Sunday, September 27, 2015

Germantown Pretzel Festival - 2015

 It's an annual rite for us, though Mom said she could no longer walk well enough to cover the distance necessary. So like last year, Tom and I continued the tradition.

 We actually went to the pretzel festival twice - both in the morning and again in the mid-afternoon. In between visits we returned to visit Mom and delivery her a loaf of bread that she always buys from a group of church ladies. This year we picked up ($4) a nice loaf of sourdough bread. We also went out to eat before returning to the festival.

 As usual, the Historical Society of Germantown offered desserts in the train depot at Veteran Park. Tom opted for a thick slice of blueberry pie and a bowl of ice cream. The money-taker was Julia Smith, who we all knew from the Hometown Laundry (many years ago). I got to talk with her briefly and get a very nice hug.

 We sat on the bleachers for a while and listed to Spttin' Image, two identical brothers from Greenville, Ohio who played mostly country. A group of young girls danced to the music in front of the stage.

 Then, after delivering the bread to Mom, we had lunch at Fazoli's in Moraine. Their current $5 lunch special is a nice deal: a choice of many main dishes (Tom chose spaghetti with marinara; I chose Fettuccine Alfredo) and a salad and drink.

 Finally, back to the festival for another hour or so mid-afternoon. The crowds had increased though the sky remained cloudy and there were even a few spits of rain in the area. The food vendors seemed to be having a profitable day.

 My favorite gals every year are those that man the Miss Molly's Bakery & Cafe booth. I never fail to stop and visit with them and take my annual picture. A great, smiling group!

 We didn't arrive early enough this year to attend the opening ceremonies. Tara Hastings (TV2 weather person) again opened the festival. Traffic was the usual ... bumper to bumper, and few places to park but those far away. Still, what a pleasant walk through the sidewalk-lined streets of Germantown.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Ha Ha Pizza

 "If you go to Yellow Springs with Tom today," my brother said, "you've got to try Ha Ha Pizza."

 I didn't know if he was joking at first. He thought it might be "Aha Pizza". Well, I looked it up on the net, saw that it was indeed Ha Ha, and asked Tom whether pizza sounded good. Yes it did. So we added pizza to our first stop when we got to Yellow Springs.

 It's a little joint, located on Xenia Avenue just south of Dayton-Yellow Springs Road (Dayton Street). We arrived with the rain right behind us and found a single parking spot out front.

Considering how busy the joint was - standing room only - we got a table quickly. We ordered ... and then we waited.

 Our pizza (a 16" with mushrooms and onions) was right-out-of-the-oven-hot and as delicious as can be. Clearly they use fresh ingredients. No canned button mushrooms here. We washed it down with soda (Tom chose Dr. Pepper; I had a Pepsi).

 Then, amid a cold rain, we walked to town and checked out Mr. Fub's Party, a toy store Tom remembered from years ago (he's a real toy aficionado) and then settled into Dark Star Books (pictured above). Tom loves books - maybe even more than Star Wars - and would have willingly spent the rest of the day there. They have great stacks of used books, hard-to-find titles, and even a large selection of comics.

 We hurried home, then, to a homemade apple dumpling and a game of Michigan Rummy. A great day but one that went far too quickly.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Apple Dumplings

 A rite of autumn is a trip to Crossroad Orchard in Miamisburg. This year we came home with a bag of Cortland apples. They're middle-of-the-road, neither tart nor sweet, but the interior is solid and white as snow and I thought they'd make perfect apple dumplings.

 I used a very old recipe from Betty Crocker. Though we have and enjoy several others, this recipe is fairly straightforward and the result is delicious.

 What I love best about this recipe (and have since I was a little kid), is the thick red sauce. It's a moderately sweet apple dumpling.

Apple Dumplings

The Sauce:
2 cups water
1-1/2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
8 drops red food coloring
1/4 cup margarine

Combine all ingredients except the margarine and cook five minutes. I bring it up to a simmer and then start the five minutes. Take off the heat, add the butter and sit aside (stir again before using later) 

 The dumplings made and ready for the red sauce

The biscuit dough:
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup shortening (I use margarine)
1/2 cup milk

Combine dry ingredients, stir thoroughly. Cut in margarine. Add milk all at once. On a lightly floured surface, roll to a 18x12 inch rectangle. Cut into six even rectangles.

 Add 4 or 5 apples, pared and cored, shared among each square.
 Sprinkle with additional sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg to taste (use your imagination!)
 Fold dough around apple pieces. Squeeze a bit into a round ball.

 Place in a 13 x 9 x 2 inch ungreased pan. Pour red sauce over top.

 Bake at 375° for 35-40 minutes. Test that apples are done.

 The recipe calls for the dumplings to be placed an inch apart. They'll rise and "grow" together as they bake. Much of the red sauce will be absorbed into the dumplings but they'll be enough left to dip it onto each dumpling when served.
 Best served warm. They can be refrigerated (or even frozen) and then re-heated in a microwave.
  Vanilla ice cream makes a great addition. But they're also perfect just as is.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Spaghetti Squash

 What's for lunch? Spaghetti squash.

 Yesterday I picked our first. Actually, I picked one a few weeks ago and Tom took it to a mutual friend in Cincinnati. My one plant appears to have about a dozen of the squash on it at the moment. So time to get busy with the larder and fix lunch.

I split the squash lengthwise from "stem to tail". That's a risky operation seeing as how the skin of the squash is a bit tough and the knife has to be huge. I cut off the stem first, giving me a flat surface to sit the squash upon (in the sink). Others hold it by a towel while they split it.

 Here is the squash split lengthwise. I'm ready to scoop out the seeds and "guts".

 With the seeds removed, the cavity is hollow. I then applied a little vegetable oil to each half and laid them on a non-stick cookie sheet (Mom added parchment paper to avoid clean-up).

 The two halves are laid face down on the cookie sheet and baked for an hour at 400°. Test with a sharp fork stuck into the skin. It should pierce fairly easily.
 In reviewing past years, I see that I baked these face-up. That's probably a better choice.

 Here's the finish meal. Mom said that she thinks the strands would have stayed together better had I not left the squash in an extra 15 minutes (1:15). The squash was a bit overdone. The taste was excellent, though. I prefer mine with butter and salt. Mom thinks she would prefer marinara.

 Here's a previous post about spaghetti squash: click here.

The Harvest

 Yesterday afternoon I was washing windows when I heard the sound of a harvester in the field across from us. At first I never know where the sound is coming from - near or far - and then a monstrosity will pass the house, dust lifting in all directions and the puzzle will be solved.

 There is a sadness that comes with it: another growing season ended. This is also the season of insects ... ladybugs, stink bugs, cluster flies. It is a mad dash now before the weather turns cold ... harvest! hide!

 But it also a time of completion, the taking in of these great loads of beans and grains. And the mechanical monsters that thread these fields give me hope for the future of mankind. It is a stretch of the imagination that the tiny soybean can be separated from stalk by clanking metal. And yet they gather in great loads, un-mashed, lifted into waiting trucks.

 Last evening, as the sun was setting, D R Coffman moved his harvester from the field east of us to the one south. Here he is on the beginning row. How wide the mouth of this machine! It voraciously swallows many rows of plants in a single swath, throwing the chopped plants back onto the soil, collecting the soybeans for later.

 Luckily there is no wind. The dust settles quickly, falling back to the ground without covering my newly-washed windows in fresh dust.

 The first few corners are a challenge and yet D R has done this for so many years that he seems to simply drive without thinking. Everything he does is with a fluid motion.

 South of the harvester sits a bin which he'll fill again and again. Later, after dark, he parked the harvester and all was quiet. I'd have expected him to keep going through the night but, with rain still days away, I suppose there is no hurry. It is now 9:30 am the next morning and the equipment hasn't moved. I'm sure D R is catching up on some rest before beginning again.

 Later today I suspect it will be done ... the fields newly leveled and our view expanded in three directions. Another sixty days and the ground will be white and this will be no more than a memory. The beans, I guess, will be in China, or turned to oil or to feed.

 Next spring we will have corn in all directions. That is my favorite, a natural privacy wall that surrounds us as it grows. That is what I look forward to.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Jane's Saddlebag

Yesterday (09/12) was the first day of the annual picnic for CVG-7 and CVG-5. Tom works at CVG-7 and signed us up to attend. It was down in Boone County Kentucky, just a stone's throw from the Ohio River and within sight of Indiana. It's a bit of a drive ... down I-75-71, exiting near Florence and then continuing west through the "boonies".

The picnic was held at Jane's Saddlebag in Union, Kentucky. We arrived about 1 pm and stayed perhaps an hour and a half. Much of our day was spent in driving. The location is in the Big Bone Lick area and near the same-named state park


Amazon's Annual Picnic was both September 12 and 13
We had our choice of days to attend

 Parking was in that field at the base of rolling hills. The setting is beautiful though cell phone service is minimal.

 On the same side of the road as the parking is a petting zoo ... not open while we were there. The side of the barn is covered in signs.

 Closest to the entrance is this "Whine Shoppe" and ...

... the General Store.

 Behind them are a number of smaller structures that would mostly be of interest to children.

 There is an amphitheater behind the main building which, I imagine, is a great setting for concerts. With the bowl-shaped land surrounding it, acoustics must be wonderful. The setting would be particularly beautiful on a clear, starry night.

 These fishermen were on the Big South Fork, a large tributary that empties into the nearby Ohio River. There is a marina nearby Jane's Saddlebag.

Big South Fork - looking east

 Recent rains had left the ground muddy and soft. Tom kept his distance but I walked as close to the water as the weeds grew ... and felt myself sinking as I stood there.

Bill and Tom - waiting for the grub to be served

 Amazon conducted a raffle while the food was bring served. Tom had the tickets on the left and won a $10 Kroger's gift certificate. "That's the Sunday paper for the next five weeks," I told him. My non-winner (figures!) is on the right.

 When Tom signed up to attend the picnic, one of the options was for a "meatless menu". Some organizer must have forgotten that step because there was nothing available (grilled) but for burgers and brats. We each made a cold cheese sandwich and piled on condiments.
 They said we could get a grilled cheese and I told them we'd like two. We never saw them. A veggie burger would have been nice, especially since the option was offered. Even so, the food was good ... baked beans, potato salad, brownies and chocolate chip cookies, all homemade and excellent. They also had cans of soda and bottled water. No complaints, really.

 The day was cool (60's), breezy and there were spits of rain in the air every now and then, but nothing heavy enough to spoil the picnic.

The food line

 All in all, a nice day, but I think with a minimal turnout. It's quite a drive for many families, especially with children, but it allowed Tom and I to see parts of northwestern Kentucky we were not familiar with. On the way home we missed a turn and saw more of rural Kentucky than we planned to.

Monday, September 7, 2015


Where there is much light
the shadow is deep - Goethe

 I am driving home from Cincinnati on Saturday (09/05) and arriving back in Jackson Township just about 6 pm. Throughout the day the heat and humidity has fired convection and a few towering cumulus build ahead. They are few and far between. I'll soon enough find the pavement wet from a passing shower.

 As I am driving west on Manning Road - just east of Twin Creek - I watch the sky as it seems to pull a cloak across my view. Where the sun was shining in my eyes only moments before, I see a swath of black approach from the north. It is not a cloud; it is a shadow.

 The black cuts the horizon like a knife. Sunshine to the south; black to the north. The pavement seems to darken and disappear.

 Science will say this is no more than a crepuscular ray, a shadow cast by a cloud. I can't argue with that. And yet it is surreal, the sky before me blotted out in real-time. I feel half blind.

 As quickly it pulls back, like a curtain on a stage ... simply gone. But I will remember this.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Lime Fresh Mexican Grill

 We've passed it many times, Tom and I, and I think just as often we've said, "We've got to try that place sometime". Yesterday we did.

 The location of Lime Fresh Mexican Grill we visited is on Calhoun Street, just across from the University of Cincinnati. That explains why most of the tables had college students munching happily away.

I ordered a bean (vegetarian) burrito and a Coke. Tortilla chips and a wide variety of dips (salsa) was supplied at a self-service bar.

 This restaurant has, I think, a clean logo.

 I'm digging in to my burrito.

 There must have been 20 varieties of salsa available and little plastic cups to put them into. I particularly liked the one with pineapple as shown on the front; Tom preferred the more standard salsa with pieces of tomato at the back right. Later I added a green salsa ... perhaps cilantro and lime?

 I forget what Tom ordered but he ate it all, right down to the last bite. I loved my burrito but found it too much for one sitting so I carefully wrapped it in foil and paper ... and forget it when we left.

 My bean burrito ... partially eaten. Lots of black beans a rice. Nicely served in a metal tray.

 The interior of the restaurant is sort of "Mexican cantina". The walls and ceiling are painted a shade of orange.

 The stools have an X with a hash. Tom says this refers to cross-town rival, Xavier.
 Bottom line: Great Mexican food. Very similar to Chipotles and, in my opinion, neither better nor worse, just different. But the atmosphere is better by far and so too are the variety of salsa's offered. We'll certainly be back.