Monthly Archives: September 2010

Perfect. Just perfect.

Sometimes a weekend just flies by and suddenly it’s Sunday night. Often when that happens, it’s flown because there were too many things on the schedule that I didn’t really enjoy doing. But this weekend was different. It was perfect. Truly.

On Friday night, we watched “Moon Over Miami”, a 1941 musical with an all-star cast including Don Ameche, Betty Grable and Robert Cummings. Since we usually spend Friday nights cleaning, this should have been a clue that it was going to be a good weekend. Of course, this proves how truly strange we are. This is what our daughters have been telling us for about 20 years. Until then, we had them fooled.

Back to the perfect weekend. Saturday was cooler than it’s been and perfect for an early morning walk/run. I surprised myself by running two miles — a first since life got a little weird back in May. What a good feeling.

Saturday was also the day of the local fall festival and we planned to attend a ribbon cutting for Oscar Velasquez’s new mural. Oscar explained a little history behind each of the persons, animals and vehicles/buildings, etc., that are included on the mural. We were there in part, because the Chamber CEO has to be, but also because a certain special 88-year-old woman is part of the mural. She was with us — it was fun to see the surprise on her face when she was introduced. And if you haven’t heard Oscar sing, watch the video on the front page of the Bluffton Icon site:

After that, we headed out to the Schumacher Homestead, where there was ham cooking over an open pit, homemade bread, soup, and popcorn popped in a big kettle. I don’t know if this is really how things were done back then, but if they were, I was born way too late. As my cousin, Jo Pannabecker said, “This is absolutely my favorite day of the year.”

Later, after we’d critiqued the Maple Crest quilt show, we went grocery shopping. I wonder if other people like to shop for groceries as much as I do.  To do this right, you have to be (a) not hungry, and (b) not tired. For once, I timed it right. Of course, it helped to begin with a sugar rush from the DQ.

Came home and ate supper while watching “Meet the Fockers”, which somehow my husband had missed seeing earlier. Okay, it’s beginning to sound like we never eat at the table. We do. Sometimes.

Today…Sunday…another cool but beautiful day. We decided to celebrate our anniversary a day early by visiting the mummy at the Toledo Museum of Art. Except the mummy wasn’t there. The coffin was empty. We’ll have to go back in October when the mummy returns:

The last time we were at the TMA, our youngest daughter was a high school senior and was taking Mary Ann Sullivan’s art history class at Bluffton University so she could finally match her dad in art analysis. I, on the other hand, know absolutely zilch about art except that I love watercolors and blown glass.Today we finally got to see TMA’s Glass Pavilion — in itself a work of art ( Wow.

A perfect weekend. Ordinarily, I’d start feeling sad about now but not today. Because 30 years ago, I was anticipating the best wedding I’ve ever attended.

They shopped, they conquered

See...even here they're trying not to snicker at us

So…our daughters like to make fun of us when we don’t know how to do things they consider common knowledge. This became all too obvious recently while shopping with one of them. We approached the checkout lanes, all of which had lines basically as long as the water ride at Cedar Point on a 90-degree day. Except for the self-checkout lanes. They were empty.

Here’s how the conversation went:

“Mom, let’s go through the self-check lane.”
“Ummmm….I don’t know how to do that.”
“Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?????? C’mon. You’re kidding, right? It’s SO easy.”
“Fine. You do it. I’ll watch.”
Big eyeroll and bigger sigh.
Ultimately, she did the deed and explained it to me. Part of the explanation stuck with me.

Several months later, we (the husband and me), two measly items in hand, approached the checkout lanes once again. All were full — of course. It never fails. After standing in line for 10 minutes, I suggested we try the self-check lanes. Here’s how that conversation went:

Me: Let’s try the self-check lanes.
Him: Uh…are you sure? I don’t know how. Do you?
Me: (Lying) Sure.
Him: Okay. What happens if we screw up?
Me: They put you in jail. You’re the guy.

So off we went to the self-checkout lanes, where a very stern young woman stood guard from her post, making sure no one cheated. Okay, really she was there to help out when the newbies got stuck. As it turned out, my first attempt was successful, much to the husband’s surprise. We were out of the store before our previous line had moved more than two inches forward. WE were smiling….THEY weren’t.

Feeling foolishly, goofily proud of ourselves, we headed off to find our car. Which, by the way, is never a simple matter. Now if someone can just explain to us how to locate our car without walking up and down every aisle, our shopping trips will be much more efficient. Just don’t tell our daughters. It’ll just give them more fuel for laughter.

Risky business pays off

In the nearly 30 years that we’ve been married, we haven’t taken many risks, except for buying three houses and having two children. For the most part, we’re cautious — probably overcautious — he more than I. Blame that on the fact that I’m the only girl in a family of four older brothers — they taught me to do things that our parents never knew about until after the fact.

Then, a little more than a year ago, we faced a risky situation that put us both into a little tizzy. For the first time in our married life, we were facing life on a single income — except for some freelance income that helped to pad our panicky selves. We were no different from all those others who had been laid off or fired from jobs, except maybe for the fact that we’d always been cautious. Cheap. Thrifty might be a better word.

In our conversations following the incident that set us back to one income (mine), we talked about what options we had. There were, of course, the usual unemployment checks that would boost things for awhile. But those would eventually end. So we began to brainstorm about how we could combine our skills to start our own business. In the beginning, we saw it as a way for us to avoid the dangers of unemployment — the depression, the fears, the anger, the tension.

In a way, it was almost more of a therapeutic plan but as it began to take shape, we consulted with experts on small business and slowly began to realize that it just might work. With the help of Ryan Lowry, our technology guru, we set about designing a website that would allow us to do exactly what we love — community journalism. Small-town stuff. No national news. A few false starts and we were on our way to going live.

We knew we didn’t want this to cost our readers.  We wanted to keep them out of the financial equation. With two daughters of 20-something ages, and with some students and interns-to-be who are connected at the hip to the Internet, this product had to easily accessible and interesting to all ages.

That’s what led us to the name. As has been our habit for the past 30 years, we talk. A lot. In the car, over dinner, on walks, with our kids, without our kids, with our siblings. In fact, we were in the car driving somewhere, when the perfect name came up. Fred was listing the various names that friends and family had suggested. None sounded quite right. I suddenly realized there was a computer-related word that was perfect. Icon.

Thus the name was born. The Bluffton Icon. Perfect. Short and easy to spell. Its simplicity reeked of technology.

And so, we began The Bluffton Icon. Slowly, Fred and Ryan worked through the technical stuff until we were ready to go live. The date was September 22, 2009. We had seven viewers and while we don’t know who they were, we have our suspicions. I have four siblings, he has two, and there’s that guy out in Reston, VA., who is probably our most loyal supporter, next to our two daughters, Lindsay and Anne. Oh, that’s nine.

Like Jack’s Beanstalk, the Icon grew and grew to today’s version. We owe so much to our advertisers who believed in what we proposed to them. Then there are our readers, our constant supporters. It’s a thrill to overhear someone say they read it on the Icon. We’re heading averaging 500 views a day and we compute that to be about 1,200 unique individuals over the period of a month. 50 states. Viewer on every continent except Antarctica and we’d love to talk with someone there.

It’s difficult to express our thanks to our supporters, but we’re going to try. We’ve planned a one-year celebration from 6-7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 22, at Common Grounds, 121 S. Main St., Bluffton. We’ll have Bluffton Icon coffee (courtesy of Common Grounds), Bluffton Icon popcorn from Shirley’s, and cake and cupcakes from Little Black Apron. Even giveaways. And lots of conversation.

Hope to see you there!

Wiping down tables, flipping burgers a means for giving back to his community

If Carlin Carpenter was the first person you met in Bluffton, you’d do one of two things. Hightail it for the hinterlands or decide to stay put. After a hearty welcome from Carpenter, Jerry and Lori Lewis decided that if his friendliness was any indication of the general population, then Bluffton was a good place to settle and open their first McDonald’s Restaurant. In fact, they never did get around to visiting the two other towns that were options for them to open their first store. That single restaurant has grown to 17 within the Lewis franchise system, but the Lewises continue to reside in Bluffton.

Scott Shaw, who has worked for Jerry since he first opened the Bluffton store, is now director of operations, and lives around the corner from Jerry and his family. Recently, Jerry gifted Scott with “key employee ownership”, which shows how much faith he has in his good friend.

Today Lewis’ restaurants employ a total of 900, with 60 of those at the Bluffton store. According to Lewis, who spoke at the Sept. 10 Bluffton Chamber of Commerce breakfast, the company is an active supporter of local activities including soccer, Child Development Center, Ricky Matter Strength and Conditioning Center, Bluffton University President’s Club, McDonald’s Basketball Tournament, library summer reading program, library expansion, MAC Grants to teachers, and scoreboards at Bluffton University. In Lima, Lewis’ restaurants sponsor a Thanksgiving Day dinner at the Civic Center, and are involved in Clean Up Inner City Lima — donating $60,000 of paint and mulch, and other supplies.

The truth is, it’s hard to make a turn in Bluffton without seeing some evidence of Lewis’ McDonald’s — whether on a billboard, a sign, a tee-shirt on a tiny soccer player.

Jerry Lewis talks with Oscar Velasquez and Ropp Triplett

Lewis, who served in the Navy for four years after high school, spent another year backpacking through Europe before returning home to southeastern Ohio. He quickly became immersed in the McDonald’s business and has never lost his passion for it.

In fact, Lewis can spout McDonald statistics like a devout OSU football fan. Stats like these just roll off his tongue: 637 restaurants in Ohio, 37,110 employees, 8.4 percent are in management, and the average length of employment is 9.2 years. Lewis is all-too-familiar with the negatives that go along with “flipping burgers”.

“Don’t study hard, you’re going to flip burgers for the rest of your life,” said Lewis, adding with a grin, “That’s what I do.”

But flipping burgers has provided Lewis with the means to give back to a community that has supported him wholeheartedly. That passion for “giving back” resulted in his being awarded the treasured “Golden Arch Award” in 2010, an award given to less than one percent of all McDonald’s owners.

Lewis’ enthusiasm for the business has begun to impact his own children. Jessica, a schoolteacher with bachelor’s and master’s degrees and a principal’s certificate, has taken a year of absence to spend some time working for the family business. His son, Jonathan, a finance major at Miami University, intends to join the business after graduation. But Lewis is clear; this is not a matter of nepotism in the workplace. His kids begin just like every other employee — wiping down tables.

It is, after all, how Lewis started his own McDonald’s career. From wiping tables to flipping burgers to giving back. It’s all about having a passion for doing what you love.

Random thoughts strike again….and again

It’s another Random Thought Day. Truth be told, every day of my life is made up of random thoughts. Oddly, it’s often one of those thoughts that prompts me to start writing. To whit:

1. This morning, Ike and I were walking over to meet Mary Ann and Sparky (AKA Arthur). Two minutes after leaving our house, Ike decides it’s time to do his thing. Yes, I had a bag with me and scooped it up. Interesting. Usually, this takes a good five or 10 minutes. So…we’re heading down the road and passing a certain superintendent’s house. Ike decides this will be a two-poop day. Ugh. No more bags. Sorry Mr. D. We’ll be over to scoop that soon!

2. Last night as we were getting into bed, Ike (who thinks he is human and therefore, can sleep in our bed), stood at the end of the bed looking at us. I don’t know what he was waiting for, but I sure as heck wasn’t going to invite him to nose in between us. The Saint glared at him and mumbled something like: Just be glad we let you in this room.”

3. Whyizzit every time I buy a pair of pants, they fit fine in the store, but when I get home, they don’t? And whyizzit, just when I pull up to said store to exchange them, the clock strikes 9, and the doors close?

4. How did all that fabric get into my sewing room and what am I supposed to do with it? I’m sure there was a reason for buying it, but that reason now escapes me.

5. Who planted all those morning glories in my garden and why do they take over everything? My poor delphinium got strangled to death.

6. Does the cat really think I want to come out to see what remains of her latest catch? Is it really that crucial to her ego that she share three feathers with us?

7. Who made the decision that if I find a penny I shouldn’t pick it up unless it’s heads up? Why can’t I have good luck either way? Don’t rain on my parade, buster.

8. Some guy at the farmer’s market gave my mom and me a lecture on the advantages of red potatoes vs. white potatoes. She wanted white and all he had was red. He gave her the antioxidant lecture and pointed to a little graph that proved his point, or so he thought. And then he handed her a pile of potato recipes. My mother drew herself up to all of her 5 feet 1 inch, and said, “My dad grew potatoes. I know potatoes.” (Insinuating, of course, that she knew potatoes far better than he.) Guess she told him.

9. Howcum I’m always the last to know everything? Believe me, this is true.

10. Like my friend, Peter, I’m always wishing tomorrow was Friday. Hey, a girl can dream, right?

11. Why is the distance between Ohio, Virgina, Kansas and Arizona so far? Could someone please just scramble the states so I can live closer to my brothers? I want to be able to walk over to their houses when I know one of them is baking or cooking so I can just eat their food. It always sounds better than mine.

12. Why do those damn walnuts keep dropping in my yard? And why do I have to worry about them smacking me on the head on the way to the ground? It’s not even my tree!

Okay, now that I’ve got all those random thoughts off my chest, it’s time to become productive. Time to sift through all that fabric and decide what to do with it. Oh yeah, and time to visit Mr. D’s house for some poop scooping.

Oh, but we can MAKE it for much less

Long ago on a shopping trip with my mom, Queen of “Oh, we can MAKE it for much less”, I spied a dress that I really wanted. All I remember is that it was brown. But for some reason, I really liked it, so she pulled out a pad of paper and began drawing as she checked out the dress front and back. I probably sighed and rolled my eyes. Did we ever make that one? Beats me.

Back then, I just wanted to buy it. I probably understood the value of money — I just didn’t appreciate it. Eventually, that penetrated my brain — probably when it was my own money. I no longer cringed at the term “homemade.”

So you see, if there is one thing I’ve learned from my mom it’s that homemade is often better. This applies in a number of areas: clothing, food, household items.  This is why I blame her for the fact that I can’t just make a decision to buy something; I have to look at it, think it over and then mull over the possibilities of how I could make it better. This is not a bad thing to have learned from one’s mom. Some might label us cheap. I like to think of it as a good use of one’s resources. And cheap. Very cheap.

This habit has served me well over the years. Just think of how bored I’d be if there were no projects sitting around waiting for me to get started and/or finish. There are, in my sewing room, at least 10 such projects underway. Okay, that’s a lie. There are at least 15. To my credit, I recently polished off a few of them.

For example, we have a butterfly chair that dates back to the late 60s. My parents built a study on to their house; this was my dad’s domain. It featured an orange cone-shaped wood burning stove, an ancient gigantic wooden desk that I think Dad resurrected from the old science building at the college. (The top of this is now my cutting table in my sewing room.) There was also the butterfly chair which began with a black canvas sling. Over the years, it’s been replaced in various colors, but when the previous one wore out, I decided not to buy one. Instead, I would make one using the old one as a pattern.

So I bought some lime green canvas about a year ago. Well, maybe 9 months ago. I started cutting the sling seat in May, but life and my abdomen got in the way — delaying work until last week. This is kind of like the bridge on Spring Street. It got started, delayed, started, delayed…and you get the picture.

Still, I finished my project. The bridge guys haven’t. My 40-year-old butterfly chair is back in circulation. And the cost? Oh, MUCH less than a purchased one.

Ike guarding the old cover, cut up to use as a pattern

New cover on 40-year-old frame

Which reminds me, a few years ago, daughter number 1 came home with some terrific fabric sling bags labeled “Whole Foods”. They hang over the shoulder and across the body and are terrific for the farmer’s market. Unfortunately, WF was no longer selling the bags. And I wanted one. Really wanted one. So…I took one apart, made a pattern out of old newspaper, and began making them out of random pieces of fabric. These bags have become my favorite gift and/or can be used as a gift wrap. As I was finishing up the butterfly chair, I noticed the bag pattern — it appears I have more to make.

Then…daughter number one just held out an old “Threads” magazine to me, commenting on how much she liked the shrugs made from a rectangle of fabric and two seams. Sort of. It’s a little more complicated, but basically that’s it. “Can you make me one?” Absolutely. I’m on it. That makes project number 16.

What the heck is a Bluffton (OHIO) slaw cutter?

Step aside, Cuisinart. You’ve been replaced in the slaw cutting business in our household. Not to worry — we’ll still use you for making walnut butter.

But when it comes to shredding and grating, we pull out our trusty, never-breaks-down Bluffton slaw cutters. Not familiar with them? Well hey, here’s a link to the Bluffton Slaw Cutter Company’s site: The company’s been around since 1915. Over the years, many Bluffton University (FKA College) business department students cut their teeth (no pun intended) on the world of business by running the company under the direction of their prof, the late Dr. Howard Raid.

In our house, they’re used for many things — shredding vegetables, slicing cheese and potatoes. With the right cutter, you can make really thin slices of potatoes for frying. (See video above.)

Ironically, it has come to my attention that some Bluffton alums spent four years on campus and never met a Bluffton slaw cutter. Trust me, if they had, they’d have them in their kitchens today, and they’d be giving them as shower and wedding gifts like we do. In fact, one friend recently saw one for sale on Ebay. Ebay? Dr. Raid would never believe that…or on the other hand, he’d probably applaud the seller for putting Bluffton up front and central.

A word of caution to new users: If your slaw cutters are new ones — fresh out of the packaging, be careful. They’re sharp. Really sharp. Which is why they work so well. But you need to watch your knuckles. Take it from one who knows. In fact, that’s the reason the fine etched print on the cutter says to use the palm of the hand to guide what is being cut.

Oh, and one more thing…they’re very easy to rinse off — no need for a dishwasher!