Friday, May 22, 2015

El Rancho Grande

 Bob, Sam and I usually meet at El Rancho Grande a couple of times each year and enjoy the fine Mexican food and a chance to enjoy each other's company for a couple of hours.

 We usually meet at the location at 2008 S. Alex Road in West Carrollton. It's on the way home from work for Bob and Sam lives in nearby Miamisburg.

 Nachos and two bowls of hot sauces ... that's a great way to kill the time waiting for our meals. The nachos are bottomless and the wait for our food is minimal.

 Bob and Sam always share a pitcher of margaritas. Some years back I started with a "taste" but soon graduated to a salt-rimmed glass (just one!) of my own. I don't like to drive after drinking more than one.

  Sam (l) and Bob


 I always order a bean burrito with re-fried beans and rice. Yes, a dangerous combination.
 A great time was had by all three of us. I came home stuffed and was in bed by 8:15 pm. I suppose it was the margarita.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Return to IHOP

 It's been years. IHOP hasn't had a location in the Dayton for some time - why, I wonder? - and it's a place our family used to frequent. Yesterday Tom suggested we go there for brunch and it turned out to be a good choice.

 We went to the location on Marburg Avenue in Cincinnati.

 The restaurant was clean as a pin and the people working there - from the cashier to the waitress - were beyond friendly. That's always a good reason to return. But the food was what we mostly came for and it didn't disappoint us, either..

 Tom had a wonderful salad ...

 And something IHOP calls a "Strawberry Splashberry" ...

 And I had a Garden Omelette which filled a plate. Underneath were a few eggs and atop were tomatoes, broccoli and plenty of shredded cheese. It came with toast (I always order wheat).

 And I added a pot of regular coffee and a glass of water. The coffee was dark and rich and plenty hot for the entire meal. I understand it's endless, but one pot turned out to be enough for me.

 It looks as though IHOP is coming back to the Dayton area. It'll be a great place for a return visit.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Original Pancake House (again)

 Tom and I didn't have as much time today so we met at exit 19 (I-75) at one of the locations of The Original Pancake House. We enjoyed it the last time we went and Tom was lusting after their Dutch Baby, a German big-as-a-plate oven-baked pancake.

 I warned him: they're 730 calories. Didn't matter. He wanted one.

And he got one.

 Tom ordered fresh strawberries to go with it. The lemon slices and powdered sugar (yes, more) is part of the deal.So's maple syrup but Tom usually skips that.

 For myself, I ordered a lighter menu item, blueberry pancakes ...

(just 640 calories .... cough, cough). It comes with blueberry syrup.

 And then there's their wonderful dark, rich, strong coffee! I always need something to cut the sweet. A balanced life is everything, right?

 Here's Tom "before the bloat". No "after" pictures.

 And a shot of me (actually, I should be shot for eating that many calories in one sitting).

 This location of The Original Pancake House is much newer than the one we visited before. Want to read that original blog? Click here.
 Highly recommended if you love pancakes. Great food. Great people.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Those Beautiful Morels

 They come just once a year ... and few enough when they do. The days of Michigan trips and bushel baskets are over. Last year I found but one and was happy enough for that. This year I found six and was ecstatic. But a walk back to my favorite spot today (05/02) showed no more and I suspect the season has already ended.

 Still, this is what I found this year:

 This one on 4/28 ...

And the rest of these on 4/29 ...

 This one was the prettiest. I'd say it's a "yellow" where the others are likely "gray's".

 And so the season ends almost before it begins. But what a glorious few hours they were.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

A Walk in the Woods

 On Sunday Tom and I took a hike at the Germantown Reserve. The trails were very muddy (we had nearly 3/4 of an inch of rain the day before) and, in fact, that's what finally ended our hike. There was just no way to get across a wet area.

 We enjoyed a hike on the western edge of the park, hiking generally north from the Nature Center. A pond which is near the parking lot was muddy and the water opaque but there were a number of large koi swimming near the surface. In particular we watched one as gold as the sun, another black as coal, each lumbering along lazily.

 Spring beauties have been in bloom for a couple of weeks now and they're everywhere on the forest floor. Such a tiny, delicate bloom atop an insignificant stem. How do they survive the winter's cold? How do they survive the summer's heat and drought?

 Dogwoods are in bloom now, too. All the wild ones I see are white. I love the salmon-colored ones which are now cultivated.

 Tom checks out some flora as we hike down a trail ...

 I love the dogwood above Tom's head and the vivid redbud trees in the distance. The grass greens with the recent rains and warmth.

 I quickly noticed clumps of mayapples (and thought them triliums) but Tom corrected me. We didn't find any mayapples in bloom though Tom located this one with a bud. The flowers are beneath the large green canopies.

 When we finished our hike - by the way, we didn't find a single mushroom, and that was an explicit goal - we stopped at the Nature Center and I admired this stuffed bobcat. I didn't know they were back in Ohio.
 It was a pleasant day with temperatures that climbed into the upper 50's. There were other hikers, too, though the park wasn't busy. We enjoyed a quiet afternoon admiring the gathering green.

Meeting Tina Welling

 It's Monday, April 27, and Tom and I have a treat planned. He's meeting his sister-in-law for breakfast; I'm meeting an author who I admire.

 Tina Welling is married to Tom's brother, John, and the couple live in Jackson, Wyoming. Tom hasn't seen Tina is eight years.

 Tina's staying with her brother, Tom, and suggests we meet at Bruegger's Bagels on Kenwood Avenue at 9:30 a.m.. We're running a little late (Cincinnati traffic is terrible at this hour of the morning) and Tom sends her a short message from his cell phone. "We're close," he says. She answers that she's already arrived and waiting. Patiently, it seems.

 When we step in the front door Tom smiles and walks immediately to the table where Tina waits.

Eight years have passed since the two have been together

We take an hour and a half to catch up on family. I ask Tina a few questions about her charming books. I particularly enjoyed both Crybaby Ranch and Cowboys Never Cry (I have not yet read Fairy Tale Blues). Check out Tina's website by clicking here.

 Perhaps even more important for me is her Writing Wild, a writer's connection with nature. What could be a more perfect read for me? I enjoyed this informative book, cover to cover, and highly recommend it to all writers.

Tom brought his personal copy along for signing

 While we're in Blue Ash, we'll take a short walk, too. But first, a quick look at Bruegger's Bagels ...

 We each had a breakfast bagel sandwich. Delicious!

 Tina and I added coffee; Tom had a berry-based drink.

 Then we took a short walk.

 At the corner of Kenwood Road and Myrtle Avenue. Traffic is heavy and there's a wait for the lights to change.

 We're at the "City Center" where an impressive historical display has been constructed. Each of the wars the U.S. has fought in is represented by a bronze statue of a soldier in period garb.

 The weather was perfect ... if a little windy and even slightly chilly. Still, for southern Ohio, is was a perfect spring day.

 Tom and I hope to travel to Wyoming in August 2017 for a total solar eclipse. If not before then, we should be able to have another family visit then. In the meantime, we have lovely memories of this morning in Cincinnati.

Monday, April 20, 2015

American Sign Museum

 The plan was for Tom to come to Farmersville yesterday (04/19) but a chance article - and a scan of a webpage - made us rethink those plans. The American Sign Museum in Cincinnati was celebrating their 10th anniversary. Best of all the usual adult admission price of $15 each was reduced to two for $10.

 How could we pass that up?

 The American Sign Museum is exactly what it sounds like ... mostly neon signs, many from the 1950's. But it's really signs in general if you don't let the neon colors blind you to the wider message. The Cincinnati Enquirer calls it "a history lesson".

The museum opened in 2005 but in Walnut Hills. The current museum is in Camp Washington on Monmouth Street. Tod Swormstedt is president and founder; Brad Huberman is managing director.

We arrived just before 2 pm on a rainy afternoon. The "Welcome" sign - a large Genie with outstretched arms - was gray, wet and dripping. This twenty foot tall character is from a California carpet cleaning company.

 But, once inside, the brilliant color fantasy begins. Get ready to squint.

 This small Holiday Inn sign is right inside the main entrance.

 Step around a corner to the right and this is the first glimpse of what you're about to see ...

 Antique unlit signs are displayed, too.

But it's when they get the electrical treatment that they pop into a display worthy of Las Vegas.

 All of us in the Miami Valley know the Frisch's Big Boy character (even if, like me, we're vegetarians).

 Tom admires some old time signs.

 And a few more basic signs.

 Then it begins to brighten up ...

 The "Changeable Neon Letters" at the bottom is an interesting concept. Designed for indoor use, individual letters plug into sockets so that a custom message can be built. These come from Piqua, Ohio.

Crosley is a prominent Cincinnati name (think WLR, Crosley Broadcasting). This sign is from Powel Crosley's appliance store.

 Automobile and transportation signage is well-represented. Dad would have enjoyed the place. It's like traveling the early byways on the 1950's.

See the Howard Johnson's sign on the top right? When we were on spring break in Florida (about 1970), my friend Jim Saylor and myself stayed there and Jim would never miss their "all you can eat" fish fry. I always told Jim that'd he'd be the reason they went out of business.

 This homemade sign is from the 1960's and makes use of the "space race" theme of that decade. It's from Satellite Shopland in Anaheim, California.

 This McDonald's sign is familiar to everyone. It's on the museum's "Town Square".

Rohs is a hardware store from Over-the-Rhine. Much of what you see in this storefront is from the original business.

 The Wagon Wheel was a Westside bar and saloon. The Enquirer calls it "a resting spot for cowboys in the 1890's". The newspaper was responsible for "landing this piece in the museum".

 I took this close-up of some particular bright green neon.

 Located in part of the same building is Neonworks of Cincinnati. They handcraft neon signs.

 For their tenth anniversary celebration, the American Sign Museum offered attendees a slice of birthday cake and various soft drinks.

 Tom's aglow in neon.

 I suppose this Rock City sign is a recreation?

 This "Mail Pouch" sign appears older and the wood it is on appears naturally weathered.

 On the way out Tom check's out their merchandise shop. 10% off all items today for their anniversary celebration.

 And Tom settles on a hat (he only has a hundred).

 Great day in Cincinnati. The American Sign Museum is a dazzling sight and well worth the admission to enjoy a vast array of America's signage.