High Street Cafe, Hamilton OH

I got to try a new lunch spot today in downtown Hamilton, Ohio: the High Street Cafe at 250 High Street (thus the name, am I right?) between Hamilton's Second Street and Third Street.
What a fun place with an extensive menu: breakfast, lunch, eat-in or carry-out, sandwiches, wraps, salads, bakery--even a well-displayed "hidden menu." Yes, that's right. A hidden menu. On the wall. Right there.

I had the "Texas chili." Delicious. Forgot to take a photo. Sorry about that. But I recommend it.

Gracepointe Nazarene Church, Trenton OH

The lovely Robin and I visited a new church yesterday on the way to a Sunday afternoon visit with family: Gracepointe Nazarene in nearby Trenton, Ohio.

We entered a good fifteen or more minutes before the start of the service--because, contrary to the starting time listed on the website (10:30), the morning worship service was slated to begin at 10:45. We thought it was interesting that there were pews on the flanks of the auditorium and chairs in the middle section--though strangely, the middle section was mostly empty, leading us to wonder if there were some special purpose for them. But no, it just seemed that most people preferred the side seating.
The service began with a hymn--"The Old Rugged Cross." You can't much hymnier than that. It seemed strange as an opening. After several verses, everyone was encouraged to shake hands all around. The worship band then led four songs, passionately and effectively. We were blessed by the worship leader's openness and passion, and were excited that there was a young violin player in the band, though we never heard the violin. Pity.
After the worship set, the children (who had joined the service during worship) were led out, and at some point someone opened the curtains along with walls to let the sunlight stream in; nice. The pastor, Jon Young, preached on Deuteronomy 10 and 11, concluding a series. He clearly knew his flock, and we were blessed by his sensitive and passionate delivery. 

We dashed out as soon as the service concluded, needing to get to our family thing, but were happy to have visited this dear family church. 

Gracepointe Nazarene is located at 220 North Miami Street in Trenton, Ohio. 

Asheville Pizza and Brewing Company, Asheville NC

Right about this time last week I had the pleasure and honor of heading out from the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference at Ridgecrest with about a dozen fellow writers, all of whom are way cooler and more accomplished than I am, to the Asheville Pizza and Brewing Company in North Asheville (hence the name).
I refrained from all alcoholic refreshment, though my photo skills that night do seem to say otherwise. I took only two photos because the conversation was so fascinating (sorta like Tolkein, Williams, Lewis, and the other Inklings) I couldn't tear myself away. I also never took a photo of our group, because, well, several of them would have sued me if anyone found out they were actually spending time with me.
Asheville Pizza and Brewing Company is a craft brewery, pizza joint, gameroom, and discount-and-dine-in movie theater with a unique vibe. Not that I'm any expert on vibes, unique or otherwise. Movies are $3 a person. We were having too much fun to even inquire into what was showing.

It was fun, and our server was patient, efficient, and charming. The pizza: meh. I shared a "Cheeseburger in Paradise" pizza with a friend who had already experienced the "Biltmore" pizza. We both wished we had gotten the Biltmore, which is meatier. Still, the pizza wasn't the point--the company was.

Asheville Pizza and Brewing Company has three Asheville locations; we dined at 675 Merrimon Avenue in North Asheville.

Americano Burger Bar, Cincinnati OH

Last Thursday, the lovely Robin and I tried a new restaurant less than two blocks from the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company theater, where we were going to see a show: Americano Burger Bar.
We arrived at a few minutes past six o'clock and were seated immediately. Our personable server arrived within a couple minutes to take our order. We did something we almost never do: ordered the same thing, the "Queen City" burger and fries. They serve more than burgers and fries, but that's what we wanted.
The food was delicious, served piping hot. Robin noted that the fry cooks (the small kitchen was fully visible from our seats) wore hats but no nets or anything on their beards--and they were all amply bearded. She managed to shake it off, more or less.
The men's room was clean. Though I didn't need a whole beer keg to take care of business. 

Americano Burger Bar is located at 545 Race Street in downtown Cincinnati. 

Prova, Morgan Hill CA

Earlier this month, while visiting the California branch of our family, the lovely Robin and I accompanied Aaron and Nina to a restaurant called Prova, in lovely upscale Morgan Hill, for lunch.
It was a lovely day, the windows were wide open, and we were shown right to our table. We didn't know it was (at least partly) a tapas restaurant. But our server (though I think he was relatively new) was delightful and helpful, so we ordered.
For once, I wasn't real hungry so I ordered the fritatta, which was drier than I expected. Over-cooked, I thought.
The lovely Robin had a hamburger and fries, which was excellent, so she saved me a few bites. Altogether it was disappointing and overpriced but the company couldn't have better, and that redeemed the entire experience.

Morgan Hill is a charming community, but I doubt we'll return to Prova. It is located at 17340 Monterey Street in Morgan Hill, California.

How I Lost Weight on a 15-Day Cruise

Imagine my surprise, upon returning from my 15-day fortieth anniversary cruise with the lovely Robin, to discover that I had actually lost a couple pounds on the trip! Me. Who usually gains weight from thinking about food. It's true. But it wasn't by accident.

So how did it happen?

1. The lovely Robin and I ate like royalty but we intentionally stayed away from the 24-hour buffet on the ship. We started each day with room service breakfast (see here) but otherwise ordered from the menu in one of the ship's elegant dining rooms. That way, while we did have multiple courses, we also had set portions at nearly every meal (we did eat three meals in the buffet, I think, due to scheduling and availability). Overall, we ate well but never once felt stuffed while on board the Grand Princess.
2. I exercised every morning when the ship was at sea (except one day) in the ship's fitness center (above). That totaled nine exercise sessions, I think.

3. We snacked only on fruit, which was available (and free) in our room 24/7. Well, we also had an ice cream cone most evenings. But again, we stayed out of the buffet.

And that was about it. Not rocket science. And it didn't require a lot of effort. But it sure worked for me.

Other Shows on the Grand Princess

I've already mentioned (here and here) some of the fine entertainment the lovely Robin enjoyed on our recent cruise to Hawai'i on the Grand Princess. And the hits just kept on coming. Singer and humorist David Pengelly offered a whimsical blend of comedy and music that Robin and I thoroughly enjoyed.
The Perfect Gentlemen were not at all what we expected, based on the ship's newsletter blurb about their show. But their versatility and creativity were enjoyable.
Nashville songwriter, instrumentalist, and singer Ric Steele did a little bit of everything (my favorite was his rendition of the instrumental guitar piece, "Classical Gas"), including a touching personal story before performing an encore.
The ship's orchestra, singers, and dancers presented a dynamic "British Invasion" show (above and below) that delighted us both--though it was hard not to sing along. Okay, I did. But only sometimes. On every song.

Las Vegas entertainer Cheaza wowed everyone with a Whitney Houston tribute show. Absolutely wonderful. I loved it when she casually mentioned, "my aunt, Chaka Khan." Dang. And her finale ("I Will Always Love You," of course), brought the house down.
The ship's dancers presented a Stephen-Schwartz-produced show, "Born to Dance," that included video and narration about various choreographers introducing many of Broadway's most memorable dance numbers, from "Hello, Dolly" (above) to "A Chorus Line" (below).
We could hardly have been more pleased with the Grand Princess's entertainment options and presentations, both in the Princess Theater and smaller venues. Well done, Princess Cruise Lines!