Friday, September 30, 2011


Have you ever taken a funicular (aka incline)? I love these things! It’s a cross between an elevator and a train, designed to take people up and down a big hill quickly. Most of them were built in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s and there aren’t many still in operation in the US.
Logically, they were built in hilly cities, like Cincinnati, where there were five at one time, now all closed. Pittsburg still has two and there are loads of them still being used in Europe. I swear that I’ve seen a private one in the yard of an exclusive estate perched atop a cliff overlooking Lake Erie between Toledo and Cleveland. Private ones have also been built at golf courses, hotels, ski resorts, etc.
I've recently learned about a couple inclines that I’ve been near, but never took – in Puerto Rico and Niagara Falls. Oh, shucks, I’ll have to go back . . .
Here are shots of some funiculars I’ve ridden.

A fun look at a few more.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Cleveland's Little Italy

I love ethnic enclaves, the little pockets of culture that are fervently preserved within a larger culture. Metro Detroit has huge Arabic population in Dearborn and a smaller Polish section in Hamtramck. My only Chinatown visit was in Honolulu, which was as dangerous as all the stereotyping would lead you to expect. I’ve been to plenty of Little Italy sections – in NYC, Windsor (Ontario) and in Chicago.
Last week, my cousin and I discovered a Little Italy that I didn’t know existed – in Cleveland. Of course, it’s usually all about the food, and this trip was no exception. We had dinner at Mia Bella; here’s a shot of the veggies and chorizo. YUM!

Then, we were off to Presti’s Bakery & CafĂ©. A picture truly IS worth a thousand words . . .


Friday, September 23, 2011

Pine Haven

*******Have you ever had an inconsequential experience that you just know you will remember for the rest of your life? There’s one that I can’t seem to get out of my mind lately.
Years ago, I set out for one of my first solo vacations; I was driving to Maine. I love the northeast, from the Adirondacks to the Atlantic, so I was just putzing through at my own pace. I enjoyed the winding drive along Route 9 through southern New Hampshire and suddenly saw a cabin painted a sunny yellow with a sign reading “Tea House.” It was breakfast-time, so I turned around. The parking lot was empty.
I was immediately enchanted by the place. There was a large, screened porch filled with tables that were already set for guests. The lights were on and I could hear a radio. I yelled, “Hello,” a couple times, but didn’t get a response. Inside, there were just a couple rooms, one of which was a huge kitchen, which smelled wonderful. Still no answer, though.
I went back out to the porch and saw a lady coming down the hill behind the cabin, yelling in a sing-song voice, “I’m coming!” In a moment, I met Martha Brown, a lady I’ll never forget. I remember her energy, her health and how likeable she was. Her hair was gray, so I knew that she was older, but, in that way of New Englanders, her vibrancy made it impossible to guess her age. She poured me coffee, gave me a menu, and went back up the hill to finish whatever she had been doing, completely unconcerned about a stranger having free roam of her entire establishment.
I wandered around, taking in the hand-embroidered linens, vintage mismatched china, and homemade preserves on the tables. Everything was spanking clean. Every door and window was open, so the cabin smelled fresh. Although nobody was there, the kitchen looked like a hive of domestic activity.
After Martha took my order and brought my food, she joined me at one of the tables. We chatted about her preserves, and she brought me a jar of crabapple jelly, which I had never seen. Oh, crabapples make the most beautiful, softly-hued pink jelly you can imagine! She shared her day’s baking agenda with me. She was quite a busy lady, yet she took the time to sit with me while I ate.
I inquired about the sign that read “Cabins” outside. Yes, she had cabins for rent, too. Years ago, her dad had built this travellers’ stop, called Pine Haven. She now took care of the cabins as well as the tea house.

******I stopped on the way back home, too, renting a tiny cabin for the night. Martha knocked on my door to inform me that she had started a campfire for us. It was just the two of us, chatting beside the flames. She introduced me to the crabby guy who was living in one of the cabins while going through a divorce; he didn’t stay by the fire. Martha and I talked the evening away; she was making sure that I didn't feel lonely, I think.
The next morning, we said goodbye after breakfast. I don’t know why, but I loved everything about Pine Haven and its owner. I’m such a sentimentalist, I know, but I think having tourist cabins or a B&B would be such a fun experience. Martha was the perfect personality to do it.
A couple years ago, I googled Pine Haven, with the intention of returning someday. I found that it was closed and for sale. I realized that Martha was probably gone and wished I could tell her survivors about the impression she had left on me. I found some information about her; she was active in her community, serving as an officer of the women’s club, and having a hand in the local historical society. She was as much a character as she seemed.
I still think about Martha and Pine Haven occasionally. Pine Haven is still for sale. Yesterday, a google search brought up the following poem, written by another Antrim resident for a local newspaper. Apparently, Martha left an impression on a lot of people.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repealed

To the US Military - It's about time! I'd think that a willingness to fight for your country would trump any other characteristic . . .

To people coming out to their family - Please don't tape it and put it on YouTube.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Employee Appreciation

I work for a major medical center; today was our annual Employee Appreciation Ice Cream Social. It was held in the beautiful courtyard area between our numerous hospital buildings.
****************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************There were lots of games and activities. In particular, the money blowing machine interested a group of young Mennonite girls who volunteer with us. Volunteering must be a part of Mennonite culture, because we have a lot of them; I love seeing their simple clothing and behavior in the midst of all the cutting-edge medical technology.

****************************************************************On the way out, I passed through the main lobby, which houses a baby grand piano. This is how one of our nurses, Steve, likes to spend his lunch hours:

You never know what you'll see here.

eReader or Hard Copy?

I'm putting my front room/office back together after cleaning the carpet and I'm just not sure what to do about the bookcase . . .
It seems crazy to take up all that space on the shelves when they could all be on an eReader. On the other hand, I'd have to buy them all again. Yet, I could put pretty things on my bookshelf. Still, there's something about holding a book, flipping the pages, resting it wide open on your chest when you get drowsy.
I'm not sure if I'm ready to make this switch. Have you ditched all your hard copy books?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Yellow Jacket Wasps

It seems that metro Toledo has a yellow jacket problem this year. A few weeks ago, I mowed over what I thought was a bees nest. I looked down after a sting on my leg and saw about 50 of them on my pants! I ran to the house while stripping down and got out of it with only 5 stings – LUCKY. It could have been so much worse, especially since I’ve found out that they are yellow jacket wasps!
I noticed lots of small holes in the yard, but I have snakes, ground moles and God-knows-what-else out there, so I didn’t think much of it. But, my housemate, Nance, found another ground nest yesterday and I’ve been hearing from others around Toledo with the same problem. I guess it’s just a good year for them.
These are some aggressive little pests which I’ll have to destroy. Thankfully, in the internet age, you’re never alone with a problem, and I've already found lots of advice.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Great Lakes

I want this on a sweatshirt:

Camping, Anyone?

I went camping over Labor Day weekend. Wow, I remember why I quit camping 15+ years ago!
When we were kids, Mom took us camping often and we nearly always went on the shore of one of the Great Lakes. Years later, I camped inland on my own and realized that I didn’t particular care for it. All along, it had been the lakes that I liked.
So, while camping is an affordable and bug-free alternative to staying in a motel, it’s not a hobby that I enjoy. I can cook over a fire and sleep in a tent in my own yard. I’m too old to be sleeping on the ground!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

My Great Grandparents

Well, my find-a-grave project has already led to some ancestors! I found a 12-year-old online post made by a not-so-distant relative who has been working on her family tree for years. Last night, she sent me pics of ancestors that I've never met. She also sent my grandfather's lineage traced back to the 1600's!
I had previously known about only one of my four grandparents, so it's really exciting for me to learn more and see their faces. This couple, which lived through the Great Depression, looks far less stern than I was expecting. His cigar-puffing swagger cracks me up!
I can't wait until my new-found cuz gets the rest of them scanned.