The Schoolhouse Restaurant

While searching for a new and different restaurant to take the lovely Robin to celebrate her twenty-ninth birthday, I came across the Schoolhouse Restaurant in Camp Dennison, east of Cincinnati.
Camp Dennison is so named because it was a Civil War army camp and hospital. The schoolhouse, built in the early 1860s, was one of the first schools in the Midwest with a second story. It is a massive building surrounded by a broad expanse of lawn, and it functioned as a school for students through the eighth grade until 1952. 
The place still boasts a home-spun appeal, from the goats and geese roaming around out back to the family-style dining to the menu, with entrees like fried chicken, roast beef, meatloaf, and baked cod, accompanied by mashed potatoes, green beans, corn, freshly made coleslaw, tossed salad, and moist sweet cornbread--all served family style.
The menu is listed on the blackboard that occupies one full wall of the single dining room. The staff are efficient at getting people in, seated, and served. 

I seldom pass up the opportunity for fried chicken--thank GOD for chicken!--and this was no exception. Though it was not the best chicken I've had, the cornbread and mashed potatoes were excellent, and the roast beef entree that Robin and Aubrey ordered was enough to feed an army, appropriately enough. The raspberry cobbler a la mode I had for dessert was finestkind, too. 
We also snuck upstairs to see the second floor, complete with stage and balcony on three sides, that is used for performances and, of course, receptions, accommodating close to 100 people. 
Following dinner, we waddled to the General Store located behind the restaurant, and the grandkids paused to watch the animals penned alongside the store. We could have stayed longer, but the lovely Robin and I had a movie to get to in Mariemont, a favorite place of ours for date nights. 

The Schoolhouse Restaurant is located at 8031 Glendale Milford Road in Camp Dennison, Ohio.  


Tom+Chee (pronounced "Tom and Chee") is a restaurant chain started just six years ago by Trew Quackenbush, Corey Ward, and their wives, Jenn and Jenny. They couldn’t afford rented space or even a food truck, so they set up an awning next to the ice-skating rink on Cincinnati’s Fountain Square in late 2009, and started serving TOMato soup and grilled CHEEse sandwiches. Get it? Tom+Chee.
I'd never had Tom+Chee, but had heard great things about it, so on a recent date night with the lovely Robin (who loves tomato soup and grilled cheese), I decided to try it out.
The menu today includes more than twenty-five eclectic grilled cheese sandwiches, three versions of tomato soup daily, and a variety of specials, all made in-house. They even serve "vegan cheese" on request. From vegan cows, I'm guessing. 
I had the creamy tomato soup, and Swiss-and-mushroom-on-rye grilled sandwich. Robin had a cheese-and-ham-with-pickle sandwich and the chunky tomato soup. It was fresh and different and delicious. 

Nowadays, Tom+Chee has opened locations as far west in the USA as Colorado and as far north and east as Boston. I counted locations in sixteen states. 

It's good food with a sense of humor. I liked it. 

Grove City College, Grove City, PA

I had the joy and honor this past week of serving on the faculty of the St. Davids Christian Writers Conference, which was held on the campus of Grove City College in (what a strange coincidence) Grove City, Pennsylvania. I already blogged briefly (here) about the conference. So I thought I'd post a few photos of the beautiful campus. 
Grove ​City College was founded in 1876 (and remains today) as a Christian institution, historically affiliated with the Presbyterian Church but intentionally non-sectarian in its approach. The school has an enrollment of 2,500 students; the population of the city, located sixty miles north of Pittsburgh, is 8,000.
The buildings, grounds, and other features (such as the "Rainbow Bridge," above) are impressive and immaculate, and there was a clear and abiding affection for and pride in the school among the many alumni I met who participate in the St. Davids conference.
Most of the conference took place in the Hall of Arts and Letters ("HAL"), above, and our meals (except for the Saturday night banquet) were taken just across from HAL in the Breen Student Union. I was impressed from the first moment to the last. A beautiful place. Makes me wish I could've gone to school there.

St. Davids Christian Writers Conference, Grove City, PA

I'm spending this week at the St. Davids Christian Writers Conference on the campus of Grove City College in--can you guess?--Grove City, PA. I was honored to deliver the opening keynote last evening, and am teaching the "nonfiction writing" continuing class today, tomorrow, and Saturday (as well as various and sundry other duties--mostly sundry).
St. Davids has been meeting here for ten or so years now, but this is my first visit to Grove City College. And what a wonderful surprise. The campus is gorgeous, the buildings stately, and the accommodations perfectly comfortable. The last time I spoke at St. Davids, it was located in Beaver Falls, and I vividly remember staying in un-air-conditioned dorm rooms on the campus of Geneva College. It still makes me sweat, just thinking about it. And, as a matter of fact, St. Davids was the very first writers conference I attended, in (I think) 1988, when I was a magazine editor and the conference was held in St. Davids, PA, on the campus of Eastern University.
The lodging is roomy. Nothing fancy but air-conditioned! I was supposed to have two roommates sharing the three-bedroom, two-bath apartment, but neither of them has showed up yet (I won't mention any names but Dave and Frank, you know who you are and you know what you did!).
I'll be here through the weekend, and am already having a great time. It's so great to reunite with old friends, make new friends, and talk books and words and writing and publishing with people who share my passions....and dysfunctions.

Lebanon Grand Opry

Last Saturday evening, the lovely Robin and I ventured into the wilds of Lebanon, Ohio, to take her parents, Sue and Dick Wright, to one of their favorite places, the Lebanon Grand Opry House.
Dick and Sue's usual front row seats were reserved for them, and we had the honor of sitting with them for a jam-packed program of country music. 
The outstanding house band, TNT Band, backed everyone of a half dozen artists, from WAIF 88.3 FM's Tom Winkler, Don Haddock, Jessie Lyn, Cara Belt, and Makenna and Shelby, who were returning to the Opry stage after a two-year hiatus. The music ranged from Waylon Jennings and Hank Williams to Martina McBride and Jessica Andrews. It was a great night, but it kept us out way past our bedtimes; Robin and I just can't keep up with Dick and Sue anymore like we used to. 

The Memorial Service of C. V. Hostetler

The lovely Robin and I joined many of our family last Sunday at Long Point Camp on Seneca Lake in New York for an informal service to remember and honor my father, Vernon Hostetler, who was "promoted to Glory" in March. 
Gathering in the large and lovely common room of the Lodge on the camp's grounds, we sang, read Scripture, told stories, and shared many laughs and a few tears. 
My oldest brother Don (above, right), who planned the service, also provided leadership with his wife, Arvilla. We watched a few minutes of an interview video recorded nearly twenty years ago, in which Dad told the story-in-dialect of "Hans and Yakob." Uncle Walt (my mom's brother-in-law) led a time of storytelling; some of the stories that were told, I had never heard. We sang, "How Great Thou Art" and "Blessed Assurance," two of Dad's favorite hymns. 
With our Aunt Shirley (our mom's youngest sister) at the piano, Don, Larry, and I sang a Gospel song Dad sang many times: "Ezekiel's Boneyard." Larry also (with Don at the piano) sang "The Ninety-and-Nine," and I presented a reading Dad often combined with that song, "Poor Li'l Brack Sheep." The program also included the reading of a poem composed by Kevin Hostetler, who due to military service wasn't able to be there. And Fr./Lt. David Hostetler gave a sensitive and meaningful meditation and (with his three youngest sons) prayer. 
There was more, but it was all just perfect. I think Dad would have loved it. I know I did. 

The Retirement of Majors Hostetler

What a wonderful time the lovely Robin and I enjoyed last weekend at The Salvation Army's Long Point Camp on Seneca Lake near Penn Yan, New York.
The occasion was the afternoon service marking the entry of my brother and sister-in-law, Majors Don and Arvilla Hostetler, into honored retirement from a combined ninety years of service to God and the ministry of The Salvation Army. It was such a joy and honor to be there for the celebration, which included (above) a Scripture reading by five of Don and Arvilla's grandkids (which altogether number somewhere around three or four thousand, I think).
Don and Arvilla were insistent that the service honor God and celebrate his faithfulness (rather than eulogizing them), which it did. In fact, a highlight for me was the singing of "Great Is Thy Faithfulness," first by Don and Arvilla, joined on the next verse by their children, then their daughters-in-law and son-in-law, and finally by all the grandchildren for the final verse. Throat constricted, tears flowed, for me, anyway.
The Unbearable Adorableness of Being Grandchildren made the grandkids presentation of "It's a Miracle" (above), which their parents used to sing together on repeated occasions, whether they wanted to or not, another high point among many.
Finally the fun stopped (just kidding--why you gotta be so sensitive?) and the official retirement portion of the program, conducted by Commissioner Phil Swires (R), took place (flagbearers from left to right: Envoy Philip Hostetler, Chaplain Lt. (USN) David Hostetler, Lt. Col. Tim Raines (R), and Major John Cranford (R)). I was surprised that Don and Arvilla could hold it together, but they did. And that they weren't blinded, even temporarily, by their son's dazzling white uniform. Sheesh. 

In all seriousness, it was a great moment. I am so proud of my big brother and sister. They have worked so hard and faithfully, always giving, never taking, never shirking, never failing in love, duty, obedience, integrity, and servanthood. The standard phrase, "honored retirement" doesn't even begin to do them justice.