Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Pecan Cheesecake Squares

 Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and though we'll eat out this year, we'll come back to Pinehaven, play cards, drink beer and eat pecan cheesecake.

 I saw this recipe some time ago on Facebook and printed it. I've never heard of Pecan Cheesecake Squares before. It's a three-layer process and it takes some oven time with each layer. That's actually a good thing: I was always working on the next layer while the last one baked.

 The recipe is on a website called Positively Splendid. Click here for full details.

 The bottom layer of this lovely dessert is shortbread. In the middle is cheesecake. And on top is pecan pie. What's not to love about any of the three? And combined they're triply good.

 Here's how it looks right out of the oven. I made just half a recipe. How about coming up with 0.375 cup of brown sugar? Well, I estimated that but I think I hit it pretty close.

 The top of the dessert looks exactly like a pecan pie because that's what it is.I love the way it cracks open a little and the wonderful sweet filling shows through.

 Scooping out a "taste test" slice: It's perfect ... and still warm. The cream cheese in the middle is wonderful that way, soft and with a hint of vanilla.

 Looking head-on into a slice you can see the three layers. The recipe takes some time but it certainly isn't hard.
 Tomorrow Mom and I will be joined by Bob and Tom. The dessert is ready.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Original Pancake House

 Yesterday (November 23) Tom and I enjoyed brunch at The Original Pancake House in Cincinnati. Besides the good food, we met his dear friend, Pam Beery and her brother Mark. They're in town to visit Mark's new grandchild.

 Tom told me about Dutch Babies a week or so ago and said they were the best pancakes he's ever had. Pancake is a bit of a misnomer. They're dinner plate size, high-risen and are actually a German version of pancakes. They're a meal in themselves (you'll see for yourself in a moment).

The Original Pancake House is in an eastern suburb of Cincinnati 

Mark holds the door for Tom. Pam's already inside and I, as usual, am taking pictures 

 Behind the cashier is a large salt water aquarium. Quite pretty and quite extensive.

 Keeping this massive aquarium clean and all the marine life healthy must be a major undertaking.

Pam and Mark Beery 

Tom met Pam while in high school in Findlay, Ohio and they've been fast friends ever since. I can understand why.

 We're looking over our menu's and waiting to order. My guess is that Tom is demonstrating the apparent size of the Dutch Babies. It's only a small exaggeration.

Bill and Mark

 Thumbs up for good friends and good food.

The Original Pancake House official coffee mug

 The Pancake House isn't afraid to make strong, potent coffee. It's Hawaiian Kona Blend and it's good! They filled a carafe which Pam and I (mostly I) shared.

 Pam ordered a fruit cup: fresh pineapple, strawberries, grapes and bananas.

"My" Dutch Baby

 And what about the Dutch Baby/. That's what we came for and here's what we got. The pancake is served with lots of powdered sugar, butter and lemon wedges. The lemon is drizzled (by the customer) over the pancake for a delicious effect. There was maple syrup, too, but I never slowed down long enough try any.

"Tom's" Dutch Baby

This recipe is probably close to what I had. Click here to see it.

 So, great time yesterday. Can it get any better?

Bill and Tom. Photo Credit: Pamela Elayne Beery

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.