Thursday, August 26, 2010

my blog - in the news (sort of)

Check it out. Here I am quoted along with writers from the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Akron Beacon Journal. I'm pretty sure they got paid for their efforts, however. A link to my blog would have been nice, at least...

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

maybe it's my math...

We are working on many fronts to rid ourselves of the "stuff" we have accumulated over the past 35 years or so. We just can't take it all with us, and, in fact, we don't want to. It is time to divest. Julie and Tom have both been home to take carloads of belongings (theirs and ours) home with them. Julie and I took a carload of clothes and shoes to Goodwill. Ben sold his record collection and a great deal of stereo equipment to the local used record store. We have arranged with an auction house to sell the radios, televisions, clocks, toasters, and assorted collectibles we have been amassing all these years. They will also take regular household items we no longer need/want.

I have taken on the task of getting rid of some of the hundreds and hundreds of books we have in practically every room in the house. In a previous post I mentioned Last Exit Books, a used book store here in Kent. I don't know when the store first opened, but when we moved here ten years ago, it was a tiny storefront shop with a few book shelves and a comfortable reading chair. It has grown like crazy, and earlier this year, moved into a much larger space in the same building.

When I took my first box of books in to be sold several weeks ago I explained to Jason, the shop owner, that we would be re-locating to Maryland. "Oh, that's too bad, " was his reply. "I mean, it's probably good for you guys..." I assured him it was good for us, and he assured me that he would be happy to look through all the books we would care to bring in. I haven't kept track, but since then I have probably taken in ten or twelve boxes full of books. Sometimes Julie helps me and sometimes Ben does, and sometimes I just haul them in by myself.

Typically, Jason looks over what I bring in and offers me a price for the majority of the books, setting aside the ones he doesn't want. This system works great for both of us, but lately, I am increasingly concerned that the number of books we want to get rid of is growing instead of getting smaller. Let me give you an example. I had four boxes of books in the trunk of my car. Ben and I took two boxes to Jason over the weekend. I now have three boxes in the trunk, with two more waiting to go. Yesterday I found two stacks of books in a cupboard I thought contained only pottery and other decorative items. I am feeling a little panicky about this. I need to get the books out of the house. When I told Ben about my concern, his reply was, "the nearest thing I can figure out is that they are born pregnant" - a classic Star Trek reference, and very entertaining, but not very helpful.

I figure I will take a box or two of books to the bookstore today, but I'm kind of scared to open the trunk and look inside. I'm pretty sure there were three boxes in there the last time I looked. Or was it four?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

random thoughts on house hunting

I'll admit, I have been known to watch HGTV. If I can't find Bones or any of the Law & Orders on any of the cable stations, I'll watch House Hunters or that new Curb Appeal with the real cute host. But I take the shows for what they're worth, and I am afraid most people don't. I am afraid watching HGTV has created unrealistic expectations in real life house hunters. And, sadly, our little house does not live up to those expectations.

You know what I'm talking about. Crown molding is de rigueur, along with double sinks in master bathrooms, walk-in closets as big as my bedroom, and stainless steel appliances and granite countertops in every kitchen. It makes for entertaining television, perhaps, but real-life, middle-class, average people don't live like that, although now they think maybe they should. No, it's more than that - they think they have to. And I just don't understand that. Why would anyone want to have a bigger, more elaborate, more expensive house than they really need? What's the point?

I think this trend has spawned the hideous warrens of McMansions that are springing up across the country. Pointlessly meandering streets are lined by vinyl-sided houses available in every shade of beige and faux brick fronts. You better hope you never get lost in one of those "neighborhoods". No amount of rational thinking will get you out of there. Even your trusty GPS will run up the white flag.

I don't know. Maybe this is progress and it's time for me to jump on the bandwagon. I guess I might just be getting too old to run that fast and jump that high. Or maybe I'm just jealous, but I don't think that's it. I don't want to own a house larger than I need. I don't want to leave a bigger carbon footprint than I absolutely have to. I don't want to get lost in my own neighborhood. And, seriously, I don't even like crown molding.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

crate training - for all of us

Lucie and Rufus hate to ride in the car. I hate it, too. Lucie sits on my lap and shakes as I drive, and Rufus paces back and forth in the back seat and cries. The entire time. Needless to say, we don't travel in the car together very often. Basically, I take them to the groomer's or to the vet - which may be the reason they hate it so much.

However, I see a very long car trip in their future, so things will have to change. To that end, I bought them a soft-sided crate, large enough for both of them. We have been trying to acclimate them to the crate gradually. I set it up in the kitchen, with a couple of their soft blankets inside it. And just left it there, for a couple of days. They were curious, but not especially interested in getting inside. Next, I would entice them one at a time inside the crate with a small treat. They each had to sit and lay down inside the crate, then I would pat the floor in front of the crate, and invite them to come out.

Last week, we removed their big pillow from the corner of the kitchen, and placed the crate there instead. We have been delighted to see each of them climb into the crate and curl up there on several occasions. Earlier this week, Julie and I loaded the crate into the back seat of my car, then brought Lucie and Rufus out to the car and zipped them into the crate. Off we went for a very brief ride around the block. I don't think we were even in the car for five minutes. They did really pretty okay. No major freak outs - by any of us. We repeated the ride later in the day. Still okay. Yesterday, I took them out by myself and we drove to a nearby farm stand to buy some fresh corn. I left them in the car as I bought corn, and they seemed fine with that. We were home within twenty minutes of leaving, but still, a good run.

Our next big test is coming sooner than I would have liked. Today, I will have to hurry home from work and pack the doggies into the car so that some prospective buyers can look at the house. I have mixed feelings about that, but this is the path we have chosen, and off we must go. We are supposed to be out of the house for an hour, so I really don't know what we will do during that time. Drive past the house until the driveway is empty, no doubt. I understand that the longer the buyers are here, the better, but Lucie and Rufus and I hope it won't be too long. We're all creatures of habit.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

into the belly of the beast

The For Sale sign went up last night. Papers were signed. The rooms were measured. Photographs were taken. I guess this is really going to happen. I had forgotten the curious sense of shame and embarrassment that I feel when a For Sale sign appears in our front yard. I don't really understand why I feel that way, but I know that I do. I feel a bit like a quitter, I guess. Like a rat leaving a sinking ship - although this ship is far from sinking in any real sense. I still love this house and this neighborhood, but the time has come to go. I just don't like the idea that anyone who drives by or sees the listing online will know that. And now you do, too.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

how summer tastes

I don't know yet what we will have for dinner tonight, but I do know that I will probably be serving fresh corn and tomatoes with our meal - just as I have done for the past two days. High summer has come to Northeast Ohio, and that means farmer's markets and farm stands piled high with freshly-picked local produce. Even Ben - a notorious meat-eater - says that he could be a vegetarian this time of year.

I love corn on the cob - who doesn't? - but it's the fresh-from-the-vine tomatoes that I crave all the rest of the year. I like them best at room temperature, just sliced and salted, but we also love cherry tomatoes in a salad with blanched green beans and Vidalia onions. I love coarsely-ground pepper over tomato wedges and cottage cheese, but I have to say, no one else in the family shares my passion for that dish. We all love gazpacho, however, and when Julie comes home this weekend, it will be time for a big batch of that.

We have never had much luck growing our own tomatoes at this house, possibly because we are surrounded by so many big, old oak trees. We keep trying however, and this year we have three different varieties in various stages of ripening. Ben and I poke at the fruit almost every day, and I have to admit, I have been known to pick a ripe cherry tomato, wipe it clean on my shirt, and pop it in my mouth. That's what summer tastes like!

Here is the basic recipe for the green bean salad I make. I adapted it from a salad we were served somewhere else, so feel free to do the same.

fresh green beans
fresh cherry tomatoes
1/4 Vidalia onion, coarsely chopped
fresh basil leaves
extra virgin olive oil
apple cider vinegar
freshly ground pepper

Snap both ends off the green beans, then snap them in half. Cook beans until they are just tender, then plunge them into cold water to cool. While beans are cooking, cut tomatoes in half, coarsely chop onion, and chiffonade the basil leaves. Prepare a simple salad dressing of the oil and vinegar, season with salt and pepper to taste. Drain beans. Combine all ingredients, chill well. This salad tastes best if eaten the day it is prepared.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

what happens to a dream deferred?

More than thirty years ago, Ben and I packed our suitcases and headed our little two-door, stick shift, non-air conditioned Toyota Corolla due east. I had never seen the ocean, so Ben was taking me to Virginia Beach, and to Chincoteague, a tiny island off the coast of Virginia. Soon after we made the big right turn in Breezewood, PA, we were in Maryland. The whole time we drove through the state, we remarked on how beautiful it was there, from the rolling hills to the Chesapeake Bay to the long, deserted beaches of Assateague Island. We agreed right away that we would love to live in Maryland. Over the years, subsequent trips through the state only reinforced that idea.

But we had a baby, and another baby, and we bought a house, then another house, and we just never seemed to make it out of Ohio. Tom grew up and moved to Chicago. Julie grew up and moved to Maryland. Here Ben and I remain, and up until recently it looked like we would always remain here. That is not the case, however, and it seems that sooner rather than later, we will be moving to Maryland. Ben has accepted a position with the company where he works in Laurel, Maryland.

As we were trying to make this difficult decision, a phrase kept running through my head: "what happens to a dream deferred?" and I knew I had to track it down. It is the first line of a poem* by Langston Hughes. Lorraine Hansberry took the title of her play, A Raisin in the Sun, from that same poem. The family in her play, the Youngers, have deferred their dream to move to a better neighborhood for many years, and when they finally have the chance to do so, cannot seem to agree on a course of action.

Ben and I are in agreement, however - we will be moving. It is an exciting and terrifying prospect, and when I wake up with the dogs at 4:30 a.m. there is no falling back to sleep for me anymore. It seems overwhelming in every way, but I just keep reminding myself that people do it every day and so can I. I will be posting about our move over the next couple of months, so buckle your seatbelts. It may be a bumpy ride.

*What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?