Monday, February 16, 2015

Cincinnati - Lunch and the Taft

 I drove to Tom's on Sunday (02/15) and we went out for lunch, as is our usual custom, and then went to the Taft Museum, which has free admittance on Sunday's. But first, the food ...

 We went to the Parkside Cafe, formerly a Frisch's location. It still has some of the checkerboard-painted glass dividers between the seating.

 I ordered a four-cheese omelette. It nearly filled a large plate. And "Parkside potatoes" and wheat toast. Everything was great but for the potatoes ... too well done in my estimation, a little too dark (burnt?).

 Tom ordered French fried green beans, thinking he'd get them as an appetizer, but they came with the rest of the meal. It was too much, too late, so we asked for a box and took almost all of them back to his apartment so that he could have an evening snack. We tucked them away in his refrigerator. Did you remember them, Tom?

 Tom's main dish was a huge salad ... lettuce and spinach with crumbled blue cheese, tomatoes, avocado, bits of bacon and strips of chicken. Who knows what else was in there. This was a meal in itself.
 Then to the Taft ...

 On the way I was intrigued by this building which I caught a glimpse of as we drove. Tom said it was Cincinnati's newest skyscraper. Most notable is the open metalwork on top. I shot this through Tom's dirty windshield, thus the spots. The building is 41 stories (665 feet) tall and is located at Queen City Square.

As we got closer I was able to get a better view of the metal grid. It's the headquarters of the Great American Insurance Company. Considered postmodern architecture, the building was begun in July 2008 and opened in January 2011.

 This statue of Abraham Lincoln is near the Taft but in Lytle Park. We had to park about four blocks away and walk. I asked Tom what he thought the temperature was and a lady, walking nearby, said it was 15°. My guess would have been colder.

 Information on "Barnard's Lincoln" may be found by clicking here. It has hands and feet that are disproportional to Lincoln's size. And yet the face, in my estimation, is spot on.

With fingers a bit numb, we arrived at the Taft Museum. We were issued a sticker to place on our clothing ...

I'm not quite sure of the purpose. Since the museum is free on Sunday, it couldn't have served as proof that we paid for admittance. But on other days of the week, that's probably the purpose. Maybe Sunday it's continued out of habit? Or maybe it's some sort of souvenir?

 The Taft Museum, located in the Baum-Taft House, is a National Historic Landmark and was built in 1820.

... and here's the history of the house.
 I took pictures of just a few of my favorites pieces of art there. Some areas (the current exhibit called Wild West to Gilded Age: American Treasures from the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, for instance) did not allow photography so I opted to take fewer pictures than usual.

 Rookwood Vase

 Will Rogers on Soapsuds - 1936
Sally James Farnham (1869-1943)

From the 1500's, wonderful, intricate  relief 

 A view into one of the exhibit rooms

 The lighting was dim enough that my camera had to take slight time exposures (I did not want to use the flash) so the pictures are a little soft and blurred at time.

Edward Satchwell Fraser, Jr. - 1803
Sir Henry Raeburn (1756-1823)

 I particularly liked this painting. This artist lived in the United Kingdom.

 Tom stops to admire a painting on one of the Taft's many hallways.

 Just beyond the front door of the house (the museum entrance is on the side), this is the view visitors would first see in the nineteenth century. Tom said Abraham Lincoln was a visitor here.

The Cobbler's Apprentice - 1877
Frank Duvenek ( 1848-1919)

 Pretty impressive, isn't it? Up close you can see the "boy's dirty fingernails and the ash of his cigar". Here, let me show you ...

 This was the home's dining room.

Another room of the museum. How do they keep all the carpet's clean?

 This Visitor's Guide shows on its cover Rembrandt's Portrait of a Man Rising from His Chair (1633). I'd like to have photographed the original but thought perhaps it wasn't permitted. The fine detail of the lace about the man's neck seems exceptionally detailed from a distance (up close it is not). I suppose the mark of a great artist is being able to pull off illusions of this sort.

 Other artists worth seeing at the Taft include Gainsborough, Whistler and Farny.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Nancy's Lemon Cookies

 Last Saturday, Nancy (Bob's wife) sent us some lemon cookies that she just made. Bob admitted they were the second batch she made last week. "I ate the entire first batch," he admitted.

 Well, I've got to tell you, they are excellent. They're almost sweet/tart. First, here's what Nancy's looked like:

 I've always been a sucker for cookies with crackled tops. And the dusting of powdered sugar just makes them perfect. By the way, the cookies on the left are glazed; those on the right are not.
 Here's the recipe (and then some things I learned when I made them):

Nancy's Lemon Cookies

1 package lemon cake mix (18.25 ounce)
2 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
Juice of half a lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
Zest of half a lemon (about one teaspoon)
1 cup powdered sugar (for decoration, optional)

Preheat oven to 375°

Pour cake mix into a large bowl. Stir in eggs, oil, lemon juice and lemon zest. Blend well.
Cover hands with powdered sugar so mix handles better
Form dough into small balls (about one teaspoon) and drop into powdered sugar until lightly covered.
Place on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake 6-9 minutes

For glaze, whisk 3/4 cup powdered sugar with one tablespoon lemon juice
If too thin, use more powdered sugar.
Let sit so glaze can harden.

Makes about two dozen

Getting my supplies ready 

The first batch is made and ready to bake 

The batter isn't as sticky as I expected
(read below why powdered sugar is visible in the batter) 

First dozen is out of the oven - but where's number 12?
(Answer: Mom's eating it in the living room) 

Close-up of what my cookies look like

 How about a few tips to make your life easier?

1. I couldn't find an 18.25 ounce lemon cake mix. I used Duncan Hines at 16.5 ounce. Works fine.
2. I zested half a lemon with a carrot peeler (because we don't have a zester). I cut the too-large pieces with a knife on a folded piece of paper towel. This produced more than a teaspoon but I like this lemony and I like it to have a citrus punch!
3. I didn't bother dusting my hands with powdered sugar. I scooped up dough with a teaspoon and dropped it directly into the powdered sugar, used the spoon to cover the ball and then picked it up with my finger. No stick! That explains why there's powdered sugar in the mixing bow.
4. I made the second batch of cookies a little larger. Both batches required more than 9 minutes. I left the first batch in for 12 minutes (just right). I left the second larger batch in for 15 (too long). Just poke the cookie with a toothpick. If it comes out clean, the cookies are done.
5. Nancy made cookies both with and without the glaze. I like them best without so I didn't use the glaze recipe at all.

Olive Garden

 It's another Sunday and Tom and I have gone to Olive Garden for lunch. I haven't been there for years so it was a nice treat.

 I chose the one across from the Dayton Mall. Mom needed an item for the nearby health food store - and I wanted to stop at a Miamisburg hardware store, too - so the location fit into our plans. "We could have met at the one in Middletown," Tom said. He'd have stopped there on his drive north.

Tom's perusing the menu, trying to decide what strikes his fancy.

We know we want the salad and breadsticks. I particularly like their Italian house dressing. And I love that they add a couple of hot banana peppers to the mix. I've already got my eye on that one at 11 o'clock. We ate that salad and had another brought to the table.

Behind and above us is a display of wines. I wonder if they'd miss a bottle?

Family ... indeed!

 Me? Fettuccine Alfredo. What else? This is my standard order whenever I go to Olive Garden. It's heavy (and high calories, I'll bet) but creamy and delicious. This is why I walk/jog ten miles each week ... so I can eat well.

Tom? Ravioli - pasta pillows - filled with chopped portobello mushrooms, beneath a wonderful cheesy sauce, sprinkled with bits of tomato and seasoned with Italian herbs.

 It's just after noon but I'm still looking a little sleepy. In this shot, our waitress is in the distant left.

 Dessert? I figured we'd skip dessert because Mom made a wonderful key lime pie that very morning. But Tom remembered Olive Garden's tiramisu which he only had a chance to taste in the past. "How about we share one of those?" Tom asked. It's a light coffee-flavored dessert ... lady fingers dipped in coffee and buried beneath a semi-sweet custard.

 Good day. Good food. Now for our two shopping stops and then back to Pinehaven to play cards: a game of Rummy (I won) and to finish to a game of Canasta which we started two weeks ago (I won that, too). But Tom still has to help me so much I won't count that one.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Orchid Blooms (again)

 It's probably been a month ago that Mom told me that her orchid was preparing to bloom. In the winter we keep all four of our orchids on our enclosed south-facing porch. It isn't warm out there - it isn't even heated but for residual heat rising from the basement furnace (there is no outlet on the porch itself) - and I often see it in the 40's. Too cold for orchid-growing? On the coldest winter nights, I add a small space heater.

 Here then is the recent progress of "Mom's orchid". I've never known quite what it was but I suspect it's a Miniature Cattleya. It's the most intense red and yellow imaginable. I've never seen anything quite like it before.

 Other posts can be brought up to compare this blooming cycle with others. I'll date each picture. Enjoy.

January 15 

January 26 

January 27 

January 29 

 February 2

February 2

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Blue Jay Restaurant

 Yesterday (01/31) I arrived at Tom's about noon. He was sound asleep when I got there but I roused him easily and we headed across the street to the Blue Jay Restaurant for breakfast (I had already had one, but never mind).

 It's a 1950's-looking place ... counter, stools, Formica walls, booths, wooden floors.

 Tom's barely awake, I'd say, but hungry. He got off a little early, climbed into bed at 5 am and I woke him just after noon. Surely seven hours is enough?

 Me? Up at my usual 6:40 am and out for breakfast with Bob at 8:15 am. We ate at Miss Molly's in Farmersville and then came back to Pinehaven to play a game of Rummy with Mom. By 11 am I was on the road to Cincinnati. Normally Tom and I get together on Sunday but with a snowy forecast, I suggested we change days.

 This is Tom's breakfast: a "Green Omelette". The main ingredient: spinach. I saw plenty of tomatoes and onions in there, too. Looked delicious and it was h-u-g-e! Surely this is a four egg omelette? Off to the right is a plate of hash browns with onions.

 Since I had already had eggs for breakfast, I opted for French Toast. "Do you want powdered sugar on them?" the waitress asked. Yep, might as well make them sweet. She served syrup, too, but I ate them too quickly to bother with it.

 Good food. Friendly waitresses. Nice place to visit.