148: Lake Erie thaw

(A view of Cleveland and Lake Erie from Lakewood Park.  Lakewood, Ohio.)

We went north yesterday.  An hour north, to be almost exact.  For the past few years friends have been inviting us to attend the Ogrefest at The Brew Kettle in Strongsville, Ohio.  We usually decline because of the hour-long drive.  The Ogrefest is, after all, a chance to sample a variety of good beers and who wants to drive all that way to get home after a few hours of sampling beers?  Bad idea.  Really bad idea.

For those that don’t know, I used to brew beer (at home).  M does it now, when he feels like it (which hasn’t been too often lately but we’ve both been vacationing from beer).  We enjoy sampling beers at places that brew their own, especially hoppy beers such as IPA’s.  So that was one reason to go.  Getting together with friends was another reason to go.  And…  I have a pair of Shrek ears.  Where else could one wear a pair of Shrek ears that would be more appropriate than an Ogrefest??

(Accurate depiction of what your eyes look like the morning after.  Shrek ear in the background.)

So we did a little planning this year and decided to go.  We had enough points at a certain hotel franchise for a free night and there happened to be one of those hotels close to the Brew Kettle.  We parked the car, checked in at our hotel, and took a cab to the Brew Kettle where we had a great time with our friends.  Thank you, friends!

As a result of the Shrek ears, I met a guy who said he couldn’t resist coming over to talk to me.  If I’m ever single again (hope not!), I now know how to pick up men. Wear Shrek ears.  One of the Brew Kettle folks said he should give me a vest to wear and call me Ms. Ogrefest.  I thought that was hilarious.  I’ve never been a Ms. (or Miss or Mrs.) anything other than as the wife of M.

(The Beer Engine in Lakewood.)

We’re out of practice when it comes to that sort of evening out.  I was feeling a little rough around the edges this morning.  The plan was to go further north to Cleveland to do a little shopping at the West Side Market and then make our way south and do some more shopping along the way at places we usually visit about twice a year (Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods being two of those places).  Because we were fairly close to Lakewood, I also wanted to stop by a store there to look at Vibram FiveFingers.  I like the pair I bought last summer and want another pair that I can wear on the treadmill and to just walk around in when I go out and don’t care that I’m wearing shoes that look like Shrek feet.

We decided to skip the West Side Market but we did go to Lakewood.  I bought a new pair of Vibram FiveFingers (the women’s Sprint, if you want to know).  While we were in Lakewood we decided to check out the Buckeye Beer Engine.  Not necessarily for the beer (although a little hair of the dog didn’t hurt).  Some of our friends keep recommending the place, and their menu looks good.   The food was excellent.  I especially like their blue cheese slaw.  I may try to duplicate that at home.  It was one of the best versions of coleslaw I’ve ever tasted.

(Lakewood Park, Lake Erie in the distance.)

The city of Lakewood, Ohio is located along the shore of Lake Erie.  It was such a beautiful day and we were so close to the lake that we had to go have a look.  It’s amazing what a difference a few weeks and some warmer temperatures can make!

(Walking towards the lake.)

I don’t know how far out the thaw goes, but it looks like it’s pretty far out there.  There is still a lot of ice near the shore, the opposite of what we’re seeing here with our pond (the edges are thawing first).

(Lake Erie.)

There were a lot of people out and about.  Lots of parents with their children playing in the playground.  We even saw a cameraman filming for one of the local news channels.  Probably getting footage of people out and about on this beautiful day in February.  It was nearly 60 degrees (F).

(Ice near the shore.)

We walked around out there for about a half hour.  It was quite windy but even so, much warmer than we expect it to be this time of year.

(Cleveland skyline in the distance.)

There is an excellent view of the Cleveland skyline from Lakewood Park.  Lakewood is about 10 miles from downtown Cleveland, and appears to be a nice community with plenty of shops and restaurants.  I could see myself living there.  But I bet it gets pretty brutal there when it’s cold and the wind is whipping off the lake.

(Cleveland skyline.)

It was a fun little excursion.  And now that I’ve had my vacation from my vacation from alcohol, it’s time to go back on my vacation from alcohol.  (Confused yet?)

At home

Things changed a bit at home overnight.

(Yesterday’s view of the pond.)

(Today’s view of the pond.)

I skipped the early rising and yoga practice this morning.  I just couldn’t do it.  There are some people who sleep better after imbibing.  I am not one of them.  It tends to keep me up most of the night, almost as if I had a big shot of caffeine to go with it (which I did not).

As Scarlett O’Hara was fond of saying, tomorrow is another day…

A visit to Akron

(Along the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail in Akron.)

M and I went to Akron on Saturday evening where we met up with a friend for a few beers and some dinner.  I took the camera along (of course) and snapped a few shots at sunset when M and I went for a short walk along the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail.

It was surprisingly quiet in Akron for a Saturday night.  There were a few people here and there but we had the Towpath trail mostly to ourselves, except for some ducks and a great blue heron.

(Getting a drink of water.)

(Waiting for a fish.)

(Bridge over the canal.)

(One of the locks.)

It was a peaceful sunset stroll.  M and I haven’t walked the Towpath Trail since they finished the section near the Civic Theater.

(Lock 3 area.)

(Have a seat.)

(Part of the new section behind the Civic Theater.)

We circled back around by taking one of the main streets back to where we parked, passing by the Civic Theater which was rapidly filling up with middle-aged women who were there to see Menopause The Musical.

How to cap off a day

So, what do you do with yourself after a full and productive day of processing 17 lbs. of freshly picked broccoli?  One would think I’d take myself out to the deck, put my feet up, and enjoy a relaxing evening.  But no, there is no rest for the wicked.  Instead of putting my feet up, I put on my dancing shoes (ok, they were really flip-flops).  M and I went to Akron for some brews, food, a little time and conversation with friends, and a concert at Lock 3.

We started our evening by meeting some friends at 69 Taps.  It was a nice, summery kind of evening.  Not too hot or humid.  Perfect for sitting on the patio.

Normally there is not an empty seat to be found on the patio when the weather is so nice.  I’m not sure where everyone got to.  Perhaps they were already over at Lock 3.  Perhaps they were at the Akron Aeros game.  Summertime brings fewer university students to the Akron bars, too, which makes it kind of nice for us old folks who want to sit on the patio.

We moved over to the Barley House for dinner, then we parted ways with our friends as they headed home and we went to Lock 3 for a little peace, love, and happiness with Buckwheat Zydeco.  (If you’re unfamiliar with Buckwheat Zydeco, check this out.  It’s sure to get you movin’.)

It was nice to see a good crowd there.  We’ve been to a few Lock 3 concerts where not many people showed up (usually due to rainy weather prior to the show).

The show started soon after we arrived.  We brought lawn chairs but didn’t spend much time in them.  You just can’t sit through zydeco music.  I’m pretty sure it’s impossible.

It was an energetic show that ended all too soon.  We had a great time.  I can’t remember the last time I danced that much.

In other news…

I see the NaBloPoMo theme for the month of August is GREEN.  In case you didn’t get the newsletter:

Hey, bloggers! The theme for August is GREEN. I hope this will open up some doors for the gardeners, painters, and photographers amongst us, as well as those with other green planetary thoughts to share.

I’m not sure I’ll be able to post every day in August but I’m going to give the theme a try.  Regular visitors to Life in the Bogs know I already covered the subject of Green (green, green grass) in my Color Series over at Bountiful Healing.

Green should be an easy theme, for the most part.  But then again, I thought the same when it came to the “Look Up” theme.  It’s not that it was difficult in and of itself.  It was trying to do different things with it (and stay away from the same-old-same-old cloud shots) that made it challenging.

Boulder Creek

(Boulder Creek Path along Canyon Road)

Today was all about The Bike.  We waited until after rush hour to set out on the Boulder Creek Path.  The bike paths can be pretty congested from about 8:00 to 9:00am, and some of the cyclists speed along at a pretty good clip.

(Boulder Creek)

The Boulder Creek Path follows Middle Boulder Creek.  From the Boulder Creek Path you can access several of the city parks, the public library (which is gorgeous inside), fishing ponds, Colorado University, a sculpture park, and cottonwood groves.  We followed the path from our hotel up to the point on Canyon Road where the paved portion ends.  I think the round trip was about 7-8 miles.  Just before the pavement ended we locked up the  bike and hiked for a little while, just to the point where we could sit down by the creek, relax for a bit, and enjoy the scenery.  The water in the creek is cold and just sitting on a rock near the creek was cooling.

(Goat Rock)

After a little rest we headed back the way we came, stopping at a butterfly garden (no butterflies but plenty of bees), the sculpture garden, and at various scenic points along the creek.

(In the sculpture garden.)

We had lunch at the Mountain Sun Pub & Brewery.  One of the things I like about Boulder is that we can walk into a restaurant at lunchtime all rough looking from our hiking and biking experiences and the waitress asks where we were hiking and/or biking, how was it, and did we have a good time.  All the wait staff we encountered in the Mountain Sun were friendly and good at their jobs in a chill sort of way.  Nice.

The Mountain Sun has a really nice IPA (Illusion Dweller IPA) on nitro.  Delicious, crisp, and hoppy.  A beautiful beer.  Their food is wonderful too.  I had a veggie burrito smothered in their green chili.  Yummy!

When we went into the restaurant, the weather was quite nice.  When we came out:

We wandered around, ducking into some shops here and there, thinking the dark clouds would move out.  Eventually we decided to get back on the bike and continue on with our day, hoping the skies wouldn’t open up and drench us or lightning come down and fry us.  (For those inquiring minds that want to know, we made it back to our hotel without getting drenched or electrocuted.)

Our next stop was the Boulder Bikesmith where we rented The Bike.  I was a little sad to give it up.  M and I have had a great time pedaling around Boulder together.  It didn’t take us long to work out how to bike in tandem.  But it was time to give it up as we’ll be moving on tomorrow, heading further into the Rocky Mountains for a week of more hiking fun.

The rest of the afternoon was spent doing our laundry, going for a swim, and getting a head start on our packing.  We’ll be leaving Boulder early tomorrow.

We had a lovely dinner tonight with M the Younger and Mere at the Red Lion Restaurant.  The food was fantastic.  They specialize in wild game.  We sampled some wild boar sausage, wild boar ham, duck pate, smoked duck, buffalo salami, bison, and I can’t remember what all else as we were sharing left and right.  M was going to order the rattlesnake cake (similar to a crab cake using rattlesnake instead of crab) but decided on sharing the sampler with M the Younger after Mere and I ordered the fixed price meal which included appetizers, salad, an entree, and dessert.

And that, folks, pretty much wraps up the Boulder portion of our trip.  We’re planning to get up before sunrise tomorrow and drive out to one of the nearby mesas to watch the sun come up.  Rumor has it that it’s worth the effort to see the sun rising from the eastern plains.  We’ll have breakfast at Dot’s Diner.  We had breakfast there once this past week and it was delicious.

I don’t know if we’ll have internet access where we’re staying for the next week.  If so, I’ll be back when I can.  If not, the blog will continue to post my scheduled posts and I’ll see ya’all again when I get home.

In the bucket

(This morning’s view of the pond.)

Several years ago (at least) I took up homebrewing beer and mead.  It wasn’t something I wanted to do.  It was something M wanted to do, but didn’t have time for.  Because I wasn’t working at the time, he asked if I’d learn how to do it.  We were living in southern Ohio and there was a homebrew association in the area to which several of our friends belonged.  So, (very) reluctantly, I said ok.  I’d learn.  With the caveat that if my first batch of beer came out tasting like what you’d expect homebrewed beer to taste like (I’m sure you know what I mean), then that would be it.  No more homebrewing for me.

Well, much to my shock and dismay, my first batch of beer was not only drinkable, it tasted good.  Thus began my crazy homebrewing career in which I experimented with lots of flavors, including things not traditionally used in beer.  My specialty was spruce beer, a recipe I picked up from The Complete Joy of Homebrewing.  I know, it sounds weird.  And at a beer competition (I only entered a few) it would probably be unofficially classified as a weird beer (that’s what all the herbed, spiced, and otherwise not-to-style beers are called by those who like to “brew to style”).

Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.  It’s pretty good.  The recipe ingredients include the new spring growth off of a spruce tree.  If you’ve ever looked at a spruce tree in the spring you’ll notice small, bright green pine needles shooting out of the branches.  That’s the new spring growth.  You might not think the type of spruce tree makes a difference, but it does.  The new spring growth from the Norway spruce are the best I’ve found so far.  In fact, I won’t use any other kind having experimented with others that have been available to me and found the taste to be, well, not so great.  Palatable, but…eh… barely.

A good spruce beer, in case you’re wondering, requires a bit of aging.  Once it’s aged it mellows into a sort of Dr. Pepper or cola flavored beer.  Not quite as sweet, but in that general direction in terms of flavor.  Spruce needles, in the days of yore, were a common flavoring in beers in the northern latitudes as a substitute for hops which were not so readily available.  Word has it that the Sitka spruce makes the best spruce beer.  It would be nice to someday try a sample.

I also used to make a kickass mead.  Just saying.  I best not get into that or this post will be much longer than originally intended.  (It already is!)

You’re probably wondering where I’m going with this.  Me too.  I’m approaching the half-century mark and once I get rambling about something I tend to forget where I was going.

Oh, right!  Fermentation!  That’s where I was headed.

I’ve given up homebrewing for a variety of reasons.  M is doing the beer making now.  And it’s been a couple of years since I made a mead.  But I am still interested in the fermentation process so I decided to take a different route this year.

Read the rest of this entry »


After a full day and a fun night, I’m feeling pretty tired this morning.  I’d have slept in, but M and I decided we should get up early since we have an early flight home tomorrow (6:00am).

Cabrillo National Monument Park and the tidepools were interesting.  I’ll write more about it once we’re home so I can post photos with it.

Lunch at the Soup Plantation was great.  The food was fresh, delicious, and plentiful.  They had one of the healthiest all-you-can-eat buffets I’ve ever seen.

We had sushi for dinner.  It was fab.  After dinner we stopped at the Liars’ Club for a little while.  It’s a good thing we were walking home.  Between the sake at dinner and the beers at the Liars’ Club, driving would not have been a good idea.

We’re going to Kono’s Surf Club for breakfast this morning, then heading into the city to do a little touring and shopping.  The weather has not improved, but it’s hard to complain about it.  We had a drizzly misting kind of rain yesterday afternoon and last night.  Rain is so badly needed here that it seems selfish to utter even one word of complaint.

I’ll try to post in the morning before we leave.  If I don’t have time, I’ll check in again when we arrive home.

Greetings from Mission Beach

This may well be my best week of NaBloPoMo.

I’m sitting on the rooftop deck of the condo we’re renting for the week, staring out at the ocean, listening to the waves as they roll in.

M and I have just come home from dinner at the Liars’ Club where I had a fantastic pork stew (with three different chilies, tomatillos, carrots, potatoes, and the slow roasted pork) and M had a wonderfully spicy jambalaya. We sampled a few beers along the way (the Liars’ Club has an amazing beer selection). They not only have a great beer and food selection, but their jukebox is an amazing mix of music.  M and I discovered the Liars’ Club the last time we visited San Diego, and were happy to find them still here and still as good as we remember.  Never mind the look of the place.  That’s part of the charm, as far as I’m concerned.

We walked back to the condo on the Oceanfront Walk, getting a few peeks into oceanfront living and decor in Mission Beach. Most of the houses and condos on the walk level have large windows and people don’t bother to pull the drapes (with that great view of the Pacific, who would??).

It was a long day getting here. Our flights with Frontier Airlines were on time (actually early in both cases) and fairly smooth. I’m not a big fan of flying so I’m thankful that we arrived here without any dramatic or traumatic tales to tell.

We were both pretty much exhausted by the time we arrived at the condo, having picked up our rental car, taken care of the grocery shopping, and then spent a little time walking around killing time while waiting for our check-in time (3:00pm). We’ve had more than the usual three meals today because of the time change. We fall back tonight, adding another hour to the time we gained by coming west.

We napped, we took a long walk on the beach, we sat and watched the surfers for a while. Then we came back to the condo and sat on the rooftop deck to watch the sunset. It wasn’t much of a sunset. Fog rolled in off the ocean and all was pretty much gray and cloudy. Even so, it was a beautiful sight, watching sunbeams shoot through the clouds.

Photo displays will have to wait until we go home. I didn’t bring the cable with me. I prefer to leave it at home. Less to worry about losing that way.

I am thoroughly exhausted and trying to stay up a while longer in hopes of adjusting to the time change.  I don’t think I’ll last much longer (it’s not even 8:30pm yet!).

I have a feeling I’ll sleep well tonight.