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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Mama on a Budget - Totter Otterville

First of all, when did they move my childhood and why wasn’t I consulted?  Am I the only one that was unaware that Johnny’s Toys had moved down the street and that the HUGE castle was now in an entirely different location?  Apparently this happened like a decade ago, which goes to show you how often we buy Knox toys (and yet, his toy box overfloweth, thanks Fam).

Additionally, since the move, they added Totter Otterville, a pretty incredible playland for infants through elementary aged kids.  As you may imagine, they have a three level water table from which one would assume the name was derived.  This is a neat attraction but far from the only one.  When you first walk in, there is a ball pit and a number of rooms devoted to different play and learning activities.  There is a Lego room, an art studio, a train room, a ballet studio, a puppet show room, a mailroom, a grocery store, and a live performance room, to name only a few of the options.

But wait, there’s more!  There is also an outdoor area with a fishing bridge (magnetic poles and rubber duckies and fish to catch).  Or, if you have a little archaeologist, you can dig for dinosaurs in the sand pit.  There is an outdoor park and a climber or your toddler can catch a ride on the outdoor train.  Or, if you really want some peace and quiet, send your toddler into their outdoor maze and sit back and relax.

After your hour of relaxing while Knox, I mean your child, is lost and crying in the maze (don’t judge), you can grab a bite to eat in the nut-free cafeteria.

All of that (and truthfully, quite a bit more) for only $8 per child (parents are free). 

This really was a great way for Knox to burn off a lot of energy, have an outlet for creative play in a safe and inviting environment, and get to play with a variety of toys.  Their website is and it provides information on their private parties and more detail on the activities available.

Also, for Fort Thomas Matters readers, they have agreed to give away one free 3-month family membership (valued at $29.95 and good for 2 children).  Leave a comment on our Facebook page explaining why you desperately need 3 months of “maze-time” or why you looove FTM (and “Mama on a Budget”) and we’ll select the best story by June 9.  Good luck! 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Fort Thomas Midweek News Update

  • The biggest news of the day was the Fort Thomas Police Department's notice that someone tried to pick up a child walking from school.  Here is the text of the news alert:

A middle school child reported today, that while walking home from school Tuesday, May 30th, a male subject whom the middle-schooler described as younger (age range 18 to 30) in a gray, Ford Mustang GT pulled over on Newman Avenue and rolled down the passenger window and asked if the student needed a ride. The student crossed the street and the person then asked again from the driver's side. The student had no idea who the subject was. When the student put his hand in his pocket as if to retrieve a cell phone he reports that the car sped off.

Subject: White Male, age range 18 - 30 years, black hair cut in a military style and was wearing sunglasses.  Car: A gray, Ford Mustang GT, unknown year, assumed newer model and unknown license plate.

  • Highlands Baseball is on the brink of the 9th region baseball championship.  The game is Thursday night at 7pm.  For all the latest follow @nkysportsblog.  If the Birds win the region they actually have a decent shot at the state title.  A recent post by @MikeFieldsNotes indicates that No. 1 LexCath, No. 2 Eastern, No. 4 CovCath, No. 5 Lafayette, No. 8 Madison Cent, No. 10 Apollo are all out of the baseball playoffs.
  • Speaking of accomplishments at Highlands, congratulations to Tyler Felts for winning a Cappie award for 'outstanding critic'.  For more on the Cappies you can see my previous post.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Cash Mob Time at the Blue Marble

We've mentioned it before on this blog.  The cash mob is a concept where everyone in the community shows up and spends $20 to show their support of a local business.  Recent examples in the Cincinnati area include Murray Brothers and Park + Vine and we want to bring it to Fort Thomas in support of a community institution - The Blue Marble.

The Blue Marble celebrates their 33rd anniversary in two weeks and what a way to kick it off.  They recently expanded their branding and have indicated they will order any book for the whole family - not just kids.

For this cause we are asking everyone to show up between 3pm and 5pm on Saturday June 2nd.  It just so happens that during this time Blue Marble is featuring sibling team Judy Burris and Wayne Richards talking about their nature books.  They will be blown away by the interest in their books.  We don't have to tell them we are there to voice our support for the store, not necessarily nature books.

Go to our Facebook page and join the movement by accepting the Cash Mob event.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tuesday Pre-Hump Day Notes

- Andrea Conners has to love the fact that Sarah Jones is taking her spotlight for the moment. Jones' case was spotlighted on The Today Show's opening hour this morning, as she and her attorney asked the judge on the case for leniency on her texting restrictions.It's been out for a while, but her resignation letter is below.

- The Highlands softball teams plays in the District Semifinals today at 5:00 at Newport Stadium against NCC. The Bluebirds (10-18), who won the District Championship last year, will be playing the 'Breds (16-13) for the fourth time this year, losing the previous three meetings.

You know what they say though, "fourth time's a charm." Or something like that. Go support the Lady Birds and Coach Jake Donelan.

- A new website for the Merchants and Music festival has been created. You can find that here: Merchants and Music.

- Our guys at Kentucky Sports Radio recently featured a video about HHS QB and UK Commit, Patrick Towles, and his grandfather, Sen. Jim Bunning. The video features Patrick talking about the criticism his grandfather received as a political figure, and how that will help him as he takes on the role of the highest profiled position on Kentucky's banner institution.

He's the man.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Keeping Fort Thomas Streets Clean

There have been some good conversations on Facebook lately focused around two pictures that were taken in the last couple weeks.


The first picture I took on a weeknight with the kids eating ice cream at the clock tower and I posted on the Fort Thomas Matters Facebook page.  The second picture was taken by Tim, the owner of the Midway, a couple nights ago outside his bar and reflects the decorative flower pots being used as an ash tray.

There was some good conversation about the first picture regarding the lack of respect of the area kids to leave the central business district in such a mess and the second picture gave all of the Midway fans a chance to lobby to bring back the guacamole.

Regardless, there is a common denominator here and that is the lack of cleaning the city is doing in their nicely renovated business districts.  I hear regular complaints about how infrequent the city empties the trash cans around town and now we have two recent examples where our beautiful town is trashed.

I could use this post as an opportunity to bash the city for not cleaning up more often but I have to ask a question - whose responsibility is this?  Should regular citizens take more responsibility?  Many of the comments noted that it is hard to blame the kids at the clock tower when there is no place to put the trash but why couldn't there be a group of citizens that act as ambassadors and sweep the common areas and empty the trash more regularly.  Downtown Cincinnati has employed this very successfully and it has gone a long way toward changing the perception of downtown for the better.

I think the city should organize such a civic opportunity - what do you say?

Friday, May 18, 2012

Highlands Students Need Your Help


A group of four high school students need your help with a national competition.  One of the students is Madeline Anderson and here is there story from her point of view:

National History Day (NHD) is a nationally acclaimed, academic enrichment program that promotes the study of history in our schools.  HHS did not have an NHD club until this year.  One of my classmates, Max Freyberger, approached a Social Studies teacher at Highlands and asked him to sponsor this club.  Mr. Zach Deaton became our group leader and has helped us achieve our goals. 

We had ten students join NHD in the fall.  All of us competed at the regional competition with seven advancing to the state competition.  Four of us will be moving on to the national competition, which will be held at the University of Maryland June 10-14, 2012.

The theme for this year is “Revolution, Reaction, Reform in History”.  We each chose a topic that we wanted to research and then present in the form of an exhibit, performance, documentary, paper, or website.  Rebecca Thome and I are in the group performance category presenting a piece about the Harlem Renaissance.  Allison Camm performs in the individual category.  Her piece is titled, “Classy Vaudeville”.  Max Freyberger created a documentary about Indian Independence.

We believe that participating in the NHD contest will contribute to our education in a way that nothing else can.  Not only is this experience giving us a chance to do something we love, it is also allowing us to tour Washington D.C. and meet other NHD students from all over the country.  We are proud to be representing Highlands High School and the state of Kentucky.

The state is paying for our registration fee and HHS is generously covering the cost of our transportation.  We are responsible for our lodging and meals, which will be $1340.00 for the four of us.  We are asking for your help in sponsoring our group.  We will be grateful for any monetary donation that you can make.

If you are able to contribute, we would appreciate your donation by June 8th.  However, we do realize this is short notice and will happily accept your donation even after the trip has taken place.  Please make the check payable to Ft. Thomas Independent Schools and put “NHD trip” on the memo line.  You can send it to the address above, to the attention of Beth.

If you have questions, please feel free to contact Mr. Zach Deaton at  You can also learn more about National History Day at

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Fort Thomas Coffee Opening This Summer

As I mentioned last week, a new independent coffee shop is opening in Fort Thomas.  Good friends of my family Lori and David Valentine are opening Fort Thomas Coffee in the former Three French Hens space at 118 North Fort Thomas Avenue this summer.

Fort Thomas Coffee, which will feature gourmet coffee and full espresso bar as well as breakfast, lunch and snacks, was created to serve as a community hub for the city.

"Our mission for Fort Thomas Coffee is about more than just coffee," said founder Lori Valentine.  "We want to deepen community in Fort Thomas by providing a place that encourages connection and creativity.  We will be a true neighborhood coffee shop."

Lori and David, who have children in Fort Thomas schools and have lived in the city for 12 years, want to integrate the coffee shop into the community, supporting local schools, organizations and neighbors with a special focus on creative endeavors.

Menu items from Fort Thomas Coffee will range from breakfast options like muffins, bagels, and otameal, to chicken salad sandwiches and soup for lunch.  A variety of sweets and snacks will also be available.  But the star will be the coffee... the coffee and the community.

For more information visit their Facebook page.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Weekend FT notes

- The Andrea Conners story is dominating the news, but not to the extent that similar cases around the area have garnered recently.

Stacey Schuler at Mason High School, received a lot more local and national attention. Sarah Jones, the former Ben Gal, Eric Deters' client against The , and former teacher at Dixie Heights is in an ongoing dual pronged legal battle, fighting similar charges that Conners is facing.

Conners' attorney, Rob Dziech, said as much in an article on

“We are hoping to deal with this in the courtroom rather than in the papers and on TV. We are trying to make it least traumatic for everyone involved."

Perhaps the Jones case is overshadowing Conners' case. Maybe it's because the story is still developing and details are just now starting to creep out - seemingly more so through the Facebook and Twitter feeds of HHS students more so than Ft. Thomas Independent Schools and staff. But either way, you just get the feeling that new Superintendent Gene Kirchner is doing all he can to keep a lid on this story.

Kirchner, who took over for John Williamson as superintendent in March of this year, will now face his first crisis since taking over as head of Fort Thomas Schools. Welcome to the Fort Thomas, Gene!

Luckily for him, this is definitely out of the norm, but you know John Williamson is breathing a sigh of relief from his office at The College Board in New York City.

- A few other notes if you are still reading:

- Mayor Mary Brown has proclaimed May 2012, Building Safety Month. So... there's that.

- Don't forget to put out canned food items today for your mailmen. All the items will go directly to The Brighton Center's food bank.

- Still working on some of the Fort Thomas Police reports from last year. But I now have the General Services report, as reported to council by Ron Dill. Should be fun to recap everything they accomplished last year - which included a lot of work on city parks. Thanks to Tom Lampe, for giving FTM his copy.

- Speaking of General Services, go to our Facebook page (and like it) to see a photo that people are commenting about how General Services can be improved.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Additional Items of Interest

The news seems to be coming fast and furious these days. A few more updates:

1. While all the attention has been on Andrea Conners a highlight for Fort Thomas schools went un-noticed. US News & World Report ranked Highlands as the fifth best high school in the state and perhaps more importantly #431 nationally.

2. Speaking of Andrea Conners, she was formally charged today. Here is a rundown of all the coverage from area media. It is basically the same story so click on one and you pretty much know the latest.

3. With all the construction going on around 471 it has likely given you a headache at some point over the past couple weeks as you have attempted to get around Northern Kentucky. But there is some good news to all this road work. In addition to getting a quieter highway they are also planning to add an additional late to the southbound ramp to 275 West. This should alleviate some of the backups going south in the afternoon.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Fort Thomas Mid-week News Update

With the Andrea Conners situation grabbing all the attention this week there are other news stories to discuss...

1. A new coffee shop is coming to town. A lease has been signed on the old Three French Hens location. Fort Thomas Coffee will be a very exciting concept that will be owned and operated by a Fort Thomas family. I will have a full press release to publish next week but this should be a great new gathering spot for the community.

2. There was a profile of Trinity's football team on ESPN and Highlands got a shout out in the piece as "Another Kentucky Team to Watch". The brief post discusses the prospects for the 6th in a row.

3. The Farmer's Market started back up today - any thoughts from readers on new options or the turnout for the first market of the year?

4. I have had many comments about the 'butchered' trees along Memorial Parkway. I assume this is just the normal spring trimming but the city or state did a real number on the trees. Turns out we are not the only community that got a little "ambitious" as Boone County residents feel their regular maintenance went a little too far as well.

5. Don't forget the Texas Hold'em Tournament at St Thomas to benefit the school this Saturday.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

HHS Teacher Andrea Conners Resigns

Andrea Conners in the Highlander Yearbook

On National Teacher Appreciation Day, one Highlands High School teacher can no longer claim to be apart of Highlands' esteemed teaching corp.

Andrea Conners abruptly submitted her letter of resignation last Thursday and hired an attorney Saturday. No one is saying a word. No one has to.

The local news outlets, the school, nor Conners are commenting directly on the allegations swirling around the streets of Fort Thomas, but the details will be forthcoming. And the residents will eat them up like a pack of jackals. Early reports have Conners resigning due to an alleged sexual relationship with a student(s).

Highlands has been so tight lipped about the situation, teachers at the school were not even told the teacher's name.

Conners, who has taught business at Highlands for the last 8 years, has by all accounts been a good teacher. Here's her profile on On a scale of 1-5, she is rated 4.1 on the easy scale. That's pretty easy, if you ask me. (hat tip to CM Tomlin on that joke).

When I was looking up, I took this screenshot:

In the wake of all these teacher scandals, perhaps the brain-trust at may want to change the wording here.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Exclusive to FTM Readers: Discounted “Mommy and Me” class at Kaleidoscope Dance Company

Mama on a Budget Series - by Jessica Duke

Supposedly for little boys, a background in dance can help footwork in football, soccer, basketball, or a myriad other “manly” sports. For my son, it seems to help his spirit more than anything! Sure, he has a mean right arm with both a baseball and football and has already perfected the drag back turn and step-over soccer moves, but when it comes to dancing and movement, he has an irrepressible and natural love. That is why last spring, Knox and I took a “Mommy and Me” dance class at Kaleidoscope Dance Company (KDC) in the Midway district in Fort Thomas and why we are signing up for the session beginning this June 9 (Saturdays 10-11 am).

Prior to my first class, I expected an hour of loud music and flash-dancing but this was really not the case; in fact, I left my first class slightly disappointed because there was minimal time to allow the children to creatively dance on their own. Classes focus on learning to walk on tip-toes, crab walk, pencil rolls, learning to point toes alternating between right foot and left (and even learning the difference), and other movement and mechanics.

When I got home, I switched to Insight Channel 867 (Dance Clubbin’) and Knox and I danced our hearts out vowing not to go back. Until, I saw him walking on his tip-toes and pencil rolling proudly and I realized the importance of learning different types of movement in an enjoyable class format.

The class size is typically about five moms and their children and is limited to age six months to three years. Obviously, this is a big age gap but since mommies (or daddies) are always present, it does not overwhelm the younger children. There is one KDC instructor who was very effective in leading the class and making it enjoyable for everyone involved.

The price for the six-week session is $40 but Lindsey Smith, the owner, is offering a special for FTM readers for the class for $30, just mention FTM. In addition, KDC, which began in 2005 offers numerous other classes including a FREE Zumba class for adults, Wednesday nights 7-8 pm (just pre-register by June 2). To view their entire class schedule ranging from summer dance camps to “Senior Dance and Fall Prevention” classes, go to Hope to see you on your tippie-toes!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

More Ft Thomas News for Your Weekend

Mark had a few good notes yesterday and you can scroll down to read about them, a few extras as you get ready for the weekend:

1. Ginger Webb from Beechwood High School has been unanimously selected from nine candidates to assume the Assistant Superintendent position.  Beechwood is a great school system as well and she must have been head and shoulders above the other candidates.  Should be a good add to the school system.

2. Blue Marble is changing their name (only slightly) to drop the emphasis on Childrens book and broaden their appeal to teens and even adults.  They are offering to special order any title for their customers.  I understand the name change and broadening of their market and I hope it works out for them.

3. Expect to see a new electronic sign go up at the YMCA this weekend.  The Y is updating their signage to correspond with the branding change from some time ago and it should help freshen the outside of the building up a bit.

4. The Kentucky governor made some appointments to posts and commissions this week and a Fort Thomas resident made the cut.  Joan Gregory of Fort Thomas, a retired teacher, was appointed to the Kentucky Commission on Women. She is part-time coordinator of the International Baccalaureate program at Holmes High School. Her term will expire Jan. 17, 2016.  Joan was the only appointment from Northern Kentucky

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Fort Thomas Hump Day Notes

- Free Dog Wash And yard sale this Saturday at Dirty Hairy's at 18 N. Fort Thomas Ave.! All proceeds benefit Stray Animal Adoption Program. See the flyer above for details.

- Beechwood High School Principal, Ginger Webb, will become assistant superintendent of teaching and learning at Fort Thomas
Independent Schools. via

- Today marks the 10th annivesary of Craig and Carolynn Reis' purchase of Best Furniture. They have the blueprint for how to run and maintain a successful business in our community. Congrats to them!

- The Fort Thomas Farmer's Market is opening tomorrow. Via Renaissance Coordinator, Debbie Buckley:

This Wednesday, May 2 from 3:00-7:00 begins our Fort Thomas Farmers' Market for 2012. Come renew acquaintances with your favorite farmers and vendors from previous years! Rain or Shine!!!

The Camp Springs Vineyard
Salatin Farms
Lobenstein Farms
Doc's Dressings
Bean Haus Breads
Breezy Acres
Greg Gayle Honey
Ohio Farm Direct

AND meet our new vendors, including The Flying Olive, The Farm at Holiday Harbor, Little Organics, and Overlook Farms! We have wonderful new surprises for you.

Additionally, we are adding local artists who will be showing off their talents this year. Come watch them at work! You'll also be able to purchase pieces of their talent. The Children's Art Academy owners, John and Cyndi Mendell, are bringing artists from their Cincinnati college, and local artists are joining them as they set up along S. Fort Thomas Avenue.

This year we are also happy to add musician, Robbie Tieman, to our market. Robbie's known around the Northern Kentucky for his special musical talents. We're glad to welcome him to Fort Thomas!