Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Pat has spent the last three days baking cookies, filling the house with the smell of Christmas. While I can cook, I have never tried my hand at baking. I leave cookies to the expert. And Pat is an expert at baking and hiding them. I would see the cookies cooling on the table and “poof” they would be gone. I looked in all the normal places where she used to hide Christmas cookies, but to no avail. Now I admit that if she left the cookies out, I would eat them. That is my end of the bargain. Pat bakes cookies and I eat them. Pat then wonders where all the cookies went. This has been going on for a long time. We have been married for someplace close to forever. This is a very good thing. When the kids lived with us, there were four of us trolling through the house looking for cookies. Pat kept saying that she needed to get more tins for the cookies. Where did they go? I looked everywhere.

Last night they appeared, as if by magic, on the kitchen counter. I took a picture so I could identify the tins, in case Pat hid them again.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all our friends in the blogosphere. We appreciate your visits and enjoy visiting. Jim and Pat

This is an historical family artifact. It is Pat's cookie cookbook. Grandma Kunde gave it to her as a wedding shower present. I know that millions were printed, but there is only one of these.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

wordless wednesday

in the still of the night

Our back yard looks like the inter-state of animal tracks. Tracks criss-cross the yard as if we are a convention center. Oh yeah, Pat and I feed the animals. During the summer, the bird feeders need refilling every day, sometime twice or three times. The winter should be different. Most of our winged friends are in warmer climes down south, or wherever they go. Maybe it’s Miami; after all, Miami is the answer to the joke of where are Ohio’s millionaires. But once again I’m wandering into another subject. I shouldn’t have to refill empty birdfeeders in the winter. Thinking it was the squirrels, we threw a bunch of feed on the ground in various spots in the yard. No luck.

A couple of days ago I went to turn off the back yard Christmas lights. I wasn’t paying attention, it was one in the morning and I wasn’t dressed for the cold; heck, I was wearing slippers. Well, I don’t know who was more surprised when I opened the door, me or the two deer on the patio. I ran to get a camera and the deer didn’t want to get their pictures taken so they probably ran to their lawyers.

Ah ha, I thought. I have bumped into the culprit. Now I needed to figure out how to get a picture, with a pocket camera. I quickly discarded the idea of bundling up and sitting outside all night waiting. I had visions of Pat poking me in the morning and realizing I wasn’t doing my John Mills Scott of the Antarctic imitation. Better to stay nice and comfy in the house and poke my head out in the wee hours of the morning.

It worked. I caught them in the act. Now I have to figure out how to raise the bird feeders out of reach of the deer. If I put them in the trees the squirrels will think that we started a delivery service.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christmas lights tour

When I was young, I never dreamed that I would have Christmas lights in my own yard, let alone look forward to driving around looking for lights. Boy, what a little age will do for you.

You must be able to see this house from space. We forgot the exact street this display is on, so we just searched for the glow in the sky and aimed for it. The house has two sets of trains.

The Christmas house comes with elves. They meet and greet and take you to see...
That's right, Santa hangs out in a Strongsville Ohio neighborhood. Boy was I excited to visit with him. I haven't seen him since I was a little kid, or was it last year when we did the tour? Well, Ho! Ho! Ho! anyway.
Every time we see parents with young kids doing round robin picture taking, we volunteer to take a family pic. It only takes a second and puts a smile on peoples faces. That's how we got our picture taken.
We headed to what I call "the vacant lot" at the intersection of the two busiest roads in town. When we first moved to Strongsville, I saw this big vacant lot with some kind of faux New England clock tower on it. I wandered why there wasn't a gas station on the corner. The upholders of town snootiness and morals told me that it was "the commons." Well OK then. Still looks like a vacant lot to me. I would have added faux ruins of a fort or something to the faux clocktower for instant history.
Pat and I headed to downtown Cleveland and public square. The city of Cleveland puts on a marvoulous Christmas display. Terminal Tower is lit up in green and red and the colors change. I never noticed it till Pat pointed it out when we were looking at pictures.
I would have put lights on it.

Old Stone Church

This is Cleveland's founder, Moses Cleveland. He spent one night here. After claiming the area for land speculators in Connecticut, he left, not unlike other recent personages.

Tom Johnson was one of the greatest figures of the Progressive era at the turn of the last century. He made his money in steel and street cars and became Cleveland's greatest mayor. You know I always try to sneak in a history lesson.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

baby, it's cold outside

I took these pics the same day as my wordless wednesday pic. The wind was howling in from the north. Boy was it cold. The Plain Dealer says we are 10-15 degrees below normal. The television stations try to see who can have the most dramatic "it's cold out" story. Our sports teams are fighting for mediocrity and just about every politician has been indicted, so what else is the media to talk about. It's normally supposed to be in the mid 30's in early December. It has been in the mid teens during the day. Cold enough that Fred our 12 year old dog doesn't want to go outside, but not cold enough that you have to get a block heater for your car. It's not Minnasota cold or even Chicago cold, so I still don't need my long johns or heavy coat. But having said all that, I really wanted to get back in the car after I took these pics.

There is a bush in there someplace. it almost looks like some kind of ice cactus.

There is a tree under all the ice.

I took this pic today on the way home from work. If you enlarge the picture and squint real, real hard, you still can't see our northern neighbors in Canada. It's a curvature of the earth kind of thing, or maybe it's just too far away. The water is usually open because of the power plant, but with the economy what it is, the power plant is off line. I don't know what the birds and geese are going to do.

Monday, December 13, 2010

lunch with our winged friends

We’ve had Mallards in our yard since Pat and I moved to Cleveland. The pond nearby doesn’t freeze over and the ducks never leave. We have food for all the animals. I think how we treat the animals we don’t eat makes a statement as to the type of person you are. Our reward is a constant presence of winged and footed creatures. I took these pictures over the last two days. We are in the middle of what is supposed to be a four day snow storm, which explains the difference in the snowscape.

My backyard neighbor let his dogs out, so off they go.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

lake effect snow

If you live on the wrong side of the Great Lakes, this story will sound familiar. For those of you who don’t know whether you’re on the wrong side of the Great Lakes or not, trust me, you aren't. The great city of Cleveland sits on the south shore of Lake Erie. Until Lake Erie and Lake Huron freeze (evidently even Lake Huron is too damn close), we can get a lot of snow in a very short time. Being an adopted son of Ohio, I feel obligated to blame Michigan for the snow that comes off of Lake Huron. Now I’m not talking Donner Pass, you eat your uncles’ leg kind of snow, but a lot of snow. But I digress. Until the Great Lakes freeze over, we can get "hope the snow blower fires up" kind of snow.

When I arrived at work Thursday morning, the air was filled with large pretty white snow flakes. I knew that the winds had changed, since we hadn’t gotten any snow for the last three days by the lake while 15 miles southwest where we live had got slammed with the white stuff. The snow did not stop. The snow picked up in the afternoon. I heard “snow day” being whispered around the room. Since Ohio has a three day limit on catastrophe days, I discussed the concept of the individual snow day with my students. My evil cynical twin thinks that the concept of the individual snow day could present us with the perfect school day, school is open but all the students called off because there is two feet of snow on the ground.

I kept waiting to see a city snow plow drive past the school. As it played out, the whole city was waiting for snow plows. They must have been swallowed into some kind of dimensional time shift, or some other kind of science fictional explanation. There is no other explanation that doesn’t put the snow crews playing cards or plowing politicians' streets. Everyone was anxious to leave. When it was time to go, I never saw school empty out so fast. I wasn’t concerned. The Aztec has new tires and in a past life, I drove for a living. I had a full tank of gas, 5 gallons of windshield washer fluid and a broom. The only thing I needed was food because getting home was going to take a while. I had a remedy for the food situation, Siam Café. I got on the Shore Way and to my surprise it was bumper to bumper and going nowhere. Alright, I wasn’t really surprised. The trip to go the three miles from school to the restaurant took close to an hour. OK, I thought, the trip will be slow but manageable. The restaurant parking lot had a foot of snow in it and it was full of cars. Evidently a bunch of people think like me: Thai food for the trip home.

Normally Siam Café is a five minute drive to the expressway; not today. Oh, did I mention that I still had not seen a city snow plow or police car? Where were these guys? It took another hour and a half to get on the expressway. Anarchy reigned. Drivers ignored traffic signals, drove the wrong way on the streets. Tempers flared because of fender benders. Guys with male enhancement issues drove their pickups and SUVs around as if the rest of us should part the waves. Well, I have a sense of humor and was not in a hurry since I had a ton of food, so I just seemed to get in these guys' way. I saw no reason to get out of their way. Eventually, in two orders' of siam wings worth of time, I saw the expressway entrance. The promised land awaited, if I could only get there before I ran out of food. Did I mention that I had still not seen a city plow or any of its esteemed safety force?

In Chicago, mayoral elections have been won and lost over snow. If there is even a hint of snow in Chicago, everyone whose job relies on getting rid of the snow or on being re-elected is on the job. I finally spotted a police car. It was spinning its tires and going nowhere. For crying out loud, is the city too broke to keep good tires on the cop cars? You can only laugh. I finally got on the expressway. That 20 minute trip had taken a mere two and a half hours; not bad. It was still snowing as I headed south. As if by a miracle, actually because of wind patterns, the snow stopped, the expressway was clear and traffic was going 70. To show that nature has a sense of humor, officially Cleveland did not get any snow yesterday because no snow fell at the official weather station. It was sunny there.

My whole trip, which normally takes about an hour, clocked in at 3hours 45 minutes. It really could have been worse, and the trip became a blogging event.

Inching along on St Clair.
Inching along on Superior.
Still inching along on Superior. When I started this adventure it was light out.
Hey! No buttinskies. This jamoke needed a lesson on which side of the road to drive on. My Aztec happened to just slide over enough to make him stop. No one let him in. His mother would be ashamed, unless of course his mother drives like this also.

The promised land.
Beauty in the least expected places.

Ode to gridlock.