets of rain for many miles, but after a couple hours, the worst of the rain was over, and after that, the drive was long but mainly uneventful, with few blogworthy observations.

On I-90 in Ohio, we drove past an outpost of the Cleveland Clinic, one of the most highly regarded hospitals in the country. Just moments later, we passed an enormous sign announcing our proximity to the world headquarters for Duck Tape. Naturally, this got me musing about whether the secret to the success of the Cleveland Clinic involves fixing all manner of trauma and disease with strong, sturdy tape. Probably not, but the thought amused me for a while. Later, as we drove through Pennsylvania, I was amused by the sight of groundhogs, though we were nowhere near Punxsutawney.

After about eleven and a half hours on the road, we were more than ready for some wine. Luckily, the tasting room at Glenora Wine Cellars is open late, so we stopped there to sample their wares and made our first of many wine purchases before heading to our hotel in Geneva.

Long drives are best when there is wine at the end of them.

Long drives are best when there is wine at the end of them.

Friday morning, we had the luxury of sleeping past sunrise. We partook of the hotel’s free continental breakfast, when, mainly because they were right there with the rest of the spread, I tried Fruit Loops again, just to make sure I still don’t like them (I don’t). With that, we began the roughly seven hour drive (which seemed almost trivial after Thursday’s trek) to our destination in New Hampshire. We hadn’t been on the road long when my phone began to explode, as friends texted to share and celebrate the happy news that the Supreme Court had ruled in favor of marriage equality. Woo hoo!

This was actually taken a couple of years ago in Milwaukee, but it seems appropriate to post here

This was actually taken a couple of years ago in Milwaukee, but it seems appropriate to post here

Later, as we passed through Vermont, I was somewhat disappointed to find that it was not even close to being entirely filled with maple syrup. I’d never been to Vermont before, but for some reason, in my mind, the state had become synonymous with maple syrup. I pictured veritable rivers of it and was quite certain there would be roadside signs every 12 feet announcing the sale of the sweet liquid. In fact, we saw only 3 or 4 such signs. However, one thing not lacking in Vermont was oversized chairs. We passed the World’s Tallest Ladderback Chair in Bennington, the Best Seat in Vermont in Marlboro, and a few other chairs, which, despite being not quite as grand, were much larger than average.

It was around 5:30 in the evening when we reached our destination, a cabin owned by our friend Jenny’s family, which we lovingly nicknamed Heisenberg’s Cabin. We were greeted by our friends and relaxed knowing that, for the next day and a half, we would hardly need to be a in a car at all! We drank some beers, ate some fajitas, and gathered around the fire pit in back (it was a rather chilly evening for late June). Life was good.

Later, when he discovered that there was a telescope at the cabin, Ian got the opportunity to flaunt his astronomical prowess by focusing it on Saturn. We stood in the darkness near the end of the cabin’s gravel driveway taking turns looking at the ringed planet. At one point, I took a step backward to make way for another viewer, but my foot did not connect with ground. Instead, I felt myself falling, as if in slow motion, wondering what had just happened and fearing I was being dragged away by a horrible ditch monster (after all, you never know what might happen at a cabin in the woods). Thankfully, I escaped unaided, which was good because no one even noticed my brief disappearance until I was in the process of climbing out of the ditch, laughing and a bit muddy. I was unharmed except for a small blow to my pride. I’m not very easily embarrassed, but I felt somewhat abashed, mainly since I feared people would assume that I had stumbled because I was inebriated. I’ll admit to being tipsy, but I feel confident in asserting that I would have done the exact same thing had I been stone cold sober. It’s just the kind of thing I do.


Free for the Summer June 10, 2015

Filed under: Clothing,Rants — lizardesque @ 12:07 pm
Tags: , , ,
July 15

Twirling in my favorite skirt

Summer weather is finally upon us, and with it comes many things to love: sunshine, long days, fresh berries, big floppy sun hats, festivals, al fresco dining, sprinklers, corn on the cob, and fireflies. Need I say more? Perhaps not, but I will, otherwise this would be a really short blog post. There’s another less-oft-mentioned reason I am a lover of summer: pantslessness. At long last, the weather is warm enough to free my lower limbs from the garments that have imprisoned them for months. I can go barelegged, free from confinement, and leave behind the tyranny of pants!


For me, pants are a necessary evil. They have their place, of course. They offer warmth and protection in ways skirts cannot. Getting through a Chicago winters without pants would be tough. Also, I don’t have to worry about pants possibly blowing up into my face on blustery days. Pants are also generally better suited for bike riding and yoga, but, in my mind, that’s where their advantages end. You see, I’ve long suspected that the people who make pants hate me. I feel pretty certain that they have been conspiring against me for quite some time, such that I look forward to shopping for pants as much as I look forward to visiting the dentist. At least dentists have some good pharmaceuticals at their disposal. Meanwhile, I have considered self-medicating with wine while shopping for pants since it usually brings me nothing but piles of discarded trousers that are too big in the waist, too long or too short in the rise, too tight in the thighs, and always much, much too long. Yes, I realize they can be shortened. Great, so now I also need to pay a tailor to alter these already overpriced garments lest I trip over them. Hem them myself, you say? Sure, I’ll add that to my pile of projects I’ll get around to some day. Adding insult to injury, even when pants are the proper length for me, they just make me feel kind of stumpy.


Sometimes I feel bad. After all, it wasn’t always socially acceptable for women to don pants. Shouldn’t I be dancing with joy in my slacks as I celebrate feminist progress? Turning cartwheels in my chinos while singing, “I am woman, hear me roar”? Then again, perhaps I should just be comfortable knowing that I can wear pants if I want to. I don’t have to wear them. So, while the weather is warm, I won’t. I will put on a dress and twirl as I enjoy freedom of choice along with the many other delights of summer.


The Draper Caper (TIPSHRMETID) May 8, 2015

Filed under: culture,Life tales — lizardesque @ 10:28 am
Tags: , , ,

It’s time for another edition of Things I Probably Should Have Realized Much Earlier Than I Did, or TIPSHRMETID for lovers of long, difficult-to-pronounce acronyms.

As some of you may know if you have read previous posts, I began watching Mad Men pretty late in the game. After finally getting Netflix streaming, I started with season 1 last summer and gradually worked my way through the series, finishing up season 6 late this winter. I knew there was only one season left. With Netflix and the like, I can hardly be bothered to pay attention to real-time television schedules, so I just figured I’d see the last season when I saw it. Netflix would let me know when new episodes became available. Sure, I’d be behind the rest of the world in that respect, but that’s really nothing new.

Before long, I started hearing buzz about the final seven episodes and hype about the series finale, which was to air on May 17. Imagine my surprise when, around that time, Netflix informed me that Mad Men season 7 was available for viewing! It did strike me as extremely odd that these episodes were being made available before they even aired on regular TV, but I didn’t think too much about it. I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, and heck, for once, I might be ahead of the Mad Men curve. So, I watched those final seven episodes and puzzled over the quirky, anticlimactic end, where SC&P is poised to become a subsidiary of McCann and Don Draper hallucinates the late Bert Cooper dancing and singing “The Best Things In Life Are Free.” Huh.

Meanwhile, I’m still hearing, and largely ignoring, buzz about the upcoming finale. I know not everyone in the world has Netflix streaming, but I was surprised there was still so much hubub about something that had been available on at least one platform for several weeks. Again, huh.

Then I started to catch stills and snippets of scenes from recently aired episodes. I blew it off at first, thinking, “I don’t remember that shot, but I might have been playing Candy Crush at the same time (multitasking, you know!), so that may be why I missed it.” I went about my life, half wondering if Netflix had made some weird error and I was the only one who knew about it. Whatever.

Then I saw a picture of Roger Sterling with a mustache. Huh?? No amount of electronic confection could have let that slip by me. Something was amiss.

About ten seconds and one Google search later, I learned that, in what seems to be a growing trend among non-big-three network programs, season 7 of Mad Men was split into two parts. I had simply watched the first seven episodes of the final season. The last seven were what everyone was still buzzing about.


Don't you judge me!

Don’t you judge me!

Never mind me. I’ll just take my place in line behind the rest of the world. Ah well, now I have something to look forward to.



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