Thursday, September 30, 2010

police blotter: animal edition

SKUNK: Police stopped at a Lafayette Rd. residence in reference to a suspicious person around 8:20am on March 3. The resident was revving the engine of his ATV hoping the exhaust would smoke out a skunk which had nested in the home's foundation.

CAT URINE: A caller told police that an odor of cat urine was emanating from a Norwegian Wood Dr. home on May 26. Police responded, but did not find any obtrusive smell coming from the home.

DUCKLINGS: Four ducklings were stuck inside a sewer grate on N. Jefferson St. around 8:30am on June 3. Police responded to the location, which was actually in Montville Township. The Montville Township fire department also responded and removed the sewer grate. Officers rescued one duckling but the other three waddled under the roadway. But the story ended well. The other three ducklings came out a sewer on the other side of the road, and all four were reunited with their mother.

BOA ON THE LOOSE: Police found a boa constrictor on Lawrence St. on July 12. Officer contacted the SPCA, who arrived and transported the snake away.

PUNXSUTAWNEY PHIL?: Though it isn't February, a groundhog came out of its hole and ran loose on Medina's Public Square around 3:51pm on July 17. Police responded and determined that the animal was not endangering citizens in the area. Apparently, the groundhog ignored his stark shadow; hopefully his boldness means three more months of summer.

BEES!: Police encountered a swarm of bees in close proximity to the roadway near the intersection of S. Harmony St. and E. Liberty St. at 4:22pm on Sept. 8. Believing that it could pose a danger to the public, officers contacted a beekeeper who arrived and contained the bees.

ANIMAL COMPLAINT: A resident called police at 9:50pm on Sept. 21 about two dogs barking for several hours in a neighbor's yard. Police spoke with the woman who owns the dogs. The women refused to give police information about herself beyond her first name. Police discovered her identity through its computer system. Police had visited the home about such complaints in the past. The woman, 55, was cited for the disturbance created by the dogs.

SQUIRREL: Residents called police because they were trapped in their home by a temperamental squirrel.

Welcome to Ohio.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

fish fry

My husband and I are hardcore.


My better half drives a tangerine colored scooter (with matching helmet).  I grew up eating raw hamburger meat as a snack.  We've been known to try any kind of sushi and like it (with the exception of sea urchin and geoduck - one bite of those was too many!).   We prefer the rain and cold weather to sunshine.  I drink my coffee black, and we don't have a savings account.

After a five day juice fast, where do we go?  To a fish fry.

Don't worry, we have strong constitutions.

Besides, doesn't this sound so good: deep-fried (in beer batter) bass, buttery corn on the cob, roasted red potatoes, hot dogs, creamy cornbread, home-brewed wine, apple cake from scratch, chocolate pie, cookies and a sweet snack mix called monkey munch?

Thank you Mouser family for making our first fish fry experience memorable.  Any chance we can hang out at your house during Lent?

Jesus was hardcore.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

the list

Before we made our cross-country move, our friend Stephanie gave us a list of places to visit in Ohio.  At the time, only one of the items on the list sounded familiar.  Fast forward six months, they are now like household names.

Last Saturday we crossed off the first location: Cedar Point.

You may be thinking this would be the kind of place we'd go to often. With names like Magnum, Millennium Force, Wicked Twister, Mantis, Power Tower, Mean Streak and Corkscrew, who wouldn't jump in their vehicle and race to these extreme rides with enthusiasm?

Um, that would be me.

When it comes to roller coasters and steel contraptions that fling you and suspend you high up in the air, I'm a chicken.  No matter how many kids half my age try to convince me that all it will take is one ride on the Raptor and my fears will be curbed, I'm still a chicken.   I do love the park experience, though.   Show me the way to garlic fries, corn dogs, and ice cream and I'm a happy girl.   I will hold your purse, take pictures and cheer you on as you brave the rides I'll be avoiding.

I'm really good company, I just like my feet on the ground.

My favorite amusement park companion is my dad.  He and I have an understanding that we are there for each other's moral support, but we don't need to say anything (or breathe) until the ride is over.  He doesn't try to convince me that this will be the best ride ever, and he is never the type to make our passenger car on the ferris wheel tip or tilt or swing on purpose.  My second favorite amusement park companion is my mom, because she giggles and shrieks like I do, even on the kiddie rides.  My third favorite amusement park companion is my husband.  He is cool and calm, and he is good at gauging whether or not I will like something.  Plus he holds my hand.

I like when he holds my hand.

Fear aside, our day at Cedar Point was a lot of fun!  The park is located in Sandusky, Ohio.  Try saying that city name out loud: San-dus-kee.   It's a good one, right?  I liked it so much when I first heard it, I asked my hubby if he would consider us changing our last name (he went for it!).  Our park mates that day were Johnny and Rachel, who are as cute as cute can be, have great taste in music, and laugh as much (or more) than me.  They really like the thrill of thrill rides, so I knew Chris was in good hands.

So, we took turns.  I stood in line with them for the rides that scared me, and they rode the rides that I could handle.  My kind of rides are called Midway Carrousel, Cedar Creek Mine Ride, Troika, Tilt-A-Whirl, and.. wait for it.. Disaster Transport.  That last one sounds tough, doesn't it?

Top Thrill Dragster was the last big ride of our day.  It's one that has grandstands where spectators can sit and watch as the brave ones are propelled forward, like being released from a sling shot, and hurled 420 feet in to the air on a vertical track.  The speed of the cars exceed 120 miles per hour!  Guess who was the spectator in our party?

Windblown and smiling, we ended our romp with dinner at Carrabba's Italian Grill.  I could spend an entire blog entry describing the cuisine at this place.  Instead, I will leave you with this: Carrabba's is the best Italian food Chris & I have eaten in a restaurant since our trip to Italy five years ago.   Hands down.   I highly recommend the Cozze in Bianco (mussels swimming in a garlic-butter broth), Sicilian Chicken Soup, the Pollo Rosa Maria, and the Spiedino Di Mare.  All four of us left with gluttonous grins on our faces and enough garlic on our breath to stop a horse.

Make that a stampede of horses.

Game on.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

come on eileen

© photo credit:

This is Lillie.  Doesn't she have the sweetest face?

She is somebody's grandma who loves big pancakes for breakfast and putting Sweet 'N Low in her coffee.  I don't know Lillie, but I think she is lovely, and she captures the feeling I get every time I walk in to a small town diner.

Medina is certainly not lacking for casual restaurants, but I'd have to say my new favorite place for a cozy nosh and company is Eileen's Cafe in Valley City.  I met a few girlfriends there this morning for a plate of their signature french toast.  I added a bowl of oatmeal with raisins and brown sugar to my order, and savored every tasty, conversation and laughter-coated bite.

Terri, the owner, visited our table a few times to say hello, bring us a plate of chocolate chip cookies (dessert for breakfast = hooray!), and ask our input on possible evening hours and entertainment at Eileen's.  I should confess, half of the girls at our table work there, and all of them are regulars.  I was the newbie, but I adapted quickly.  Let's face it, wherever there is food, I feel at home.

Fun fact (maybe it's true or maybe the girls were preying on my gullibility?): apparently, the restaurant got its name because the building is slanted.  "I Lean" turned in to "Eileen."   I really want to believe it's true.  Either way, it was a morning well-spent, and a breakfast date that ended with a trip to the lavender-scented gift shop next door.

I think Lillie would approve.

Friday, September 3, 2010

say cheese

For those of you who have known me longer than five minutes, you know I have a passion for food: talking about it, reading articles and blogs about it, cooking it, baking it, writing about it, watching TV shows and movies about it, and eating it.

I pretty much love everything about food.

In fact, I'm convinced I am my parents' favorite child because (amongst other shining qualities) I wasn't a picky eater.  I have a habit of asking people what they ate for dinner the night before; and if I had done things differently after high school, I suspect I would've tried my hand at culinary school.  For the record, if you ask me to name my dream job, I will answer: food critic.

That said, you can imagine my elation when I heard about a restaurant in Cleveland called Melt.  It's a much-buzzed about place that serves up superhuman-sized grilled cheese sandwiches.  Sure, you can order burgers and salads and a variety of appetizers, but the main event is their uber cheesy goodness on a plate.  With the wait time exceeding three hours on some nights, you know the hype is worth investigating.  Our party of four adults and two children ordered the pierogis and spicy mushroom & sausage stew as our starters.  Both dishes were savory and delicious and the perfect way to prepare our stomachs for what came next.  Between the four adults we ordered sandwiches called Westside Monte Cristo, Mushroom Melt, BBQ Chicken, and the Big Popper.  Words cannot describe how colossal these cheesy grinders were.  You have to see them to believe them!

Scott Bickel is a professional eater from a few towns over and we happened to be there the same night he conquered the Melt Challenge.   It was amazing just how many diners, fans and photographers they fit in to a small space.   I will admit, it was a thrill to be sitting two arm-lengths away from this guy and watching him devour what would take me three days to consume.  As he shoved food in his mouth, he wore headphones and bounced around.  After exactly 18 minutes, the meal was gone and only remnants of coleslaw remained on his face.  Bickel is a former Marine with the goal of defeating Joey Chestnut in next year's Coney Island hot dog eating competition.

Everyone has a dream (and a Facebook page).

Personally, I would give Melt a three out of four star rating.  While the space is cramped, the wait is long and the bread-to-filling ratio can be confusing, the flavor combinations are out of this world!  I see why so many magazines, newspapers and Guy Fieri gave this joint high marks.  I mean, who didn't crave melty cheesy bliss on toasty bread (with a bowl of tomato soup) for lunch when they were young? Melt brings those feelings back, and changes the recipe just enough so you feel like you're reliving a happy part of your childhood in a gourmet kind of way.

I think the author of Treasure Island would agree, "Many's the long night I've dreamed of cheese - toasted, mostly."

Thank you, Robert Louis Stevenson.  Thank you, Melt.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

giraffes & hippo whiskers

I was moved to tears by giraffes on Saturday.

You should know that I loved animals when I was a kid, and even thought I was destined to be a veterinarian.  This career choice changed when I realized I wouldn't just be able to play with animals all day, I'd have to give them shots, too, and cut them open.  So, I volunteered at the local animal shelter instead and brought strays home as pets.  I even rescued a crow from being eaten by the neighbor cat once, and remember the day when a homeless Calico had kittens on our front porch.

As I've gotten older, I find that I still have a fondness for two and four-legged critters, but my want to keep them for my own has waned.

My desire to visit the zoo had also changed over time.  I think I resolved that once you've seen caged animals enough times, they cease to be engaging.  This is the same feeling I have about Disneyland.  My husband and I used to live 20 minutes away from The Happiest Place on Earth and lost interest after a few visits.  However, I find that I am far more excited about going to the zoo and theme parks when I have children holding my hands, sharing their enthusiasm with me.  I never grow tired of seeing their eyes light up and hearing their animated voices when they discover something for the first (or second or third) time.

Last weekend my perspective changed.  The part about kids is still accurate, but the other part?  Well, thanks to our friend (and zookeeper extraordinaire), Alisa Sandor, and her backstage tour of the Cleveland Zoo, my dream of interacting with wild animals came true and I fell in love with them again.

Our first houseguests, the Jenkins family (visiting from CA), stayed a few days with us, which prompted the zoo visit.  In addition to being a zookeeper, Alisa is a rhino expert.  Alisa liked updating us on the progress of one of her rhino's pregnancies and, when we found out the birth came only two weeks before our friends arrived, we arranged to have her give us a private viewing.  Not only did she introduce us to Inge and the baby rhino, she introduced us to giraffes, monkeys, a leopard who gave high-fives, and an old hippo named Blackie.

The moment I became emotional was when we walked out to the area where the giraffes were.  It was as if they knew we were coming.  They all gathered together and greeted us with big blinking eyes and a serenity I never expected.  A feeling I can't articulate came over me and my eyes filled up with tears.  The giraffes were majestic in how they towered above us and leaned in when we held out our hands to feed them.  Their hot breath on my face reminded me of when horses exhale.

Two other highlights of our tour: feeding the hippo and feeling his chin (a blubbery old man hippo chin with old man hippo whiskers) and, of course, seeing the baby rhino.   We gathered alongside the pen where mom and the little girl were and watched as they both got up to check us out.  Inge was cautious and kept a watchful eye on her baby as she frolicked in the room.  We observed the 150-pound cutie (with Shrek ears) drink its mama's milk while we touched the back of the mom at the same time.  As an esthetician, the first thought I had was how badly the animal needed an exfoliation.  I know that rhino hide is naturally thick and callous, it was just more callous than any skin I had ever felt before.

Our viewing was top secret, as the public hadn't yet been informed of the baby's arrival, but today you can go to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo website or Cleveland's Plain Dealer for videos featuring the new rhino and Alisa.

While I greatly respect the nature of the beasts we communed with, I couldn't help but imagine what life must have been like for Adam & Eve in the Garden of Eden, and how docile the animal ancestors were (they were at one time, right?).

I would love to sit on the back of a zebra, water fight with penguins, play Tag with a meerkat, use a hippo as a flotation device, and dance with an orangutan.

How about you?