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My upside down tomato garden was a bust.
My upside down tomato garden was a bust.

Topsy Turvy tomato planters: fresh or rotten?

There are two Topsy Turvy tomato planters in our yard, and although for a while it really seemed like they were on the verge of abundance, we ended up with only one large tomato in one of the upside down planters and two smaller ones in the other.

In general, we have good luck with vegetables. We share a garden with our neighbors that -- year after year -- produces carrots, radishes, lettuce, peppers, herbs, chard, onions and yes, even tomatoes. But these Topsy Turvys have us wondering if we suffered a momentary amputation of our green thumbs or if the contraptions just don’t really work.

On the Web site, they cost $19.99, but at most garden stores, they were $9.99. Still, for 10 bucks each -- plus the cost of soil and water -- three fruits is a pathetic yield. Especially when the Web site boasts they give "up to 30 pounds of deliciously ripe tomatoes per plant."

We might give them a whirl again next year if we can figure out what went wrong. They got plenty of sun, which is key to the process because it’s supposed to work like a small greenhouse, and they got plenty of water. (Could they have gotten too much water?)

It’s perplexing, and I would love to hear how your Topsy Turvys did this summer. Were they tomato challenged like mine or is it Bruschetta City at your place?

Is a kid-friendly crab restaurant an oxymoron?
Is a kid-friendly crab restaurant an oxymoron?

Where should I take the kid for crab legs?

My kid spent the first nine months of his life in Guatemala, eating black beans -- often spicy -- along with mushed-up bananas and a coffee beverage heavy on the milk and sugar. Although his diet in the United States is much different, his early dietary habits affect his current palate quite a bit.

For example, he is a big fan of Sriracha hot sauce and dots it on everything from macaroni and cheese to corn-on-the-cob. Also, he ate a banana every day of his life until he was 5, at which point he declared he was sick of them. (Fair enough.)

So I wasn’t surprised when he fell in love with fresh crab on a recent trip to the Dells. I bought a package of fake crab for him and tried to pass it off as the real deal, but as a budding young foodie he declared, "That’s not crab."

Now, he asks regularly if we can go out for crab legs, and I am trying to find a somewhat affordable, somewhat kid-friendly place where he can bib up and chow down. Any suggestions for us?

The Brew Crew lost today, but I felt surrounded by winners.
The Brew Crew lost today, but I felt surrounded by winners.

Today's game was a win for my kids

Today, my husband and I took our sons, ages 6 and 7, to see the Brewers play the Reds with tickets they won by completing the library's "Super Reader Club" this summer.

The game started out strongly, with the Brew Crew up four runs in the second inning, but in the end, they lost 8-5. The most interesting aspect of the game for me, however, was seeing how much my boys have matured since the last game they went to, which was about a year ago.

Today, we spent about two innings in the Play Zone and the remaining time they spent watching the game, cheering on the chorizo in the sausage race and dancing. Plus, they were thrilled instead of scared by the fireworks.

I was amazed that even though they each got a slice of pizza and some Dippin' Dots, they didn't whine for anything else. They have finally accepted I don't buy things like cotton candy or $15 souvenirs and this time, they didn't ask repeatedly.

And most surprising, we only took one trip to the bathroom.

Baseball has a nostalgic side to it, and today I did, too. Life passes by so quickly, I don't always notice the boys' changing, but this afternoon at Miller Park, it was apparent to me that my kids were truly growing up, one inning at a time.

I find claustrophobia annoying.
I find claustrophobia annoying.

My brand new claustrophobia

This summer has been an interesting one. My husband started grad school, my band had its very first gig and, somewhere along the way, I picked up a mental illness.

Well, OK, that’s a bit of an exaggeration because I haven't completely fallen off my rocker. However, I have become somewhat claustrophobic for the first time in my life.

It started in June, at a car wash. My kid likes the gas station car washes -- where you get to stay in the car for the sudsy process -- and normally I don’t think twice about the experience. This time, however, as soon as the big garage door closed, I started to feel edgy, and after about 30 seconds, I actually thought to myself, "I have to get out of here."

Obviously, that was completely unrealistic because I was enclosed in the stall and couldn’t drive out. Plus, the thought of jumping out of the car, only to freak out my kids, was enough to jump start a New Age inner-dialogue between Sane Me and Crazy Me.

"Deep breath. You’re fine. It’s all good," I said to myself. The cleansing breaths helped but, really, I felt a lot better once I got out my iPhone and started checking my e-mail. Some might say my e-mail addiction is a more serious sickness than my claustrophobia, but sometimes technology saves, kids.

Later in the summer, I experienced more claustro-moments: once on an elevator and one more time in an East Coast freeway tunnel. It’s not like I need to put my head between my knees or breathe into a bag or anything drastic like that, but I wonder if this thing is going to get worse. Don’t older people get quirkier and quirkier with time? Is claustrophia going to be my Old Lady Affliction? Am I going to need to live outdoors at some point because the very sight of an interior wall makes me growl like a rabid dog?

At this point, I am determined to shake this weirdness. I am trying to figure out the source of this annoying manifestation of anxiety because I enjoy a lot of small spaces, like…

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