Saturday, February 28, 2009

February- The BIG BIRTHDAY Month!

Well, February is almost gone- and the last of the February birthdays were celebrated today. This is a BIG MONTH!- and this year particularly was a BIG YEAR. Don and I both turned 60! Amy- our niece turned 40! And Matthew celebrated 30! And then there was Taylor weighing in at 3- and Lucas (who shares Matthews birthday) at 5! We began the month with Tracy's, our niece's birthday on the first and ended with Elaine, our sister-in-law's on this very last day. A very short month- but a whole lot of partying going on!

When I got home from work on my birthday I found that my neighbors had decorated the yard to announce to the neighborhood that I am now a card carrying member of the Golden Buckeye Club- and can get those senior discounts!

Mary, Kevin and our BABES came for dinner.

And Mary brought my favorite- chocolate on chocolate from the Wyoming Pastry Shop.

And then we went to a great local French restaurant to celebrate our friend, Mary's, birthday- see I told you this is a BIG MONTH (you can see why if you count back 9 months- you know that little ditty about where one's fancy turns in the spring- well the results show up in February).

And of course desert!

And then tonight Michael and Liz took us out for our birthdays.

And we went to a Japanese restaurant- and I had my favorite- the BarBQ eel. YUM!

So this month draws to a close- and the party is over!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Bluffton on Valentines Day

This last weekend Max and I made our first trip up to Bluffton since returning from California. We always like to go there in the winter, not so much because it is usually a lot colder or because they have more snow, but instead because we love to go watch the kids play winter sports. This is the time of the year for basketball and both Bailey and Darby had games on Saturday. We arrived on Friday evening and Pat & Kelly ordered pizza delivered for dinner. After absolutely stuffing ourselves, we settled into an evening with the family. Aaron (Shelby's squeeze who is a student at U. Cincinnati) was in town for the Valentine's Day/President's Day weekend and joined us until it was obvious that spending time with us was not exactly what they had in mind.

But they did hang around for a while and showed us how to use the boxing game on the Wii..

Lucas does NOT like the boxing- too violent!

But soon it was over and it was all smiles!

Darby filled in behind them as she seems to be the Wii master in this household. Here she is doing some "shadow boxing" showing us her great moves that usually gives her a win in this game. We figured she is the master because she uses it the most. She and Bailey even created a Wii player image for Max and me, both of which really looked a lot like us.

And Bailey was there some of the evening too, but her Valentine's Day School dance took greater priority that evening, and I'm pretty sure we all agreed that she would have more fun there than at home with us. She is 13 and after all, once you get to be that old, just hanging around with the old folks just isn't at the top of the "to do" list.

Max spent much of the evening playing games with Darby and Lucas using the new game table that Pat built. Wow, what a nice game table. You really can't see it very well in this picture, but it has a removable insert in the top with a Checker Board burnt into it, and the whole table is made out of Walnut. It is beautiful. I lost- big time- I lost at UNO- I lost at Go Fish- I did manage to salvage the evening with a BIG WIN at checkers.

And while Max was playing the games, I took the opportunity to rest my eyes for a little while on their couch. Just resting his eyes, mind you, just resting his eyes!

On Saturday morning we all got up early for the busy day ahead. Kelly was up early getting breakfast started. She made some wonderful "biscuit cinnamon rolls" and a breakfast pizza.

Lucas has a particular fondness for the biscuits with the strawberry icing.

After breakfast, we all headed off to Bailey's basketball game. This is their championship tournament and it was their first game of the tournament. Bailey is absolutely the best player on her team. She scored their first 8 points and ended up with 12 points and high scorer for both teams. In fact she almost scored as many points as the other team since they had a decisive win 26-13.

Here's a couple of action shots of Bailey on offense (that's her shooting the ball).

And on defense:

Bailey was WONDERFUL! It was such a pleasure to watch. It was so much fun to see the incredible progress she has made since we watched her last. Watch out GREAT UNCLES- This one sure might give your records a run for their money!

Next we were off to Darby's game. Darby is more of a defensive specialist, one who's hair looks awfully nice.

Darby's team is a coed team- actually on the two teams we watched- Darby's and her opponent- has two girls- Darby and one other. And this game looked a bit more like a contact sport- than basketball- The refs just weren't into fouls- But I was impressed- Darby held her own!

Shelby and Aaron "stopped by"- on their way to lunch to watch.

And then it was time to begin the Valentine's Day PARTY! IT WAS AMAZING! Kelly really knows how to celebrate holidays.

Kelly et al make homemade cards each year- and Kelly carefully saved these each year and then uses them to decorate all the doors with hand made Valentine Day's cards. Kelly even made Don and I our own homemade card. IT WAS INCREDIBLE!

There were presents and candy and brownies!

And of course the LOVE BIRDS!

But before we go I have to share a marvelous recipe. This is a treat- on Valentine's Day- or any day for that matter. They are:


The recipe was in "Bon Appetite" by Molly Wizenberg. Molly is my favorite food blogger. You can check her blog out at:
It has won all kinds of awards. And she has found a real soft spot in my heart. And she's from Oklahoma. Now that's enough to make me a fan!
But enough of that.

1. Whisk 2 cups of flour with 1/2 tsp of baking powder and 1/4 tsp of salt.
2. In a stand mixer blend 1 cup of butter (DO NOT SUBSTITUTE MARGARINE)- with 1 1/4 cup of dark brown sugar. I'm not sure if a hand mixer will work- so if someone tries this recipe with a hand mixer rather than a stand mixer let me know how it works).
3. Add 2 tbsp of instant expresso powder and 1/2 tsp of almond extract (I used almond oil- it's what I had on hand- and gives a more "adult" taste- Don loves it!)
4. Add the flour- 1/3 of the mixture at a time- mix until just absorbed.
5. Stir in 1 cup of chocolate chips and 1/2 cup of sliced almonds.

6. Turn the dough out onto an ungreased rimmed baking sheet. This stuff is really thick- so you use your hands to press into a 12 inch square. Pierce with fork at 1 inch intervals.

7. Bake in 325 degree oven for 45 to 50 minutes (edges are lightly browned). Cool on the sheet for 1 minute.
8. Cut into 48 bars (I used a pizza cutter to cut). Cool on rack.
9. Eat! Don loved them- and he hates chocolate. He just said these weren't chocolate- I think they're better than chocolate!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Amber, Chicago, and Loyola

Last weekend Max and I drove the 300 miles from Cincinnati to Chicago to spend the weekend with Amber. Who would have thought that in early February we would be in Chicago and the temperatures would be near 60? Well, I just think we've heard just about enough whining from all those folks in Chicago telling us just how cold they are- we were there and it just ain't so- sunny- low 60's- now what is to complain about- think they must all be transplants from southern California with thin skin- why we've been in single digits here in Cincy, and only complained a little. Well maybe we did complain a lot- but then we're from southern Ohio- so we expect a bit more of the balmy- besides if you're from Cincy you really know how to complain about the weather! But we were lucky, the sun was bright, the breezes light, and the weather warm. The locals were absolutely in heaven, going out for walks in shorts and T-shirts. Had we been back in San Francisco, the locals would have been in wool coats, hats, gloves, and boots, not necessarily because it was so cold, but because it was February - the time to wear winter clothes regardless of the weather. But these Chicagoans were enjoying the relative heat of the weekend.

What does one do in the evening in a small apartment in Chicago. Well it was our first night and we had already eaten dinner at the Chicago Diner, so the next thing on the agenda was get out the computers and everyone do FaceBook.

But wait a minute- I want to talk about food- the food at Chicago Diner! The Chicago Diner ( has been vegetarian since 1983- way before vegetarian had gone mainstream. And do I need to remind you we are not in California- we are in the heart of the Midwest. So we're always leading- we just don't "brag" so much as the folks on the coasts!

And I had THE BEST REUBEN SANDWICH of my entire life- notice I did not say I had the best "vegetarian" Reuben of my life- NO! I had the BEST REUBEN SANDWICH of my entire life!

I can't wait to have this again!
And then- with much teasing by Don and Am- I did continue with my photography in "public" places- I think maybe- just maybe- they are sometimes just a bit- or maybe even more than a bit- embarrassed by all the time I make them wait- just a bit- for one more picture!

And did you know that Amber lives in Boys town- - From Wikipedia-(Boystown is the popular name of a locally recognized neighborhood enclave within Chicago, Illinois. Situated within the formal neighborhood of Lakeview, it was the first officially recognized gay village in the United States,[1] as well as the cultural center of one of the largest lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender (LGBT) communities in the nation. Boystown has grown into a cultural center for the nearly 300,000 LGBT residents estimated to live within the Chicago metropolitan area today.) Should we tell San Fran exactly how slow they are to catch on to all the new trends started in the MIDWEST!

But then they probably wouldn't believe us anyway...

And then on Saturday morning it was off to Ann Sathers ( for the absolutely best breakfast you can find anywhere!

And with this wonderful omelet you get TWO SIDES- and of course you'd be absolutely crazy not to get the cinnamon rolls- you got it- TWO CINNAMON ROLLS. So for the three of us we had SIX cinnamon rolls.

On Saturday we set out to explore Am's new territory. She lives in "Wrigleyville" (in case you think we're confusing you- all of these neighborhood designations are a bit fluid- and Boys Town is overlapping with Wrigleyville best I can tell) which is just north of the Chicago downtown and given its namesake, Wrigley Field. In fact Am is about 3 blocks away. That's her in the picture below. The person on the left.

But the Ballpark doesn't look so very inviting...

But it is fun to look up at the roof tops- just waiting for the start of baseball season (Don reminded me tonight that spring training starts in a week- that means it's almost time for baseball).

We caught the "EL" next to the ballpark and headed north to Loylola where Am attends classes.

The campus is right on the lake and the picture below was taken from the Library. I'm not sure how one could concentrate on books sitting in front this window and gazing at this beautiful blue lake.

And of course there is a beautiful chapel..

And a grand study hall...

And we step outside and look out on the lake...

And a stop at the local Starbucks:

And then we of course had the FAMOUS Chicago deep dish pizza ( have we mentioned that we could not- not once- find a decent pizza in San Fran (other than the pizza we made ourselves). But WOW! This pizza was SOOOOOOO good.

And then they had a chocolate chip pizza- and Amber enjoyed!

And then it was back to Amber's apartment for the rest of the evening- now there is quite a night life in Chicago- and my guess is that Amber is at least occasionally a participant- but for the three of us- we had a quieter celebration in mind.

A BOTTLE OF THE GOOD STUFF FROM THE BASEMENT! Have we told you about the GOOD STUFF? See Don started buying "good" wine- wine that keeps- to "cellar"- or for us that means "basement". And this was the first bottle of the GOOD STUFF we opened- to celebrate- with Amber- her new life- and our 60th birthdays- and all the fun we were having!

And of course Cat loved my yarn! So there was a party for all!

But then it was time to go. But we'll be back- I need my urban fix-