Sunday, December 26, 2010

What I Got for Christmas!

Quite a haul for me this year. Definitely a Cincinnati Reds themed Christmas. What did I get? Starting with non-Reds stuff:

A very nice long sleeved casual shirt
An electric carving knife (no more wrestling the turkey with a dull knife for me!)
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (can't get an e-version for my Kindle)
The latest FourFourTwo and World Soccer magazines
The Zen of Zombie by Scott Kenemore (to satisfy my need for more Zombie fiction)
Several Moleskine Notebooks
The 2010 APBA Baseball Game Card Set
Sour Patch Kids
Lifesaver Gummies

And now for my Cincinnati Reds themed gifts:

The Wire-to-Wire Reds by John Erardi and Joel Luckhaupt (story of the 1990 Reds)
The Comeback Kids by Mark Schmetzer and Joe Jacobs (story of the 2010 Reds-autographed too!)
A game-used Orlando Cabrera bat
A trip to the Reds Hall of Fame/Team Store to pick out an authentic Reds jersey of my choice! (Thanks to my wife! What should I get? A Joey Votto or a classic Johnny Bench?)

And pictured here...a framed replica scorecard from the game Jay Bruce hit the bottom of the ninth home-run to clinch the 2010 National League Central Division title. Includes a picture of Jay reaching home plate. Thank you to my brother and sister in-law!

Off to the Happiest Place on Earth tomorrow with the family! Disney World through New Years!
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Saturday, December 25, 2010

My Dad's Christmas Note!

I had to share this. My Dad lives near me in West Chester, Ohio. He was with us this morning to open presents and will be over this evening for dinner. Both my brothers went to their in-laws this year. Very funny!


Although no one will be at my house this year, I have decided to observe "Festivus for the Rest of Us" for it is truly a more spectaculas event and contains less mysticism than that other holidays. I will prepare the traditional meal of baked spam, turnips, rubarb, and for dessert raisin upside-down-cake and chicory coffee.

I will enunciate for each member of the family, in their absence, an Airing of thr Grievences, except for Dylan, who is to young to have any - not counting potty training. After dinner and before partaking of dessert, I will have the traditional Feats of Strength, which since I will be the only competitor will consist of getting out of a chair the quickest, carrying the heaviest load of laundry and getting to the bathroom dash. Other events may be added later.

This year the Festivus pole will be aluminum and not the artifical plastic pole being sold for strictly commercial purposes. The pole will have a place of honor by the fireplace.

While you will not be here, you will all be in my thoughts as I look at the Festivus pole.


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Restaurant Review-Bruno's Pizza, Liberty Township, Ohio

Bruno's Pizza in Liberty Township has become my "go-to" pizza place. We are fortunate in the West Chester/Liberty Township, Ohio area. We have some quality pizza places to enjoy; Dewey's, LaRosa's, Raymond's, Jet's, Uno's, Donato's, Cassano's (Monroe), Big Dog's, Fratelli's.

I have tried them all. And I enjoy them all. However, Bruno's is my favorite. I have some background with Bruno's, but a little different than many who live in the area. I regularly ate at Bruno's while I attended Purdue University. According to the story on Bruno's Liberty Township Website, the West Lafayette, Indiana location was the original, opened in 1955. Most people in this area know Bruno's in Oxford, Ohio, opened in 1963, but ultimately gaining it's fame for selling pizza by the slice in the early 1970's.

The Bruno's in Liberty Township definitely knows their clientele. The decor is pure Miami University, with pictures of the University, it's sports teams etc. I'm thinking I'll bring in some Purdue swag the next time I visit!

The pizza here is outstanding. When you arrive, you order at the counter. They give you a number and they serve it to you at your table. Bruno's has beer and wine. They also serve subs, sandwiches, hamburgers and salads in addition to a wide selection of appetizers. Spaghetti and lasagna are specialties

The secret to Bruno's success in my opinion is the tomato sauce. I would describe it as tangy, with the just the right amount of spice. If you decide that you are not in the mood for pizza, I highly recommend the lasagna.

When a pizza order arrives at the table at Bruno's, it definitely requires a knife and fork, unless you are one of those folks who doesn't mind burning the roof of your mouth. Patience is key. Wait a couple of minutes for the pizza to cool down, and dig in!

The dough is hand tossed, and the pizza is always perfectly cooked, light brown crust, not too crispy, not too doughy. Cheese and toppings are ladled on generously. They have several specialty pizzas, and a wide amount of toppings to choose from. My family goes pepperoni all the way, but my personal favorite is sausage and mushroom.

We usually get the house salad, with the special house dressing (a very good red wine vinaigrette) as a starter.

My absolute favorite item on the menu is the Bruno Dough. It is possibly one of the most original and delicious appetizers I have ever enjoyed. Bruno's takes small dough balls, deep fries them, then rolls them in garlic, butter and Parmesan cheese. They serve it with a side of their tomato sauce. Delicious!

Bruno's delivers to their immediate area, but eating at their restaurant is my preference.

Bruno's Liberty Township also serves their pizza by the slice and that makes the Miami of Ohio graduates in the area (and Lakota East High School students) very happy. A generous slice of cheese pizza is only a $1.50 and you can add items to it for .25 cents each. They put the slice in the oven for about 2-3 minutes, and it comes out hot and ready to eat!

As I mentioned at the top of this article, we have a lot of very good pizza choices in the West Chester/Liberty Township area. My choice is Bruno's!

Bruno's Pizza
6752 Cincinnati-Dayton Rd
Liberty Township, OH 45044
(513) 777-8333
Bruno's Pizza on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Movie Review-True Grit (2010)

Just got back from the theater after seeing True Grit with my Dad, my two sons and a friend of theirs. I'm a big Coen Brothers fan (Raising Arizona, Fargo, No Country For Old Men), and was really looking forward to seeing their new work.

I haven't seen the original True Grit (but I DVR'd it tonight on TCM), nor have I read the book. I knew a little about the plot going in.

Typical for the Coen Brothers, the screenplay was outstanding. There is definitely action in this movie, but it is the dialog that is the highlight. In addition, Jeff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn and Barry Pepper as Lucky Ned Pepper are outstanding in their roles. The best performance has to go to Hailee Steinfeld, who plays Mattie Ross, the girl intent on avenging the death of her father.

I learned something in True Grit by the way. When camping and sleeping outdoors, surround yourself with a rope. Snakes won't cross a rope!

I use Flixster to rate movies, and I gave True Grit 4 out of 5 stars! Go see it.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Urbanspoon Rocks!

If you have been reading my blog, you may have noticed links in my restaurant reviews and on the right side of my blog to I really depend on this site for restaurant suggestions, as it combines individual consumer reviews with professional restaurant reviews in an easy to read format. My blog links default to Cincinnati area restaurants on Urbanspoon, as that is where I live, but Urbanspoon covers restaurants all over the US!

Be sure to check it out the next time you are looking for a place to eat!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Moleskine Infatuation!

Brand New!
Is there anything better than a Moleskine notebook! I have some kind of weird inanimate object love for these things.

I have been using these for over 5 years, first for keeping a journal as I was trying to lose weight (What I ate on any given day, exercise etc.) and later just to track random stuff. I write down things like Columbus Crew soccer matches and Cincinnati Reds baseball games I attend, my son's high school soccer matches and results, and random stuff that seems worth documenting.

 There is something cathartic about writing and journaling. Maybe it is the sense of accomplishment I get on any given day writing things down. Maybe it's the thought that someone a long time from now someone will discover these notebooks in a random drawer when they find my desk at a garage sale. There really isn't anything provocative in my journals, unless you find the 2010 Columbus Crew home match results and attendance of real interest.
Moleskines in Use

I have started moving beyond just journaling (I use the 3 1/2"x 5 1/2" hardbound version for that purpose) and now keep the hardbound 5" x 8 1/4" version to write down ideas for my blogs and short stories. The small one is always with me, I keep it in my work backpack. The larger one stays at home, or in my bag if I'm traveling. (If you want to see one of my short stories, click on the "writing" label in the cloud on the right side of this blog. I am also writing a story using a blog as it's "medium" called the Johnny Dog Journal.)

The highlight of my relationship with all things Moleskine had to be the day I received my Amazon Kindle. I love my Kindle (maybe a subject for a future blog), but it is my Moleskine Kindle cover with the slot to hold the Moleskine reporter notebook that really makes it the most useful electronic device I own.
Kindle with the Moleskine Cover!

When you open a new Moleskine, the first thing you do is fill in the "In case of loss, please return to:" section. But then, just below, you get to put a value on the notebook. Your Moleskine has a section that reads, "As a reward: $__________". What is this jewel of a notebook worth to you? I wrote $10.00 in my current Moleskines. If I actually lost one, and got an email or a phone call from a good Samaritan who found it, I would ask, "Did you read it?" They probably would say no. But if they said yes, then I'd want to buy that person a cup of coffee and ask, "Did you find it interesting?"

In the back pocket of every Moleskine is a printed history of the Moleskine notebook (in 8 different languages). The claim is that Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso and Ernest Hemingway used these notebooks. It also documents that the British author Bruce Chatwin was the person who coined the name "Moleskine". It follows by saying Chatwin's book "The Songlines tells the story of these little notebooks. It is this history that, for me, gives Moleskine's a unique quality that can't be duplicated.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Book Review-Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk (2010) by David Sedaris, Illustrated by Ian Falconer

I started posting the books I have read on the right side-bar of this blog a couple of weeks ago. I thought I would write a review of the latest book I read, Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, by David Sedaris with Illustrations by Ian Falconer.

I have never written a book review before, so I don't expect to provide some kind of brilliant literary prose. This will be pretty simple for me. Did I like the book? Why?

Saw this book mentioned in The New York Times Book Review a couple of weeks ago. It intrigued me as it was a collection of animal based fables, with a modern spin. I was also was interested as I had always thought that Ian Falconer's illustrations in the Olivia children's book series were pretty cool. Lastly, my son had written a fable for a class he took at NYU last winter that I absolutely loved and posted on this blog.

I haven't read David Sedaris. But based on this collection of fables, I'm going to. They are funny, interesting and disturbing. There are 16 different fables in all, each with a different theme. My favorite? "The Crow and the Lamb".

I started this post writing that I would keep it simple. The thing about a good book is-do you have trouble putting it down after you start reading it. For me, Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk is one of those books. I like this book!

Unrelated, but on the subject of books and reading:

I have owned a Amazon Kindle for about 6 months, and love it. I own the electronic version of this book. I thought I was a pretty avid reader before I purchased the Kindle, but since I have owned it I have rediscovered my love for reading.

One of the favorite things I read on a weekly basis on the Kindle is the New York Times Book Review. It helps me discover what books I would like to read in the future and load up my Kindle "Wish List".

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest BestiarySquirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary by David Sedaris
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Great concept. Reviewed on my blog December 12th, 2010.

View all my reviews

Friday, December 10, 2010

Restaurant Review-El Meson, West Carrollton, Ohio

The NCAA Women's Volleyball Championships 1st and 2nd rounds were being held on the campus of the University of Dayton this past weekend. After watching a great match between Ohio State and the University of Dayton (Ohio State won in 5 sets) our group was looking for a place to have dinner.

My wife and I have been to El Meson in West Carrollton, Ohio several times, but my mother-in-law and boyfriend had not, but were very willing to try based on my recommendation.

I have difficulty describing El Meson. I think the best way to describe it is a Hispanic style restaurant, featuring tapas (small bites) and entree's from multiple hispanic cultures, including Spain, the Caribbean, South America and Central America. El Meson features a full service bar and a decent wine list.

I like the decor inside. It is a Spanish theme with a gift shop featuring jewelry and arts and crafts for sale, and outdoor seating when the weather is nice.

The menu is extensive, almost to the point of being overwhelming. There must be at least a hundred different choices of tapas and entree's. But the wait staff is very knowlegable. There are a couple of items that I have tasted that I like to order every time I visit, the Empanadillas (both beef and salmon) and the coconut shrimp served with a Dijon sauce. But I always like to try something new, and look forward to the wait staff's recommendations.

On this particular evening our table decided to go with tapas to allow for a variety of tastes. We, of course, had the Empanadillas and coconut shrimp. In addition, based on recommendations from the staff, we had Lumpia Shanghai, described as Filipino style egg rolls, filled with beef. These were a table favorite, served with a spicy sweet and sour style sauce. We also tried the chicken, rice and cheese quesadilla (it was huge by the way) and the homemade spanish chorizo sausage sauteed in red peppers and shitake mushrooms. I found the chorizo to be a little tough, but I was the exception at our table as others thought it was delicious.

It might seem a little strange, but my favorite item at El Meson is the homemade Columbian dipping sauce called Aji' that is served with bread at the beginning of the meal. It is a mixture of tomato, green onions, cilantro and vinegar (and other ingredients). I spoon it on just about everything served at El Meson!

One of the small treats that I enjoy at El Meson is the yellow rice and black beans. I like to order both as side and mix them together. And of course add some Aji'!

Our table had a delicious meal on this night. We also pledged to come back, as the variety of items on the menu is so diverse it would take several visits to try them all. In addition, large groups would have a great time due to the festive atmosphere at El Meson!

El Meson Restaurant and Catering
903 E. Dixie Dr.
West Carrollton, Ohio 45449
(937) 859-8229
El Meson Restaurante on Urbanspoon

Monday, December 6, 2010

RedsFest 2010 (Professing My Undying Love For All Things Reds!)

RedsFest 2010 Program Cover
This past Saturday my wife and I decided to go to the annual Cincinnati RedsFest held at the Cincinnati Convention Center.

I grew up in Las Vegas. I remember listening to Dodger games and Vin Scully on a local radio station. It would have been 1972, when I was nine years old. At the time the Western Division of the National League had the Dodgers, Braves, Padres, Giants, Astros and the Cincinnati Reds. For some reason I remember liking the Reds; Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, Tony Perez. I think it may have been that at the time there was only two baseball games on TV a week, the NBC Saturday game of the week and a Monday night game. It seemed as though the Reds played in more of those games than any other. I listened to the Reds on the radio when they played the Dodgers (at that time 14 times a year). I also played the APBA baseball board game with my friends, and always used the Reds team cards.

Of course, the seventies was the Reds' decade. I remember Pete Rose and Bud Harrelson of the New York Mets fighting in the 1974 playoffs, the Carlton Fisk World Series game 6 home run, but the Reds clinching in game 7 in 1975 and the 1976 playoff and World Series sweeps.

in 1979 our family moved to Cincinnati, and although the Big Red Machine had been dismantled by then, my favorite Red, Johnny Bench, was still here.

Fast forward to today. Baseball is still my favorite sport (although I blog more about soccer) and the Reds are still my favorite team. This past summer I went to 10 games, including my first opening day, the game Steven Strasburg of the Nationals pitched, the brawl with the Cardinals, and the home playoff game against the Phillies. The rest I either listened to on the radio (Marty Brennaman and Jeff Brantley have to be the most entertaining radio pair since...Marty Brennaman and Joe Nuxhall!) or watched on TV.

I don't think any other team holds an event like RedsFest. $17 admission included a voucher for a view level ticket for a game this summer, a Reds mug and a Reds string bag. There was an opportunity to get free autographs and photos with the players (and it seemed as though all the players were there). There was lots of memorabilia to peruse, Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame displays to see, and entertainment for kids. Joey Votto walked right by my wife and me on the RedsFest floor (bigger than I thought) and I bought a Yankees Flex 4-pack of tickets (Yankees coming to Cincinnati this year). I even got my picture taken with George Foster!
A Blurry Picture of Me and George!

I understand a record 21,000 people attended RedsFest this year. Optimism is obviously running high in anticipation of another National League Central Division Championship!

Nothing could be better for a Reds fan like me to get ready for the 2011 season!

Cincinnati Reds Website

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Qatar!?!?! Really?!?!?

Disappointing day today. FIFA decided to award Qatar, a country with a population of about 1.6 million people, the physical size of Connecticut and a National Soccer Team ranked 113th in the World, the 2022 World Cup.

I am not naive enough to think that the decision-making process that FIFA uses is clean. In fact, two members of the Executive Committee at FIFA were suspended for improprieties prior to the vote. But there is a real stink hovering over this decision.

No World Cup has made more money or had higher attendance since the United States hosted in 1994. Yet, by even FIFA's own analysis, they chose the bid with higher risk than the US bid for 2022.

I'm all for FIFA's mission to spread the "gospel" around the World. I also get the fact that the World Cup has never been held in the Middle East. But this decision was horrible. I'm sure we are going to hear a lot more about the decision-making process over the next few months. My guess? If a country is willing to pay (as reports about Qatar indicate) Zinedine Zidane $15 million to endorse them in the decision process, it is then logical to assume that this was just a great big money-grab by FIFA.

Postscript: At least FIFA's choice for the 2018, Russia, has a soccer culture, but I would have rather seen England or the Spain/Portugal bid to win.