Awaited: A Christmas Show

The lovely Robin and I have been anxiously waiting for weeks the blessing of enjoying with each other, our kids, grandkids, our kids' in-laws, and even our grandkids' great-grandparents (and Aunt Jane!) the inaugural performance of Awaited: A Christmas Show, the annual extravaganza at Crossroads Community Church in Oakley.

The atrium at Crossroads was transformed into a Christmas village, with a Candy Shoppe (above) and Cocoa Cafe (below).

There was the usual offering of coffee at several stations around the room, but also hot chocolate (with whipped cream), kettle corn, and more.

The children's area featured a gingerbread house (which our son--who has worked full-time at Crossroads since early October helped construct) and activities for children.

There was a beautifully appointed photo area where guests could take a festive Christmas photo.

We spent most of our time before the auditorium doors opened making sure we connected with our party of seventeen, and headed in to our ground floor seats as soon as we could.

The show was wonderful. I didn't take photos during the show itself, of course, but just trust me: it was excellent. The sound was intense, the music engrossing, the costuming impressive, the choreography outstanding, and the pacing excellent. I loved both the original songs and the updated musical settings for the traditional lyrics, as well as the use of video and various staging techniques. It was worth ten or twenty times what we paid--more, in fact, since the tickets were free.

Go here to order tickets for the show.

The Forty-Fifth Parallel

Here is another of my favorite travel photos. This one is from my family's May/June 2011 vacation in Michigan, of my daughter-in-law Nina and granddaughter Mia walking on the 45th parallel (the halfway mark between the North Pole and the Equator) near the Old Mission Lighthouse:

Festival of Lights

The lovely Robin and I accompanied our kids and grandkids, Aubrey, Kevin, Calleigh, and Ryder to the Festival of Lights at the Cincinnati Zoo this evening.

As always, the decorations and displays were just wonderful. Kevin pointed out after a half hour or more that there was no lighting necessary other than the decorative displays; the entire grounds were illuminated by the thousands of lights all around.

The kids were angels, and the weather was well nigh perfect: cool, clear, and pleasant. Though it had rained earlier in the day, there was no need for umbrellas or raincoats the whole time we were there.

And, though the kids shied from Santa, Frosty, and the Gingerbread Man, we did pay a visit to Santa's reindeer...obviously resting in anticipation of the big night.

This is the thirtieth year for the Festival of Lights, and it is a wonderful way to spend the evening. It is open through January 1 (though not on December 24 or 25), nightly from 5 to 9 and Fridays and Saturdays 5-10.

The Lane-Hooven House

I posted on this blog yesterday a summary of my Christmas Walk in Hamilton's German Village with some of my family and friends. One of the many highlights of the afternoon walk for me was a fairly quick but enjoyable tour of the historic Lane-Hooven House on Third Street in Hamilton.

From the very first steps, the house is a striking and beautiful experience. It was built in 1863 for Clark Lane, a Hamilton Industrialist who is often regarded as Hamilton’s first philanthropist. The house,which because of its octagonal shape is widely regarded as Hamilton’s most unique residential structure, was sometimes called Lane’s Folly. Construction began in 1863 and took eleven months to complete. The doors were always open for every charity and aid society. The largest entertainment numbered more than three hundred.

Clark Lane’s company, Owens, Lane and Dyer, prospered mightily. The company manufactured a new mechanical marvel that could thresh and separate grain in one operation (both horse-drawn and steam-powered), a springtooth riding or horse-drawn rake, and, above all, the road engine, a steam engine that could be moved from place to place to power farm machinery.

The Lane-Hooven House was purchased in 1875 by John L. Martin, then president of the Second National Bank of Hamilton. It was sold in 1882 to Colonel Alexander Gordon, secretary and later president of Niles Tool Works of Hamilton (it was later inherited by Gordon’s niece, Mrs. C. Earle Hooven, and her husband, and they owned it from 1895 until 1942). Bertrand Kahn bought the home in 1942 and donated it to the city, stipulating that the Red Cross was to have use of the building through World War II (the Red Cross continued as its tenant until June 1, 1978). Ownership of the house transferred in 1951 to the Hamilton Community Foundation, which owns and occupies it today.

The house's hobbit-like elegance extends even to the bathroom. Displayed on the second floor are a couple antique typewriters which, of course, held special interest for this writer (and aficionado of typewriters).

The Lane-Hooven House is open Mondays through Fridays from 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. (its usual lack of weekend hours is one of the reasons yesterday was my first visit). It is located at 319 N. 3rd Street in Hamilton, directly across the street from the main branch of the Lane Library--which Clark Lane had built in 1866 for the express purpose of housing a public library.

Hamilton's German Village Christmas Walk

After church and lunch today, the lovely Robin and I accompanied Aubrey, Calleigh, and Ryder, and our friends Jessica, Ezra, and Mira to Hamilton's twenty-first annual German Village Christmas Walk.

We started out our stroll with a fresh-made funnel cake in front of the Friends on Third Salon.

Next, we got to tour the 1863 Lane-Hooven house, something I've long wanted to do (see this post for more details on this historic home).

The Victorian Gothic Revival architecture of the house, built by industrialist Clark Lane (who also built the octagonal building across the street that now houses the Lane Library) is gorgeously preserved.

We stopped to listen to the sharp sounds of the Yuletide Brass in front of the historic YWCA building, a 1931 Jacobean Revival structure.

Calleigh and Ezra were a joy to watch. They're such good friends, and they were mostly responsive to our frequent calls to "freeze!" as they ran blissfully ahead of our stroller brigade.

We arrived at the gorgeous 1836 St. Julie Billiart Church on Dayton Street as the afternoon mass (in Spanish) was being conducted, so those of us who hadn't seen the beautiful interior politely peeked in before heading on our way.

It took a little bit of navigating (and searching) to find Santa Claus, but we finally located him in the Emma Ritchie Auditorium annexed to the historic Butler County Historical Museum on North Second Street. Ezra and Ryder visited briefly with old Nick, but Calleigh opted to keep her distance.

We stopped in also to the Benninghofen House, now the home of the Butler County Historical Society. The home, built in 1866, displays Victorian furnishings and records stored by the county.

Calleigh displayed incredible restraint in not picking up the doll in the first floor drawing room of the Italianate building.

We also toured half of the first floor of the Long-Allstatter house, built in 1860 by business partners who were producers of farm machinery. The Long family lived in the north side of the double mansion and the Allstatter family in the south side. The home was opened to the public by the current owners, Barb and Joe Musch.

The highlight of the Christmas Walk, according to Calleigh, was the free horse-and-carriage ride around the block.

There was much we didn't get to do. We didn't stand in line for the balloon animals or the face painting, we didn't locate the reindeer, and we missed the marionette show, among other things. But next year we will know better what to expect, and will plan our time more carefully. But it was still a marvelous time, enjoyed by all.

Mariemont Starbucks

I've never really blogged about Starbucks here on the Hither & Yon blog, though I've been to many and am a fairly regular patron of the Starbucks in Oxford, Ohio (I have posted about "Starbucks's Cheeriest Barrista" and a curious sight "Seen at Starbucks"). It's kinda like, seen one Starbucks, seen 'em all, right?

But not so much in Mariemont, where the lovely Robin and I enjoyed a wonderful date night yesterday. The Mariemont Starbucks, right on Wooster Road in the center of Mariemont (a block from the Mariemont Theater), is an exception.

It is spacious and inviting, and the service was friendly and speedy. If you're ever in the neighborhood, give it a try. Oh, and the parking--on a Friday evening, no less--was ample, in front or in the back.

Dilly Cafe Wine and Gourmet

The village of Mariemont, on Cincinnati's east side, is one of the lovely Robin's and my favorite spots for date night. Of course, we love the Mariemont Theater (it shows many movies that never make it to other venues, perhaps like tonight's Anna Karenina; I've posted about it here and here). But we also like to walk around the square and sample the area's many delights. Tonight we discovered Dilly Cafe, just a block west of the theater, right on Wooster Road/Route 50.

It is obviously a popular spot, and has a small stage for entertainment; the musicians were starting to set up as we ate, but we didn't stay long enough to hear them.

But we enjoyed a fine meal. Each of us ordered a salad. Mine was the shrimp-and-asparagus on a bed of field greens, with onions, cherry tomatoes, toasted pine nuts, and feta cheese. Robin enjoyed the Mariemont Strand, a salad of field greens, granny smith apples, roasted red peppers, toasted pecans, goat cheese, and a light curry vinaigrette dressing. Excellent.

Oh, and as advertised, Dilly's offers an ample selection of wines. We didn't imbibe, but were impressed, nonetheless.

The service was attentive but not intrusive, and we were served, ate, and paid in under an hour.

Dilly's is located at 6818 Wooster Pike (right next to Starbucks) on Mariemont Square. They are open Monday-Thursday 11am - 9pm, Friday and Saturday 11am - 10:30pm, and Sunday 4pm - 9pm. I highly recommend it.

Sleeping Bear Dunes

This travel photo doesn't show much of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, where it was taken. But it is one of my all-time favorites, nonetheless. It's my grandson, Miles, enjoying the sand of the massive dunes on our May/June 2011 visit.

Roosters Debut

The lovely Robin and I didn't plan on eating at Roosters in Springdale (north of Cincinnati) tonight. We'd never done so before.

But plans change. There's a first time for everything. Insert cliche here.

We had great service from Dawn, who took extra time to give us inside info that guided our choices. The wings, salad, sauces, and onion feathers appetizer were great. And the prices reasonable. A fine beginning to a great date.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

A Walk in the Woods

It's an awesome day for a walk here in west central Kentucky.

Temperatures in the mid-60s and as sunny as can be, so the lovely Robin and I set out after lunch on an hour-long walk.

So much beauty, PLUS some nice scenery, too--trees and path and pond and hayfield.

God speaks to me in the sunshine and leaf fall, in the whispering wind and shimmering surface of the water. And in the companionship of the lovely Robin, my best friend, boon companion, and retreat partner.

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The Abbey of Gethsemani, Trappist, KY

The Abbey of Gethsemani is a 164-year-old Trappist monastery in the hills of Kentucky, south of Bardstown (which is south of Louisville). It is known chiefly for having been Thomas Merton's monastery, but I have known it for thirteen or fourteen years as the site of my annual (sometimes twice a year) prayer retreat. This year I am spending these four days of silent meditation and prayer in the company of my wife, the lovely Robin.

The monks here maintain silence, except in the seven-times-daily fixed-hour prayer times, and guests are asked to do likewise. By entering into their rhythms and observing the Rule of St. Benedict I have learned so much about prayer, and carried that wisdom into my daily life, to great benefit.

The rooms are Spartan but comfortable. The meals are simple (and mostly vegetarian) but adequate. But here, at least once a year, I reorient my life and jump start my prayer life. I pray and plan and prioritize. I slow down and simplify. I rest and recharge. I always gain fresh insights and inspiration, both for the big picture of my life and loves and for specific projects or challenges I may be facing.

Gethsemani is thus a special place to me. In addition to the beauty of the church and the grounds, the hospitality of the monks, and the exceptional monk-made cheese and bourbon fudge (which they sell to support their ministry), it is a Peniel to my soul, a place where God meets me, and wrestles with me, and I with him.

(You can learn more about the Abbey of Gethsemani via their website,

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Machu Picchu

Here's another of my favorite travel photos:

It looks like a postcard, doesn't it? I took this photo on my 2009 trip to Machu Picchu, Peru, with the lovely Robin.