Open-Faced Club Sandiwches to Flourless Chocolate Cake to Ribs, and More….

When I arrived back at the Cincy airport my father was there to greet me. He had offered to pick me up and take me to one of my old favorite restaurants that had shutdown and re-opened under new management. Walt’s Hitching Post in Kentucky. It was going to be my birthday dinner. It was on the way home from our airport, and we used to go there when I flew into town and my dad would pick me up at the airport.

 

I grew up going to Walt’s as a kid. We went with this family named the Lukins. The waitresses with the beehive hairdos used to sneak Dr. Lukin extra plates filled with ribs. They loved him. I always thought if I ever got married that I would have my rehearsal dinner there. I crave ribs. I think it is up there with sushi, pizza, steak and Graeter’s ice cream!

 

The place was structurally the same but the interiors were classed up a bit.

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They are pushing to be more of a “steak house” than a “rib joint.” They said it was all the same, but the ribs were a little different and the sauce had a definitive change. When we left my dad said, “I think they will definitely become more well-known for their steaks.” It was good, but it wasn’t great! But I am pretty content with a slab of ribs, home fries with onions and a house salad with 1000 Dressing. Heaven on a plate!

 

My dad was trying to eat them with a fork and knife. His proper side comes out at the most odd times. As I am sitting there with a mouth and fingers covered in rib sauce.

 

I came home and I was restless. I have this building (aka a dorm) full of friends and I wanted to go visit. I went knocking on Carolyn’s door. I knew she would be awake at almost 10pm, but no answer.

 

The next day my dad suggested taking a walk together. He never comes to Spring Grove to meet me. This day he did. He kept saying are we almost done? Are we almost done? It felt like we were walking forever. Poor thing. I am referring to me. Just kidding.

 

I came home and I saw a lady in the mailroom that I have seen so many times and never knew her name. When she said Joan. I said I have heard so many great things about you. I wasn’t sure you existed! We chatted. She was lovely! She was so easy to talk with. She invited me up for a drink. I said no, she and her boyfriend insisted. I had a ball. I finally realized I really needed to get home. I went to the elevator and my friends Karen and Bill stepped out and invited me down. I knew I should go home, but little social butterfly went down there for a bit. This is what I love about my building. So many fun and fascinating friends under one roof. It really is like a college dorm.

 

The next morning was my birthday and my dad showed up with a schnecken. I can’t believe he went all the way downtown to Shadeau Breads to get me a homemade Schnecken. Schnecken’s rock! And so does my dad!!!! I grew up on them. They are made with a ton of butter (almost a literal measurement), raisins, cinnamon and lots of hard work, time and love.

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I had a few slices with a glass of milk and I was really happy. I tried to get my dad to share it with me, but he wouldn’t. I was quite surprised because he REALLY loves Schnecken.

 

I was told that there are no calories on your birthday! Everything has zero calories and you can eat whatever you want! I am a firm believer of this way of thinking. Plus, when you survive cancer, birthdays become very special and must be celebrated!

 

My two best friends from law school, Alex and Annette took me to Trio’s for lunch. Alex was on the diet that I would begin on the Monday after my Friday birthday. We decided to eat with him and the three of us ordered a steak salad. It was exceptionally yummy. It was a flat iron steak on a field of greens with shaved red onion, crumbled bleu cheese and grape tomatoes. How I love steak! Let me count the ways!

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Then my birthday cake was a slice of flourless chocolate cake. That is hands down probably my favorite cake. Nothing like a dense piece of rich chocolate.

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That evening was my birthday party. I am sure I had consumed my entire calorie allowance for the day after the first slice of Schnecken, but calories don’t count on birthdays!

 

My friends: Stacey, Mindy and Lisa came over for dinner. Lisa who is the amazing, talented baker made a variety of cookies for dessert that included: Snickerdoodles, Peanut Butter Cookies and Chocolate Chip. I didn’t think I liked Snickerdoodles till I ate one of Lisa’s.

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For an appetizer, I went with a simple oldie. I took tortilla chips, salsa and three Mexican cheeses that I melted on top for yummy Nachos. Dinner was an opened faced club sandwich with homemade Russian dressing on top and then we had cookies.

 

We sat and talked for hours. I really like my friends. We had a really nice time. If I could pick men like a pick friends…DON’T I WISH!!!!

 

Later that night, Shirley aka Trouble called and asked if she could take me to breakfast in the morning for my birthday. I said sure. She wanted to try one of my favorite places the good ole Sugar n Spice.

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Off we went. We sat there forever waiting on a table. The place was packed. I played with a few kids. I went and got the basket of ducks that they could pick a rubber duck. They were totally psyched!

 

Here is where I am probably different than most people. Most people celebrate their birthday on the actual day and watch what they eat to some extent. I celebrate for about a week and don’t count calories at all.

 

That night, I had so much leftover food that I invited my building friends who I am really close to up for another birthday dinner, a repeat of the night before.

 

The next day after treating myself to one of my New York bagels for breakfast with leftover steak, OMG good!!! Everything bagel with cream cheese is my favorite!!!!

 

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I went for a walk in my beloved Spring Grove. I have never ever ever seen so many tree company trucks in one place EVER! I asked what was happening. I asked a worker. Apparently, they bring people in the spring to get the trees healthy and check on them and care for them. I was so shocked and so impressed with the care for these monster beauties.

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Well, Monday came and after a weekend of pure indulgence, I started the only diet that has ever worked for me. THE ZONE DIET. I did this back in Boston many moons ago and lost 35 lbs. and now it was time to do it again. I hate pictures of myself. I avoid them like the plague and being a cancer survivor it is just one more thing I can do for myself to lower my odds of reoccurrence. At first, the thought of it is daunting, laughable and absurd, but once I get in the groove it is not bad at all, and actually pretty cool.

 

The way I did it years ago and decided to do it now is that you don’t eat pasta, rice, bread, potatoes, or corn. I am sure that sounds miserable to many of you. You get your carbs in the form of veggies mostly and fruits secondly.

 

Here is the other thing that at first miffed me years ago and again years later. You try to eat protein that is roughly the size of the palm of your hand. The first few days one starts this, you may think, and I definitely thought, “Are you on crack?” Who can eat that little and feel full?” Well, so you have the protein the size of your palm, the veggie serving is the size of your entire hand and then you add a little fat in there and that mixture of protein to carb to fat is what puts your body in “the zone!” It is fascinating! So, at first you want to cry. You say to yourself, if you are I, I can give up bread and pasta, but I am NOT giving up sushi! Bite me!

 

Here is what happens, doing this you take the sugars out of your diet. Sugar is what makes you hungry. You stop getting hungry, you shrink your belly (literally and figuratively) and you eat less and the weight starts to fall off. First week is usually water loss and in my case water and chocolate loss, and I lost six pounds!!! Second week, I lost one. I am two weeks out and 7lbs down! I am thrilled but what really excites me is what a difference it has made in places that it never dawned on me I would notice.

 

I got a couple bizarre or maybe not so bizarre side effects from chemo, and eating like this has completely eliminated them. AND…I am not always hungry, I feel better, I have more energy, and I am staying away from sugar and there is this big thing…okay big argument of whether cancer loves sugar or not! It depends on whom you ask. So, if I really lessen the sugar intake…it can only help me.

 

I went fourteen days without chocolate. It was like going fourteen days without sex! Wait, I do that ALL the time. What can I compare it to? Well, you get the point. It wasn’t too bad but by day 14, I was itching for a bite of chocolate. I had 6 Nestle morsels and it totally satisfied me.How shocking and insane is that!

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I haven’t had any since!

 

Here is the fun shocker though! How many recipes are out there that I can eat that are technically on my diet? And really good stuff? When was the last time you heard of a diet that you could eat bacon? Ribs? It is all about the portions and staying away from the white stuff (aka bad carbs). So, I am psyched. We will see how I do. So, far so good, but I think I will share some recipes with you, because there is some really great stuff to eat! I have shelves of cookbooks and my Saveur has so much that I can cook from it. It actually is kinda fun and exciting. Eventually, I will get the shakes and have to go to Graeter’s for a mocha chip, but so far the idea of it is too sweet for me. I know! SHOCKING!!!!!

 

Trouble and 007 came over for our usual Wednesday evening get together and we have talked about this for years and are finally doing it. We are taking the Megabus to Chicago to go to Wrigley Field and see the Reds v. Cubs. Wrigley Field has been on my bucket list for a long, long time. Megabuses are supposedly great! I used to take the Chinese bus from Boston to NY and back all the time and it was great and cheap. Did you know about Chinese buses? They go all over the place! When I used to go it was btn $10-15 each way! (That is roughly the cost of these bus tickets!) It was filled with students mostly. Some had movies you could watch, but it was easy and cheap.

 

My mother instilled a SERIOUS imagination into me. I can look at clouds and see shapes, animals, faces, and I saw something the other week that tickled my funny bone. I saw a wild turkey come running at lightning speed, up a hill from a pond and she/he looked both ways and ran like hell. That is what I literally saw, what the creative soul that I am saw was a little bit different. Imagine one of the birds from the cartoon clip called SHOE. Imagine him being a she in a dress and holding it up so it doesn’t drag along the pavement. Imagine her being chased by an animal even bigger than her. Imagine how that animal would feel. The facial expression was: “Holy mackerel, I need to get out of the hen house. Here comes my husband! Yikes!” And then running like hell. THAT is what it looked like….change the story as you see fit.

 

My friend Mindy and her hubby went to Haiti to pick up their FIFTH child!!! (The second one they have adopted from Haiti). Mindy’s mom was not so sure about taking her granddaughter Ruby to The Cincinnati Nature Center and asked if I would do it.

I did. Love Ruby! She is such a cool kid.

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The class was called Writing in Nature. Kids would look at things and write. They would draw things. They did all kinds of things, but the coolest thing was they took a shallow pan and covered the bottom with shaving cream and then put a few drops of food coloring into the cream, swirled it around and put their plain white journals into it and it created all these cool tie-dye journal covers. I wanted to go home and do it.

 

We left the Center and stopped at Jungle Jim’s International Food Store. Here is a pic from this wacky store.

 

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They carry food from ALL over the world. Ruby and I went to Ireland, India, Turkey, Jamaica; we went all over the place and just by walking up and down grocery store aisles.

 

I bought a whole fish. The man behind the counter gutted it for me. I had cooked a few whole fish in New York, because I learned to do it living in Paris and it does give the fish more flavor, but I wasn’t sure I would remember how to get out the spine and bones. Apparently, it is like riding a bike and I forgot how easy it is! I also forgot how knock my socks off good it is too! See, something I can eat in THE ZONE!

 

I was supposed to have a book signing on April 26th, but next to no one RSVP’d! My friend Temple said, “Surely people who have been through a wedding, a large party understand the importance of the RSVP and your need to know your numbers for planning food & seating, and it is so bloody easy to do! It is either YES or NO.

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And a number of how many you will bring.” A person could simply respond, “Yes, 4!” Thanks would be nice but I’m not going to push my luck! I was sad to cancel. My friend Lisa was going to do the food and everyone missed out on her baking!!!! But I will do it again this summer, maybe on the hill outside here at my home.

 

That afternoon, I went to my Aunt Connie’s surprise birthday party. Aunt Connie is such a cool lady. The first time I met her, I was at my first family reunion with my mom, who is adopted. My mom found her birth family. And her mom was not the softest pillow on the couch…let me tell you, so I was REALLY leery about meeting these people. I tried to forewarn my mom that they might not be warm and fuzzy or even welcoming to her. I couldn’t have been more wrong! I just love them! Well, at that reunion, I spent a lot of time talking to Uncle Dave and Aunt Connie. Aunt Connie is cool. We had a ball. Her b-day party was held at an honorary cousins house. She is a hoot. Actually, both sisters are just too cool. The hostess and I discovered we are both HUGE Sugar n Spice fans. I left my cup at their house “accidentally” so they will have to meet me at the restaurant to return it to me. See, sometimes, I am smart!

 

I gathered a group of roughly 8 women together to sew Peri the Pelican dolls. One lady took the ball and ran with it. She is a masterful sewer. It looks spot on a pelican. Sadly, I think it needs to be more goofy and imperfect, but I will keep you posted. Once, we get our little assembly line together to sew the little birds. Watch out! I can’t wait. I think it will be a ball! Doing research on the doll, I found this totally adorable pic!!!

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My New York friend Mare (who is also back in Cincy) and I took a 1.5-hour walk in Spring Grove last week. She is amazing. Battling colon cancer and fighting it all the way and her attitude is fabulous!!!

 

I went to dinner at Jennie’s house. I love, love, love her cooking! I had to ask: any bread? Nope! Any rice, pasta, potatoes, breadcrumbs? Nope! Okay, I can come. I have no idea what she did to that tenderloin but it was tender, juicy and delicious!

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Then she made a big salad to go with it. ALL IN THE ZONE!!!! Her daughter was irate that Wyoming High had cut the senior double lunches for next year? Pray-tell-why? I am thinking a liability issue? The powers to be are insinuating it is because they fell in the rankings on a national level. If a public school is ranked in the top 100 in the USA, I think they should be happy. Think of how many schools there are in the country?

 

Mare invited me to meet her son-in-law and her two granddaughters for dinner at The Mariemont Inn. I had never, ever been and I think it has been there forever! I ordered a hamburger without the bun and a side salad. The hard thing to NOT eat and I said, “DO NOT even put them on my plate!” The burger came with crispy onions. How good does that sound? I didn’t want to be tempted and I know, I can cheat a little here and there but I am a woman on a mission!

 

This is fascinating to me. Two granddaughters. One is a fabulous eater and the other eats chicken nuggets and mac and cheese, so basically nothing. Their dad said do you want to know why the difference? I really did. Here is one kid eating asparagus, pea pods, and mushrooms and the other Mac and Cheese. He said when the first child was born he decided he was NOT going to cook down to her, he was going to make her eat up to them. Brilliant. And he is a fabulous cook! Second child, he went back to work and Mom, love her, is not a cook, so she went the easy route and viola. One is a great eater and the other is not, but they are so cute and sweet at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter!

 

I had a Kentucky Derby party on Derby Eve! I told everyone to wear a hat. I am a hat nut. I have lots and lots of hats! I used to have an Annual Derby party when I lived in NYC! I had everyone bring something sweet or savory. I had lots of leftovers that I am still eating. It was a nice time.

 

Here is something I did and it was yummy! I made an omelette and I cooked the egg and then in the omelette, I spread some leftover artichoke dip and some leftover spinach dip. Can you say, YUM!

 

Monday morning, my friends Carolyn and Jo and I went to a new joint called Tags. It was adorable. I have a picture below. I ordered an omelette called CRACK OF DAWN that contained bacon, Swiss cheese and spinach. I always ask them not to bring “the tempters” on the plate. The tempters being bread or potatoes. Instead she gave me some fruit. It was good. Really cute place and nice, nice people.

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There is a bike ride my friend Heather did in New York almost ten years ago. It is the 5-Burrough bike ride. She said it was such a cool way to see so much of New York and you get to cross bridges and it is a ton of fun! I never did it. Then my friend Lizz did it last year. My friend Matt did it this year! I want to do it next year! It is the first or second week in May. Hopefully the weather is like the weather now and downright gorgeous outside and what a great way to see Manhattan, the Bronx, Staten Island (never been there), Queens and Brooklyn.

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I came out onto my hammock on my balcony the other night to take a 15-minute siesta. I set an alarm on my phone. Fifteen minutes turned into 3 hours. I hit the snooze for 3 hours! I love, adore, relish, treasure my hammock! This is not my hammock or my view, but you get the idea.

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I knew I was not going to sleep that night. I was emailing around midnight and received 2 emails from Jo and Carolyn seconds apart. I emailed back and said we need to meet on a balcony since we are all awake. Jo invited us to her place. We sat on the balcony with the city lights of downtown in the distance and we laughed and talked till about 1:30a.m. It was so much fun!

 

I have this dear, dear friend from Washington, D.C. We worked together in a lobbying firm and were chatting one day many, many years ago about our parents. I told her my mom was an artist and she painted furniture and she was really talented. Jill seemed genuinely impressed and interested and with that our boss came up to us and asked Jill if her dad would autograph a poster for his girlfriend! His girlfriend picked up the poster at her dad’s show at THE NATIONAL GALLERY @ The Smithsonian!

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Here I am talking about my mom the basement art painter and my friend Jill’s dad is an artist too, but her dad is in THE NATIONAL fricking GALLERY. Jill is probably reading this blog and laughing! I called her one night from a Sotheby’s auction in NY and said your dad just sold a painting for over 2 million. It is cool, but at the end of the day, he is just Jill’s dad and he wasn’t always famous. He paid his dues like so many greats before him. Well, I got a kick out of this…I am reading my SAVEUR magazine and there is a recipe in it that they claim is one of her dad’s favorites. I scan it and send it to her and her sisters. Her one sis emails me back and says, “I’m with my dad. I’ll ask!” What a weird, small world we live in!

 

My dad is an identical twin. My dad and Uncle are inseparable. They do not go a day without talking EVER!!!! I am named Erin. My Uncle Bob has a daughter 10 years younger named Perin. Erin & Perin. Our fathers are fiercely close, but Perin and her brother Langdon and I barely know each other. Today, Perin and I went to breakfast. We used to look alike years ago. Not so much anymore. My dad said we sounded a lot alike on the phone. I didn’t believe him. However, we traded a few phone calls back and forth recently and I almost could not tell the difference between her voice and mine on the phone. I told my dad and he said, “Well, lets see! Your dad’s are identical twins and we had daughters. Makes sense to me!” We had a ball at breakfast and are going to try to make a habit out of it with our dad’s! If we can get them to join us. We sure hope so!

 

Until we meet again…

 

Enjoy! Eat, travel, laugh…often….

 

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