Castillo San Cristobal

I took the above photo on my trusty iPhone in January 2014 on a visit to Castillo San Cristobal in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Barn 'n' Bunk's Fall Festival

Sunday afternoon, in the company of the lovely Robin and Aubrey and Kevin and Calleigh and Ryder and Avery, I got to go to the Barn 'n' Bunk Fall Festival in Trenton, Ohio (salute!).
We ate and drank and walked and jumped all around; in fact, Calleigh took three or four turns on the jumpy thingy by the corn maze. I'm pretty sure that's the official name. Hope I'm not violating any trademarks. 
It was a beautiful day for a hayride, though Avery didn't deem it exciting enough to wake up. 
With Calleigh's expert leadership, we navigated the corn maze. We raced ducks. We ate popcorn and sugar candies and drank cider and root beer. We browsed the shops and stalls. We saw some old friends. 
We even got to measure how tall we are this year. And, of course, we bought a few pumpkins to bring home. It wore us all out. Well, the adults, that is. The kids just keep going and going and going. 

Barn 'n' Bunk is located at 3677 Wayne Madison Road in Trenton, Ohio.

The Grape Leaf Diner

It just looked like a nice diner. So the lovely Robin and I stepped into The Grape Leaf Diner in Holland, Ohio (near Toledo), last Friday evening for dinner.
Turns out it was fairly unique experience, featuring mostly Lebanese cuisine (which I'm not sure we'd ever had, though we have thoroughly enjoyed Greek and Armenian dishes numerous times).
Our server was very helpful, the food was ready quickly and served hot, and the servings were enormous. After sharing a salad and chicken noodle soup, I had the Mixed Grille Kabob (above) and Robin ordered the Chicken Ghalaba. The food was delicious, though far more than we could eat. 
I would have loved to have tried their baklava, but there was nowhere to put it.

The Grape Leaf Diner is located at 909 S. McCord Rd. in Holland, Ohio.

Courtyard Marriott, Holland, Ohio

I stayed in the company of the lovely Robin at the Courtyard Marriott hotel in Holland, Ohio, near the Toledo airport, last Friday night.
Check-in was quick and easy, our room was comfortable (though the television was placed at an odd angle to the bed), and the staff were kind and polite. The spacious modern lobby (above) had a warm fire in the fireplace (I know, fires are almost always warm...leave me alone), multiple seating areas, and a nice food-and-coffee bar.
I wish I knew more about how hotels decide whether and when to offer a complimentary breakfast. My Saturday morning breakfast of a small coffee cake, yogurt-and-fruit parfait, and Starbucks coffee was quite good, but not complimentary. At $8, it wasn't outrageous, but...

Still, there was free Wi-Fi, and it was very convenient to the location where I was speaking on Saturday.

The hotel is located at 1345 East Mall Drive in Holland, just off I-475.

View from Castle Eltz

I took this photo in 2010 on my visit (in the company of the lovely Robin) to Castle Eltz in Germany. Castle Eltz is one of the few castles of central Europe that was never destroyed in one war or another--and which is still in the founding family's possession. The current owner, Dr. Karl Graf zu Eltz (whom we met briefly while there) is the thirty-third generation of his family (since at least 1157) to call the castle home (though he lives most of the time in Frankfurt).

I took this shot from a walkway outside the castle, I think. I like its romance. Wordsworth could have written a poem about this poor, neglected part of the castle grounds.

The Embassy Suites Cincinnati-Northeast (Blue Ash)

The lovely Robin and I were honored and blessed to conduct a short marriage retreat for sixteen ministry couples today at the Embassy Suites in Blue Ash, a northern suburb of Cincinnati (near where I grew up).

What a great time we had, and the accommodations provided by this Embassy Suites were excellent. While the hotel's exterior looks unpromising (especially close up), our suite, the meeting rooms, and the food they provided were fine quality. Robin seemed especially impressed by the chocolatey break bar provided for our final break as a group. In fact, there's every possibility that the group will remember that most fondly, and my contribution much less so (if at all). Still, it was a great time and a wonderful group.

Relish Modern Tapas

You learn something new every day, they say. If that is true, I'm roughly 47 years behind, and that's only a rough estimate. But I learned something new last evening by taking the lovely Robin on a date to Relish Modern Tapas in Mason, north of Cincinnati.
You probably knew this already, but tapas is a Spanish tradition, combining good company, artful surroundings, and little dishes of food grouped into three main categories: cosas de picar (“things to nibble,” basically finger food), pinchos (bites on decorated toothpicks), and cazuelas ("little dishes" that usually come in sauce).
So, armed with near total ignorance, we ordered a tasty little beef dish to start (above),
along with a trio of empanadas (two beef and two chicken).
Then, because we were new to the whole tapas thing, we each ordered an entree. Mine (above) was a delicious filet with asparagus spears and golden potato medallions, all perfectly cooked.

Robin's Catalan chicken with pasta tossed in basil pesto was likewise excellent.
And, to top it all off, we shared one of my favorite desserts, a crème brûlée with a couple complimentary "cookie" thingys on the side. These, like all the rest, were perfectly prepared and presented. And, while the experience was not cheap, there was not even the tiniest disappointment.

Relish Modern Tapas is located at 5947 Deerfield Blvd.​ in Mason, Ohio, north of Cincinnati. It's a little hard to find, however, located as it is behind the main part of the Deerfield shopping plaza.

Feeding the Ducks

I took this photo of my grandchildren Ryder and Calleigh feeding the ducks (and turtles and fish) at the pond behind my brother and sister-in-law's retirement home in Myrtle Beach, SC. We visited there late last June and early July, and had a wonderful time.