Here comes the sun

Despite the chilly start to the month, May is warming up nicely. And the garden is responding. I’m doing my veggie garden in containers this year since the raised beds are dismantled and we still need to clean up that entire area. But grow bags and 7-gallon pots are working quite well.

I have Yukon Gold potatoes growing in two grow bags. So far, so good. I have three containers of onions, which also look great. Yesterday, I planted a patio tomato — slicers on a small plant that works in containers. (I was overjoyed to find a container plant that produces slicers!) I have the mixed salad greens in one container, and those have grown enough to provide a couple of salads for me already (supplemented with the lemon balm that is taking over my flower beds).

And that’s the extent of my vegetable garden this year. We have to bring in some earth-moving equipment to redo the entire area where the raised beds used to be. Currently, it’s a massive, weedy mess, and it kind of depresses me to look at it.

I still have a lot of flower seeds to sow. We’ve had enough rain recently to keep me out of the garden more than I want to be.

Speaking of rain, Mom and I celebrated Mother’s Day a day early last weekend. She came to my house and I drove an hour down to the Hocking Hills — it rained pretty much the entire way. But it was a pretty drive on the country roads leading to Ash Cave.

I chose Ash Cave because it’s one of the easier hikes. And it’s about a mile round-trip. The rain stopped when we got there, but it started raining again just after we left the cave and started making our way back to the parking lot. We were pretty damp by the time we got back to my car, but no one can say it wasn’t an adventure! (Also, hurrah for quick-dry pants and waterproof hiking shoes!)

I had no GPS signal when we got on the road — not particularly surprising. Thankfully, my sense of direction doesn’t completely suck. Our next destination was Hocking Hills Winery, and I knew the general direction I needed to go to get there. After driving about 20 miles or so, the GPS signal came back, and we got to the winery without any issues. It’s a scenic drive most of the way anyway, so being kind of lost isn’t that big of a deal.

I’ve been to this winery before. Mom had never been. She was impressed immediately, especially with their spacious outdoor seating area. Thankfully, they have a covered porch, so we requested seating there. We ordered a charcuterie board and a bottle of pink Moscato to share, and it was a lovely way to end our little excursion.

June will be here before we know it. We have a couple of camping trips coming up. Since we didn’t camp at all last year, I’m rather excited. But this means I need to do a bit more cleaning and prepping in the Bigfoot before we can take it out on the road.

A Quick Trip to Cleveland and Tudor England

My mom and I got back yesterday from a mini vacation. We drove up to Northeast Ohio to stay at my aunt and uncle’s house in Lake County, just east of Cleveland. Our main reason for going was to visit the Cleveland Museum of Art to see The Tudors: Art and Majesty in Renaissance England. Anyone who knows me knows I’m:

  • A huge Anglophile
  • A Brit Lit nerd (it was, after all, my major at Ohio State)
  • Obsessed with Renaissance England and the Tudor dynasty (and Elizabeth I in particular)

I absolutely had to see this exhibit. Fortunately for me, my mom and aunt wanted to see it, too.

More on that in a minute.

We had a cold snap that coincided with this trip. It was hovering around 40 degrees F and raining when we got to their place at dinnertime on Tuesday. My aunt served beef bourguignon with a warm, crusty baguette for dinner that she bought at a tiny French bakery — hearty fare for early May but appropriate for the weather. It hit the spot. And then we had dessert crepes and ice cream and spent the rest of the evening chatting in front of the fire.

Our tickets for the exhibition were at 1:30 on Wednesday. It was about a 45-minute drive to get there. I wish we could have seen more of the art museum, since I haven’t been there in more than 20 years. But I was thrilled to see the Tudor exhibit regardless. It’s pretty incredible.

The exhibit ends on May 14. I’m not sure if it will end up somewhere else or if this is exclusive to the Cleveland Museum of Art. I’m just so glad I got to see it.

Afterward, we stopped at Ferrante Winery so I could pick up a 3-pack of my favorite wines. Then on to Stonegait Winery for a glass of wine while we waited for our to-go pizza order. (The area around my aunt and uncle’s house is home to the majority of Ohio’s wineries.)

Before leaving yesterday morning, we took another walk around the neighborhood. My aunt’s friend has chickens, so she invited us over to look at her hens and their coop. I wouldn’t mind having chickens, but I don’t think I can convince Lance. She also had an incredible garden, so that gives me some inspiration for our own.

This break was just what I needed. As much as I love being at home, I really am here too much. And it’s nice to have a chance of scenery every once in awhile.

A Memory from the Emerald Isle

It’s St. Patrick’s Day, which stirred up a particular memory from Dublin, Ireland — a brief moment, an interaction with a complete stranger — that stuck with me all these years.

In the summer of 1999, I was among a group of Ohio State English majors studying British and Irish literature at Bath Spa University College in Bath, England. Near the end of the program, we took a weekend trip to Dublin. We stayed at Avalon House, a cheap hostel, where I shared a room with 10 other women and used a unisex bathroom that multiple people could occupy at any given time. In other words, no privacy to speak of.

Avalon House had a cafe, and it’s here where I met this stranger. I wrote about our interaction in the journal I had with me. Here’s an excerpt, unedited (though it was tempting to edit it as I typed).

Saturday, August 7, 1999

I didn’t get much sleep last night since our hostel faces a busy street and is right across from a pub. It was noisy outside all night. But I woke up bright & early this morning, ready to face another day.

I took a shower (I’m still trying to adjust to unisex toilets & showers) and I went downstairs for breakfast: yogurt, a muffin, and juice. I ate alone, watching life go by outside the window. As I left the cafe to go someplace quiet and read, an old Irish man stopped me to chat. He said something profound, something about how you have to live your life making the most of everyday. He was really nice to talk to.

You know, I’m amazed I didn’t write down the one specific thing I remember him saying. He asked me how I was doing that morning and I said, “I’m doing well.” And he said, “Of course you are, you woke up in Ireland!”

I was more used to writing on a computer keyboard than handwriting lengthy and descriptive journal entries. I wonder how much more detailed I would have been if I had typed out my experiences instead. Many of those details are now lost to time, sadly.

I just hope I get to wake up in Ireland again someday. It is so lovely — the people, the culture, and the landscape — and I didn’t get to see much of it.

A Hankering for Pancakes

It’s Throwback Thursday, so I am going to share this little travel narrative I wrote in October 2005 after a day trip to the quaint village of Thorn in The Netherlands. And by pancakes, I mean pannenkoek — a Dutch pancake that is about the size of a dinner plate and just a bit thicker than a crepe. These can be sweet or savory.

The allure of 250 varieties of pannenkoeken is what prompted my husband to take me on a day trip to Thorn. This small Limburg town seems to have little going for it, except the restaurant that serves up these tasty treats. That in itself was reason enough to make the 45-minute drive from our home in Germany, but what we discovered there was a whole lot more than pancakes.

Thorn is known as “the white village,” due to the white-washed brick buildings in the center of town. Standing out is the abbey church, which was founded in the 10th century and served as the heart of the Benedictine convent, the reason for Thorn’s existence. Thorn eventually became a stift, a monastic community without strict rules of living. Young, unmarried daughters of the aristocracy lived in the village until it was time for them to wed. 

Despite no longer being a convent, Thorn still has a strong religious tradition. As we approached the abbey church, we saw many adults and children in costume lining up at the church entrance. Since the VVV (tourist information office) was right around the corner from the church, I popped in to ask what was going on. I was told that the church was having a parade. The music started playing just as we joined the growing crowd, and the procession began to wind its way through the village.

Since the purpose of our visit was De Pannekoekenbakker, we waited until the parade had moved out of sight, and then walked across the street from the church cemetery to the restaurant. The restaurant was quaint, the pannenkoek was delicious, and the hot chocolate with whipped cream was heavenly. The rumors we had heard about this restaurant were true—the food was decadent.

Our stomachs full almost to bursting, we decided to explore the church. The gold on the ornate Baroque altar and organ pipes popped against the white interior. The sun pouring through the windows gave the whole sanctuary a glow. It was pretty, but relatively simple, just like the village. 

After admiring the sanctuary, we descended the stairs to see the star attraction below the main choir. Along with the reliquaries sit two glass-topped coffins containing the remains of two of the church’s abbesses.

A short while later, meandering down the cobblestone streets, we find ourselves charmed by this serene village on the Meuse River. We came for pancakes, but left, filled with so much more.

Blast from the past: Ancient Aachen

I’m looking through some of my old travel writing — stuff I wrote when I was living in Germany. I’m sharing this article about Aachen, a place I visited frequently. This was a commissioned piece, though it was never published. Long story.

I must confess that I just did some copyediting on this. I wrote this sometime between 2005-2007, and it needed some polishing. I’ve grown a lot as a writer since then.

Ancient Aachen: A Magical Modern Metropolis

Each time I visit Aachen, it’s in the process of a facelift. The main train station has been under construction for a while now, and it looks different every time I see it. The scaffolding I first saw on the cathedral is now on the town hall. And every time I visit, a new store or restaurant is about to open. This time, Aachen has been overtaken by brightly painted horse sculptures promoting the World Equestrian Festival. Yet despite all the newness, Aachen is a city deeply rooted in its past.

Originally established as a spa for Roman legionnaires, Aachen was made the center of the Holy Roman Empire by Charlemagne about 1,200 years ago, and all the Germanic kings were crowned here from that point until 1531. The cathedral is the star attraction with its unusual mix of Baroque, Carolingian, and Gothic architecture. The impressive medieval town hall is built on the site of Charlemagne’s palace, which fell into ruin.

While there are signs of antiquity all around, Aachen is also lively. It’s small enough to see all the main attractions in one day, but it has the culture of a larger city. It’s right on the Dutch border (being the westernmost point of Germany) and close to Belgium, making it an ideal location to explore the Benelux. The main train station is a hub for international travel.

Aachen may have waters that run deep, but it is also hip. Home to five universities, Aachen has 40,000 students, most of who congregate on the Pontstrasse. This is where trendy bars mingle with cheap, run-down restaurants. On warm days, students and tourists spill out into the street, where there are plenty of outdoor tables to enjoy al fresco dining. The smells of curry mix with doner kebap and pizza. People converse in various languages. There is a casual, laidback atmosphere here, one where the beer flows as freely as the conversation. 

Pontstrasse is purely a pedestrian zone, comprised mostly of eating establishments, with the occasional shop. I see a store selling streetwear, a small Mayersche bookstore, and a store selling CDs and old LPs. The only thing that seems out of place is an old church.  The string of restaurants, serving every cuisine imaginable, lasts for several blocks, ending at the Ponttor, a 14th century city gate. Underneath are several pedestrian passageways decorated with graffiti. 

I walk a short distance from Pontstrasse to the heart of Aachen—its medieval town square. The cobblestone streets are dotted with modern establishments and signs of American invasion; Starbucks, Subway, McDonald’s, and Pizza Hut all have a prominent place in the shadows of the town hall.

Twice a week, there’s a busy market selling such wares as produce, flowers, fish, cheese, and clothing. Today, a radio station is doing a live show featuring various kinds of music, from pop to yodeling to some odd chicken song accompanied by bizarre clucking noises. It’s strange, yet entertaining. Above the festivities in the Markt, a statue of Charlemagne stands atop a fountain (locally known as the “Eäzekomp”—Pea Soup Bowl), presiding over everything. 

Lest you think that the entertainment in Aachen is provincial, there is also Kultursommer, a big event in Aachen that draws major names in music, art, dance, and literature. This event lasts from June through September and features over 150 open-air events. The Katschof, once the site of medieval executions, now hosts major concerts during Kultursommer.

There is a thriving theatre scene, with performances in Aachen’s Romanesque municipal theatre, as well as smaller independent theatre companies doing shows throughout the year. In the summer, Burg Frankenburg hosts outdoor Shakespeare performances by the small but popular independent company, DAS DA. Large international shows also come through Aachen. 

Aachen’s shopping district is a hodgepodge of department stores and specialty shops, ranging from high-end to very cheap. All the stores are modern looking—a sea of neon and glass built into older buildings. Beggars hang out on this street, hoping for spare change. A street vendor sells bratwurst while flirting with one of the local girls, the smell of grilled sausage permeating the air around them. The man I see on every visit to Aachen—a juggler with his German Shepherd—is taking a break from busking, his dog sprawled out on a blanket. Every store has its doors flung open, music playing, trying to attract patrons. 

One of my favorite shops is Mayersche, a multi-story bookstore near the cathedral which, despite its modern looks, hides the original Roman baths from 2,000 years ago. The current bath in Aachen is Carolus Thermen, a spa that opened in 2001 with a thermal bath, sauna, solarium, massage parlors, and restaurants. Unlike ancient times, when the spas were only accessible to nobility (both Charlemagne and Casanova took the waters), Carolus Thermen is open to everyone, allowing people from all walks of life to enjoy the waters that have made Aachen such an attraction for two millennia.

After spending the day among civilization, I feel pulled toward home. But before I leave, I grab an iced chai latte and sit in a shady part of the Markt, listening to the live show. My next stop is Lambertz, one of the many bakeries that specialize in the local gingerbread, called Printen. After one more stop, to gourmet shop Oil & Vinegar, I make my way to the train station. 

As I walk, I ponder what makes Aachen so special. I once met an American expatriate who was selling incense and candles in a booth during the annual Christmas market (Aachen has one of the better ones I’ve seen). When asked what drew her to Aachen, she replied, “It’s a magical place.” I believe her. After all, there is something about this city that made Charlemagne choose it as the center of his empire. It’s hard to put your finger on what it is exactly, but when you come to Aachen, you just feel it. And that’s what keeps me coming back. 

The land of chocolate, cheese, horses, and buggies

To celebrate the end of my master’s program and my mom’s birthday (November 11), Mom and I went to Amish Country last Sunday and stayed through Wednesday morning. We only live two hours away from that area of Ohio, but neither of us had ever visited. We would occasionally pass through areas of Amish settlements on our way to somewhere else, so we’ve seen the Amish buggies on the roads. But never in the numbers we saw them on this trip. 

Now … a brief review of the places we visited.

Guggisberg Swiss Inn: I booked three nights at this inn just outside Charm, which is also the home of Doughty Glen Winery and Amish Country Riding Stables. Horses roam free on the property. The price was extremely reasonable and included a hearty breakfast each morning (eggs, hash browns, and sausage – sometimes pancakes – along with yogurt, cereal, toast, pastries, etc.) 

The grounds are beautiful, with views of rolling hills, farmland, and vineyards. One of the main attractions is the duck pond, and you can bring quarters to buy corn out of a dispenser to feed them. Mom and I were quite popular with the ducks … we had a lot of quarters! 

As quiet and relaxing as this bucolic setting is, there is much to see and do in the area. Here are some of our highlights (in no particular order): 

Guggisberg Cheese: Yes, this is owned by the same people who own the inn, and the cheese factory is just a stone’s throw away. Stop here to buy the Premium Swiss and/or Baby Swiss, which are both ranked best in the U.S. Of course, they also sell a variety of other cheeses, as well as things that go great with cheese. 

Hershberger’s Farm and Bakery: They have a petting zoo here, if you’re into that sort of thing. But mainly it’s a small market/bakery and a place to buy crafts, antiques, and gifts. We got there too early for the petting zoo, unfortunately. They also offer buggy rides for a fee. 

Coblentz Chocolates: We stopped in Walnut Creek, mainly because we were passing by there anyway on our way to Sugarcreek. The Der Dutchman restaurant is probably one of the main draws to Walnut Creek. It seems to always be packed. If you happen to stop in Walnut Creek, this is a great place to buy chocolates, fudge, and candies. It smells heavenly inside. 

Also in Walnut Creek: Carlisle Gifts (across the street from Der Dutchman and part of the group that runs the restaurant – a beautiful shop with a great selection of gifts). Rebecca’s Bistro is a great alternative for breakfast or lunch if you can’t deal with the crowds at Der Dutchman. It’s small, but quaint. I highly recommend the blackberry bacon grilled cheese.

I was curious about Sugarcreek, the “Little Switzerland” of Ohio – home of the World’s Largest Cuckoo Clock. Naturally, this piqued my curiosity, since I lived in Germany for 4 years and I’ve seen some pretty large cuckoo clocks. It’s a fun little detour. Make sure to get there on the half hour or the hour. (There is ample on-street parking and a public lot just across the street.) 

You can see video of the clock here (I changed from vertical to horizontal mid-recording … we sat too close.)

We didn’t stay in Sugarcreek long. Some of the places were closed, and there were some shops we weren’t interested in seeing. But we did go into a shop near the cuckoo clock called Secret Garden. It’s a feast for the senses – almost overwhelmingly so. 

Breitenbach Wine Cellars: There are quite a few wineries in the area, but we found ourselves here. And I’m glad we did. We had unseasonably warm weather (mid-70s!) for November, and they have a very nice patio. After we did a tasting (so many wines to choose from!), we decided on the plum wine. We ordered a chilled bottle to drink there and purchased a cheese plate (local cheeses, of course). This was probably the highlight of my day, just relaxing on the patio with some lovely wine and cheese.  

All of the above were places we visited on the first full day, with the exception of Rebecca’s Bistro, which was a second-day stop. We ended the evening sharing a bottle of Doughty Glen’s White Catawba on the patio back at the inn.  

My aunt joined us on our second (and last) full day to celebrate Mom’s birthday. We concentrated on the nearby town of Berlin, since there are a huge number of shops there. We stopped at Sol’s in Berlin, which is Ohio’s largest craft mall. Just down the street from there is Sheiyah Market, where we spent quite a bit of time also. (We stopped at Buggy Brew Coffee Co. inside the market – great pumpkin spice iced coffee!) Berlin Village Antique Mall was also right there, so we browsed in there, too. 

After summer-like weather for our entire trip, it turned the morning we left. It was rainy and chilly. But we were up early and drove to nearby Miller’s Bakery so we could get there when they opened. OH. MY. GOD. Their cheese tarts! I got a cherry cheese tart. And I got a creamstick to take home for my husband. (Though I ate about a quarter of it. Sooooo goooood.) 

One last recommendation – if you’re in the mood for pizza while you’re in that area, order from East of Chicago. That was our dinner the night we arrived (mostly because it was one of only a few places open on Sunday in the area, and the Berlin location was a short drive from the inn). We each ordered a medium pizza and had enough leftover for dinner the next day.  

A woman in the great outdoors, part 3

Please read parts 1 and 2 before reading this.

Ohio Women’s Outdoor Adventure, Day 3

I tried, unsuccessfully, to sleep in on Sunday morning. Breakfast was at 8. I made some coffee in my room to tide me over (powdered creamer, though, ugh) and grabbed my lens ball out of my camera bag to get some shots of the lake.

I took the same trail from the previous morning, and I saw three deer. One stopped to check me out for a bit.


The morning buffet was fixings for breakfast burritos. This was the last meal included in our weekend, so I ate well. I had some time before my final session – nature photography – and it was held onsite. No bus to catch anywhere. I finished packing up my stuff and taking it out to the car so I could check out before my session started.

My session started at 10. The instructor went over some photography fundamentals with DSLR and cellphone cameras (since not all of us had camera gear). He said we would focus on aperture priority mode so we could get some close-up shots of flowers – at least as close to macro as we could get without a macro lens. And still get that nice blur/bokeh in the background.

When we were ready, we went outside photograph the flower beds and containers outside the lodge. I took two shots that were kind of neat. The rest weren’t very interesting.


Since I have photography experience, the instructor focused most of his energy on some of the other participants. I was fine with that. I just loved seeing his photographs and getting inspired.

Things wrapped up at noon. But before I headed home, I stopped in Loudonville to see the Wolf Creek Grist Mill. All the times I’ve been in the area, and I never stopped there. It was worth a brief visit (and the $1 entry fee) for some nice landscape photos.


I was sad when the weekend ended. I had the chance to experience some new things and challenge myself in an encouraging and relaxed environment. I hope I can go again next year, but understandably, priority is given to first-timers. Still, ODNR offers programs to OWOA alumni, so I’m looking forward to seeing what they offer.

A woman in the great outdoors, part 2

If you haven’t read part 1, click here.

Ohio Women’s Outdoor Adventure, Day 2

I am up on Saturday morning before dawn, as I am most mornings. Breakfast isn’t until 7:00, so I wander around the lodge grounds, hoping to catch the sunrise. From the terrace behind the lodge, I can see the harvest moon setting over Pleasant Hill Lake. I take the trail at the lodge back into the woods, to a different spot with a better view of where the sun is rising over the lake. By then, it’s just after 7:00.


Once the sun is up, I join the other early risers in the ballroom for our breakfast buffet. We have a bus to catch out to the marina at 8:30. I eat a good breakfast: scrambled eggs, bacon, pastries, potatoes. I need a lot of energy for two+ hours of kayaking. I have enough time once I’m finished to go back to my room and change into a swimsuit and some quick-dry shorts. And I needed to grab my life vest.

I was back in the ballroom before 8:00, when they had a presentation and gave out some door prizes. (I didn’t win anything.) It was a bit chilly when we left for the marina, but I didn’t exactly want to wear layers under a life vest. Once we got our brief instruction on kayaking and got out on the water, the exertion of paddling warmed me up. This was my first time in a kayak. I’ve always canoed in the past (and tried stand-up paddle boarding for the first time a week prior).


It was a beautiful morning. Even though it was a bit chilly at first and the paddle constantly dripped water all over me, I wasn’t really bothered by it much. The kayaking instructors pointed out things of interest. We saw two green herons, a kingfisher, several cormorants, an osprey, and countless seagulls. My shoulders started to ache after a while (and I have arthritis in my neck and chronically stiff shoulder muscles, which doesn’t help), but I took frequent breaks. It was a great time.

We had a little time to kill after we finished our session. I wandered around the marina to see what some of the other OWOA groups were doing. Some women were fly fishing on the beach. Others were stand-up paddle boarding. Others were learning jug fishing. The bus was waiting for us in the parking lot, so I finally just got on and waited to be taken back to the lodge.

It was lunchtime when I got back. They had boxed lunches sitting out on tables for us – a grab and go situation. I just took mine and went back to my room. It was noon and I had a couple hours until my next session, which was archery. So, I was able to eat and watch a bit of the Ohio State game against Indiana.

By the time 2:00 rolled around and the archery session was starting, my shoulders and back ached pretty significantly. And I was just so tired. I listened to the archery instructor and practiced the shooting position he taught us, but then it was time to actually do it. With the other women in the group watching.

I was the second person to go. My target was a foam deer. I hit it in the neck. The next arrow went into its heart. I basically only missed twice during my practice round. Once everyone had a turn, we were free to shoot at will. The instructor told us that we could come and go as we pleased, so I shot off maybe another 10 arrows (my practice round was better), and I just couldn’t keep going.

Thankfully, we were at the lodge for our archery session, so it was a short walk back to my room. I crashed hard for almost two hours. I guess I needed the sleep.

I woke up at 5:15 or so, and dinner was at 6. We had an Italian buffet at dinner, and more door prizes were given away. I WON!!! It’s a great prize, too – a $50 gift certificate for camping at either Charles Mill Park or Pleasant Hill Park (Pleasant Hill being the marina where I kayaked that morning). Looking forward to using it, though it probably won’t be until next spring or summer.

We capped off dinner with a sundae bar, then the evening activities began. The lodge had a community bonfire with games like giant Jenga and cornhole. Our group also had the option of participating in axe throwing, which was set up by the front entrance. We had to wear wristbands, since it was limited only to OWOA. (I didn’t axe throw – not with my shoulders aching the way they did – but I watched for a bit.)

It was a wonderful evening. We watched the sun set.


We roasted marshmallows over the fire, talking and laughing like old friends.


I had only met these women the day before, but we were already bonding over this shared experience. Some ordered drinks from the bar. I had a bottle of wine in my room, so I just smuggled some out to the firepit. It was a great way to end day 2.

Continue to part 3.

A woman in the great outdoors, part 1


Ohio Women’s Outdoor Adventure, Day 1

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has a weekend program every year called Ohio Women’s Outdoor Adventure (OWOA). Women from all walks of life spend the weekend at a state park lodge learning outdoor skills. Activities include fishing, boating, shooting, archery, Dutch oven cooking, orienteering, geocaching … the list goes on and on.

I wanted to sign up last year – the first year I heard about it. I had a scheduling conflict, but at least it was on my radar.

This year, I was lucky enough to be on Facebook at almost the precise moment the ODNR posted that registration was now open for this event. Better yet, they were holding it at Mohican State Park, which is my favorite place in Ohio. For $320, you get a two-night stay at Mohican State Park Lodge and Resort (with all the amenities offered), five meals, snacks, a t-shirt, four activity sessions, a field trip to Malabar Farm State Park, and the use of equipment.

I couldn’t sign up fast enough. Take my money.

I eagerly anticipated this weekend for three whole months. Finally, it was time! Last Friday, I took the day off work and drove to the lodge, arriving late in the morning. Registration was quick and efficient. I signed in, got my swag bag (we got some free goodies courtesy of some of the sponsors), got fitted for a life vest, and got checked into my room. This was all before lunch, and the event didn’t start until 1 p.m.

I got lunch at the onsite restaurant and was ready and waiting in the ballroom for the opening presentation. It gave me a chance to meet some of the other participants and chat about our expectations for the weekend.

After the short ceremony, we all went to our activities. Mine was hiking, so I got in the passenger van taking us to Lyons Falls Trail. (The sign pictured below is actually incorrect. It is Lyons, not Lyon.)


This is my favorite trail at Mohican, one I’ve walked many times. But this time we had a naturalist leading us, and she gave us all sorts of fascinating information about the geologic history of the area, as well as flora and fauna. We also hiked further on this trail than I ever had previously. It’s two miles to Big Lyons Falls (the first of two), and I always turned around at that point and hiked back.


Not this time. Our group went on to Little Lyons Falls and then to Pleasant Hill Dam, which is at the three-mile point.

The driver met us at the dam, in case some of us wanted to go back. I could have kept hiking, but I was also eager to get the early bus out to Malabar Farm State Park. It was already going on 4 p.m., and the first bus for Malabar was scheduled for 5. It was also hot and humid, so I was drenched in sweat and in need of a shower.

So, I grabbed the ride back to the lodge at that point and freshened up.

At this point, I should say that I was expecting a roommate. I had her name, but at that point, I hadn’t met her yet. Nor was there any evidence that she had made it to the room.

Anyway, I grabbed a spot on the 5:00 coach to Malabar. A woman asked if she could sit next to me. We started chatting, and that’s when we realized we were supposed to be roommates. We were given keys to different rooms, so we each had rooms of our own. Sweet! I got to know her better than anyone else over the weekend, and she’s really cool. She also lives near me!


I had never been to Malabar Farm before. It’s one of those places I wish I had visited sooner. It’s still a working farm (and it’s allegedly haunted), but its claim to fame is that it was home to Pulitzer Prize-winning author Louis Bromfield, and the wedding of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall was held there in 1945. The grounds are beautiful, and the main house is a time capsule of 1940’s life. We had a barbecue buffet on the grounds before the tours started.



I was on the 8:00 bus back to the lodge, and I just hung out in my room for the rest of the night. A thunderstorm rolled in after 9:00, and it was nice to sit on the balcony (first floor, HAHA) and watch the storm.

That’s the end of day one. OWOA was off to a great start!

Continue on to part 2.

Island Weekend


We just got back from a long weekend in Put-in-Bay. It was my husband’s first time visiting Lake Erie, and he loved it. I haven’t been to Put-in-Bay in more than 20 years, so it was nice to go back.

We decided to take the Casita and camp at South Bass Island State Park. In hindsight, it would have been easier and far less expensive to camp at East Harbor State Park (on the mainland) because the ferry can be expensive. Plus, we had to rent a golf cart for three days. But we had a great time regardless.

It was shortly after noon when we got to Port Clinton, where the ferry terminal is located. I knew we’d pass Cheese Haven, which was a place I always visited when I was in the area. But it wasn’t nearly as great as I remembered it. I remember there being a lot more samples. They only had some cheese dips to taste (one sample per customer), and I tried one marked “bacon” that evidently had ghost pepper in it. I prayed for death for probably a good 10 minutes until the burning stopped.

So yes, I’m probably done with Cheese Haven for life. We bought a couple cheeses and some fudge, but I have no desire to go back.

Surprisingly enough, there was not a long wait at the ferry terminal. A ferry was leaving just as we got there, but we got on the next one.

And then …


Kid Rock performed the night before on Put-in-Bay at their annual Bay Bash. He apparently took the ferry we were about to get on. He walked past our truck (on the driver’s side), putting us between him and the line of walk-on passengers, many of whom clearly recognized him and started taking pictures. I couldn’t even believe it was him at first because why on Earth would he take the ferry? Put-in-Bay has an airport, or he could have taken a private boat. To see him get off the Miller Ferry was unexpected.

Anyway, I am not a fan of Kid Rock, but it’s now a story I can tell people.

So, the ferry ride was easy. We were the second vehicle to get off, and we found the campground easily. In no time, we were set up.

It was very woody and buggy. We are covered in the mosquito bites to prove it. (Yes, we have insect repellent. No, we didn’t use it. I don’t know why.)

Rather than bore you with the details, I’ll give some highlights:

  • Breakfast at Pasquale’s Café. We did this twice. Highly recommended.
  • Pizza at Frosty Bar. Yes, yes, yes!
  • Tasting at Put-in-Bay Winery.
  • Visit to Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial. We could see mainland Canada from the top. (I’ve visited at least twice before, but we have an America the Beautiful Pass, so it’s free and the views are great.)

It’s a party island basically (and we’re not partiers), so you have your pick of bars. We mostly took drives around the island in the golf cart to explore the natural beauty, people watch a little, and look at real estate. (We’re not buying, just curious.)

Oh, and if you go on a holiday weekend, RESERVE A GOLF CART IN ADVANCE! We did (you can reserve online), and everywhere was sold out. We saw many tourists walking around the island because they couldn’t get a golf cart. There are also bikes for rent, and mopeds, too, I think. We had someone ask us for a ride, in fact, but we had a two-seater, so we couldn’t help out.

Our island weekend is now over. We’re home and we have the dogs, and we are trying to ease back into our routine and get ready for the work week. Sad that it ended, but we’ll be back.