Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Sitting in the Shade

 A week or so ago I received a note from Neal Shade. How about meeting up while he was home visiting for Christmas. We set today, at noon, at the Taco Bell restaurant in Miamisburg for the event. What I didn't know is that Neal wouldn't be in Miamisburg ... he'd be in northern Kentucky. So it was a bit of a dive for him.
 But worth it for both of us, I'm sure.

 I first met Neal as a high school kid, probably in the mid-1970's. He was working with the Miamisburg High School radio station - WRSF - and I came in contact with them through my joint interest in weather and electronics. We fairly quickly developed a friendship. Neal soon became an amateur radio operator, partly through my help giving him the Novice test. In the years ahead we'd often go swimming. One year (early 1990's, I think), he, his brother Loren, and I drove to Maine and hiked a section of the Appalachian Trail. We climbed Mt. Katahdin while there and put some serious miles beneath our hiking boots.
 Now that Neal's an adult - he works for Dell out of Nashville - we don't get to see one another face-to-face. It's been many years in fact. Probably the last meeting was twenty years ago when we went to Maine. So today was a real treat, having an hour for casual conversation and a time to catch up.

 I arrived there before noon but Neal was delayed by Cincinnati traffic (and I thought he was coming just a few blocks). I'm a good bit grayer but newly shorn with my seasonal haircut. I know ... I look a bit sleepy-eyed, too, but the Baha Blast was strictly soda.
 Neal's brother, Loren, and I had some fun times together, too, particularly after Neal left for college. We picked up with the swimming, visited Rich Millhouse at Bowling Green State University and spent a week together vacationing in Bear Lake, Michigan. Between the two of them, the fun times equate to a ton of good memories.

 When I'm at Taco Bell, I always opt for a seven layer burrito (vegetarian), a bottomless cup of Baha Blast (a Mountain Dew product which seems to only be available at Taco Bell) and enough hot sauce to cause heart pain and indigestion.
 A great day of renewing an "old" friendship. They are the best.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Making a Christmas Memory

 Mom and I have a Christmas tradition: we go out to brunch at the Waffle House. It saves cooking and doing dishes and we certainly look forward to it every year. This year we were joined by Tom and Bob. I always take a Christmas photo to remember the day by. Here is our group shot for 2014:

Christmas 2014
Bob and Mom (back row); Tom and Bill (front row)

 I have to note that I haven't had a haircut in nearly 19 weeks so it's unusually long and unusually white. I'm also going unusually bald!

Mom and Bob 

 But first, to the Waffle House in Brookville. We were lucky that we didn't have to wait because the parking lot was nearly full when we arrived. Another stroke of luck: our waitress was Barb who we always enjoy talking to.

Bill & Tom 

 That's our waitress, Barb, in the center of the picture. We've had her for many years and even Dad enjoyed talking with her. How do they call out the orders so casually and still get everything right?

 The place was packed. How could we have lucked out with a quiet booth and one which holds four people and is also close to the restroom (Mom's favorite spot)?

 Since I knew we'd be having a variety of great desserts for our card game in the afternoon, I didn't order my usual (and favorite) "double pecan waffle". Instead I opted for a couple of cheesy eggs, a double order of hash browns and toast. It's on their special menu at $5. It even included coffee.

 Waffle House - Brookville, Ohio

 A highlight of our Christmas gathering is a game of cards, Michigan Rummy in this case. We play at the dining room table. This table, by the way, was my maternal grandmother's when my mother was a child. It's a family heirloom.

 Tom and Bob contemplate their next move.

 Mom, too. The glass of homemade apricot wine in this picture is mine (Mom's drinking coffee, I think). Mom and I made the wine in 2008 and decided it was time to break open a bottle and celebrate. Only Tom and I celebrated, though.

 This is my traditional spot at the table. It's a fine place to eat a meal but it's a long reach when playing cards. Still, I have the longest arms so it's an appropriate place to sit.

 Tom's slowly sipping a glass of homemade apricot wine, too.

 Bob's a bit of a ruthless card player. Winning is everything to that old boy. I have to say, though, that I won this game. Later in the day, Tom and I played two more games. I won both of those, too. Isn't the saying this: let the best man win?
 [Note: Bob reminded me that we played two games and that he won one. OK, you're right; I forgot.]

 Our "food table" offered an assortment of snacks and desserts. The apple pie in the center is mine. At the top right is a pumpkin cheesecake Tom brought (equally delicious). At upper left is a baked peanut butter item Bob bought at Miss Molly's here in Farmersville. Lower center is a cheeseball Mom makes every holiday.

 When we first came back to the house from Brookville I put a sawdust log in the fireplace and we had a nice crackling fire all afternoon. Late in the day Tom and I took a ride in the country.
 So Christmas 2014 was a memorably quiet one. They're the best in my opinion. Good friends and family. Good food. What more could anyone ask?

Monday, December 22, 2014

Sunday before Xmas - Cincy

 It's December 20 and it's my turn to visit Tom in Cincinnati. I'm there by 10 am and we spend some time at his apartment and then, by 11:30 am, he's hungry. Me, too. He has a gift certificate at a bistro attached to a book seller so we're off to one of Cincinnati's eastern suburbs.

 First stop, the Joseph-Beth Booksellers at the Rookwood Pavilion on Madison Road. It's quite the massive place and, though this exterior shot shows no one, the place (and the parking lot) was absolutely packed. With just four shopping days left until Christmas, it was to be expected.

 Just inside the front entrance, the cashiers were working non-stop with lines of book buyers.

 We came to eat, however, and the attached Bronte Bistro was our target. They were, of course, as busy as the bookstore and we were told the wait for would be ten to fifteen minutes. Since we drove across town and because Tom was impressed by earlier visits to this bistro, we decided to wait.

 They handed us this wireless device so we could shop in the bookstore. It both lights up and give a voice announcement when your table is ready. Our wait: no more than a mere ten minutes.

 Lots of books attracted my attention but none so much as this one: The Beatles Invade Cincinnati by Scott Belmer with a forward by Dusty Rhodes. It was $25 which exceeded the cash I was carrying and I figured there was at least a chance our local library might carry it. The book covers the Beatles 1964 and 1966 concerts in Cincinnati. I attended the August 1966 concert at Crosley Field and there appear to be lots of pictures of that event in the book.

 No more than ten minutes into our wait, we got the call to the bistro. There was only one two-person table available but other larger tables were open. In only a few minutes, they were filled, too.

 The Bronte Bistro is a classy place. Our water arrived in a glass with a wedge of lemon on the side.

 Tom's looking a bit like Ernest Hemingway in this shot, I think. He wore a tie-dye shirt he and Pam Beery made while still living in Findlay, Ohio in 1974. No one can say Tom doesn't get proper use out of his clothing! That's a 40 year old T-shirt, after all.

 Tom and I both ordered the same thing: a broccoli quiche. They added a small amount of greens, a few grapes and three slices of cantaloupe. "Hey, I only got three grapes," Tom said to me when the waitress walked away. I found a fourth tucked under the edge of his quiche. But I gave him one of mine and we were even. The quiche, by the way, was perfect: the pie crust is the same as you'd expect on a nice homemade pie.

 When we left we looked st this handbag exhibit because it's the brand Mom covets. Vera Bradley has always been a top choice for Mom. She's always on the lookout for a regular-sized handbag in shades of brown. We found none.

 Then we jumped in the car and headed to a connected shopping area where there was a Yogoot store. Tom has also been here and suggested we stop there for dessert. This is also part of the Rookwood Commons area but is on Edmondson Road.

 There's lots of great toppings ready to go. But we both opted for a small yogurt at $2.75, sans toppings.

 I got one of their specialty flavors for December: White Chocolate Raspberry. It was truly delicious ... a tart/sweet flavor that I could have eaten twice as much of. It was a great end to a great meal.

 I forget what flavor Tom had but it looks more red than mine. Strawberry? Tom can't escape eating without my camera in his face. Sorry, Tom. It's the hazard of "doing time" with me.

 As we ate in the window area, I noticed a reflective chrome ball just above us. I raised the camera, zoomed in and shot us from above. You can see me holding the camera (top) and Tom trying to eat below.

 Directly in front of us was the store's large display window with curved decorations on the glass. As you can see, the parking lot was full.
 And so were we.

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.