Sugar ‘n Spice: A Diner That’s Nice

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“We make our syrup in house,” said Sugar ‘n Spice owner Steven Frankel. “Here’s the recipe:  sugar, water, sugar, more sugar, some brown sugar, maple flavoring, sugar, and some more sugar.  We cook it till it’s almost booze, then back it up.”  My friend Teri ate spoonfuls of it when her whispy pancake was gone.

When I was a kid, I knew without asking that we wouldn’t eat at Sugar and Spice Restaurant.  I don’t imagine I saw this restaurant that often, as we were from Finneytown and Sugar ‘n Spice was in the Paddock Hills area of Avondale.

Maybe I saw it on the way to Great Grandma Meinking’s house, or when we went on our annual trip to the Cincinnati Zoo.  Perhaps when we had doctor appointments on Burnet Avenue.  But how could a little girl not remember a bubble gum colored eatery that looked like it came from the pages of The Gingerbread House?

I knew my family wouldn’t eat there, mostly because we almost never ate anywhere but at our house.  Boring cottage ham or meatloaf off Melmac plates.  And to drink?  Milk, always milk.

But sometimes Mootsie and Grandpa Gil took me out to lunch after church, usually to McIntosh’s on Reading Road or Century Inn Tavern in Woodlawn.  Neither of these places was far from St. Matthew United Church of Christ, but Sugar ‘n Spice wasn’t either.  It seems Sugar ‘n Spice just wasn’t a restaurant our family would frequent.

When I was a little girl, Avondale was 60% Jewish.  The homes on tree-lined streets were mansions by the standards of the day.  But by 1967, when I was invited for lunch by a girl in my acting class to her Avondale home near Sugar ‘n Spice, my mother was worried about driving me there, maybe because of her poor sense of direction, but maybe something else.  Maybe because by then Avondale was a predominantly black neighborhood.

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To My Chums on National Girlfriends Day


From the Celebrate Each Day website

It is National Girlfriends Day!  I can’t let the day pass without honoring the precious gift of gal pals.

A recent study by Stanford University revealed that the secret to a long life for a man is to be married; for a woman, the secret is to have good friends. Girlfriend time activates serotonin and is as important to our well-being as exercise.  Read that again: as important as exercise! Ha!

Like we needed an erudite Ivy Leaguer to tell us that!  If you’ve seen Menopause, the Musical (and if you haven’t, you must), you’ll remember that the final scene was a celebration of girlfriends.  If I could dance and sing, I would perform a tribute to my friends.  I can only write, so this is my ode to gal pals.

Men, if they’re unusual and very, very lucky (and quite possibly gay) have one or more good friends.  By friends, I don’t mean people with whom they just drink, watch sports, or share an office or power tools.  Not just someone a guy can call to ask advice beer kegs or discount plane tickets or plumbing. A “good friend” is someone a guy can call about his prostate problems (that’s not what I meant about “plumbing”), his obnoxious boss, his significant other, or feeling blue.

My husband has dozens of guy acquaintances, but only one man who seems anything like what I consider a “good friend.”  Rick and his friend George (not his real name) watch sports, play online Scrabble, and dance around their political and religious differences, but I don’t think George has ever confided in Rick about missing his daughter in Europe, nor do I think Rick has ever confided in George about his beautiful, young wife.

I am giddy with gratitude for all I have in my life:  my health, my marriage, my children, and most definitely, my friends.  I have at least three dozen women (and a couple men) with whom I could discuss personal, physical, or professional dilemmas.  I could discuss my checking account, my insecurities, my dreams, and my disappointments with all of them, as well as my thick thighs, facial hair, and vaginal dryness with a couple dozen.

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When Hair Care is a Family Affair

Life is an endless struggle full of frustrations and challenges, but eventually you find a hair stylist you like.  ~Author Unknown

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It’s hard to understand why none of us—not my brother, dad, or I—can remember her name.  She was part of our family for probably a decade.  She was quite visible in our home, and she went everywhere with my mom three days a week.

And yet we cannot remember the name my mother gave her wig.

I think it was expensive, this human hair wig that was dyed the same red as my mother’s was.  Mom’s hairdresser styled it to look exactly like Mom’s hair looked on Friday afternoon after she had had her wash and set:  a helmet of hair, with a smooth crust overlaying a nest of ratted tresses.  A comma of curl on each side instead of bangs.  Like a red-headed Lady Bird Johnson.

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The History of My Hair-Raising


If “Jesus loved the little children” so darn much, as the old hymn proclaims, why did He make little girls curl their hair for Sunday School?  “Suffer the little children . . .”  And suffer we did.brush roller

Every Saturday, my mother would set my hair with horrible brush rollers.

First she’d use the handle of the rattail comb to dig out a hunk of my aggressively straight hair.

Age 6. This is my natural look.

Age 6. This is my natural look.

Then she’d dip the comb end into an aluminum tumbler of stale Hudepohl beer (which wouldn’t stink, so Mom said) and then she’d pull the comb through the section.

Finally, she’d roll the sodden mess on a brush roller and, using her front teeth, pry open a bobby pin  and jam it in, attaching, it seemed, the roller to my scalp.  In a “stitch in time” measure, she stabbed a pink pokey thing into the roller and didn’t stop until she drew blood.

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A Fine Day to Die


It was a beautiful day outside, but my friend Teri and I sat in recliners in her basement, checking our emails and binge watching Botched, and A & E reality show about plastic surgery gone horribly wrong.

After about three hours, I said, “Teri, they say we should live each day as if it’s our last.  This could be our last day, and this is how we spent it?”

She paused then said, “I’m good with that.”

Teri and I were both teachers, and we worked our asses off (not so you’d notice) for three decades.  In retirement, we’ve become slothful, like pet rocks.  We are absolutely over all the activity: the setting of alarms, the running to meetings, the grading of papers, the getting out of recliners.IMG_2642

johnny-depp-dior-vogue-3jun15-pr_b_320x480Many people have their bucket lists.  My friend Ned (who has a bumper sticker that says “Mrs. Depp,” wants to meet Johnny.  My 87-year-old step-mother recently checked off three items on her list:  set foot in Mexico, zipline, and ride a horse.

Maryanne checking to see that Rick got a picture of her ziplining.

Maryanne checking to see that Rick got a picture of her ziplining.

My husband wants to photograph sunrise and sunset in every time zone on the planet.  Donald Trump wants to be a despot of a yuuuge nation.

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10 Reasons Why You Should Rent an Apartment Instead of Buying a House or a Condo

You have two Rottweilers, you raise bees for the honey you sell, and you are planning on installing a trapeze in your bedroom.  I get it.  You want to own your property.

You are filthy rich, so rich that you pay absolutely no income taxes.  You want to buy a house because, well, you can.

You want your 2.5 children to grow up on a big plot of land that they can see out the window as they play video games.  This is a lifestyle you probably need to buy.

But if you are young, and you don’t have much money, or you are old, and want to hang on to your money, rent!

Does your luggage have more miles on it than your car? Rent!

You don’t want to prune anything but your hair or your nails?  Rent!

The only tools you can master are a knife and a fork?  Rent!

Here are 10 compelling reasons to rent:



Eight years ago, we put our house on the market because we knew we wanted to live a different way.  We had a beautiful home on a lot of land in a safe neighborhood.  We weren’t unhappy, but we were just so over the yard work, the space, the mountains of stuff.

Most of our friends who were downsizing were buying condos, but we didn’t want to be stuck someplace if we didn’t end up liking it.  (It took thirteen months to sell that beautiful house, and by the closing, home ownership seemed like a ball and chain.)  We didn’t know where we wanted to live or how much space we’d need, but we sensed that change, not stability, was what we needed to stay young – well, not so much young as still-kinda-hip elders.

So we rented a high rise apartment with a deck overlooking the river, and we loved everything about living in 1200 square feet within the city limits.  After a couple of years, we wanted to try moving downtown, and it was as simple as waiting out one lease and signing another.

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10 Things I Learned While Cleaning Out My Parents’ House



I pried open the overstuffed file cabinet and found, amid tax returns from the twentieth century, a hanging file marked “Birth Certificates.”  And there they were, the birth certificates for Ray Fred and Debi Briana.  My mother’s cabbage patch dolls.  My brother and sister, I guess.

My mother died three years ago, and my dad and his bride of six months moved to a cute cottage in the Evergreen Retirement Community.  They took their bedroom furniture, their kitchen table, their clothes, some dishes and pots and pans and, well, that’s all.  I told them I would be happy to clean out the house, and I was, and am, happy to do that.  Truly.

I had bragged that, after all, we had sold our house and everything in it in a couple weeks.  I told my dad’s sweet wife, “I’ll get it done in a day. I’ve got this.”

That was three weeks ago.  And I’m not finished.

What happens when hoarding meets the Protestant Work Ethic and is all wrapped up in an ill-advised organization plan?  My parents’ house, that’s what.  I never realized while my mother was alive that she never threw anything away because she worked so hard at containing and organizing her stuff.  If you walked in my parents’ house, which was decorated and organized mostly by my mother, you would probably not have suspected what was in drawers and behind doors.

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Sandy Lingo

Life itself is the proper binge.  - Julia Child

A writing friend said that when she reads my writing, she always wants a second helping.



Second Helping Subjects