Thursday, December 11, 2008

When Packaging is Everything...

Last night I attended what for me, was the social engagement of the season - that being the annual Woman’s Club (at my church) Christmas party. I was told ahead of time to bring an inexpensive ornament ($5-$10) for the annual gift exchange. Although I knew they made a game out of it with lots of stealing of each other’s packages, the thought never occurred to me to “tart up” my offering. Instead, due to time restrictions, I quickly slapped a little wrapping paper around my gingerbread house and was good to go.

When I arrived at the party and saw the beautifully wrapped packages, my first thought was to shove my “Charlie Brown” package to the bottom of my purse and tell people I forgot to bring an ornament. However, against my better judgment, I decided just to swallow my pride and discreetly drop my package into the pile.

Not surprisingly, no one chose my gift when it was their turn to pick. Can you blame them though? Which would you rather have – a tiny little ornament that looked like it was wrapped by a child, or a package that would have made Martha Stewart proud?

In my own defense, at least my package was environmentally friendly using only the minimum amount of wrapping paper with no extra accoutrements to end up in a landfill.

When it was my turn to choose a package, I felt morally obligated to take my own, if for no other reason that I felt sorry for it. My table mates tried to make me feel better by saying, “Good things come in small packages – like a diamond ring!” Later after we were all comparing our ornaments, I got just the briefest of recognition. Apparently the more feminine the ornament, the bigger the response. I knew I should have sprung for the peacock feather ornament (but I think it was over budget)!

Next year I’ll be ready. I’ll buy the fanciest ornament and have it professionally gift wrapped – maybe I’ll even put it in a Tiffany’s box! My package will put all the others to shame. (argh! I hate it when I get competitive!)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Top Ten Memorable Moments in 2008

After reading Rick Steves' Top Ten Memorable Travel Moments, it inspired me to compile my own list. The reason they're not numbered chronologically, is because I thought I'd list them in the order in which I thought of them, and then add numbers so you could see the order in which the events actually occurred.

3) Seeing a Broadway play (“A Chorus Line”) in NYC
4) Visiting Liverpool (home of the Beatles)
1) Getting snowed in at the beginning of March!
2) Seeing “The Police” in concert at Nationwide Arena
7) Having our power out for 3½ days in September!
5) Attending 2 funerals & celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary all in the same week!
10)Seeing the Rockettes at Nationwide Arena
9) Seeing the election returns and discovering that Barack Obama had won
6) Attending my 20th (Madison) High School reunion
8) Visiting Kent State University on Homecoming wknd 2008

Friday, December 5, 2008

Memorable Christmas Presents...

For some reason, most of my memorable gifts have been birthday presents, but thinking real hard, I seem to recall a few noteworthy Christmas presents I’ve received, some of which I still have.

My first tape recorder

I was maybe 11 or so when I received this gift from my favorite uncle (Russ). I remember skimming the writing on the box and thinking it was like a blender or something, until I slowed down and read it properly. That was probably my first love affair with technology as I taped bits of all my favorite TV programs with reckless abandon, and am slightly embarrassed to say I still have most of those original cassettes as well as the tape recorder.

My Betsy McCall Fashion Designer Desk

This was a hand-me-down from a friend of my grandmother’s, but I didn’t mind. Even though I was never very interested in fashion, I always enjoyed creative pursuits, so this was right up my ally. I carefully placed a sheet of recycled paper (brought home from my dad’s company) on top of the tissue paper templates, plugged in the desk, grabbed a pencil or pen, and traced lot of funky fashions onto Betsy’s patiently posed body.

Sadly, some years later (quite a few in fact) I discovered the bulb needed replacing and I carelessly replaced it with too high a wattage causing the plastic to melt and leave somewhat of a crater on the surface of the desk. I’m not entirely sure what happened to it after that, but have since bought a replacement on E-bay. This time I’ll take much better care of it!

My “Mandy” doll

Unlike my sister, I never had many (if any?) big (i.e. life size) dolls. Most of mine were either doll house size or perhaps six to eight inches high, so when I received “Mandy,” I was pleasantly surprised to have something a bit bigger. I think the doll was from my Grandma Goff (my dad’s mother) and I might have been about 9 or 10 years old.

“Mandy” came with white tights, a pretty pink knee length dress and shoes of some sort I guess (not sure where they are now).

My mom also made me clothes for her, some of which I still have (whichever ones the mice didn’t chew holes in while stored in my parent’s attic).

By the way, “Mandy” wasn’t a name I selected for her, like the infamous Cabbage Patch dolls, she was assigned that name. She’s similar in size to an American Girl doll and I often wonder if she would fit into any of their clothes. Maybe I should bring her over and my niece and I could have a swap session with her American Girl doll (which she received for Christmas last year).

These days I take more pleasure in the giving rather than the receiving, and usually try to make an effort to get something for each person that shows I know them. Some people are definitely easier than others, but that’s a whole other column!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Book Lover

Anyone who knows me knows I am an avid reader and hopeless book collector. I say “hopeless,” because I will always have more books than I ever have time to read. Most of them are at least confined to one room so it at least looks somewhat manageable (okay, so some of them are hidden in a trunk in the closet!).

I think I’ve already read at least 45 books this year, my goal always being 52 – one for every week of the year (though it typically takes me more than a week to read most books).

Right now there’s a stack of about a half a dozen library books on the top of my dresser. That should pretty much take me through to the end of the year. All are memoirs – mostly by men, but at least one by a woman. Incidentally, as someone who hopes to write a memoir someday, I very much enjoy reading others’ books (for inspiration and ideas).

My husband is also an avid reader, but doesn’t have as much spare time as I do, so he reads a lot less. However, he will often read for longer periods of time than I will. As much as I know reading is a valued and respected past time, I feel guilty if I spend much time doing it at home when so many other things need doing. It’s only when I’m not feeling well that I tend to spend longer than maybe 15 minutes reading. Of course an exception was made when reading each of the Harry Potter books, because those were certainly hard to put down! However, unlike many of JK Rowling’s readers, I didn’t want to devour any of the books all in one sitting. Like a fine wine or chocolate, I think books are meant to be savored and carefully digested, so I prefer to read little by little. I think it also helps me remember what I read the day before.

Sometimes I will even read more than one book at a time – perhaps an informational book of some kind and a novel or memoir on the side. My uncle said he does this too, so I guess I’m not the only one.

My husband mostly reads either fantasy/science fiction or the classics, and is currently reading volume 1 of a Proust compilation. He’s certainly ambitious and makes me feel bad for rarely reading a book over 350 pages.

The book I am just about to start is called Breakfast With Tiffany – an uncle’s memoir by Edwin John Wintle. Apparently this gay New Yorker decides to help out his sister by letting his 13 year old niece stay with him for awhile and go to school in NYC. Being a big fan of the Big Apple, I find anything at all related to the city to be most fascinating.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Friday, November 7, 2008

History is Made...

Perhaps it’s a bit cliché to write about this since it’s currently the hot topic, but it feels a bit like not talking about the elephant in the room, which is what my entire day (Wed.) has been like. I learned it’s not a good idea to discuss politics in the office (unless maybe you’re sure everyone is like-minded, but even then…). Hence, I’ve just tried to be friendly and polite and the only time the subject came up is when my boss commented on Michelle Obama’s dress.

My husband and I tried to avoid watching any of the election coverage last night lest we get our hopes up only to discover McCain had actually been elected. However, I did sneak a peek at a couple of the running totals and both times Obama was well in the lead. I could hear “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” playing softly in my head as I imagined Sarah Palin stomping back to Alaska. Too bad for the comedians. I think she gave them enough material for at least two terms.

Anyway, I was first to grab the remote, so I got the good news from BBC America, which is our default channel. Being sick with a cold I didn’t quite feel up to jumping up and down, so I settled for a hug and kiss from my husband and then sat with my bowl of Cheerios to watch the outpouring of gratitude from my adopted country of Great Britain.

When I got to work I received these two e-mails from across the pond:

Congratulations - the next president looks like someone who commands respect and might get things done.
-- (from my in-laws)

I think it is good for America and the rest of the world that Obama won, but we wait to see how much he can actually achieve. It was necessary to have a clean break from the George W Bush era which will certainly not go down as one of the most distinguished in history. No doubt you will have a celebratory drink or two this evening!
-- (from my former boss, the other GWB whom I much prefer)

I also watched a news clip of Prime Minister Gordon Brown (who frankly looked a bit sleepy, or maybe that’s how he always looks?). After about an hour of web-surfing the news, I settled into the serious business of looking for a celebratory t-shirt (something to both commemorate and perhaps boast of our victory). There were lots of choices – some in good taste and some down right racist (like the one that said, “Don’t Worry People. It can stay white on the outside (referring to the White House) – couldn’t quite make out the KKK pointy heads, but it was a rather small picture). I finally settled on a long sleeve t-shirt with Obama’s “Yes We Can” speech, and a button that says, “A President’s IQ should be Three Digits.” I might still buy something else to wear on Inauguration Day, but will decide that another day.

Trying to find a newspaper at lunch time was an exercise in futility. I never thought my fellow Americans would be so sentimental wanting to have one as a keepsake, but then scrapbooking is a pretty hot trend. I’m sure some people may have just wanted one to read up on the election news.

I read in Thursday's paper that people were buying them by the armload, and of course quite a few "entrepreneurs" went so low as to try and make a profit by selling them on Craig's List (for $25 and $50) and E-bay. I guess that shouldn't surprise me since there will always be a few people out there trying to make a fast and easy buck. I ended up ordering a bundle of 5 for the very reasonable price of $9.50. I may have to wait a few weeks to get them, but I'm in no hurry.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Friday, October 31, 2008

Taking Time to Enjoy Favorite old Rituals…..

This past Tuesday was the annual airing of “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown.” As I had seen a commercial (while at the gym, since we normally fast forward over them when at home) advertising it, I actually remembered and sat down to watch it. However, I really only caught about half of it because I was doing my daily “moving things around” ritual. Remembering that we had half a bottle of wine that needed finishing, I poured myself a glass before sitting down.

It felt really strange to be watching a kid’s TV special while drinking an adult beverage, but proceeded to do it nonetheless. It was nice to watch it live for a change, not remembering the last time I’ve done that. It would have been even better if I didn’t have to mute all the political commercials in between, but I suppose it comes with the territory this time of year.

I was reminded of that evening when I read this in Slate today: http://www.slate.com/id/2203426/. Like the columnist, I feel a bit nostalgic for the past and know what she means when she says, “…I can never see these wonderful specials again for the first time.” I think the Peanuts specials should be mandatory viewing and a time for families to sit down and enjoy them together. Somehow, I doubt that happens in many households across America, at least not these days, and I think it’s kind of sad.

Anyway, we had Beggar's Night in our town last night (10/30) and I probably only got about a dozen or so of the little buggers. Unlike last year, there didn't seem to be any older kids - like 12 or 13 year olds pushing their luck on their last year of going out. There were at least 2 or 3 with "Scream" masks - one very high tech one with blood that dripped down it. Very creepy indeed! (no wonder our cat scooted out of the way when most of the trick-or-treaters came to our door). They certainly seemed a very polite bunch. When I told them they could help themselves, most took only one thing and reminded their siblings they were only allowed one each. Later in the evening I had to force them to take more so I wouldn't have any leftovers. At the end of the alloted two hours, all I have left is a small bag of Starburst candy -not a favorite apparently.

Speaking of little buggers, tonight I will be photographing 21 of them at my sister's Halloween party. I encouraged her to do this last year, but she decided to take me up on the idea this year. I have been hired (to be paid in candy) to photograph the kiddies in their costumes. It has also been requested that I use as many special effects as possible (and use a digital camera so they can see the photos instantly afterwards). I look forward to the challenge and only hope I won't be elbowing my way past 21 sets of parents.

Also, my friend's husband suggested we buy bags of Goldfish crackers to hand out. I bought a Pepperidge Farm multi-pack (regular crackers, pretzels and cookies), but found that the children strongly preferred candy since they were less likely to get that from their parents. I guess I'll nix that idea for next year! (though I did manage to get rid of them all).

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Engleman Hall circa the 90's

This is what it used to look like when I lived there.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Who Says You Can't Go Home Again?

It’s that time of year again – autumn leaves are falling, evenings are drawing in, fall sports (i.e. football!) vie for our attention, and the ever-lasting ritual of Homecoming……

If you’re in high school, it likely means your school has a pep rally and maybe you attend a dance. When you’re in college, you might attend a pep rally, watch a parade and then go to the big game (possibly followed by a party afterwards).

It was this ritual I decided to undergo this past weekend when I visited my alma mater, Kent State University, after graduating 14 (long!) years ago.

When I last visited the campus, briefly, in 2002, not much had changed. The Student Center courtyard was finished after undergoing a lot paving and landscaping works while I was in my senior year. I was told my dormitory had been updated and converted into apartments. The only thing that looked different about it from the outside was that the ivy had been removed – stripping away some of its character if you ask me. Yes, I suppose tiny critters could have used the ivy to scale the walls and invade our rooms, but none ever visited me, so I was fine with the New England charm enveloping my domicile. Walking around the rest of campus, most everything looked the same as I remembered, so I left content with that knowledge.

In six short years, not only have new halls been added (like Centennial Hall – the dorm of the future….) many of the dorms seem to have undergone complete renovation (from the inside) rendering them almost unrecognizable to those of us who used to frequent them. Okay, so perhaps they were a bit dated probably not seeing too much of a change in décor from the 70’s, or maybe 80’s, but we still loved them all the same.

I guess the students of today (who I am old enough to be a parent of!) expect a lot more in the way of comforts and luxury. With cozy seating, fireplaces and a big screen TV in each lounge, I doubt there’s much they can complain about! We even had a baby grand piano in our lounge, but that’s since been removed.

There didn’t seem to be many university run cafeterias left since chain fast food restaurants moved in (at least in the student center). I also noticed grocery stores adjoining cafeterias in a couple of the dorms. In my day (said while waiving my cane and holding up my sagging panty hose with the other hand), we only had a tiny store in the basement of one of the dorms. If you wanted proper food, you shopped off campus at either Apples, or Giant Eagle (neither of which exist anymore). Yes, life is good for the student of the 21st century, except for when it comes to graduating and finding a job. I don’t envy them that arduous task!

By the end of the weekend I almost found myself grasping at straws to find at least one or two familiar places. It seemed little had changed at the Rathskeller (though I only poked my head in for a second), the library (books & periodicals still collecting dust on the 10th floor!), and the Franklin Square Deli (downtown).
I think my uncle probably said it best, “I suppose we have an idealized vision in our minds of what things were once like, and it is kind of sobering when we see the reality of the changes (not all positive) that time has brought.”

I wish there was a special elevator (or tardis?) I could enter where when I stepped out, I would be back in 1994 (or earlier even!) so I could go back and revisit ‘my Kent State’ one more time before tucking away that memory forever.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Not Buying It collage


Not Buying It collage, originally uploaded by authorwannabe.

I created this after reading the book as a sort of contrast between not shopping and being inundated with catalogs wanting you to buy their products (those are all my catalogs, but the book I checked out of the library).

Consumerism vs. Conservation

This has been an interesting year for me in terms of consumerism vs. conservation, so to speak. What I mean is, struggling with my love for shopping and the novelty value of having something new versus my efforts to go green, recycle and reuse, save the planet and all that.

It started back in February (?) when I read Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping by Judith Levine. Levine and her husband, (if my memory serves me) are native New Yorkers who were as caught up in the same consumer culture as the rest of us of buying, accumulating (but not always using), and then buying some more. With a few minor exceptions, both pretty well stuck to their pact to go a year without buying anything other than basic necessities.

As inspired as I was by her efforts, I, like probably most people, know I would never be able to go a whole month, let alone a year without buying something outside the box of “necessity.” That’s one of the reasons I like to go grocery shopping, so I can reward myself with either a magazine or newspaper, or maybe a sweet to enjoy after I’m done with the task at hand.

However, as I am also a fan of Ed Begley Jr. and his efforts to “go green,” I have tried to step up my efforts to recycle and reuse even more and find other ways to be environmentally friendly.

For starters I bought the Page-a-Day calendar “Living Green – 365 Ways to Make a Difference.” At first I really tried to embrace each idea and often put pages aside to refer back to later. However, by about half way through the year I found myself knit-picking their ideas and how absurd many of them are (like trying to get your company to be environmentally friendly – yeah right! good luck with trying to convert corporate America!).

I also bought the environmentally friendly water bottles I saw on an episode of “Oprah.” Unlike a lot of plastic bottles, these are partially made of corn. Maybe it’s that reason that they’re not recyclable. They tell you the bottles can be reused up to 90 times. I didn’t even try to keep count, but only after about 9 months switched to a new bottle and noticed a major difference. As each bottle has a filter (that the water passed through as you suck it out the spout), I can see why this is necessary.

I have stocked up on enough canvas bags to hold a year’s worth of groceries - now if I can only remember to grab one every time I go into a store (not just grocery stores). FYI- it’s a good idea to write your name in marker somewhere on the bag so they don’t try to charge you for their store bag when you use it (Target!).

My husband and I stocked up on CFLs on our last trip to Ikea and have tried to replace bulbs wherever we can, but as a lot of our lights are on dimmers, those aren’t as straightforward.

We are rinsing out a lot of our plastic bags (including store produce bags) and reusing them as much as possible, and still save the occasional piece of tinfoil or clear wrap.

I greatly reduced my lunch time shopping trips – partially because of road construction (and revamping of a favorite store) near some of the shops, and partially wanting to avoid the old consumerism trap (probably more due to the road construction/revamping to be honest).

Cutting down on shopping certainly means I have a lot more free time to do things around the house (or read more on my lunch hour). I am forever moaning about not having time for all my little projects, but when given the time, I still find I would rather be out and about scouting for a bargain or the often overlooked treasure. It’s hard to reprogram years and years of a bad habit.

Today I came across this blog called The Simple Dollar that sums up my life perfectly. At the top it says, “Be a Creator, Not a Consumer.”

“A lot of us want to accomplish something great. We want to read the great works of Western literature. We want to train for and run in a 5K. We want to write the “Great American Novel.” We want to have the perfect home for our family.

The truth is that no product on earth will ever make these things happen. You can get the great books of Western literature for free from the library, but you can’t buy the time and patience and concentration to read them. You can have the best running shoes on Earth, but if you’re not out there jogging thirty minutes every day, they’re useless - the barefooted fellow will do substantially better.

You can have all the slick notebooks in the world, but if they’re just filled with empty pages, they’re useless.”

The things I personally hoard the most are books and craft supplies. To my credit, I am trying to make an effort with the books. It’s been months since I set foot in my local library. Instead I am trying to read my own books first. Okay, so I have bought as many if not more books this year than I’ve checked out of the library, it’s still an effort, albeit not a perfect one.

As far as the craft supplies go, I am just trying not to buy more of them, and making a list of goals/completion dates to try and get inspired to use some of the blank photo albums/books I’ve bought. Since I am currently in the middle of a 6 week session of classes, trying to do anything else besides homework / practice for these classes is a major effort, so I’ve postponed most projects until after Christmas (I don’t plan on taking anymore classes until at least March).

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A & C in front of house


A & C in front of house, originally uploaded by authorwannabe.

This photo was taken in our first year after moving in I think.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Anniversary of the Day I Signed My Life Away...

Today is the third anniversary of the signing of the mortgage in our first ever house purchase. Although we were handed the keys that day, we didn’t officially move in for maybe a couple weeks since we wanted to do a little DIY (like rip down the wallpaper and repaint the master bedroom and ensuite bathroom) in the house first.

Three years on we are quite happy in the house and haven’t really done much redecorating (though we did repaint one of the spare bedrooms). We still have plans to rip out the wallpaper and paint our downstairs guest bathroom. Part of the reason for selecting the house was because it didn’t need much redecorating.

Another reason for choosing the house, really the biggest reason, is because it has loads of character – partly because of its age (it was built in the late 60’s), and partly because it’s tri-level (which means we get lots of exercise going up and down all the stairs). Did I mention that we also have two fireplaces, a Jacuzzi tub (a pretty crappy one though), and a hot tub (which we hardly ever use).

Like most people we have a living room and a family room (which we call our den). Up until this year we hardly ever used the den. However, now that we have a high definition TV in our living room, and the old TV with our Nintendo Wii hooked up to it in the den, we find ourselves splitting our time between the two rooms.

Any regrets? None really, but I wish our real estate agent would have reminded us that older houses naturally need more maintenance. Aside from the usual repainting/touch up work, I expect we may have to do things like replace some of the bathroom fixtures, and replace (upgrade!) most of the inside doors. We also need to have work done on both fireplaces due to aging of the mortar inside them.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Things I Miss...

On Friday I was reading the Bath Chronicle (the paper from where I used to live in the UK) on-line when I came across Bob Jenkins' column entitled, "Look Back in Langour." http://www.thisisbath.co.uk/columnists/Bob-Jenkins-Look-languor/article-335576-detail/article.html

It inspired me to compile my own list of things I miss which includes the following:

Campbell's meatball alphabet soup
different flavors of Tang
orange flavored chapstick
strawberry flavored Twinkies
chocolate Nutrigrain bars (we just don’t get them here in the US)
Pasta Bake Sauce and Chicken Tonight sauces (same reason as above)

According to Jenkins, “Trouble is, things can disappear suddenly and we don't have the chance to stock up.”

That kind of reminds me of the “Seinfeld” episode (entitled "The Sponge") where Elaine's favorite form of birth control was soon to be discontinued, so she went and bought up the remaining stock at a local store. Not wishing to use it up frivolously, she had men take a test to see if they were “sponge worthy.”

Other things I miss...

living in Bath where I could bump into celebrities while doing my daily shopping, and watching countless hot air balloons in the night sky

the days before I had to count calories and cholesterol

favorite stores like Fisher’s Big Wheel, Gold Circle, Burrow’s, Joseph Horne’s, The Video Station, etc.

having a proper summer vacation instead of a measly two weeks to try and cram a year’s worth of fun into

buying books off the Weekly Reader pages we got at school (now I just buy them off of www.amazon.com)

the excitement of waiting all week for your favorite TV program to be shown (now we just tape them with our DVR)

the days when late night TV (I miss Johnny!) was worth staying up for

the days when all those programs on “Nick at Night” and “TV Land” were aired for the first time before they became the classics of today

the days when going to see a movie was a big deal – whether it be at the drive-in or one of those classic old cinemas with only one screen and red plush velvet curtains and padded seats

eating at either McDonalds or Longo’s sometimes after attending Saturday night mass (during the days when eating fast food was a treat and not a daily occurrence)

the days before any of my friends and siblings had children when we could just hang out as adults (not that there's anything wrong with children, but sometimes it would be nice to have more quality time with just the adults)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

the windswept look


IMG_7231, originally uploaded by authorwannabe.

Here's a photo our neighbor was kind enough to take of us behind a couple large branches we lost during the windstorm on Sunday (Sept. 14th). This was after the flying chimney cap landed.

Almost Blown Away...

Like quite a lot of people across the country, Ohio wasn’t spared the wrath of Hurricane Ike when its 75mph winds blew through Columbus this past Sunday (the 14th). It’s my understanding that the weathermen knew it would be a blustery day, but had no idea the winds would be as high as they were.

We brought our cat inside and watched the destruction from the safety of our house. It almost seemed “Wizard of Oz” – like, except we didn’t see any witches fly by on bicycles. Some of our neighbors braved the weather and were outside chatting until they saw a stray chimney cap come hurtling through the air. Luckily it narrowly avoided hitting them and our glass-enclosed Florida room. We all breathed a collective sigh of relief once it landed.

The saddest thing to watch was the gradual split and felling of our beloved cherry tree. It was a good tree that had suffered a substantial injury earlier this summer when one of its heavily (cherry) laden branches came crashing down (quite loudly too, according to our neighbor). In spite of that, it still managed to produce at least a dozen pies worth of cherries (half of which are still in our freezer). After counting the rings, I can approximate its age at somewhere between 15 and 25 years. Will we replant there? Possibly, but not necessarily another fruit tree (too much work and usually too much produce for just the two of us).

Not surprisingly, our power went out sometime around 4pm. As we were going to my sister’s for dinner, having no power didn’t spoil our dinner plans. Luckily the pie I was making was the ‘no bake’ variety, so that wasn’t a problem either. We were a bit trepidacious about going out in the storm, but didn’t run into any felled branches, though quite a few of the traffic lights were out.

Since my sister lives in a relatively new cul-de-sac with saplings rather than mature trees, there wasn’t nearly the amount of debris as in our neighborhood. My sister said they lost a shingle and a little aluminum siding, but that’s about it. I noticed their cat having fun watching the swirling leaves by the glass patio door.

We weren’t surprised in the least to go home to a dark neighborhood and a dark house. My husband at least had the foresight to grab a flashlight before we left so we wouldn’t kill ourselves tripping over things in the dark. Living in a tri-level house and having an abundance of stairs can be treacherous when you can’t see where you’re going!

Monday we had electricity at both my and my husband’s respective places of employment, but no cable all day at my company. That made for a long, anxious day with little or no communication with the outside world (other than listening to the radio at home in the morning and buying a newspaper at lunch). Still no power at home. At least my sister had just about enough space in her spare refrigerator and spare freezer to accommodate the bulk of our goods. A friend of hers who lives near us had gotten there first, so between the two of us we managed to pretty much fill up both appliances.

Tuesday – still no power at home, but cable restored at work. Hurrah! Internet access again! As we still had hot water, our only hardship was when it came to mealtimes. We stocked up on granola/Nutrigrain bars for breakfast, ate lunch out at work, and then just went out to dinner (Hometown Buffet and Donatos). However, even that gets old fast. When we stopped in at Panera Bread on Monday, there was a long line and it looked like they were out of everything. Plus, it seemed that everyone who owns a laptop computer in Hilliard was there checking their e-mail and surfing the web.

My mother-in-law had this advice: “I guess it's time to get out the pioneer spirit right now. It's easy for me to say that though, as we've never had such a long power cut, although they've been fairly frequent a lot of our life. Way back in the early seventies we had times when it went off for some hours every day, but also it was on some of each day. That was caused by strikes etc. We once were traveling and stopped at a service area for a meal, and were brought a candle. "Power off in a few minutes" we were told, and we ate by candle light.”

Wednesday – still no power at home; novelty of the whole experience wearing a bit thin. I think my neighbor probably said it best when she said she’s been in “self-preservation mode.” The one bright spot in the day was a flyer we received announcing a free spaghetti dinner at the nearby Scioto United Methodist church. Never ones to turn down a free dinner, we quickly took them up on their offer arriving about a half hour after it started. We were able to get served right away, but when we left there were at least a dozen people in line. Obviously there are a lot of hungry people out there who appreciate a good home-cooked meal!

One of our neighbors was able to borrow a generator from a friend and offered to hook us up to it as well, so we plugged our mini-fridge into it. Apparently many of our neighbors had the same idea because the hum of generators could be heard up and down the street.

While in the middle of watching a DVD (on our portable DVD player), we heard a loud hum and saw all our digital clocks suddenly come to life and we knew we had salvation at last! Yes Marsha, life is certainly good with electric!

As much as we might have thought we were suffering, two of my friends put it all in perspective when they shared their personal stories with me. One said she was without power for two whole weeks during the December ice storm nearly four years ago. The other friend has a brother who lives in Houston. This is what she said:

“Leonard's life-long dream was to own and operate his own art gallery and studio. He had been working freelance for a number of years, and all his hard work finally paid off when he was able to open his very own gallery in Houston, barely just a year ago.

His gallery was destroyed in the hurricane last week. His gallery contained most of his equipment, many, many pieces of original art, print materials, and Leonard's sweat, tears, and dreams. And in one quick sweep, it was all gone, damaged beyond repair by wind and water.”

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Fun Cooking Experiment

I recently had the inspiration to liven up our (my husband and I) somewhat limited dinner menu, and justify my accumulation of at least a couple dozen cookbooks. Hence, I came up with the idea to try and choose a different cookbook every week and make at least one recipe out of it (preferably something for dinner).

For the inaugural week, I decided to go Amish. Having grown up near Amish country, I am no stranger to Amish food and have certainly never been disappointed by anything I've eaten in an Amish restaurant. However, trying to choose something that wasn't too rich, wasn't as easy as I thought. I finally decided on a dish called "Chicken Mushroom Bake."

Here's a copy of the recipe:

Chicken Mushroom Bake

1/3 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
1 tsp. paprika
2-3 c. cubed chicken
½ c. butter
1 10.75-oz. can of cream of mushroom soup
1 c. sour cream
½ c. slided mushrooms
2/3 c. shredded Cheddar cheese

Combine flour, salt, pepper, and paprika in a paper bag. Shake chicken in flour mixture. Melt butter in a large skillet and brown chicken on all sides. Place in a 9x13 baking dish. Combine soup, sour cream, and mushroom; pour over chicken. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until chicken is tender. Sprinkle with cheese and return to oven until cheese is melted.

From the Beverly Lewis Amish Heritage Cookbook

Being the 'adventurous' cook I am, I didn't worry about measuring out most of the ingredients, and substituted butter spray for butter (not a good idea!). I also didn't cube the chicken and skipped the Cheddar cheese since neither my husband, nor I, felt that was necessary.

Anyway, the final result was absolutely creamy and delicious, and I would definitely make it again.