Friday, October 30, 2009

The Anchor Grill in Covington, KY

The most amazing 24-hour a day breakfast grill and luncheon place I've been to is the Anchor Grill in Covington.

It's a dive. A REAL one, but the food is OMG-hangover cure or 3AM munchies kind of yum.

Keep an eye out for the dancing barbie and bandstand in the animated juke box near the disco ball.

Recently, the current owners, which are the kids of the original owners, decided to go through with a plan to paint the side of their building with a mural of an Ohio River steamboat. Apparently it was something the parents wanted to do ages ago, but never got around to hiring anyone to do the mural.

Well, the parents are gone, but not forgotten. They've been painted onto the stern side of this mural and I hope it lasts 100 years.

It's on the corner of Pike and Main Streets, about 100 yards east from the Pike Street/MLK exit off of I-75/71.

You should go.

Before and After (1980 vs. 2009)

View of Russell Street facing North, 1980:

View of Russell Street facing North (via Google) 2008


October 2009:

1980 Corner of 11th & Russell:

2009 Corner of 11th & Russell, via Google:

1030-1036 Russell in 1980:

1030-1036 Russell in 2007:

1035-1037 Russell in 1980:

1035-1037 Russell in in 2007:

Harriet Albro House 1980:

Harriet Albro House 2007:

Corner of Russell and 10th, 1980:

Corner of Russell and 10th, 2009, via Google:

Pre-Russel Street Fire - circa 1980 pics

Just 29 years ago these houses in the Seminary Square Historical District of Covington had boarded up doors, broken windows, and squatters.

In 29 years, owners of these homes have spent millions of dollars to turn derelicts into beautiful homes.

Last week, a fire started from a heater that sealed the fate of one resident on Russell Street, and destroyed the homes of all of the others in the complex.

Every time we pass the fire damaged homes, I feel a deep sadness for all of the work that went into restoring and rehabbing these places.

This is what the houses looked like in 1980. I only hope it doesn't take another 29 to get it back to the way it was just two weeks ago.

This (below) is on the corner of Russell and 11th Street:

By the time we saw it a few years ago, it too was a shell of a house. I don;t know if a fire took it, but it looked like a bulldozer had. We thought at the time it was waaaaay more work than we wanted to do.

Heh. We laugh at that naivety now.

Anyway, someone else bought the place and did a great job fixing up the place.

We met the current occupants, Dillon and Anne, while standing across the street from what was left of the fire last week, as the owners and occupants tried to salvage what was left of their belongings.

This one, with the plastic coverings on the window openings instead of glass, or for that matter, plywood, is now a very nicely redone home on Russell Street, just up a ways from the fire.

I think Ill go around and do a before-and-after photo shoot of these places, just for perspective. Some of these abandoned properties in 1980 are going for $300K+ now.

Unfortunately, I haven't found any old pics of our place yet, but I'm still looking.

Everyone who has seen our home when we first bought it, in the mess that it was in .... (remember the beginnings... check this out for 'perspective'.....LINK) and seen how much of our lives/our time/our money went into this place always asks us if we're planning on rehabbing another one, and if so, how soon.

My answer is likely, never.

We sacrificed a lot to rehab our home. We sacrificed our business and our health. Besides blown out knees, wrenched muscles, ruined backs... I don't want to even think about how many times I smacked my head into a low beam rafter, or when particularly unlucky, the nail sticking out of the low beam rafter. Or getting slammed upside the head when the hammer drill got jammed while cutting a hole in the joists to run electric lines through. That one hurt. Then there's stepping into holes, falling off of ladders, and hammering fingers.

And after all that, I love my home. We're still working on it, I've been finishing up the window sills on the second floor (just like the ones on the first, so no pics necessary) and I'll be cutting aprons this weekend. But to see it gutted by fire after getting so close, it would ruin me.

For those who have lost everything, you have my sympathy and my empathy.

I hope the insurance can help to remedy a quick recovery, and if anyone needs to borrow a chop saw, a ladder, a box of drywall screws. I have them, and you are welcome to them.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

It's That Time of Year

Credit Maslowski Wildlife

It's fall and the birds are migrating. As such, we've had geese overhead every morning and afternoon now for a week or so. We've also had new visitors, a pair of White Crowned Sparrows. Add another species to the list. Pretty neat.

Fall is the time when a lot of folks start thinking about feeding the birds over the winter. It's a nice thing and can provide a lot of pleasure and entertainment. There are a few caveats, however. One is, keep an eye out for diseased birds. If you see any birds with eye infections, don't fill your feeder for a couple days and before you refill it, wash it well with a mild bleach solution. You don't want to be spreading diseases to the birds you're attracting to your feeder.

The next thing you need to be aware of is invasive species. I know that house sparrows are cute, but they are non-native. In point of fact, they displace other cavity-nesters. If you want to know why you've not seen a blue bird in a while, European house sparrows are the reason. They will take over the nest of any other bird and if necessary, kill it or any young in the cavity. Normally, this would be one of those unpleasant, but natural realities. The problem is, it's NOT natural.

House sparrows are not natural in this habitat. The birds that live here can't compete with this aggressive bird. If we allow them or encourage them to spread, we'll stand the risk of entirely losing some of our native species.

So, what to do? First, don't put out cheap bird food or bread. Sparrows love the millet and other filler grains/seeds and the other birds don't. Don't attract and specifically feed the sparrows. Use thistle seed and black oil sunflower. The sparrows will eat it, but they'd rather eat bread, corn, or millet. Secondly, consider initiating an a sparrow eradication program, if you can stomach it.

There's ample information on sparrows here

One other thing. If you decide on the eradication route, make very, very sure you can identify a house sparrow from all the other "little brown birds". A house sparrow looks a lot like the native bird above, especially the female. Other look-alikes are house finches and in some cases native song sparrows.

The first place to start is here.

After that, Cornell has a fantastic birding site. Here's the White Crowned Sparrow link, but you can use them for almost any bird identification.

Anyway, thanks to my sharp eyes and the native sparrow visitor, we have three additions to our urban back yard critter list. One is a red-headed woodpecker. The other is the European wall lizard (more on him, here.)

Credit Ohio DNR.

The list so far:

Canadian Geese
Mallard Ducks
Turkey Vultures
Red Tailed Hawk
White-footed Mice
Grey Squirrels
Mourning Dove
Rock Dove
Downy Woodpecker
European Starlings (invasive)
English Sparrows (invasive)
Chimney Swifts
Blue Jay
Garter Snakes
Carolina Wren
Brown Thrasher
American Kestrel
Rose-Breasted Grosbeak
Mocking Bird
Tree Swallow
House Finch
Great Blue Heron
Northern Flicker
Ruby-throated Humming Bird
Sharp-shinned Hawk (or perhaps a Cooper's Hawk)
Red-headed Woodpecker
European Wall (Lazarus) Lizards
White Crowned Sparrow

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tragedy in Seminary Square

COVINGTON - Moments away from being rescued, a 57-year-old woman tragically died in a large, fast-moving fire overnight in the 1000 block of Russell Street, a fire official said.

Covington Firefighter Dave Studer was within arm's reach of rescuing the woman as she hung out a second story window of a historic home holding four condos when fire broke out a window below, said Covington Fire Chief Mark Young. Flames raced up the wall and separated the two.

“It was tragic. She retreated back into the house away from the window,” Young said in a phone interview today. “The firefighter nearly fell off the ladder. We were unable to retrieve her at that time. Crews went ahead and started fighting the fire. Once they got the fire to a manageable means, it was too late. She had already perished from the smoke and the fire.”

Firefighters were able to rescue the woman’s husband and another woman, he said. Both suffered smoke inhalation. The man was treated and released at the scene. The woman was taken to St. Elizabeth Hospital North as a precaution.

Their names were not released.

Studer was not injured, but a second firefighter who fell off a ladder suffered bruising, Young said.

It is the second fatal fire in the region in the past 24 hours. Early Monday, three men died in a house fire in Lebanon.

The cause of the 1:45 a.m. Covington blaze remains under investigation.

A damage estimate is not available, but all four units in the 1800s building were destroyed by fire and water damage, Young said. The fire caused small parts of the roof to collapse before flames finally burned it almost totally out, he said.

No smoke detectors were heard or found.

Several people were displaced. It’s not yet clear how many, the chief said. The American Red Cross has been called to the scene to help them find temporary lodging.

The fire burned for a while before it broke out windows, drawing the attention of a passerby who called 911, Young said. The man also went around the building, knocking on doors and waking residents.

“It’s unfortunate, these early morning fires go unnoticed until they gain enough momentum and break through the windows,” Young said. “By then it’s usually had a pretty good head start when somebody calls on it.”

When fire crews arrived, flames were shooting from the building and a man was standing on a patio roof waiting for rescue.

“He informed the crews his wife was still inside,” Young said.

Firefighters went around the back of the building and saw the 57-year-old woman hanging out a second-floor window.

“We were right there,” the chief said. “We could almost reach out and touch her. She was a larger woman and was having difficulty getting through the window. We were trying to get her out….It’s very tragic when these things happen. We always think in the back of our minds: ‘would we have done something different?’ In my judgment, we did everything we could. The fire had started pretty good and spread pretty rapidly.”


We just got back from the fire scene, which is literally only one and a half blocks from our home.

Turn out we met the folks living on the South side of this building.

These four homes (some were rentals) are all connected and apparently the fire started in the second unit when they turned on the gas heat some time last night. The fire spread up into the attic, then spread to the other units.

The entire third floor is gone.

These folks on the end (Just Can't remember their names right now...) we met a few years ago before we bought our home. They were in the Covington Rehab- O-Rama tour. We visited their home and noted what a beauty of a job they'd done redoing the whole house. I remember the uber-cool lights they had over their kitchen island, and I hope they can salvage most of the work they've done.

It makes me want to cry seeing them try to salvage their furniture and artwork out on the front yard after all of the fire/smoke and water damage.

Our hearts are with you all.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Waiver of Jury Trial Rant

Ok, it's been a few years since Business Law, but I seem to remember a generalized statement of law that signifies that you can not sign away your rights, no matter what agreement you enter into and what ever contracts you sign, you CAN NOT sign away your legal rights.

Every citizen in the United States has the right to a jury trial. These are especially good if 1.) you are guilty of a crime and want to attempt to persuade a crop of your own folk to side with you on an emotional basis, or 2.) you are more like your peers than the other guy is.

In the case of PNC, it's more likely that YOU are more like a jury of your peers than a whole gaggle of corporate lawyers.

Believe it or not, some times those jury fellas just don't 'bond' with the high paid, high-pressure, Harvard types.

So, in order to put the pressure on all of us Provident Bank-->National City-->PNC Bank wussies, they're sending out a pamphlet that states that we somehow have already given our voluntary consent to waive our U.S. Constitutional rights to a trial by jury, one of our most fundamental civil rights.

How freaking creepy/wrong is that? I seriously hope all of the PNC customers understand that this is NOT legal and that they shouldn't allow PNC laywers to bully them into arbitration when and if real damages are caused by PNC.

Much like the ridiculous signs in the coat check area that state that they "Are not responsible for lost or damaged items" THEY ARE.

Just because someone has a sign up that says, "It aint my fault if I put a rock through your car window" doesn't mean they aren't. THEY ARE.

When you see a sign at the car repair facility that says "Not responsible for items left in the vehicle" when it's on THEIR LOT, guess what? THEY ARE.

If you sign a contract when you walk into a beauty parlor that says, "I won't sue you if I burn your scalp with harmful chemicals" and they actually burn your scalp with harmful chemicals... guess what? You can sue.

Tried and tested over and over again because business owners think they are protected when they hang up a sign that says "Nuh UH, don't blame me."

PNC: You have seriously lost my respect, and you may have lost my business.

Creepy wrongness, dudes.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Since my camera is kaput....

Here's some from someone else.
I call this one, "Bad place to put an electrical panel"

And this one.... called "Bad placement of a wall heater"

And for Galt's sake, get some safety goggles!


Sunday, October 4, 2009

Camera down for the count


In the parking lost of the Essex Art Studios in Cincinnati, just after taking this lovely picture of what can only be Pat Bunyon:

... my foot stepped into an awful mess of cracked up messed up pavement, throwing me ever so ungraciously off of my feet and onto my hands and knees.

My camera didn't make it.
I was able to salvage the memory card, though.

So this is it for a while until I can figure out how to get images off of my new camera phone.

Or until I buy a new camera.

I am really p*ssed. I ruined a new pair of jeans, lost the opportunity to photograph what turned out to be a very cool art exhibition, I've got a gruesome scab on my knee and my hands are raw from road rash.

Yeah, but I didn't break my ankle. Thanks DH for pointing THAT out.

Well, at least earlier in the day I was able to photograph a rehab in Newport, KY that we actually looked at years ago before buying our current home. The open house was listed in the paper, and the guy who fixed it up did some very clever tips and tricks I want to share.

I'll get to those as soon as I stop grumbling about the camera.

It may take a day.

Addendum from DH (posted without comment--but see comments if you're confused):

Friday, October 2, 2009

Anniversary Dinner

Next week is the anniversary of our first real date. I'm of the opinion that oyster stew may be the single best way to bag a life-long mate.

There are one or two cute stories from that night, and perhaps a few more private tales, but I think that the deal-maker was this dish.

Oyster and Chanterelle Mushroom Stew

1 pint freshest oysters with liquid
1/4 lb cleaned chanterelles mushrooms chopped
1 sweet onion, diced
1+T sweet butter
1/2 pint heavy whipping cream
1 generous pinch fresh grated nutmeg
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 dashes Worchestershire
1-2 oz. dry sherry
dash of cayenne or to taste
salt and pepper to taste

In a large sauce pan over medium heat (I use my chef's pan) saute' the sweet onion in butter, for a moment, then add the chanterelles. Saute' until the mushrooms are tender. A sprinkle of salt and pepper helps move this along. A bit of caramelization is fine, but you don't want too much. Don't burn the butter.

Once the mushrooms and onions are soft, add the liquid from the oysters, cream, nutmeg, cayenne, and pepper, Worchestershire, and thyme. Bring to a simmer for a few moments, then add the sherry, and simmer for another minute. Add the oysters, and bring back to a simmer. Taste and adjust seasonings. You shouldn't be able to taste much alcohol from the sherry. If you do, simmer for a moment more. Fish out the thyme sprigs. Serve in warm bowls with crusty bread and butter.

A bitter green salad with a mustard vinaigrette works well with this.

Serve with a dry, minerally white Burgundy or perhaps a Sancerre, or other dry stoney white wine.

Tips: Find the best sweet butter you can. It makes the bread work best with the stew. It's the sensual surprise that most folks don't expect. The sherry is much more key to this stew than you'd think. You can't skip it as it's an imperative note, but it can be too much if you don't cook it off enough. Be judicious with the sherry at first. If you can't find or afford chanterelles, button mushrooms are not a bad substitution. Most importantly, make sure you've got really fresh oysters. You'll be glad you did.

Oh, yeah. Remember candle light.