Tag Archives: Ohio

Up, Up and Away

Of all the running races I’ve done in the past 35+ years, one of my all-time favorites is the annual Up, Up and Away 5k,  held in conjunction with the Findlay (Ohio) Balloonfest.

Why does this race stand out? For one thing, it starts at 8 a.m., which is significant in August in Ohio, where the temp and humidity can often reach into  the 80s by 8 a.m. Then there’s the added exhilaration of watching the multi-colored hot air balloons fill and drift up to the sky above us as we approach the starting line. As we return to the finish line, the sky is dotted with many balloons.

And then there is the food table, sagging under the weight of slices of watermelon and bagels from Tim Horton’s.

Sure, those are all good reasons for loving this race, but the real reason we’re there is to help the Findlay Striders raise funds for the Hancock County (Ohio) Special Olympics. Following this year’s race, the local running club presented a check for $8,000. How great is that?

Once the 5k is over, we get to cheer on all the Special Olympians who are able to participate in a one-mile run/walk. Their persistence and strength far outshine the rest of us.

And somewhere in our attic is a box of race awards collected over the past 35+ years. But none of them means as much as the ones I’ve received at the Up, Up and Away. These unique awards are handcrafted by the Special Olympics athletes at the Kan Du Art Studio in downtown Findlay.

These are the only awards I actually keep out where I can see them on a daily basis because they serve as a daily reminder to be grateful for what is really important. photo (14)

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Farm to table: Cucumber yogurt salad on ours

Farm to table” is one of those buzzwords that is a bit irritating in that those who live in farming communities or small towns where large gardens are the norm, have been eating “farm to table” or garden to table for generations past. But in the sense that it has suggests a growing movement that promotes sustainability even in urban areas, it’s a good thing.

My brothers and I grew up in the same small town where I live today. Our parents had a huge garden which helped to feed the seven of us year round. Our basement (dusty cellar is a better description) had shelves lined with canned vegetables and fruit, jellies, ketchup (the real stuff), and later, a large chest freezer filled with more vegetables and fruits.

When we weren’t swimming or playing, we were snapping beans, shelling peas, husking corn, and peeling apples. This was not always done with a smile, but some resignation. Looking back, those chores taught us to be hard workers. Today all five — even the two in Tucson — have some sort of garden.

Because of time constraints, my edible garden consists mostly of lettuce, cucumbers, squash, tomatoes and herbs. Instead, I lean heavily on the local farmer’s market, as well as several farm stands, to eat “farm to table.”  Yesterday’s stop at the farmer’s market produced this take:

IMG_0136[1]Sweet corn, yellow and green sweet peppers, seedless cucumbers, zucchini and yellow squash of several varieties, white carrots, tiny red potatoes, green beans and brown eggs.

This will hold us for at least a few days until my own cukes and tomatoes are ready or I have to hit up the farm stand.

Yesterday, while figuring out what I wanted for lunch, the cucumbers produced a memory of a favorite salad. In the 70s, my mom began making her own yogurt, which became the basis of a dressing for cucumber salad. IMG_0146[1]

It’s still a favorite, and the fresh dill in my herb garden adds the perfect touch. I vary this, depending on what kind of vinegar is handy. Yesterday it was rice vinegar. Slice the cukes very thin — best done with a Bluffton (Ohio) Slaw Cutter, but a knife or food processor also works. This is a small recipe — perfect for one or two, but you can double or triple as necessary.

Cucumber Salad
1 long seedless cucumber, sliced thin
1/3 c. plain yogurt
1 tbsp. (or more) rice vinegar
1/3 tsp. lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Chopped fresh dill to taste

Whisk together the yogurt, vinegar, and dill and pour over the sliced cucumbers. Mix, then add salt and pepper to taste. If you can wait, refrigerate for an hour. It’s also really good a day later — if there is any left over.

Variations: Add chopped sweet peppers (any color) or onions.

Inside this restaurant are big breakfasts, a bus, Edsel grille and upside down bicycle

IMG_0440[1]How can you not love a restaurant with a bus AND a fishing boat inside and an airplane outside the front door? Who can resist eating a hearty breakfast inside the bus or boat? And then there are all those other quirky items like the Edsel hood behind the reception desk, an Elvis statue, a bicycle hanging upside down, a toilet seat mirror in the restroom, tire chandeliers, and countless classic vintage tin signs.IMG_0437[1]

Sadly, our daughter’s stint at Kent State is ending — well, actually, that part is good, except it means no more regular visits to Mike’s Place Restaurant, just outside Kent, Ohio. IMG_0436[1] IMG_0438[1]

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On a recent visit for brunch, we ordered an eclectic assortment of food items. Just beware — according to the menu, the chef is not fond of special orders and IF you are brave enough to try, expect a somewhat skeptical, dour glare from your server. Guess they know best anyway, because everything was scrumptious.

French toast

Broccoli and spinach omelet with home fries

Finding beauty in an dreary week of February

January and I don’t get along. Let’s just say I’m SO glad when February arrives because at least there is Valentine’s Day to celebrate and then you’re halfway through the month!

But okay. Enough is enough. It’s time for February to morph into March. It’s the time of year when we’re ready for something…anything…that suggests a possibility that spring isn’t so far away. Let’s just say the last few weeks in our part of Ohio have been — for the most part — dreary, cold and wet, with a few beautifully sunny days to whet our appetites for better weather.
A stroll through the back yard revealed some highlights…my favorite was the parsley that survived the winter underneath the snow. And then there were these beauties:

The green tips of spring flowers poking their heads up through the ground.

The green tips of spring flowers poking their heads up through the ground.

Forsythia buds -- time to cut a few to bring inside to force for early yellow color!

Forsythia buds — time to cut a few to bring inside to force for early yellow color!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the midst of searching for spring, it occurred to  me that I should be able to find some beauty in the ordinary, so I began looking for unusual plants, grasses and pretty berries. The local florists will never have to worry about me horning in on their business. But channeling my late mother-in–law, who could make the most straggly stems appear beautiful, here’s what I came up with. Not bad, eh?IMG_0391[1]

Facing winter head on: Increasing the endorphins with a snowy run

Here’s the problem with Ohio winters. They’re completely unpredictable. No, that’s not quite true. They’re predictably unpredictable.

On Monday, I ran in shorts and a t-shirt. Then the temps dropped to sub-freezing, the wind kicked up to 25 plus mph, and the snow followed. Back to the indoor track — for which I am ever-so-grateful. But today is Saturday, which means long-run day, and my body craved the outdoors. So I layered up, Velcro‘d on the Extreme Masque…IMG_0371[1]

…strapped on the YaktraxIMG_0372[1]

…and headed out. Toward the end of eight miles, I rounded the National Quarry on one of my favorite trails. My iTouch was on its last few minutes of battery power, so I turned on the video camera. This is for my friend, Debbie, whose heart is in ski and hiking country, but current home is in the city. This’ll probably make her even more homesick for her hometown.
Unfortunately, the battery died just before I reached my favorite rocks that overlook the water. And despite my footfalls and breathing, you get the idea of the peaceful feeling of this location.

You say toe-may-toe, I say toe-mah-toe

Really GOOD tomatoes in the middle of winter in the middle of Ohio is a rarity. I know this because I live in the middle of Ohio, but I also assume this is probably true in many parts of the country…unless one has access to a greenhouse like my brother in Virginia.

But right now I have a much-prized stash of REAL homegrown tomatoes — straight from the garden of another brother in Arizona. He was here for a visit this week and along with his running shoes and long underwear, he packed a bag filled with tomatoes. Ripe, red tomatoes.

Even he is a bit surprised by this crop. Usually, his tomatoes die out when the Arizona sun has all but fried them. This year, though, he left them there and a few months later began to notice flowers on the plants. Then there were green tomatoes — a slew of them. Just before their most recent frost, he and his grandson picked 1 1/2 buckets of the tomatoes. He set them — about 64 — on top of a file cabinet where they’d catch the sun through a nearby window. They quickly turned red.

And so…the tomatoes flew along with him to Ohio, where we are now happily eating them.

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My brother, Phil, AKA tomato producer, and me

My brother, Phil, AKA tomato producer, and me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

What Bluffton’s Swinging Nature Preserve has in common with Neil Armstrong and Jimi Hendrix

Some pretty major events occurred in 1969. On August 20 of that year, Neil Armstrong became the first person to set foot on the moon and immortalized the words, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Just a few days earlier, more than 400,000 music lovers attended “Woodstock” to hear Jimi Hendrix; the Who; and Crosby, Stills and Nash, among others.

Opposition to the Vietnam War continued to gain strength with demonstrations staged around the country — some peaceful, some violent.

And in a tiny town in northwest Ohio, the local college completed construction of a swinging bridge that spanned the Riley Creek and became a favorite destination for those hiking the paths of Bluffton University’s Swinging Bridge Nature Preserve.

In 1969, I was 13. Go ahead, you do the math. Since then, I’ve crossed that bridge and skated under it countless times. Even so, each time I cross it, I’m struck by a sense of amazement and peace.

My guess is that a lot of people who live in Bluffton, Ohio, are not even aware that the bridge exists nor of the many trails that wind through the nature preserve.

Needing a bit of that peace and quiet, this morning’s run took me along the paths of the preserve, ending up at the bridge. Here’s what I found:

The early bird gets the….blackberries!

One of my brothers lives in the mountains of Virginia where he regularly picks a variety of wild berries on his runs up the mountainside and into the woods.  This never really impressed me because I don’t like blackberries and raspberries so why bother picking them?

Or at least that was my perspective until I heard Hank Shaw talk about hunting, fishing, and foraging your own food. Shaw, the author of “Hunt, Gather, Cook: Finding the Forgotten Feast”, offers advice to anyone interested in taking a more active role in determining what they feed themselves and their families.

Ironically, during a recent run I was listening to Shaw’s conversation on a Splendid Table podcast. A few minutes later, I stopped near a favorite rock to take a break. There, within an arm’s reach, grew a rambling bush of wild blackberries.

I grabbed a few, shoved them in my shorts pocket for my husband and decided to return later in the week to pick more. The next day, the destructive derecho windstorm swept through our part of Ohio, replacing those visions of blackberries with downed ancient trees, power lines, and a week of struggling back to normality.

But this morning — the Fourth of July — I loaded up my bike basket with containers and pedaled down to my rock and the blackberry bush — all the time wondering whether the winds had swept the berries into the nearby water. But no…there they were, looking as if they were just bursting with flavor.

This was not an easy task — one can’t just lift a branch to grab a bunch of berries unless one enjoys the pain of the thorny brambles. So it was careful picking. Worse, some of the best ones hung over the water, where I could just barely reach them by standing on the ancient flagstone overhang.

But hey, I felt a little like Euell Gibbons in “Stalking the Wild Asparagus”, returning home with a bowlful of berries. It was worth battling the thorny branches. And strangely, freshly picked blackberries actually taste pretty good. Might have to rethink my dislike of berries.

Did you know that long ago, people used blackberry bushes to magically cure  whooping cough? They’d pass the victim under the arching bramble seven times, reciting:

In bramble, out cough
Here I leave the whooping cough.

Bluffton University Nature Preserve offers change in running route

Runners (and probably walkers) easily get into the rut of covering the same ground day after day — especially early morning runners because routes are limited by the lack of light.  But a vacation and a new set of eyes (and feet) can remind us of what we’re missing in our own neighborhoods.

This is why today’s run took me on a trail I’ve not been on for at least a year, probably longer. My daughter — home for Grandma’s big birthday — reported that she’d run the Bluffton University Nature Preserve, an outdoor education area with eight-acre lake and nature trails.

In addition to discovering some new trails she didn’t remember, she’d also seen a vole and a mama groundhog with her fat babies. That was enough to make me head out there early this morning, while the air was still chilly enough to keep me comfortable.

The nature preserve is about a mile from our house, and just before you reach the drive to the preserve, I noticed lots of climbing pink wild roses. Wonder if someone would mind if I clipped a piece to try rooting? They’re beautiful.

The nature preserve is well-shaded on the path I chose, which winds around the lake and through the woods, back to the Riley Creek and the swinging bridge. I couldn’t pass up the chance to walk across the bridge — running is not advised.

A wave of nostalgia hit me when across the creek, I saw the childhood home of my friend, Karen Kreider. I’d spent many days and nights at that house, exploring the creek in the summer and skating on it in the winter.

While I kept my eyes peeled for groundhogs, I saw none, but I did see a heron in the creek, some geese in the tall grass near the creek, and a deer on the path about five feet ahead of me. He looked at me for a second before taking off down the path, so I followed him and caught another glimpse when he stopped to look back at me. I guess he was hoping I’d give up.

With all of my family rolling in for our mom’s 90th birthday, I’m guessing we’ll be taking that route multiple times over the next few days. It’s a favorite for most of my brothers — also runners/walkers — so it’ll be fun to see what other wildlife we encounter.