Sunday, January 31, 2016

Mt. Airy Forest: Everybody's Treehouse

 What? A treehouse in a Cincinnati park? Tom read about this in a newspaper article some weeks ago and handed it to me. Yep, something we both had to see. The treehouse - called Everybody's Treehouse - is billed as the only wheelchair accessible treehouse in Ohio.

 Located in Mt. Airy Forest, the location isn't far from Tom's apartment. We were hoping for a good weather day and we certainly picked one. It was 63° - on January 30th, yet - in the mid-afternoon as we pulled into the park.

 Access to the treehouse is via an elevated ramp. Thus the handicap accessibility.

 The treehouse itself - completed in 2006 - is not so much a traditional treehouse (though it has trees growing up through it) but more of a small building built on stilts.

 Here's a view of the interior ceiling.

 That sounds like quite a lot of weight of me. If an average person weighed 150 pounds, that'd be nearly four tons.

Bill Schmidt

 The roofing is natural shake shingles. Good choice.

Tom Buhler 

 A large expanse of the roof is open to the wind. Tom fired up a compass program on his cell phone and this area shows to be facing west. I'd think during a sudden summer thunderstorm, the rain would pour in through this opening.

 I'm surprised that the treehouse is open until 10 pm. There is power and ample lighting, though. The video surveillance is probably more needed to prevent vandalism than for safety.

 In a distant tree, the video camera is mounted high above the ground. I didn't see any power cables attached to it. Apparently it is wireless, thus the antenna on top.

IHOP for Brunch

 Tom and I wanted to visit Mt. Airy Forest in Cincinnati, something not too far away from where he lives. But where to eat in that area just to the west? We started north on Colerain (27) and, though we passed plenty of eateries, none met with out particular interest yesterday.

 But when an IHOP came into view, we both said, "That's the place". Good choice, too.

 Though they were busy (it was about 1:30 pm on a Saturday) we had to wait no more than about ten minutes. In the meantime, flat screen TV monitors near the ceiling ticked off some of their notable offerings. I decided on the stuffed French toast right then and there.

 Various flavors of syrup were already on the table. Our waitress filled one as we sat down. By the way, the service was phenomenal ... great smiles and constant attention.

 Tom ordered some sort of garden omelet with avocado. There wasn't much avocado - a few slices were placed atop for an extra $0.99 - but it looked wonderful just the same. I love the ample amount of fresh spinach. The omelet was particularly colorful and covered an entire plate,

 Tom also got a side of blueberry pancakes with the omelet. They're something I usually order - and when I saw these I had a sudden pang of regret - but when I saw what I had ordered I felt fully satisfied.

 Ah, stuffed French toast with glazed strawberry topping. Yum! The two thick slices of toast are somehow sealed (and perhaps deep fried?) with cream cheese inside. There are three flavors offered. They also have strawberry/vanilla and peach. I'd have been happy with any of them. Blueberry would have been a great offering, too.

 We haven't had an IHOP in the Dayton area for many years (we used to go to one on 725 just west of the Dayton Mall). I understand one is under construction in the Austin Road (Miamisburg) area. It's certainly a place Tom and I will have to check out.

 The place certainly hit the spot.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Opening Minds Through Art

 Tom and my mutual friend, Dolores Bowling, a resident of Twin Towers in Cincinnati, continues her interest in art and recently had work exhibited at the Opening Minds Through Art show on January 13.

Though Tom couldn't attend the actual event - he worked that night - he was able to view some pieces in advance. One of Bowling's works was shown on the cover of the event program.

Sponsored by Scripp's Opening Minds through Art, the program was founded in 2007 by Dr. Elizabeth Lokon, PhD, at the Scripp's Gerontology Center at Miami University. Both Tom and I graduated from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

Justifiably proud of Dolores, here's one of her prize-winning works.

©2016 Dolores Bowling - All Rights Reserved

OMA "promotes social engagement, autonomy and dignity through the experience of self-expression".

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Mint Chocolate Delights

 Tom's always on the lookout for a bargain. Just after Christmas he arrived with a large bag of goodies, mostly sweets. Among those were a couple of bags of seasonal Nestle Toll House morsels. One was the Dark Chocolate and Mint Morsels variety. Normally $2, Tom got them for $0.99 each.

 Today is a gray, quiet day and I told Mom I thought I'd bake. The morsels have been giving me a "come hither" look for some weeks so I decided this was a good day to use them.

One of the recipes on the back of the bag was for Mint Chocolate Delights. The recipe is available here. I have to tell you right off, the cookies I made look nothing like the ones pictured. What made the difference? Well, I used Hershey's Dark Chocolate cocoa (because that's what I already had) and I think my portion scoop makes considerably larger cookies (the recipe calls for 48; I only managed 29).

 While the cookies look different, they're certainly excellent ... extremely chocolate (in the "death by chocolate" category) with a fine scent of mint in every bite.

Mint Chocolate Delights

The completed batter 

 It pays to let the batter sit on the counter for ten minutes or so. It will stiffen up a bit and become less sticky to work with. Better than using a tablespoon to dip this batter out, use a #30 portion scoop. It'll make larger cookies as I've shown. Increase the baking time to as long as 17 minutes, too.

The first pan is portioned out and ready for the oven 

I laid the cookies on our butcher block table to cool

 The Nestle mint morsels are seasonal, of course, so you're not going to find them any time of the year but Christmas. One baker substituted Andes mints.

Another stop at Fazolis ...

 Last Saturday (01/23) Tom and I managed to get away long enough to make several stops: first to Stockslager's Garden Center where he bought a bag of hyacinth bulbs for forcing; then to Fazoli's for lunch; and finally to the West Carrollton YMCA for a quick swim and shower.

 I usually opt for their spaghetti and marinara (meatless). Tom chose a sampler (background) and salad. Each was about the same price ($7.78 me; $8.57 Tom). It's really great Italian food and at a good price. I ordered a child's portion of my meal to take home for Mom.

Tom Buhler 

Bill Schmidt 

Bob Schmidt

 Earlier I gave Bob a pig item that Tom found at a Cincinnati thrift store. It was painted black and Tom removed all the dark paint with a brush and his fingernails. Bob might use this to hold pencils on his desk. An earlier one found its way to Nancy's kitchen where it holds a small scrubbing pad.

 Mom's slowly recovering from a couple of falls. With these short trips, I'm able to get away for an hour or two and don't feel that I'm putting her at undue risk. So far, so good.

Pinehaven - HDR View

 I've been experimenting a bit with an HDR (High Dynamic Range) app on my smartphone. Here's a shot I took of Pinehaven on January 21 at about 1:45 pm.

 HDR photos have intrigued me for some time. They allow for a greater range of luminosity and are said to more closely mimic the human eye's response than standard photography. There's no doubt that the photographs it produces are noticeably different.

 I have Samsung Galaxy S4 Android smartphone and I'm playing around with a program called Camera HDR Studio. Read about it by clicking here.

 The photo I posted (in it's full-resolution form) is 3264x1836 pixels and is a 5.91 MB file. Though I've uploaded it at that full resolution, Blogger has probably compressed it and lost much of the range. Still, click on the picture for the highest resolution Blogger allows to see something comparable to what I'm seeing on my monitor.

 I notice particularly that the shadowed snow shows details, something that would surely be missing in a standard photograph. Of course the picture was taken in about the brightest condition possible: full sun with enough snow to really add brilliant lighting.

 HDR will be an interesting app to experiment with. What's most amazing is that another camera need not be purchased. My existing phone (with camera capability) is all that's needed. The app is free (though a "Pro" version is available).

Added 1/29/16: I took this HDR shot in the early afternoon of 1/29/16 from the south lawn facing north.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Shake It Records

 Not far from Tom's apartment is Shake It Records at 4156 Hamilton Avenue. The place is an interesting time portal and it plays especially clearly "my" decade, the 1960's. There are Beatles posters and other memorabilia galore.

It's interesting to me that the store stocks so many vinyl LP's. I suppose that format is coming back. And they sell used electronic equipment, such as turntables, Shades of 1965!

 The store physically reminds of the "five and dime" stores that were so common in the 1950's  For those of you old enough, remember the creaky wooden floors? They're still here.
 And with music available via downloads and streaming services, it's a testament to stick-to-it-iveness that this place continues to draw a steady stream of customers ... young and old, I might add. I love this throwback to earlier days.

 Near the rear of the store there's a "Beat Time" pinball machine that's been converted to a Beatles theme. Not sure how they pulled that off, or whether the machine is available for play (it appears to be operative with coin slot and metal ball) but it sure looks good sitting there.

 Besides the music, there are lot of posters and books. Tom bought a used book on Janis Joplin. Those of us who grew up during the years of the Beatles invasion - or those nostalgic for what they missed - certainly have a place they can call home.

 It's worth the trip to Northside just to step through the door.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

 Every Saturday morning my DVR records Cook's Country and America's Test Kitchen on our local PBS affiliate (WPTD, channel 16). I enjoy watching the programs in the evening when I have time. A recent program showed Chocolate Crinkle Cookies. I was enthralled by the look of the cookie ... a fractured top, dark chocolate beneath, white powdered sugar above. Could I make them?

 The program offered two warnings: "Cookies are the most high-risk type of baking you can do". And, it also stated that these Chocolate Crinkle Cookies (are) "at the top of the most dangerous baking pyramid".

 I was equally warned and challenged.

 What choice did I have but to give it a try?

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies - the result

Gathering the ingredients

 I used Hershey's Cocoa's dark chocolate version. And I used a 4 ounce bar of Ghirardelli chocolate for the simple reason that they are the best. There's a ton of chocolate flavor in these two items.

 The resulting batter resembles that for brownies rather than cookies. When it's first mixed it is extremely wet and sticky and unable to be handled. The TV program said the batter did not have to be refrigerated but merely left sitting on the counter for ten minutes before use. They're right. In just that short amount of time the batter can be touched on top. Yes, it's still sticky when you dig into it with a #30 portion scoop, but when you place the dollop into granulated sugar, it can be handled easily.
 I did not buy unsweetened butter but rather used my regular margarine and cut back to less salt than the recipe calls for. That worked fine for me.

 And here's the cookies just out of the oven. They need to cool on the cookie sheet before removing them. The cookie, at least for the first half hour (I haven't checked back), are chewy inside, similar to a fudge brownie. I suspect the cookies will set further but remain a somewhat a "soft" cookie.

 The taste? Decadently chocolate! And beautiful to look at.