Friday, August 31, 2018

Gracie’s Field

Behind my daughter’s apartment complex is a field. Once upon a time, it was most certainly part of narure’s Great Hardwood Forest; later most likely a farmer’s corn field. Eventually, this place will probably be developed into some kind of space for suburban living. 

But for now, it’s nothing more or less than a field. Butterflies flit among the grasses and. birds swoop just above them. Rabbits may run in the longer bits of grass, and deer come out of the nearby woods at dawn and dusk to graze. 

Gracie loves this field. We took her there multiple times each day and every time, she leaped and pranced and strutted with delight. 

And it makes me happy that I can make her happy with such a simple thing as a field. 

Cleveland Beer and Coffee

We were making plans for our last day in Cleveland when I had a big idea, “Can we do something Cleveland-y?”

For all the times I’ve visited my family in the area, there have been precious few outings around town. Mostly my time here has been spent in my mother-in-law’s kitchen, chatting on backyard patios, and hanging out at the pool. Finally we parents had some time to ourselves. 

So my brother- and sister-in-law put their heads together and came up with a great plan. 

First stop: Edgewater Park

This gorgeous crescent of shady grass and sandy beach swoops along the shoreline of Lake Erie just west of downtown Cleveland. The script letters have been positioned just so for a perfect capture of the skyline and the effect is irresistible. We called some strangers over to work the cameras and rocked our best Cleveland pose. 

Second stop: West Side Market

Tucked up close to - you guessed it- the west side of the city stands this gem of a farmers’ market. Offering fruits, veggies, meats, cheeses, baked goods, pastries, candies and who knows what all else, the market has been a center of deliciousness since 1840. 

I was overwhelmed by the incredible magnitude of food options - my husband picked out a vendor and suggested we buy some of his beef jerky. “You pick the flavor,” he said. There were at least a dozen. 

So I calmed myself by taking photos of the pleasingly symmetrical and sedately ornate ceiling. 

Third stop: Great Lakes Brewing Company

Near the market, in the quickly gentrifying Ohio City neighborhood, we stopped for a bite to eat. Despite the 90 degree temperatures and 90 percent humidity, our outdoor table was cool and breezy and a perfect place for a Midwest lunch. 

My salmon BLT was delicious and a lot to eat on such a hot day. I savored every single bite anyway. 

And this little princess sat quietly between our chairs as we ate, relaxing in her little puddle of shade and watching the people passing by just inches from her resting place. 

Our wait staff served Gracie a bowl of fresh cool an upside down red plastic Cleveland Indians batting helmet. How cute was that. 

The flower baskets near our table were absolutely exploding with lush summer color. 

As we reluctantly left our comfortable seats and headed back into the glaring sun, my sister-in-law found this sign and quickly claimed the quote as our new family motto. 

And while I don’t really drink much beer or coffee, I love our new mottto. Because I am definitely all about good ideas and getting them done. 

Adventures At The Pond

My husband’s youngest sister has lived in the same lovely Cleveland-area suburban neighborhood for twenty years now. We’ve visited many times and strolled often along the sidewalks and around the community pool. 

But it was only this past weekend that rhebthought dawned on me to walk my dog over to the neighborhood pond. 

Gracie quickly went all in with my idea. As usual, when she is presented with any body of water larger than, well, her body, she rushed right in, lay down in the shallows and began lapping up the water with gusto. 

She doesn”t really care to swim per se, but boy, does Gracie love to lie in water and lap. 

Now this particular pond is well populated with ducks and Canada geese. For the most part, the water fowl kept their distance from us. Each day, they waddled out from under their shade tree as Gracie happily approached, and paddled off to the far side of the pond.  

But on one of the days we visited, a small contingent of female ducks organized a counterattack. Almost in military formation, they pursued my amiable redhead, quacking their indignation and clearly attempting to scare her off their turf. 

You can see the effect of their intimidation campaign on Gracie. 


Because there is nothing - not even a fleet of angry mama ducks -  that is going to ruin my dog’s happy adventures at the pond. 

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Welcome To Stump

Talk about gentrification. This gorgeous sleek store is literally surrounded by buildings slated for demolition. You do you, Stump, and let the neighborhood do whatever the heck it’s doing. 

Ok, let me be honest. I love a bougie plant store more than I can say. 

And even though we found plenty of healthy beautiful specimens at the local big box stores, my daughter suggested we check out a gorgeous and wildly aesthetic curated plant store called Stump

And I fell madly in love. 

Even as we crossed the street, wondering how our destination could possible be found in this ratty little heap of broken-down buildings, our eyes slowly tuned into the front windows of one that was filled with glossy, rich foliage. Inside, we noted the artisan crafted pots and legitimate, um, stumps upon which the plants posed. 

And let me tell you right now, we were smitten. 

The interior of the shop screamed quirky cool from every corner. 

A black leather Chrsterfield couch lounging among the leaves. 

Live edge floating wooden  shelves adorning the walls, overflowing with sparkling specimens in less-is-more pots 

Clear glass cylinders hung here and there, showcasing air plants on crushed sandstone or leaves resting in crystal water. 

Honestly, I was overwhelmed. Too awestruck to point and click. 

Then I walked out on the back deck. 

I ogled 

I gaped. 

I turned in giddy circles and snapped photos of everything in sight. 

And I decided that surely this Stump store must be the cutest plant boutique ever 

* * * * *

Not that I was exactly proven wrong, but a few days later, I was pleasantly surprised to find my conclusion challenged. 

There are two Stump stores in Columbus 

I had visited the one in Italian Village

There is another store  in German Village

(And a third in Philadelphia. But that one is off my grip for the time being.)

Needless to say, it wasn’t long before we headed to German Village to check out this second Stump. 

I hope you will not be shocked to hear it was an equally gorgeous experience. 

Just look. I have no words. 

Again, my camera roll failed to capture the essence of this magical place. 

All I can say is, if you ever find yourself in Columbus (or apparently Philadelphia too), check out the beauty that is Stump. 

And I will say, you’re welcome. 

Destination: Family

^ In case you can’t tell what you’re looking at, this is a shot looking down on Gracie as she lies on the couch, where she patiently lay as her one-year-old human cousin covered her back leg with stickers. 

Though there’s much to be said for an ambling circular ramble around the countryside, every Streicher Family Road Trip has a defined goal. 

And ninety-nine times out of one hundred, the goal is family. 

We are West Coast transplants; the rest of our exrended families live east of the Misssissippi; most of them in Michigan and Ohio. 

And now even our second-born lives in Ohio. 

So after our four-day 2400-mile road trip across the country, we pulled up, hopped out, and walked into our loved’ ones’ open arms. 

^ Gracie knows how to work the pillows on my daughter’s couch to make herself feel right at home. 

Specifically, our visits involved:

Hanging curtains, potting plants, and building furniture for my daughter’s apartment. 

Browsing bougie plant stores. 

Adoring Gracie as she flounced around every house she entered as if she were the queen of each castle. . 

Marveling at my brother-in-law’s best-ever grilled flank steak. 

Taking Gracie for dips in the neighborhood duck pond 

And yes, watching with delight as my little grand-niece made friends with my big furry dog. 

These are the moments for which we traveled all those miles across the country. And every single inch was worth it. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Going Back

^ Travel west on Interstate 80 through the heart of South Dakota, and near the middle of the state, the road comes over the top of an enormous bluff and drips precipitously down a steep hill. At the bottom lies the sleepy and well-kept town of Chamberlain, and just beyond that, the mighty waters of the Missouri River. This scenery unfolds in a breathtaking rush; for those who want to savor the landscape, there is a rest area poised at the top of the bluff and it’s a favorite stop for a Streixher Family Road Trip. 

A stiff morning breeze blows chill off the Missouri River far below us. My husband and I huddle in our warm car parked at the rest area at the top of the bluff. Munching our warm Sausage Egg McMuffins, we stare in awe at the huge sculpture looking out across the powerful landscape. Installed two years ago, this beauty is called Dignity of Earth and Sky, and she is meant to remind us of our shared belief in the sacred nature of this place. 

^ I wanted to pose Gracie in this scene to give some perspective to the size of this artwork. But the wind was so unrelentingly cold that my dog and I cowered in the car while my husband ran out to take this photo for me. Suffice it to say that the golden stone at the base of the sculpture is designed as a bench for normal-sized humans. When seated, a tall person’s head would barely reach the top of Dignity’s moccasins. 

Our minds tumble back through the years, and we remember several times during our daughters’ childhoods on other Streicher Family Road Trips, when we stopped at this same rest area. Spilling out of the car in a flurry of half-tied sneakers and bagel crumbs, our little girls squealed with delight and ran back and forth across the then-empty grassy knoll where Difnity now sits. The same crazy winds blew their blond pigtails every which way and sent them running back to our picnic table for food and sweatshirts. 

As they grew older, we tpointed to the river below and told our girls stories about Lewis and Clark paddling their fleet of canoes right past the very place where we stood  Fighting the currents and dreaming of what they would find in the unknown reaches of the continent, these explorers became very real to us, and  the countryside took on a new richness. 

Our minds drift  back over more years, My husband recounts once again the famous story from his childhood: on one of their own family road trips, his father’s car broke down on the interstate near this rest area. Luckily they were able to coast down the big hill to the town of Chamberlain, right there on the banks of the Missouri River,  and roll right into a garage for repairs. 

The story goes that a special part had to be ordered and brought in from Denver, and the family was stranded in town for two days. Concerns grew that they would not make it to the Calvary Stampede in time, but they did and all was well in the end. Still, my father-in-law held a grudge against that old station wagon, and after returning home, they soon after got à new car.  

 * * * * *

Though there isn’t a whole lot that is Inherently special about this particular rest area in the middle of South Dakota, it has become a special place for us. There’s something powerdul about going back and back and back to the same specific place, over the course of generations, that creates layers of sweet memories and a genuine connection to the land.. 

And that is yet another wonderful thing about a Streicher Family Road Trip. We can always go back. 

Monday, August 20, 2018

How We Roll

This photo was taken shortly after dawn this morning as we headed east throughh central South Dakota, the sun a tiny orange disk burning through the weight of distant wildfire smoke still hanging heavy in the sky. 

But wait. 

How is it that a delayed sleep phaser such as myself is on the road bright and early, when every ounce of my biology should be demanding that I sleep? 

The answer to that question is perhaps the most amazing key to success for the Streicher Family Road Trip:

While I am an extreme night owl, my husband is a total lark. 

Long ago, we perfected a system in which he gets up at the crack of some unholy predawn hour. He finalizes our route, arranges our maps, fills water jugs, and takes the dog out for a top o’ the morninn’ stroll. Twenty minutes before he wants to leave, he calls me and my owl-leaning daughters out of our slumbers. 

Just barely. 

We don’t actually wake up. With eyes mostly closed, we toss on our clothes, do a bare minimum of personal grooming, zip our suitcases, and then sleepwalk out through the brisk Western morning air to the car. A pleasing array of pillows and blankets are waiting for us, and we snuggle in and drift back off to sleep. 

My husband always, always drives the first shift. 

Once I’ve properly napped and tucked into a mid-morning breakfast, I’m ready to actually wake up. I take over the wheel around 10:30 or 11 a.m., a much more manageable time for me, and we roll on. 

By mid-afternoon, the situation reverses. My husband finishes his post-lunch shift, slides to the passenger seat and zones out. I’m usually responsible for bringing us into the barn, and on the occasions when our schedule pushes us into driving after dark, there’s a 100% chance I’ll be driving. 

Thus from our two extreme sleeping preferences comes an ideal and mile-maximizing road-tripping dream team. 

And that, quite literally, is how we roll.