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.