Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Pumping Poop

It was time. Our toilets haven't been flushing quite right. Mom suggested that I check when we last had the septic tanks emptied. Turns out it was October 1, 2011. That's just over 38 months. Chuck Lee, the guy who always does the dirty deed for us, said "three to four years is about right".

So I called him yesterday and he came today. $425 later we've got an empty septic system ... and a partially empty checkbook. But what are you going to do? Unlike a city sanitary sewer where you flush and it's instantly gone, here we flush and it stays.

 Through the second floor window in Mom's bedroom, I saw Lee backing his truck up by the garage. I had placed an orange flag at the spot where they needed to dig to find the buried concrete lid to our septic system.

 It wasn't more than half an hour later that the guys were done. In three years time, we'll need to have them back. Let's see, $425 for three years. That's nearly $150/year or about $0.39 per day.
 Pooping doesn't come cheap.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Findlay Market (again)

 Yesterday Tom and I stopped at Findlay Market for lunch on our way to the nearby YMCA which is closing for more than a year for remodeling. It was a "last chance" so we took advantage of the proximity of two of our favorite places.

 I should have bought one of these Chocolate Peppermint Tarts and I'm sorry I didn't. They seem rather Christmassy. Isn't the swirling of the peppermint beautiful? Presentation is everything. One can get a lot of good ideas by simply window shopping. I did buy two quinoa-based vegetarian "burgers", Mediterranean style, at $2 each.

 Findlay Market wasn't quite as busy as when we visited it earlier in the year. The character has changed to a holiday spirit. Christmas trees, pine wreaths and garland were being sold at the entrance. The inside was subtly decorated with strands of lights.

 Here's what's left of my bean burrito. I had black beans, rice, lettuce and sour cream on a warmed and steamed flour tortilla. Tom had something similar but with an assortment of sauces. He had to go back to the counter and get a fork, it was so messy. While he was there he also bought a flan. Delicious! Even better than the one I had last week..

 We bought our burrito here: Mama Lo Hizo ["Mama did it"]: Taquera y Tienda ["Taquera and Store"]. A "Taquera" is simply a "stand". Quite nice ladies working here, pleasant and polite. The food was excellent. My bean burrito was $5.99.

 And Mexican Coke's in bottles made with real sugar, not high fructose corn syrup or diet-style with Aspartame. This is how Coke used to taste!

 I suppose this is a good example of Tom in one of his "do you have that camera in my face again?" moments. Sorry, Tom, but I can't help myself.
 After eating we went to the Central Parkway YMCA and did 2.5 miles on the track, used the steam room and sauna and had two long, hot showers. It was a relaxing Sunday afternoon.
 I figured I'd be troubled by traffic leaving the Bengals game (with the Steelers) so I left at 4 pm and headed north on Hamilton Avenue (127). That's stop and go traffic if there ever was any but at least it was moving. When I approached 275 I slid over to 75 and completed my journey north in the usual way.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving at Rob's

 This year, for the first time, we didn't have Thanksgiving at home. Even in recent years, Mom has made a special meal for the two of us. This year - another year older - and we wanted to include Bob and Tom. So we opted for Rob's Restaurant in Brookville and we were happy with our choice.

 The food was delicious and the waitresses were wonderful.

 Who can complain about a Thanksgiving meal for less than $10. All you can eat!

 We arrived just after 11:30 am and our reservation (made over a month ago) was for noon. The waitress took us to our table, our name was crossed off the list and we were seated immediately. We didn't need the allotted hour but it was nice to know we weren't going to be rushed.

 Here's Tom "loading up". I opted for salad first. The other three dug right into the main coarse.

An overview of the food buffet

 Salads? Rob's has quite an extensive selection. This is my favorite spot.

Mom and Bob

Finally seated and with food on our plates..

 Tom and Bill

 I shouldn't point this out but this is Bob's second plate of food. Was this really necessary?

 The main meal's done and now we're looking at the desserts. Tom's adding soft-serve ice cream to his.

 Apple dumpling and pumpkin cake with ice cream atop. Tom's a happy man.

 My own dessert is soft-serve ice cream with chocolate syrup and, of course, sprinkles.

 By this point we've paid our bills and Tom and Bob are talking. Bob's holding Mom's coat (she's in the restroom, of course).

 After I've got Mom to the car, Bob and Tom are still in conversation. It's not too bad an afternoon, though: cloudy with snow flurries and 32°.

Bob and Mom 

 When we get home, what's the first thing we think of? Cards? What's the second thing? Finding something to eat. Tom brought a nut-based cracker, goat cheese and beer. That's a nice combination!

Tom and Bob 


 Tom brought a "growler" of Listermann Brewing Company's "Nutcase", a peanut butter porter that's out of this world. Talk about unusual! Mom served it with Planter's Cocktail peanuts and the crackers and goat cheese Tom brought.

 The beer is a dark porter with plenty of foam. It's not for the faint of heart.

 We had a quite afternoon, just the four of us. Bob, by the way, won both games of the Michigan Rummy that we played.
 How could Thanksgiving be improved? Good food, good people, sharing.

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.