Archive for August 2013
It takes a hard-working team of kitties to put together this blog. Behind the scenes, Eddy looks at our traffic, relegating me to the role of office furniture.
On one of my rides to Oxford, Ohio, I saw the place my wife and I had our first date is still open.
“Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need ‘roads.'”
When we took our trip to Hueston Woods, we stopped at Bagel and Deli, which my wife and I loved from when we were students at Miami University. Coincidentally, students were starting to return that weekend, and my wife and I had a flash forward to 2023.
When I did the post about Bill Watterson’s advice, I was so excited, I really didn’t do a good job explaining why this resonated with me. Intuitively, I shouted “that’s me!” though I am not a stay-at-home dad, for example. I think what I took away from it is that you need to decide what’s important to you in life, and make the trade-offs necessary to make it happen. It may mean not getting the “Above” rating on an annual review or progress up the corporate ladder to CEO. But hopefully the trade-off you make–that lets you be a great parent, or an artist, or whatever–is worth it to you. I don’t see my career as self-actualizing, nor do I see how a job can do that for most people. What I shoot for is having a job I can do well at, give it 100% while I’m there, and use it to enable all the things in life that make me happy.
Dad Life: Holding a plush animal while my daughter is in the restroom.
A post at Zen Pencils has a long quote from Bill Watterson, the cartoonist behind “Calvin and Hobbes,” illustrated in Mr. Watterson’s style. Not sure how to embed it (or if it’s even fair to do so), so click here. My favorite bit:
“To invent your own life’s meaning is not easy, but it’s still allowed, and I think you’ll be happier for the trouble.”
Mr. Watterson drew “Calvin and Hobbes” for ten years before simply walking away. He didn’t license it to other artists and staff it out. He said what he wanted to say, and moved on. Aside from calendars and collections, he never made deals for merchandise (just imagine all the babies who would have been given a certain stuffed tiger). He figured out what sort of life he wanted to live, and stayed true to it.
You have to admire that.
While we were on our trip to Montreal, we tried the bagels. Montreal Bagels as sweeter and, in my opinion, lighter and less chewy than their New York cousins. I found that I prefer them, though I don’t know of anyplace in Cincinnati that sells them.
Fortunately, I can bake.
All the recipes call for malt powder or malt extract. This is not the same thing as malted milk–a stop by UDF won’t help me. It turns out, this was harder to come by than I thought. Most of the grocery stores I went to didn’t have it–even Whole Foods.
There were a few times I came across whole grain barley flour–malt is germinated barley, and what I wanted is sometimes listed as “malted barley flour.” I thought about trying the whole grain barley flour, but decided to hold out for the right stuff. Bagels of any style are a lot of work. Beyond the basic kneading, rising, and baking of any other bread, each bagel has to be shaped. Prior to baking, bagels are boiled. I didn’t want to waste the effort on an uncertain substitution. Also, if the bagels didn’t taste right, I didn’t want to have to wonder if it was the recipe, the process, or the ingredients. I felt I had to continue my search.
(I know some folks think simply baking bread is a lot of effort. Like most things in life, it comes down to practice. Once you make bread regularly (I do it about once a week), you develop a routine, and it starts to become “easy,” if if only to yourself. Plus, home made bread is so good.)
I was about to give up and order it through Amazon, but it was $12 for a pound and a half, and I would have to pay shipping on top of that. My wife said to hold off until we made a run to Jungle Jim’s, to see if they would have any. We made it there after a stop at Hueston Woods. They did have it–a pound and a half like Amazon, but not as much, I didn’t have to pay shipping, and it provided an excuse to go to Jungle Jim’s.
I figured I might have to try a variety of recipes to find just the right one. I started by going to the Red Star Yeast Pinterest board, and found a recipe to start with. As with most baking, it starts with blooming the yeast in water with sugar, then adding the rest of the ingredients. This included the malt powder. How much did I need?
Yep–one tablespoon. I suppose I’ll have enough for a while unless I industrialize my bagel-making. I kneaded the dough, let it go through the first rise, and shaped them into bagels. Most bagel recipes suggest rolling the dough into a snake, then forming an “O.” My process previously had been to simply form a ball of dough and punch a hole–the times I tried that, the connection was lost, and I would up with a “u.” However, my skills at shaping dough are much better. I did it the way the recipe called for, and like the results better.
After a fifteen minute rise, the bagels are poached. The water is sweetened with honey (as opposed to sugar for the non-Montreal recipes I’ve seen), and only goes in for a minute and a half.
After that, I put on sesame and poppy seeds, then baked them. They came out looking like the best bagels I ever made. They also tasted like the best bagels I ever made!
This recipe is definitely a keeper, though I may try others to see if improvements can be made.
During our summer vacation to Nashville last year, we had a day where we found ourselves very hungry from a full day of activities. We noticed a Mexican restaurant that looked happenin’, so we decided to stopped in. This was one location of the Texas-based chain, Chuy’s.
We really dug it, stopping at other locations on our way home, as we didn’t have it in the Cincinnati area. We were excited when, about a month later, we learned they were opening one in Florence, Kentucky. That put it in the Cincinnati Metropolitan area, but not particularly close to our home, or really anyplace we go with any frequency.
Then, we learned they were opening a location in the Kenwood area. That’s not a significant drive from our house, off an Interstate we travel frequently, and near a lot of things we like to go to. Quite exciting! Through their Facebook page, we got invited to the “Redfish Ralley,” a sort-of preview, mostly to get some buzz going.
The Cincinnati location, Chuy’s first in Ohio, is opening August 20 (the day this should be posted). We were planning on going this week. That plan got accelerated when, on Friday, I got an email. They were having a VIP preview the night before, and some slots became available. Free food and soft drinks. They reached out to folks who attended the Redfish Rally. Would I be interested in going?
Oh yes. Yes we would.
Chuy’s prefers to redress existing buildings for their restaurants, so each one is a bit unique. I confess this is my favorite of the ones I’ve been too. In the entry way, the waiting room as Apollo-themed art.
…with a rocket ship.
There are some elements all locations have in common. The bar has fish hanging from the ceiling.
One dining room has palm trees.
There is usually a shrine to Elvis. This one actually included two booths (but, people were eating, and I was feeling obnoxious enough as it was with the camera).
Does the opening of a restaurant merit a whole blog post? Probably not. Mostly, it was just cool to be part of a VIP preview–usually I’m just a P, not necessarily VI. It was a fun time.
I’ve been making trips to Oxford, Ohio on my bike a couple times this month, even doing a loop of Hueston Woods State Park. While doing a loop of Hueston Woods was one of my favorite bike rides while in college, I rarely went beyond it.
However, we were looking for something to do on a Saturday afternoon, and I came up with the idea of going out there. I figure we could be nostalgic alumni, having a late lunch at Bagel and Deli. This was one of our favorite places to grab a sandwich while my wife and I were in college. Afterwards, we could go to Hueston Woods State Park, and hike some of their trails. My wife thought it would be fun to go down to Acton Lake, which centers the park. The other advantage is that it set us up for going to the original location of Jungle Jim’s, as we needed some things we thought we could only get there.
The deal was sealed when we discovered their nature center had a cougar. The web page suggested they just got it–cougar cubs are awesome! There was no date on the post, so it could well have grown up by now. Still, it would be great to see the cat.
We got a bit of a late start–we didn’t get to Oxford until a quarter of Four. Our late lunch (or is it now and early supper?) would be a picnic. We drove to the Nature Center. One neat thing was that most signs not only detailed facts about the animal, but also their names. Timber, the cougar, was in his enclosure, hanging out in his house.
Next door Eli, a bobcat, was having supper. Eli was originally a pet, but his owners could not continue to care for him, so he was surrendered to a wildlife rescue. Prior to that, he was declawed, so there is no way he could be released into the wild. Things I believe that this underscores: wild cats aren’t pets, and declawing is bad.
The Nature Center was also home to a Raptor Rehabilitation Center. Several birds of prey were present. Nannok is a rough tailed hawk.
Next to Nannook was a great horned owl, whose name I didn’t catch.
The largest enclosure was for a bald eagle.
Rose is a red-tailed hawk.
A close-up of the hawk’s eye.
Clyde, the barred owl, kept looking away. I finally said, “Clyde, can I please take your picture?” He turned to look at me. Handsome owl!
My personal favorite, however, was Rachel the kestrel.
After checking out the nature center, we had our bagels, enjoying the unseasonable-for-August weather, which was absolutely pleasant. Then, we went to the Cedar Falls trail, and started hiking.
We saw wild crawfish.
“Daddy, can I take a picture with your camera?”
After our hike, we went to the beach at Acton Lake.
Seagulls and geese…an odd combination.
We left as the sun was starting to set. As we drove around the loop, we noticed all the other things at Hueston Woods: horse rental, archery, even tree climbing. It’s amazing how many things are in this area–and it’s not that far from home. We’ll definitely have to come back.
The City of Cincinnati issued new trash cans a few weeks ago, to be used instead of my can. It’s a large, rolling thing. If my property was flat, it would be tolerable, but, given that my front yard is a steep slope, it’s a bit of a pain to roll up and down the hill. The lid flips open, and doesn’t have any sort of latch–not even a friction-snap like my can. As you may guess, I’m not a fan, but it’s not something that’s worth getting too upset about.
The other evening, around 10:30 or 11 in the evening, we heard a rumble, like things were being knocked over. I tried to decide if it was worth investigating. It repeated, so I did a tail count: none of the cats were into any mischief. For the most part, they were trying to figure out what I was doing. I went and sat back down on the sofa. A third repeat had me really wondering. The sound had sounded like it was coming from outside. Looked out the front windows, but didn’t see anything. I flipped on the lights to the back porch, and looked out.
By the trash can was a couple of Chinese food containers. I stepped outside, and opened the lid to the trash can. A raccoon was looking up at me. I generally think raccoons are cute, but they are also animals I know can be somewhat unpredictable.
I wish I could say I calmly went inside. I’m a fan of wildlife. When I’m at my day job doing whatever it is I do that is dull, monotonous, and not making the world a better (or worse) place, one of my daydreams is join at research team to photograph wild snow leopards (or the clouded leopards, or another wild cat species). While I realize that there is a difference between seeing a wild animal in the wild where you semi-expect it and unexpectedly seeing a wild animal confined in your trash can, my reaction suggests that I’d be more likely to scare every snow leopard in the Himalayas.
I flipped the lid closed–the racoon sat confused. I like to imagine he shrugged and went back to picking through my garbage. I went inside and close the door, and my wife came to make sure I was OK. We did a tail count–everyone was accounted for, and being mellow. I looked at my cats. Though descended from fierce predators, I face the reality that only Eddy at his wildest might stand a chance with a racoon. They are as domesticated and removed from the wild as I am.
Overnight, I worried about the raccoon, and if he’d be able to get out of the deep can. The next morning, I made sure all the cats secured behind a door, and I grabbed our broom. First, I tapped on the side of the can: no reaction. Then, I used the end of the handle, to open the lid from as far as I could manage. I peeked in: just garbage, no raccoon. I picked up the mess, then went to work.
I’ve noted in the past that I have some bad habits with my SmartPhone. For the most part, they are annoyances, or, at worst, a touch on the inconsiderate side. I’m self-aware enough that I can make an effort to manage that behavior, though there are days I confess I’ll go into my own little iPhone world. My wife is off on Fridays, and sometimes meets me for lunch. A few weeks ago, she was dealing with a work thing on her phone, and I took the opportunity to confirm what was going on for me that afternoon. The waiter called us on it, which I found a bit amusing, though it didn’t immediately stop us (that said, after work was done, we didn’t pull them out for the rest of the meal).
There is one bad SmartPhone addiction I have, though, which requires a bit more aggressive action: Tetris. Whenever it’s on the phone, it becomes consuming. I’ll tell myself I’ll play a quick game while waiting for my family, but pretty soon, they are waiting on me. I’ve almost missed bus stops while engrossed in a game. Before long, I catch myself sneaking games during conference calls.
Once I realize I’m a bit out of control, I’ll delete it from my phone for a few months. Then, reload it for a week, only to delete it again. I don’t seem to have to do this to other games–they aren’t as consuming to me, and the interest fades after a while. Tetris is different, and the addictive nature is scientifically documented.
I keep trying to decide about this habit. Is my quarterly Tetris binge OK, given that I walk away from it from time to time? Is the fact that I am aware enough to know I need to delete it a sign of control, or an unhealthy relationship? How long will it stay off the phone this time?
Bagel & Deli had a rush today.
Used to do this loop all the time in college. First time in ten-or-so years.