Monthly Archives: October 2012

Nothing like a day in the (faux) tropics to warm you up

Fall is great when the sun is shining and the air is crisp, but the sun warms you from the outside in. Cider, apples, leaves changing color from green to varying shades of gold and red, and everything else that goes with the season.

But some days are not so great. They’re gray and rainy and chill you to the bones. Those are the days to plan a trip to an aquarium, where the air is warm and humid and you can spend hours imagining yourself thousands of miles away.

One of our recent trips took us to the Newport Aquarium, located just two miles from downtown Cincinnati, just across the Ohio River in Newport, Ky. Plan to make a day of it, because you’ll certainly want to check out the other stores and restaurants in the area of Newport on the Levee.

The aquarium houses thousands of animals from around the world in a million gallons of water. You’ll be stunned by the colorful fish, the sharks and crocodiles, and my favorite, the adorable penguins.

At certain times of day, you can participate in feeding the animals, and there are always several exhibits where you can actually touch some of them, such as sharks. And your child could be chosen to lead the parade of the penguins.

As usual, photos tell the better story, so here you are.These represent just some of what we saw and did. Since the penguins are my favorite, I’m starting with a video of them.













































































We’ll miss you, hon.

Stepping inside Groves’ Quality Antiques and Collectibles in downtown Bluffton, there was the unmistakable smell of old furniture mixed with the distinct scent of whatever pet bunny or cat was living in the store’s animal shelter. And always — from somewhere in the store — came a cheery, “Hi Hon!” that had long been Robin Wilch’s signature greeting to her regular customers. Who knows? Maybe she called everyone that. No matter. It made each person feel special, and that was Robin’s intent.

I’d known Robin since childhood, mostly as one of the older sisters of my friend, Penny. We were merely tolerated as the “little kids” and were for the most part, ignored as we settled into the magic of Barbie Central. But Robin had different memories of those days and surprised me with her comments. She also liked to tell me funny stories about my husband, who had grown up across the street from the Wilch’s house.

That was her way. She made a point of connecting with each customer. The same age as my brother, Tom, and a year younger than my brother, James, she almost always asked how they were and then told me some story about one of them.

Like any good small town store owner, she often remembered what each customer had purchased on prior visits and/or knew what that person was searching for.  She’d direct me to a location in the store where she knew there was an item that I collected.

We often talked about “recycling projects” that we’d read about and often involved items she had for sale. If she didn’t have the right item, she’d assure me that she’d find one at an auction or garage sale.

When my daughter was moving into a new neighborhood in Cincinnati, she was delighted to find a vintage 1950s diner-style chrome and aluminum table that someone had left at the curb. The one thing it lacked was chairs. On my next stop in to Groves, I found a similar table with two matching chairs.

Discovering that we needed only the chairs, Robin offered to sell me just the chairs at an amazingly reasonable price. She would, she said, certainly find more of them soon enough.

Hers was the kind of store that customers returned to time and again — sometimes with a specific item in mind, sometimes just to look around…hoping to eye the perfect find. But with Robin, you didn’t need a reason. She was just happy to see her customers happy.

And so it was that when Robin died Friday, Oct. 19, after a brief illness, her death shook this small community. Each of her friends and customers has a story to tell.

In a nod to her signature phrase, “We’ll miss you, hon.”


15 years later, celebrating the memories

I often wonder why it is that in my dreams, my dad always appears to be perfectly healthy. None of the pain and suffering that he went through during the last few years of his life seem to make their way into my nighttime images.

A few years ago, it occurred to me that every October, I begin to experience a sense of dread and depression. I finally connected this to the fact that it was late September/early October of 1997 when we realized that Dad’s fight with cancer was ending. On October 24 of that year, he died.

So this year, preparing for the usual bout of depression, I decided to refocus my thoughts, to remember the good times with Dad. To outsiders, he was quiet, shy, and — at least to his less serious students — a bit too challenging in the classroom. But those who knew him well appreciated his dry wit, his slow, well worded responses, his love of all genres of music (Pink Floyd was a favorite), his diverse interests — gardening, woodworking, exercise, baking, photography, even macrame.

And to six kids, he was just Grandpa. The guy who could answer all of their toughest questions, tell the best stories, give the best massages, stay underwater in the pool longer than anyone else, and fix whatever was broken.

Dad agreed with the well-known photographer Ansel Adams, that ““You don’t take a photograph, you make it.”

When we moved our mom from the house they’d lived in for nearly 50 years and later, from her condo, we sifted through — literally — thousands of photographs and slides taken by Dad, his dad and his uncle. As is usually true of the photographer, their lenses are usually focused on the rest of the world so images of them are rare. But in my own attic are boxes of photos, from which I found some favorites. It’s true that photos can tell a story.

The annual experiment: Harvesting, drying and freezing herbs

When one lives in a farming community, fall brings with it the frequent rumble of tractors and trailers passing by as they haul their harvest to the local grain elevator. It was that rumble and the threat of an imminent freeze that reminded me that it was high time to harvest my herb garden.Early this summer, as the herbs began to grow…

There is no exact science to harvesting, then drying or freezing herbs. To quote Janet Killborn Phillips, “There are no gardening mistakes,
only experiments.”
Every year, it’s a new experiment: which herbs to dry and which to freeze. Truthfully, the decision usually rests on time and patience  — neither of which I possess in great quantities.
There is also no routine to my process….otherwise, the herbs would freeze in the ground before I got around to begin cutting. I’m sure there is some expert herbalist out there who will argue this point but too bad for him or her. I was raised by a biologist who saw everything as an experiment. Maybe it would work. Maybe not. But it the end, it’s all a learning experience.
To give you an idea of how this ended up, here are some photos. Oh, and one more thing….baby food jars make excellent containers for dried herbs.
Mint waiting to be dried in the microwave
Lovage heading to the freezer

Oregano waiting to be dried in the microwave

Dried oregano and thyme to be crushed and placed in glass jars


From vintage Adidas Dragon to 2012’s Brooks GTS12: a retrospective

Here’s the thing about running shoes. Just when you find the pair you really really like, the company’s “experts” decide it’s time for a change. Ask any long time runner — change is not always a good thing. Back in the early 1980s when I first began running, there was a limited choice of running shoes. The science of running hadn’t yet delved into the complexities of pronation, cushioning, motion control, stability — not to mention the much contested minimalist/barefoot options.
Pity the poor newbie runners confronted by all those shoes. Even the old-timers shudder at the thought of having to replace old favorites.
It occurred to me recently that it was time to start searching for a new shoe. Sadly, Asics had finally decided to quit producing my long-time favorites, the GT2110. I knew this was coming — they’d long warned the shoe was “endangered.”
My search resulted in a sort 0f nostalgic retrospective of the many shoes I’ve run in over the years.
My first pair was a heavyweight faux leather shoe of no particular distinction. I remember them clearly — white with green stripes. They must have weighed at least 3 pounds each — triple the weight of my beloved ASICS.
Those lasted only until I discovered there were real shoes made for runners but as I remember, only men’s sizes were available. My second pair was the ultra cool tan nylon and suede Adidas Dragon, a shoe I would love to have again.

After that, there were a series of Brooks, Saucony, and a horrendous pair of Nikes that were so unbending that I developed the dreaded plantar fasciitis. A wonderful physical therapist took one look at the shoes and wrote a letter to the company insisting that they reimburse me the cost of the shoes.
More importantly, she taught my husband to massage the fascia from the heel to toes — a process so painful that my screams prompted our young daughters to beg their dad to stop. The massages and professional orthotics corrected the fasciitis, but convinced me that I needed a flexible shoe.
Somewhere along the way I discovered Asics, progressing from the Gel versions to my current GT2110.

None of the subsequent GT models have passed muster so it was only a matter of time before I had to face facts. Time to search for a replacement.
Note: Here is where two of my brothers — both of whom read Christopher McDougall‘s “Born to Run,” would lecture me about the futility of buying new shoes.
Okay, so sometimes I listen to them, but this is one of the times when I didn’t. Instead, I hightailed it to my favorite store — Dave’s Running, at their Findlay location. A look at the bottom of my shoes suggested that I overpronate and need something with cushioning and flexibility.
The result? Returning to a brand I once loved…Brooks…the Adrenaline GTS12. It has one thing my feet crave — a wide toe box.
And now…the breaking in has begun. Will these be my next favorites? Only time and mileage will tell.

Fall festival spices up a small town Saturday

Saturdays in a small town can be pretty routine — an early morning run, farmer’s market, house maintenance, grocery shopping, dinner out. But once in awhile a weekend is so full of activities, you barely stop moving.

Last Saturday, Bluffton’s annual fall festival offered activities that appealed not only to locals of all ages, but plenty of out-of-towners. Kids’ activities downtown, a quilt show, antique tractor show, car raffle, movie premier, silent auction, public library anniversary celebration, health fair, corn maze and hayrides at Suter’s.

We made the rounds, but my favorite stop is the Swiss Homestead, partly because my great-great-grandfather was one of 163 grandchildren of Peter and Elizabeth Schumacher, who lived on the farm with their 16 children. But mostly, I just love being out in the country.

To give you an idea of what we saw during our various stops, here are some photos:

This tractor reminds me of my Grandpa Suter’s tractor. I remember it being gray, but since that was a LONG time ago, I’m probably wrong.

Two of my cousins playing with the baby ducks.

Feeding adorable baby goats

Herb garden

Jonah Agner baking bread

Slicing ham off the spit

Who wouldn’t love playing in a giant “corn box”?

Giant corncob at Suter’s Corn Maze