Monday, November 17, 2014


November 17: The average temperature today should be 41°. But it's 28° at 9 am and the forecast is for a low tonight of 11°. A year ago today? 63°. And last winter was absolutely brutal.
 But to add insult the injury, we woke to 3" of snow on the ground. We've had a few flurries this year but this is the first measurable snow. I woke about 5 am and heard traffic moving slowly and saw the light level was oddly bright. Later I hear a snow plow go by Pinehaven. There are 178 school or business closings. Valley View is among them.

 I took this series of pictures at about 7:30 am. The snow was still falling fairly heavily.

 A day ago the back of our house was bathed in pleasant sunshine. Not so this morning. On November 11 we hit 63°. That's just six days ago. How quickly one of those "Polar Vortex's" will change our view. This is the exact same problem we had last winter, wicked cold fronts lined up one after the other.

 Looking towards my rain gauge (centered, low), this is a true winter wonderland view. The creepy white thing on the right is a wisteria vine growing on the flag pole. It looks like cold arms reaching out, octopus-like..

 The maple by the barn is enveloped - and covered - in white. Meanwhile falling snowflakes are lit by the camera's flash (purposely).

 From the driveway apron, I'm looking towards Clayton Road for this shot. It's not visible beneath the snow. Our driveway, in fact, is barely outlined by the railroad ties which the Mink's installed many decades ago.

 Looking out my second floor bathroom window, the view is nearly obliterated by the nearby maple festooned by snow clinging to every branch. It would seem the full three inches is held aloft.

 Later, looking north out a second floor window, the wood pile and meadow lie buried in snow. This is one of my most familiar views, the first scene I see every morning as I began down the steps.
 The entire week ahead looks cold ... nights in the teens, highs only in the twenties.
 Winter 2014-2015 has arrived early.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Saylor's 65th Wedding Anniversary

 November 9 and I've driven to Cincinnati, picked up Tom and we're on our way to Rising Sun, Indiana just after 11 am. Neither of us have been there before so we're letting the GPS guide us through Lawrenceburg, Aurora, gliding down along the north side of the Ohio River until Rising Sun suddenly emerges from the rolling rural fields.
 We're here for Jim Saylor's parents 65th wedding anniversary celebration at the Rising Sun First Church of Christ. Well, maybe. We pull into an empty parking lot at about 12:05 pm - "fashionably late" as Tom describes it. But where are the others? Where, for that matter, is anyone?
 What to do? It occurs to me that I have Jim's phone number loaded into the contact list of my cell phone. I give him a call but get no answer, just voice mail. Then I leave a message. "We're here. Where is everyone?"
 A mere minute passes and my phone rings. It's Jim. "We're here, too," he explains. So why are there no other cars?
 Turns out we're close but not close enough. They're in an adjacent building - another church entirely - down an alley behind us. Jim says "I can see you!" and so we turn around and there he is, suited up and missing the most important celebration he's attended in years.
 I start the car and park in the correct parking lot. We're 15 minutes late - more fashionable than we intended - but we are here ... and so is everyone else.

 Jim Saylor

 I should give you some of the background behind my friendship with Jim, certainly the greatest of my 65 years. We met in 1970 at Miami University - Middletown in a geology class, I believe, and we hit it right off. Jim and I clicked. We had similar interests and that was the glue that first drew us together. But more importantly, by far, is that we simply liked one another. Nearly half a century later, we still do.

James (aka Jim or Jay) and Jim Saylor, father and son. 

 Here's father and son, James and Jim. The elder is now 83.

 Jim's mother, Joy Saylor (l), enjoys the anniversary meal with her husband and a constant flow of admirers and well-wishers.

 Joy and James Saylor

 Though we've all grown older, their beautiful personalities still show through. It's been a long road since the early 1970's. After I met Jim at Miami, he came back to Miamisburg with me one weekend and spent the night at our house. I remember he slept in the top bunk (where Bob went that weekend, I don't remember), Jim and I visited Dad at Andy's Super Valu where the two of them met for the first time. Not much later, Jim and I enjoyed a mini-trip to Madison, Indiana and Clifty Falls State Park. And finally, two of our spring breaks from Miami were spent together in Florida. Good memories, all.

 This is the family table at the front of the room (Tom's is foreground right). We were honored to be seated there.

 Pam and Jim Saylor

 A power couple if there ever was one, these two have been special from the very beginning and I can't imagine a closer bond. Their clear love for one another is something to admire and be envious of.

 The 65th anniversary cake was delicious. The family table shared the cake; other tables feasted on cupcakes. There was a distinct advantage to be seated where we were.

 Jeremy and April Saylor

 Jim's son, Jeremy, turned out to be a fine man (who would have expected otherwise?). I remember holding Jeremy as a baby and how fragile he seemed (or maybe it was just Uncle Bill's nerves). Jeremy's heartfelt tribute to his grandparents was emotionally moving. I loved hearing every word.

 Becky Smith (l-r), Kameryn Saylor, Joy and James Saylor and Bryce Rowenkamp

The food's eaten and now it's time to cut the cake! Butter cream icing!

 Jim's speech was equally emotional. Clearly, the love this family has for one another is special. I feel lucky to have been a part of their lives.

James Saylor (foreground) listens to his son's kind remarks

 Joy and James Saylor

 The couple married while Joy was still seventeen! It's a good thing:  it gave them more time together.

Pam and Jim Saylor

 A candid shot of Pam and Jim admiring his parents.

Tammy and Joe Saylor

 I didn't know Jim's brother, Joe, well but he and his wife drove up from Georgia for the anniversary fete.

 Tom and I stayed about an hour and a half. The pastor of the Rising Sun Church of Christ gave a nice tribute, too. Most impressive was the intimate information he collected beforehand. Too often such speeches are impersonal and generalized. Not this one.

Saylor's Wedding Announcement
Mt. Vernon Signal - Mt. Vernon, KY - November 17, 1949

 I wish both my own father and mother could have been there. Dad always loved both Jim's (he and the father seemed to share a similar fun-loving personality) and Mom would have enjoyed striking up her friendship with Joy again. I believe we visited them when they lived in West Chester (Ohio) once.
 These are milestone events that we gather like precious stones. They will never come again.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Lipstick Plant

Our Lipstick Plant (Aeschynanthus radicans) has been on a long road from cutting to flowering. Originally, the cutting was obtained at a local hospital when my cousin, Doug, had heart surgery in January 2007. That start eventually gave rise to a plant my aunt, Mae Boyer, grew. Hers bloomed a number of times in the past. Our cutting was then taken from hers.

 Year after year, we carried it out to the back porch each summer and brought it back inside every October. Winters the plant grew on our rather cool enclosed porch that was, at least, south-facing. Last winter I set up a kerosene heater on that porch many brutal nights, most notably one that dropped to -12°. I'm surprised anything survived on that porch, but it did.

 The best source for information on this unusual plant can be found here. Most notably, the Lipstick Plant is an epiphyte - it grows on other plants, similar to the nature of orchids. It is related to the African Violet and Gloxinia and is native to the West Indies and the tropics of South America.

 I have never seen the plant for sale in a greenhouse but I suppose they must be cultivated and available on the open market. Their natural inclination is to vine and trail downward so they're most suited for a hanging basket.

 After years of no more than green leaves - and after it had spent the past summer outdoors - it sent forth a number of the deep purple calyxes's on October 24. We had already brought it indoors for the winter. We were quite surprised to find the plant readying to bloom when it seemed optimum weather had passed.

October 24

 When we first saw that our Lipstick Plant was ready to bloom, we found these deep purple calyxes first. The red bloom slides up and out of these structures, just like red lipstick in a tube.

October 24

 The plant is beautiful even before it blooms. The calyx is covered with fine white hairs and look like tiny royal trumpets.

October 24

 We have our plant growing in a metal birdbath. Though the plant is best suited for a hanging basket. we used this birdbath on the back porch last summer and then just carried it inside when the weather began to cool. The plant cascades down over the side.

November 1

 By the first of this month the first red flowers were visible inside the calyx. Shooting as I did from above, and using flash, I was able to show how the red blooms were developing down inside the tubes.

November 3

 Just two more days and the "lipstick" is beginning to push out of the tube. It's a rather quick process once begun.

November 4

 Yet another day and the flowers have extended well beyond the calyx. There is no scent whatsoever.

November 5

 Some of the buds have begun to expand a bid on the leading edge. They're getting ready to open now.

November 6

 And the opening process now begins. The very end begins to split with the interior still hidden in dark shadow

November 7

 And now a couple of the flowers are open, two weeks after we first found the plant beginning the process. Of course it actually began well before October 24; we just didn't notice it.

November 8 

Most of the flowers are now opening. One, at the bottom, has been behind the others from day one.

November 8

 The color and the physical structure reminds me a little bit of a Christmas Cactus readying to bloom.

November 8

 I'll continue to take pictures and post them as time allows.

 November 10

November 11

 Thus ends this post. The flowers are now fully open (except for one) and the brilliant red on our porch is almost blindingly bright. Such joy we've received from this unusual plant.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Red Sky at Night ...

 I'd not have noticed last evening's sunset if it not been for a call from my brother on his way home from work. He was on Sellars Road in Moraine, traveling west and he told me that he was looking at a sunset that was becoming breathtaking. He suggested I'd better get my camera and head outdoors.

 Rather than grab my camera, I grabbed my cell phone, pulled my terry cloth robe about me, slipped on shoes without tying them and walked into the back yard. The colors were muted but the palette was amazing and I could see where the path was leading as the sun sunk further and the sky began to darken.

 This first shot (now that I had gone back into the house and gotten my camera) was taken at about 5:45 pm (11/5/14). The sun was sitting on the western horizon and the oranges were the most prominent color.

 Mere minutes later and the color seemed to fade. I took this shot and walked back into the house. It didn't seem as though anything momentous would happen.
 But then ...

Red sky at night, sailor's delight
Red sky in morning, sailor's warning

 Now, almost 6 pm, and the deep reds have suddenly flared. The sky seems to be bleeding.
 I am in awe for the few minutes this spectacle displayed. All day long, a break in the clouds hovered just north of the Dayton area, like the roll-top roof of an observatory. I watched clear, blue sky to the north; we had clouds overhead all day. The clouds deck tilted from the southwest to the northeast and it is this striation that appears in this photo.
 Quickly the color began to fade. Darker purples replaced the reds as the light diminished and night overtook the Miami Valley.

 I find my greatest joy in the sky, its wonders of clouds and nighttime stars. And I never get my fill of sunsets, that last gasp of sunlight as night pulls the covers high.

[Post #600]

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Peanut Butter Cookies

 Last evening I was scrounging around for something sweet. Nope, the oatmeal cookies I bought were gone. The ginger snaps I bought were also gone. What to do?

 I decided what I needed most was a batch of peanut butter cookies. So this afternoon I made some. I used the same recipe as our Pinehaven Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter cookies but I substituted plain peanut butter. Sometimes less frill is just what's needed.

 The recipe is here.

 Much of the appeal of peanut butter cookies is the delicious scent when they're baking.

 Here's the unbaked dough, crisscrossed with a fork and ready to put in the oven. I made just half a recipe. I managed to get 34 cookies this time.

 So, this evening I'm all set. A cup of black coffee and a plateful of cookies and I'll be able to get my bedtime sweet fix.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Findlay Market

 It was a beautiful, sunny day in Cincinnati, totally out of character for so late in the year. It was nearly 70° when Tom parked his Prius and we walked a short distance towards Cincinnati's Findlay Market. People were eating outside, shopping as they'd do on a pleasant summer's day, and without the extreme heat and humidity of a month or two earlier.

 Findlay Market is called "Ohio's oldest continuously operated public market". Check out their web page by clicking here.

The Market is centered between I-75 to the west and I-71 to the east. It's bounded by Race Street (east), Findlay Street (north), Elm Street (west) and Liberty Street (south). It's actually sandwiched by Elder Street but perhaps more easily imagined by being within blocks of Cincinnati's famous "Over-the-Rhine" neighborhood.

 Just inside the south door, I was astounded by the crowds of people on this early Sunday afternoon. Getting from one end to the other, you're jostled by a continuous stream of humanity, moving molasses-like, taking in the sights and aromas (food is the main reason for going), keeping an eye peeled on each glass case. No one wants to miss a thing.

 J.E. Gibbs Cheese

 What lovely cheeses they have in these cases. I'd love to try each one. Next time.

 And the homemade breads in this case took my breath away. I didn't see prices so I backed away. "If you have to ask the price," said Tom, "you can't afford it." I believe he is right. But some day I will splurge and buy one of those crusty loaves and just sit in a corner at Pinehaven and nibble on a chunk torn from some wholesome loaf. I may even add that cheese I'm promising myself.

 This merchant was making waffles right on the spot. The delicious, sweet smell drifted into the aisle and caught me by the nose, made me turn around and smile.

Frank's Fish & Seafood Market 2

Being vegetarian, I didn't spend much time looking at the many cases filled with meats but I could certainly appreciate the wonderful displays and merchandising. My father, a life-long butcher by trade (before, he too, became a vegetarian), would have stopped and talked with these folks, comparing secrets.

 I stood and drooled at this glass cake for a minute. What is Kataifi? It looked to me like some sort of exquisite variety of shredded wheat and I find that this is a Levantine cheese pastry soaked in a sweet, sugary syrup. It's from the Ottoman Empire and it is wrapped in shredded wheat. I'd love to taste it; someday I will.

 As we arrived at the opposite end of Findlay Market, we found some space to stand without being jostled about. The architecture of the ceiling is quite unusual.

 Outside, at the Open Market, vegetable vendors had tables lining the street, I bought a box of ripe, red tomatoes from this guy: $3 for the lot. They seem to be "Better Boys", the cluster-type tomato we grow in our own garden. Of course our crop is finished for the year and we miss it already. These tomatoes, it turns out, were not grown locally but in Mexico.

 Under an awning, another vegetable vendor has his wares set on tabletops supported with sawhorses. I suppose these businesses come and go with the weather and are seasonal in nature.

 Aren't these bunches of asparagus perfect? And with purple rubber bands to compliment the lavender shade that the tops of asparagus usually exhibit.

 On Elder Street, people mill about. There is plenty of room here for many more businesses.I suppose in the late spring and early summer, this area is much busier as the various crops begin to come in. We were at the very end of the season.

 Here's an area just outside of the Findlay Market building where diners can enjoy an alcoholic refreshment outdoors.

  I love the architecture of the buildings in this area of Cincinnati, especially the colors. Most were in decent shape; a few were being renovated.

 This young man was playing a mean red fiddle. People tossed coins and money into the violin case at his feet. Nearly, another boy, played a keyboard.

 The total of my purchases while at Findlay Market were the tomatoes and two candles made of beeswax (*) molded into the shape of pine cones. I gave them to Mom. This is the booth where a lady sold bee-related products: honey, t-shirts, beeswax. One t-shirt said: Give Bees a Chance. Another said: God Save the Queen.

 Finally, Tom and I stopped in this shop which sold wine and beer, looking for a Cincinnati microbrew I wanted to buy. We didn't find it but a wine-tasting was underway and most of the people milling about carried a small glass of wine.
 So, a nice afternoon in downtown Cincinnati, and a spot I'm sure we'll return to next summer.
 Maybe before?

(*) Later: You asked to see the beeswax candles. Here they are:

 We already owned the two larger candles in the back. The beeswax candles I just bought are the two smaller ones  in the front. I liked their yellowish color, a nice contrast to the older ones. Mom put them on our fireplace mantle.