Wednesday, August 27, 2014

"Mae's" Hosta

 I've told this story before but I'll repeat it here ...

 Many years ago we had a beautiful hosta plant when we lived in Miamisburg. Mae liked it so much she asked for a start. Then, we ended up moving to Moraine and finally to Farmersville. In the moves, we found we no longer had a hosta.

 Mae, of course, suggested we take a start from hers (ours?). Charlie had planted it on the north side of their garage. It was rather neglected there - Charlie, in fact, didn't even know if it was still there at all. I drove over, found the plant quite luxurious even in its isolation, expanding through the chain-link fence into the neighbor's yard.

 I took a small start and planted it in the northern shade of our garage. That flower bed seemed little capable of growing anything for long. It was mostly still bare soil many years after we moved to Pinehaven. Mom grew a few shade-loving herbs there as the spot was opposite and adjacent to our garden. Parsley seemed to grow well there, at least for short periods of time.

 Over the years, I've divided that plant time and again. I'd pierce the roots with a sharp shovel, get another start planted nearby. Over time I filled in the gaps. This year, for the first time, there are no gaps at all. It is a continuous bed of hosta. And now, late August, they are all blooming in a perfect profusion of purple.

Looking west

 I got to thinking about these flowers, at the height of their blooms on Monday, the same day as Mae's funeral. Who would have thought that they'd have reached their peak at this sad time?
 Instead of "hasta la vista" (Spanish for "See you later") we have a "hosta la vista" which, I think, says the same thing.

Looking east

 For those with an eagle eye, the purple in the foreground isn't hosta at all but Russian sage, in bloom with an identical color and on the same day.
 I'm sure I've been working on this flower bed for at least 15 years. Who could imagine that it would reach its perfect peak on this day? It's a natural tribute to my aunt, built entirely by chance.
 But what is chance and what is predestination? I'm sure, unknown to myself, this was being planned all along.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Stricker's Grove

 Yesterday Tom and I had the pleasure of joining his friends, Nan and David, for an afternoon of fun and relaxation at Stricker's Grove. It's a 25 acre amusement park in Ross, Ohio, closed to the public for most of the year, but available for rent by various groups. Nan's an employee of TriHealth of Cincinnati and this was their annual company get-together.

 I drove to Tom's apartment, parked my car there and then he drove to Stricker's for our 1 pm meeting time. It was a hot, humid day with billowing cumulus clouds that threatened rain ... but never did. When we first got there, attendance was fairly light.

Attendance was light at 1 pm ... but the event lasted until 7 pm
It was crowded by mid-afternoon

David (l) and Tom eat the traditional snow cones upon arriving
All of the food (except ice cream) was free

Gift baskets were available for raffle; you tried for one by leaving a ticket in a bag
for a 4:15 pm drawing

Which to try for? Nan settled for an Italian-themed basket of goodies 

Large grills cook burgers by the hundreds producing a thick smoke screen
They had veggie burgers .. charcoal-grilled and delicious 

We first walked through a line, picked up a plate, napkin and fork and then cold, salad items
Well, the barbecue beans weren't cold when we started but they were when we got to a table

Tom's on the opposite side of the tables from me but doing an exceptional job of loading up 

Food's eaten ... now it's time to check out the amusement rides 

Saw this T-shirt on a female attendant at one of the rides and liked the sentiment
The shirt was for the Honor Flight, serving WWII veterans

First ride, Tilt-A-Whirl
Tom (l-r), Nan, David - I didn't ride on any of the rides 

Lines for various rides were long - this one for the Tilt-A-Whirl 

The "Electric Rainbow" - only Nan rode this one (alone)

"The Tornado" roller coaster

  Construction began in 1990 and was completed in 1993. This wooden roller coaster was "designed by Al Collins and built by Ralph Stricker". According to the amusement park's website, "Ralph Stricker is the only person in the Unites States to build his own roller coaster".

Nan (l) and Tom were the only two of our group brave enough to take a ride on The Tornado
Here they walk to the line where they'll wait their turn 

Shade was at a premium in the park

 I checked the weather radar on my cell phone and found all was clear. Mid-afternoon they gave the temperature as 87° and added "feels like 98°". I believe it. It was a sweltering afternoon, almost too hot to be outside.

Tom and Nan near the top of the biggest drop-off on The Tornado 

And then fall full speed ahead 

This bubbling fountain was the coolest sight in the park 

I watched parents walk up to the fountain, hold small children over the water as the kids paddled in mid-air like dogs. Other adults dipped their own fingers into the water to clean them ... perhaps to remove residue from the free cotton candy?

Nan and Tom once worked together at The Jewish Hospital in Cincinnati.
It's good to see friendships that mature, then last 

A final ride on the Tilt-A-Whirl
Tom and Nan didn't stay off the rides for long

 We left about 4:15 pm and Tom and I arrived back at his apartment about 5 pm. On the way there we stopped at a roadside stand and bought a whole watermelon ($6). It was the seeded variety. "I think they taste better," said Tom. I brought half of it home.
 Traffic wasn't too heavy driving north on I-75. I passed through three showers, one fairly heavy.
 It was a nice day with new friends and a pleasant place to share the time with.
 Thanks, Tom, for asking me; Thanks Nan and David for asking us.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Grandma's Ice-Box Cookies

 A favorite cookie from my childhood was my grandma's ice-box cookies. It's an easy one to make, though the "ice-box" part - cooling the finished dough - takes a bit of time. I usually make the dough one day, refrigerate it overnight and bake it the next day. Today I was in a bit of a hurry (and probably just hungry) so I sped up the process by using the freezer. I first cooled the dough down in the refrigerator (about an hour), then placed it in the freezer for another ten minutes.

 I also made half a recipe and I rolled smaller rolls resulting in petite-sized cookies. We're taking some to the gathering Saturday after Mae's funeral at Miamisburg's Catholic Church, Our Lady of Good Hope.

 I also made liberal use of the black walnuts I collected last fall and which Mom processed over winter. We had a few English walnuts, too, but this used mostly blacks. They have a very strong flavor which some people may not like.
 Here's the original recipe in my grandmother's (Helen Schmidt) writing, sprinkled with notes from my own mother (Mary Schmidt):

 The most important change is that my mother feels a 400° oven is too hot; she uses 375° (thus I do, too). I also felt a full recipe was too large (two sticks of butter!) so I cut it in half. Even so, the smaller rolls produced 40 cookies. Mom adds vanilla (I didn't). Actually I forgot.

 Cut the rolls with a paring knife, about 1/2" thick and place them cut-side up on a cookie sheet (I always line the cookie sheet with parchment paper ... no clean-up!). These cookies don't spread out much (they rise) so the dough can be place closer than is usual.

 I found 12 minutes plenty long to bake these smaller cookies. Just test them with a toothpick. If it comes out clean, they're done.
 Notice how the cookies rise - or puff up. They look like little tan pillows.

 I always use our wooden butcher block as a cooling rack.
 I just tested one: delicious! Now it's time to make doubly sure they're perfect and that requires a hot cup of coffee, too.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Memories of Mae

 It hasn't been that long since I lost my Uncle Charlie and now I've lost my Aunt Mae.

 January 6 for Charlie; August 16 for Mae. A gap of a mere seven months.

 And if I grieve losing an aunt, my mother has lost a sister, my cousins have lost a parent. It has not been a good year for the family.

June 30, 2014
Mae (l) and Mom (and I) have lunch at Fazoli's

 You never know when you snap a picture that it will be a last. That's the final shot I have of the sisters together. Mae with just 47 days left. How would the day have been different had we known that?

 I've been traveling down memory lane the past few days, dredging up those seemingly insignificant events that make a life. My earliest memory of Mae was when Mom took me to visit her at Aunt Clara's on Main Street in Miamisburg. I was very young - too small to take the steps to she and Charlie's second floor apartment. I remember a parade passing by on the street below.

 Then, still as a child, I was walking beside Mae, hand in hand I suppose, when a kid on a bike careened out of control and nearly mowed me down. Mae pushed herself in front of me, took the full impact. As a child I didn't quite fathom what happened. Perhaps she saved my life or at least gave my body additional years in good condition.

 A bit later, I spent a night at Mae and Charlie's house. I had not been away from home much (but for my grandparents, as familiar a spot as home itself) but Mae made me feel comfortable, served a lunch, made sure I was happy there. After being put to bed, I decided I didn't like being alone in an unfamiliar house, in an unfamiliar bed, in a dark unfamiliar room. I spent the rest of the night in bed with Mae.

 As a child we'd spend most every Sunday evening at Mae and Charlie's. When Charlie built a patio in the back yard, we'd eat outside. He lined the floor with flat Ordovician rocks, taken from various Miamisburg sites, their fossils etched into the surface for millions of years.

 What do I most remember? Mae's love of Keystone Light beer. Her dislike of cinnamon (what?!). Her homemade stove-top popcorn. Her soft hand holding mine while the other balanced on a cane in recent years. Her heart.

Mae Boyer - Miamisburg High School

 I look at this picture of Mae during her high school years and I think how much - and how little - has changed. Age takes a toll on our skin but leaves our heart - not the physical beating one - untouched. Time ravishes but it cannot harm.

 I think mostly how lucky our close-knit family has been. Who is there among us who would not do anything for the others? We have no black sheep among us; we are all loving, caring individuals. Our parents were successful.

 The legacy is that. I may have shed some tears in the past week but they were each filtered by smiles.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Return to Oxford

 How long has it been since Tom Buhler and I roamed the streets of Oxford? We've both been back since we graduated from Miami University. I graduated in 1971 with a degree in English education; Tom graduated in 1979 with a degree in Botany.

 On August 17 we returned. Reminiscent and nostalgic, we found Oxford greatly changed, and Miami University undergoing a substantial transformation. But still, the old town held the same sights, the same feel of those many years ago.

First stop, Wild Berry on High Street, Oxford (Tom center)

Tom's checking out posters at Wild Berry - back to the 1960's 

Tom at Jimmy Johns, a sub place on High Street, Oxford
One of my reasons for going - the 8" veggie subs are incredible 

Here's a close-up look at the subs 

Storefront - Jimmy Johns - Oxford 

Tom rented this apartment while a student at Miami University 

Tom's a botany major; I'm just interested in anything natural.
These are maturing buckeyes (Aesculus glabra), Ohio's state tree 

 McGuffy Hall - Miami University

Statue of William Holmes McGuffy outside McGuffy Hall - Miami University 

Armstrong Student Center - Miami University 

Inside view, Armstrong Student Center - Miami University

Shriver Center - Miami University 

"Fruiting body" on a magnolia outside the Shriver Center 

Tamarack tree (Laricina) and fruit (perhaps not?)

Center for Performing Arts - Miami University
Reflecting Pool

Stanton Hall - residence hall on the south quad
Named for Robert Livingston Stanton, Miami's 6th president (1866-1871)
Tom roomed here while at Miami 

Tom's looking into his old room at the rear of Stanton Hall 

Sculpture near Miami's Sports Center 

Wide angle view of the pool inside Miami's Sports Center 

We were there on a Sunday afternoon and no one was using the pool.
It was open, though. This new facility is a vast improvement over what I remember 

WMUB - 88.5 - Oxford

Burr Oak (Quercus macrocarpa) - as pretty an oak as nature has built 

Kumpler Chappel - completed 1918 - Western College Campus
No longer used for regular services but many a Miami grad has been married here 

Cheerleading flags practice on the Western Campus

Pully Tower - Miami University - installed 2001
At the intersection of Oxford Trenton Road and S Patterson Avenue

Mimosa (Albizia julibrissin) in full bloom near  Upham Hall - Miami University

Tom and I rest a moment in the tunnel beneath Upham Hall
Many of my classes were held in this building when I attended classes in Oxford in 1970 and 1971 

The Miami University Seal - center campus 

Beta Bell Tower - Miami University - completed 1941 

King Library - Miami University - opened 1973 (two years after I graduated) 

Downtown Oxford (looking west from Brick (High) Street & Campus Avenue

Inside DuBois Books in Oxford 

DuBois Books carries every sort of Miami apparel 

Looking west along High Street - downtown Oxford 

Tom's checking out the assigned textbooks by Miami professors
Follette's Miami Co-Op Bookstore on High Street 

Downtown Oxford looking west

 We left Farmersville for Oxford just after 11 am and didn't return home until about 5:30 pm. We stopped at Hueston Woods on the way back and found the beach nearly deserted. What happened? There is no longer a lifeguard on duty and there's no bathhouse. It seems a shadow of its former self. I'm glad we didn't plan to swim.
 Finally, we stopped at Captain 9's in Germantown for supper. We shared a 10" veggie pizza ("No green olives," said Tom) and then drove home. We visited with Mom for a while, took one lap in Sam's lane and called it a day.
 And a memorable and fun day it was.