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…


The Dam Show

Late in the afternoon on Saturday we wandered over to the town of Austin for The Dam Show.  As stated in a previous post, The Dam Show is normally held at Austin Dam Memorial Park.  In an effort to get the town of Austin more involved, the organizers decided to hold it in the Austin town square.  Admission (normally around $10, I believe) was free.

The musical act we wanted to see (Billy Branch and the Sons of Blues Band) was not scheduled to perform until 7:30.  We went early to scope things out, including the vendors.

We walked around the town square for a little while.  There wasn’t too much going on so we decided to check out the museum which had extended hours that day.

The E. O. Austin Home (located on the Austin town square) is a museum with exhibits related to the history of Austin, including quite a bit about the dam disaster.  The folks running the place are knowledgeable about the exhibits, friendly, and more than willing to answer any questions you might have.

(Old and new.)

I enjoyed our visit to the museum.  It is small and the smallness as well as the arrangement gives it a personal feel that I don’t often get in museums.

I love that typewriter.  I had one similar to it when I was a teen, having acquired it for a mere $5 at a yard sale.  I don’t know what happened to it.  During the years that I had it I fantasized about becoming a writer and typing my novel on it.  I would have had strong fingers if I’d kept typing away on that thing.  The keys were not easy to press.

There are exhibits on the first and second floors, categorized by type.  For instance, all of the post office artifacts are in a section labeled (appropriately enough) “Post Office.”

After poking around in the museum for a while (and enjoying the air conditioning), we decided to cross the street and have a beer at the Cock-Eyed Cricket.  There were no beer (or alcohol) vendors at The Dam Show.

To accommodate the show, Austin Borough will temporarily repeal its ‘open container’ ordinance from noon until midnight Saturday.  Showgoers who are of-age will be permitted to consume alcoholic beverages only in the block surrounding town square.  Boundaries will be clearly marked.

(From the Austin Dam News, Summer 2010, Volume 2 Issue 2)

(The Cock-Eyed Cricket.)

Pennsylvania has some odd blue laws and laws pertaining to the sale of alcohol.   Wine and spirits can be sold only in state run Wine and Spirits stores.  All prices are the same throughout the state.  To buy beer you can go to a beer distributor.  However, buying from a distributor means buying in bulk (kegs or cases) as they are not allowed to sell beer in smaller amounts (6- or 12-packs, for instance).  Six and twelve packs, along with singles, must be purchased at a bar or a restaurant.  You can purchase no more than 192 ounces in this manner.  You can take your 192 ounces out to your car, go back in, and purchase more, but no more than another 192 ounces.  You are welcome to keep going back and forth like this but if you want that much beer, you might as well go to a distributor and buy in bulk.

They have a new thing going on involving wine kiosks and breath sensors in grocery stores.  You have to breathe into the breathalyzer before purchasing your wine.  If you’ve been drinking, no wine for you.

The Cock-Eyed Cricket is one of a couple of bars in and near Austin.  Being right across the street from the town square made it convenient for those of us who were thinking we might like to have a beer later in the evening while listening to some blues.

In case you’re wondering what a cock-eyed cricket looks like, here he is:

They have a cute stained glass window with the Cock-Eyed Cricket on it.  I was unable to get a decent shot of it because there were too many people in front of it.

We moseyed up to the bar and had our drinks (a total of $6 for three beers and a glass of wine — which just goes to show you how cheap this stuff really is — a price way below what you’d find in a more upscale bar/restaurant).  Then we decided to head back to the cabin for a little while.  It was a good thing we left when we did.  The rain started just after we got to the cabin and continued for a couple of hours.  There was lightning and thunder and lots of wind.  What we didn’t know (because we had no means of finding out — no radio, no tv, no internet) was that there had been a tornado watch.  We found out about it later that night when we went back to The Dam Show (where the acts had been delayed due to the storm).

(Heavy rain showers in the woods.)

Once the storms cleared out, we went back to Austin and enjoyed an evening of blues.  Billy Branch and the Sons of Blues Band put on a great show and had most everyone dancing by the end.

That pretty much wraps up our weekend away.  I’m glad to get to the end of it.  Or almost to the end of it.  I have a few photos I’d like to post that I couldn’t quite fit in.  I’ll post those tomorrow.

Judging by the blog stats, I’m boring people with all this weekend-away blogging.  Regular blogging will resume soon (although why people find my everyday life more interesting is beyond me).


A Saturday

Last week I blogged about supporting the economy by buying local and supporting your local businesses.  My lovely daughter-in-law stopped by with a comment and a link about The 3/50 Project.  I had not heard of it.  Thank you, Merdi, for the info and the link.  If you have not heard of it, or you have but you’ve forgotten about it, please take a moment or two to check it out.  Even better, participate if you can.  It’s a wonderful idea.

As you know, my weekend was filled with beans and the processing of beans.  But it’s not all work and no play around here.  Sometimes it’s a combination of the two.

The car was due for its 30,000-mile check-up/tune-up.  M scheduled it for Saturday morning.  I decided to go along to keep him company and because he enticed me with a walk in Kent and breakfast at Wild Goats Café.  It beats sitting around in the waiting room at the car dealership (even if they do have coffee and donuts, a large screen television, and plenty of periodicals to read).

The walk from the dealership to Wild Goats Café is exactly one mile.  It was a nice little walk mostly on Main Street heading into Kent.  The morning was sunny, hazy, and very warm but there are plenty of trees to provide some shade and there are actual sidewalks to walk upon (something we don’t have out here in the country).  By noon it was feeling more hot than warm and we appreciated the shady spots even more than when we started out.

After a delicious breakfast (with plenty of iced tea) at Wild Goats, we walked over to the Franklin Mills Riveredge Park which is only about a block away from the café.  The park follows the course of the Cuyahoga River through Kent and is named after the original settlement along the river.  You may have heard of the Cuyahoga River.  It’s famous for having caught on fire in the late 1960’s.  It was at one time known as one of the most polluted rivers in the U.S.

It has always been my opinion that the shortest, easiest, and least expensive communication with the invaluable back country would be to let the courses and the distances be taken to the mouth of the Muskingum and up that river to the carrying place to the Cuyahoga, down the Cuyahoga to Lake Erie.

~ George Washington

Cuyahoga River on a sunny Saturday in July

The name Cuyahoga means “crooked river” in the language of the Iroquois.  It is indeed a crooked river, as you can see from this map.  The water quality has improved over the years thanks to a lot of hard work from a lot of hard-working people and, as far as I know, the river has not caught on fire since the 1960’s.  (For those interested in such things, Great Lakes Brewing Company has a beer which I think was named for the Cuyahoga River:  Burning River Pale Ale.  It’s an excellent and wonderfully hopped ale.)  Areas that were once devoid of fish now support 22 species.

(Kent Main Street bridge over the river.)

The park has seen a lot of improvements since we moved to this area ten years ago, including the bypassing of the Kent dam (something that was not without controversy).  One of the problems with the water quality in recent years has more to do with stagnation due to the dams along the river than it does with pollution (although I should point out that pollution continues with urban runoff and sewer overflows being two of the main sources).  If interested, you can read more about the Kent dam project here.

It’s a nice little park.  The dam, constructed in 1836 and having some historical significance (I read somewhere but can’t find it now that the dam is one of the oldest in Ohio), was left intact.  The waterfall was reestablished by pumping recirculating river water through a trough around the lip of the dam.

We enjoyed our walk.  There were other people out and about, enjoying the park.  Some were playing in the river, cooling off.

We saw several turtles sunning themselves near the dam area.  The water around the dam seems to suffer from some of the same problems we are having in our pond this year (pond weed and algae, oh my!).  In a way, that was reassuring.  It means our pond weed and algae problems are not unique to our pond and therefore not a result of something we did or did not do.

After exploring “Heritage Park” (the lower area that was “created” around the dam area when the dam was bypassed) and reading some of the interpretive signs highlighting some of the history of the dam and river, we climbed the stairs to the observation platforms and walkways.

I’m not sure how much more there was to explore as we didn’t stay too long or go too far.  One of the things missing in that area of the park is a public restroom.  I don’t know about you but if I drink lots of iced tea with my breakfast, I’m going to be in need of a loo at some point in time.  So we made our way back to the dealership (where they have restrooms for their waiting customers — a good thing to have if you’re serving unlimited free cups of coffee).

You can tell where the dealership is located by looking up for the giant flag.  I tried a search to find out why car dealerships fly giant flags but was unable to come up with a good answer other than what appear to be guesses such as to catch the eye of the customer in order to lure them in and to show their patriotism (which may be good guesses for all I know).  I wonder if they started flying those behemoths around the time “buy American” became a popular theme in car advertisements?

We picked up the car, went to Hartville Market to see what the farmers had for sale, and then it was back home and back to work.  M did some Project Patio work and I took on the rest of the beans.

(At the Hartville Market)

I think I would rather have been doing this:

(Summer scene:  Playing in the Cuyahoga.)

But then, the beans wouldn’t have gotten processed and we wouldn’t have had that gorgeous stir-fry for dinner.  It’s all connected in one way or another, isn’t it?

(Saturday’s sunset.)


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.

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