Saturday, September 24, 2011


Today, my husband and I embarked on what might end up being our last motorcycle ride of the year and we had a lovely time visiting the tiny town of Charm, Ohio.

Squarely in Amish country, but not a tourist trap, the town boasts a great "Amish-style" restaurant called Grandma's Homestead. My husband had eaten there a decade ago and has been talking about it ever since, so I'm glad we finally made it there. All good things come to those who wait, they say.

I had the pan-fried chicken with mashed potatoes, which was very good, and my husband had a veggie burger, which didn't disappoint him. Then it was on to pumpkin pie for me (the first of the now-official fall season) and he had cherry pie, which he was kind enough to say wasn't as good as the one I make. Of course, the one I prepare enjoys the advantage of a pricey cherry pie filling courtesy of Williams-Sonoma, which is unbeatable. (I did try to pit my own cherries once. The feat will never be repeated. I'd rather pay for the pricey filling...)

While my hubby went off to take pictures, I visited a nearby cheese factory and secured some famous baby Swiss for him and Amish Butter Cheese for me (it's as delicious as it sounds).  Then we embarked on our return trip and decided to stop at a place where we'd seen a sign promising the "Longest Covered Bridge in Ohio."

We were not disappointed.

The aptly named "Bridge of Dreams" is felicitously located in a bucolic site, which provided the perfect setting for the end of our first fall 2011 bike adventure (well, to the extent that I do adventures on a bike). This was a lovely day, well spent with my favorite person in the whole world even after more than 17 years of marriage. It never ceases to amaze me how, despite how difficult and stubborn we can each be, we are still such good company to each other the vast majority of the time. I can think of no greater blessing in my life.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Studies in sunlight

There are times of the year when the light changes. My favorite change occurs in the fall when the sun becomes more ocher at sunset.

Today, as the sun set, we could espy it playing with the shadows in our bedroom and lighting a few trees and objects with its fading golden light, like the spinning blue flower my mother-in-law recently gave us.

My husband, with a much better camera than mine, was able to do justice to these "studies in sunlight."


Sunday, September 11, 2011

A decade later...

All through my childhood, I remember people around me mentioning how they would never forget where they were, and what they were doing, the day that John F. Kennedy was assassinated. I always wondered how a historical event could cause so many people, even in different parts of the world, to feel like they were a part of that event.

9/11 was just such a date for many of us.

Ten years ago today, I was getting ready to go to school, to a modernism class I was taking as a non-degree student at a nearby university. That fall, I was taking advantage of their community service program, which allowed me to register and take a class for a minimal fee. Though I was about as old as the professor, whose name, Desmond Hamlet, couldn't have been more literary, I was perhaps the most eager student in that class.

But not that day.

Confused and horrified, like everyone else, I had watched the TV morning news at home, as I was long used to do each morning (that's how I saw, more than a decade earlier, Challenger disappear in a puff of smoke on screen), and had listened to the car radio all the way from our home to the university. I went to class, uncertain of what was going on (it would be a long while before we knew it had been a terrorist attack on the Twin Towers), uncertain of how we could possibly hold class on a day like that. I had no cellphone so I had no way to call my husband at work and ask for his thoughts and to give and seek comfort.

As I walked into the classroom, I saw that the other students, so much younger than I and wholly inexperienced in this kind of horror, were quite agitated and had very little access to news and information. This was way before the time of PDAs and laptops so we were all equally lost.

Then Prof. Hamlet walked in and said, in his deep, resonant voice and British accent, and very calmly: "Though we are still unclear of the reasons behind what has happened today, it is undoubtedly a most horrifying event. For the next hour, let's seek refuge in the world created by William Faulkner (we were studying The Sound and the Fury). Later, there will be plenty of time to deal with what has happened this morning. For now, let's immerse ourselves in literature."

And so we did. Now that I am a professor I will never forget Professor Hamlet's aplomb and his ability to calm us down and make us focus on the task at hand, that of making sense of Faulkner's confusing masterpiece, a blessed respite from the reality that was unfolding beyond our classroom, a reality more incomprehensible and unfathomable than anything fiction could have imagined.

Monday, September 5, 2011

A tiny bit of Canada

Over this Labor Day weekend, my husband and I drove a total 809 miles to Niagara Falls, in Canada, then to Niagara on the Lake, and, finally, to Stratford, Ontario, and then back. Our final destination was to see Richard III at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, which had come highly recommended by friends and colleagues at my small college on the hill.

Our first stop was Niagara Falls, which neither of us had ever seen, and the falls themselves proved to be as glorious and majestic as we imagined.

In Niagara Falls, we stayed at the Villa Alexandrea Bed and Breakfast, which I found was well recommended on Trip Advisor. While our "French Room," was spotless and the most economical at $129.95 a night (with a lovely breakfast included), it was less comfortable or nice than our own room here at home, something that greatly lessens the enjoyment of sleeping somewhere other than on your own bed.

But what was perhaps the greatest culture shock (in addition to the sticker shock of prices, which included paying $6.27 for a Starbucks I regularly pay $3.90 for!) was the Las Vegas-crossed-with-L.A. feel to the Clifton Hill area of Niagara Falls where we were hard pressed to find a "normal" place to eat.

There was the Jurassic Park-themed mini golf, and the Frankenstein-themed Burger King, or a haunted house (the gargoyle below is from "Dracula's Castle") or wax museum in every corner with blaring advertisements and videos.

Most disappointing was our dinner at Mamma Mia's Original Italian, which was basically a culinary highway robbery. For $40, we each had one glass of wine ($8 a glass!) and I had a $14 plate that was advertised as "spaghetti and meatballs" on the menu but which came with only ONE meatball. And it was a very sad meatball at that. The spaghetti was so overcooked it seemed like they had boiled it for about 20 minutes. My husband was sorry that he didn't take a picture of the lone meatball for posterity.

Things improved that Saturday when we drove out of Niagara Falls and visited Niagara on the Lake (where we got a $25-dollar ticket for failing to display a parking pass that we had trouble obtaining because the parking meters would not accept U.S. credit cards!), and then continued on to Stratford, where we stayed at the Caversham House. This B&B, while significantly pricier than the one in Niagara Falls, turned out to save the weekend. Our room, the Sheridan, was small but lovely and we spent a few hours hanging out on the nice porch where we learned a lot about the festival and about Canada from the very friendly inn-keepers.

That night we had dinner at the Keystone Alley Café where my husband had a $24.50 "vegetable stew," which he actually enjoyed. The meal was nice and we got to taste great Canada wines, and while it was more expensive that we would've liked, we certainly didn't leave feeling cheated. On the walk back, I visited a store of indigenous art and bought a beautiful carving of a howling wolf and a gorgeous scarf depicting a native story of "the Raven stealing the light."

Both Saturday and Sunday we had a nice time walking around the area near the B&B, especially since there is a lake with a trail around it, which we walked in its entirety on Sunday morning after having a hearty breakfast of waffles with ginger sauce and roasted pineapples and home-made granola. We enjoyed watching the black squirrels, the hundreds of ducks around the lake and the tiny seagulls.

Sunday afternoon we saw Richard III (which had given us our initial wallet jolt at $250 for two tickets) and it was decidedly the highlight of the trip for me (my husband not being much of a Shakespeare fan). The actor who played "Dickie III," as the innkeepers endearingly referred to the play, did a fantastic job and the direction and staging were superb. We decided that while most of the trip hadn't gone as we'd imagined, we may return to the festival some other time but drive directly to Stratford.

Unfortunately, while we drove for long stretches on the Queen Elizabeth Way, we only got to see a tiny bit of Canada. I have been to Montreal and Quebec, but never to Ontario and was sorry to only get to see so little of what is a huge expanse of beautiful country on the map.

While we both would like to see much more of Canada, we've also started looking for other Shakespeare festivals closer to home, which may (we hope) represent a significantly lesser expense.