Monthly Archives: June 2011

Dodging another bullet

I’ve never really understood the fascination that some people have for cars. I’ll blame this one on my parents. Unlike other families, we didn’t get a new car very often, nor did we have multiple cars….despite the fact that we had five kids.

The first car I really remember was a green and white Ford station wagon. (My brothers will probably tell me I’m completely wrong on this. They’re all older so they usually know more than me….at least I like to let them think that.) Later on, we traded that in on a brand new custom ordered Dodge station wagon. I remember our excitement as we drove to Pandora to pick it up.

Later, while I was in high school, there was a red Dodge Aspen sedan (our first), a pea green VW bug, and a Checker cab — my all time favorite. Its only drawback was that if you went over 50 mph, it began to shake. But boy, could it carry a lot of people!

My oldest brother, Phil, bought his first car in his early 20s — a Dodge Charger. I was probably just 12 or so, and once in awhile, he would take us for rides — keeping one eye on the road and another on us to make sure we didn’t do any damage.

Still as shiny as the day we bought it

My very own first car was my grandparents’ Hornet. Unremarkable. A few years later, I needed a new car, so my dad took me to visit one of his former biology students — knock-your-socks-off Tom Ahl. Tom’s dealership in Lima was considerably smaller than it is today. He sold me his wife’s mid-70s Opel Manta, a two-door gem with manual transmission that got great gas mileage.

When I married my husband, he had a classic red Pinto that guzzled oil. We sold it for $50 and gave them a can of oil. Then we bought ourselves a brand spankin’ new, fresh off the lot, burgundy two-door Monte Carlo. When you’re a young couple with no kids, two doors are great. But boy, add a car seat to the mix and you rethink your car dreams.

Lindsay and Anne and their favorite Monte

Thus began our life with the Dodge Caravan, the first of which lived for nine years. It served us well, accomodating two little girls who could pack their entire rooms into the van for a drive to Grandma’s. Then there was THE TRIP. We were driving back from Chicago on the absolutely hottest, most humid day of the decade. All was fine until the air conditioning died. You know that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when suddenly the cool air blowing through the vents turns warm…then warmer? It wasn’t pretty, especially when there was a typical traffic jam near Gary, Ind. The last thing you want to do there is open your windows and let the pollution filter in.

Soon after that, I think the transmission died for the second time and we traded it in on a shiny red 1997 Caravan.

It was the most comfortable car we’ve ever had. The seats in our new Prius come nowhere near the comfort of the van seats.

The van went through everything with us including two daughters mastering the fine art of driving (and parking), multiple vacations where peace reigned because each child again had her own seat on which to spread out her stuff, a traumatic collision

with a deer, and then a few years of living in Kent. According to our daughter, her grad school friends nicknamed it the “Mom van”. Last winter, it said farewell to Kent and traded places with the trusty Hyundai.

Today its odometer reads 150,000 plus miles, and happily acts as the family truck. The two bench seats have been removed to make room for whatever needs to be moved to Kent, Cincinnati, or the local dump. On a recent return trip from Cincy, though, it began to make an ominous sound that suggested a loose belt, so the drive home was slower than usual.  We were warned that if we were lucky, it would require just replacing the serpentine belt, but that it might also involve a broken thingamajig (my understanding of mechanics is lacking).

It wasn’t a question of whether we’d fix it or not…it was a question of how much it might cost. Turned out we got off easy…for this time. In the middle of the day, the girls and I got an e-mail from Fred saying “The van lives!” Phew.

Now if we can just keep it running as long as Karen and Gregg Luginbuhl’s green Caravan holds out…

What I really learned on my summer vacation: goat-milking and cheese-making

Okay, I’ll admit the first 2/3 of my vacation wasn’t intended to be educational although I did learn a few things while relaxing on Tybee. Helpful things…or at least helpful for the next time I’m near a beach. I now know that that the sting of a jellyfish does not always cause an adverse reaction on humans, and, by watching a few very young experts, I learned how to pick them up and fling them to the beach. I also relearned how to ride an upright bike. This was not an easy task for one accustomed to a recumbent bike, and there were a few moments in which I hoped no one was watching.

Leaving the ocean behind was, as usual, difficult. Fortunately, we had another few days before returning to reality. Our destination? Elk Creek Farm in Natural Bridge, VA, where my brother, James, his wife, Karen, and their college student son, Adam, live with a bunch of goats, a bunch of chickens, two donkeys, two boxers, one African Grey parrot, not to mention fish in the river that their property borders. There’s a huge garden which, at the time of our visit, was producing carrots, lettuce, beets, peas, onions, garlic, spinach, and a variety of herbs. There were fresh raspberries, strawberries, and if James had run up into the mountains, probably some other berries.

In previous visits, I’d learned to kayak through the rapids (sort of), so this time I had set two new goals before arriving: to learn to milk a goat and to learn to make cheese. With Karen’s direction, I managed to do both. I have proof, thanks to my husband, the chief videographer.

Milking a goat

Turning milk into cheese

Stretching the cheese

What a perfect way to end our vacation — we returned home with a large cooler full of fresh vegetables, some soft goat cheese, and a large round of goat mozzarella, which is better than anything you’ll buy in the supermarket. The ingredients include only milk, salt, rennet and citric acid. The whole process for mozzarella took just 30 minutes and the cheese can be used immediately. I’ll definitely make it again at home. According to the recipe, if your milk is ultra pasteurized, a better option is to use nonfat powdered milk.



What is age but a number?

My mom celebrated her 89th birthday on Saturday. As we headed to the farmer’s market, I asked her what it felt like to be 89 years old. She laughed and said “Old, I guess,” almost as if that was what she thought she should feel but I suspect she really didn’t feel that old. Sure doesn’t look it!

The birthday girl

We had plans to have her over for supper, followed by dessert with my aunt and uncle. Since my mom gets her big meal of the day at noon, we decided to lighten up for supper. There were so many great fresh veggies available, so we concocted a big salad of mixed greens, turnips (one of Mother’s favorites), red and yellow peppers, snow peas, onions, lovage, basil, parsley and dill.

When I was a kid, summer meals often featured open-faced tomato and cheese sandwiches. We settled on our own version of that — an assortment of bruschetta, which technically is an appetizer with origins in Italy. But they also serve well as a light summer supper. Using a purchased whole grain baguette, we sliced it diagonally, lightly spread them with olive oil, placed on a large cookie sheet and toasted them in the oven. We then added toppings such as soft goat cheese with asparagus; fresh tomatoes, broccoli and topped with goat mozzarella; hummus, thinly sliced turkey, aspagarus; hummus, broccoli, goat mozzarella. All were sprinkled with onions and assorted herbs, then broiled briefly. It was a fun way to use some of the goat cheese we’d brought back from Virginia.

Assorted bruschetta

Of course, no birthday party is complete without dessert, so we decided on make-your-own sundaes. All we decided was chocolate and vanilla ice cream, chocolate syrup, caramel syrup, fresh strawberries, chopped nuts and whipped cream. Here’s are some samples of how those turned out….

Summer vacation…part two…observations from the road

Our 30th anniversary celebration trip to Tybee Island, GA, didn’t take place as planned during the summer of 2010. Instead, we spent that week gearing up for a two-week stay in OSU Medical Center.

So…this summer’s vacation on Tybee was more that just an anniversary trip — it was a celebration of life. Last summer, when our Tybee landlords — Malinda and Fred Uruvant  — learned why we were unable to meet our reservation, they graciously offered to hold our deposit until we were able to travel. The Heron’s Nest would be available when we were ready. By late 2010, we’d reserved our dates.

Having had enough with air travel — too much arriving early and waiting for delayed flights– we decided it was time to test the road in the new Prius. We loaded up with clothing, snacks, and lots of maps. Nothing else — in addition to a comfy interior complete with bedroom, living area, bath, kitchen, laundry facilities, hot tub, screened-in porch and fenced-in patio, the Heron’s Nest offers everything we need — beach towels, mats, umbrellas, coaster bikes.

Entrance to Heron's Nest patio

We left Bluffton with one aging and loaded Dodge Caravan, one four-month-old Prius, and one dog. We ditched the van and the dog at Daughter No. 2’s place in Cincinnati. Leaving Ike was hard — kind of like leaving your young children with a relative even though you know they’ll have oodles of fun. Which he did. Ike had play dates almost every day with Mogli, the pug that belongs to Anne’s landlord.

From Cincy, we hit southbound I-75 and hightailed it for Georgia.

Here are some observations from a road trip:

  • Most states have welcome centers where you can pick up maps and other travel information (i.e., hotels, etc. for overnight stops unless you enjoy sleeping in your car). By the way, most of those centers allow you to park only two hours at a time. We wondered if you could park, sleep for two hours, and then move to the next parking spot and sleep for two more hours. We didn’t test that.
  • Books on CD make long drives go much faster IF you can agree on what to listen to. Fortunately, we both love mysteries. In our car, if the passenger falls asleep mid-book, the rule is that the driver has to brief the passenger on what he/she has missed.
  • States need to standardize their rest area parking rules. Usually, a sign directs trucks and cars with trailers to one area, and cars to another area. But they’re NEVER consistent and I can’t read the small print fast enough so inevitably I end up with the trucks.
  • My husband cannot ever find the entrance to any off-highway stop, nor can he see the signs. Here’s how the conversation goes: Me: I want to stop at that Dairy Queen. Fred: What Dairy Queen? Where is it? Me: Right here in front of us….see the big DQ sign…here…turn here…FRED! TURN RIGHT NOW!
  • Sigh. I’m not making this up. Ask him.
  • Driving through Savannah is mesmerizing. All that spanish moss hanging from those huge trees that line I-81/26 is beautiful. Just don’t touch it — chiggers live in it.
  • If you’re craving a Market Fresh turkey sandwich from Arby’s, it is guaranteed there will not be an Arby’s ANYWHERE in the vicinity. McDonald’s, Subway, Chicken and Biscuits, Chicken and Waffles, Wendy’s and every other fast food joint. No Arby’s. I know this to be true because we drove clear through North Carolina and saw nary an Arby’s. I finally gave in on Subway. Two miles later, we crossed into Virginia and there it is…natch….Arby’s.
  • Driving a hybrid is dangerous. You become so accustomed to getting 50 mpg that you forget about filling the gas tank. It’s a good thing that we were going downhill into Arnold’s Valley, VA, when it suddenly occurred to us that the tank was ominously low….well beyond the signal that it’s time for a refill. We coasted into the gas station with 1/4 gallon. Literally.
  • Driving the back roads of Virginia in the broad daylight is one thing. In the dark, it’s a completely different story. Nothing looks the same. Actually, you can’t see anything so forget trying to watch for the general store or the vet clinic that signal the next turn. Lucky for us, two guys in a pickup pulled up and asked if we were lost. Amazingly, they were headed toward Arnold’s Valley Road, led us in the right direction and voila…there was the Pannabecker farm…




What I did on my summer vacation

On my summer vacation, I…

….learned that not all jellyfish are created equal….only after having avoided them for about two hours. A young woman taking care of four very active 8- to 10-year-olds who were carelessly picking up the jellyfish and flinging them onto the beach, informed us that they were not the stinging kind. And how did she know this, we asked? “Oh, I grew up here and you just get to know the difference.” The next morning the beach was strewn with dead jellyfish.

Beached jellyfish

….discovered that sea turtles are NOT slow. It’s nesting season on Tybee Island, so it’s lights out after dark since artificial lights draw the turtles toward land and predators. Anyway, a smallish sea turtle kept coming up out of the water onto the beach one afternoon and the young woman (see above) was concerned that the turtle wasn’t old enough to nest. We helped her capture the turtle until the experts arrived, then learned that it was in fact, an adult terrapin who had nested in previous years. She was actually trying to nest, so we freed her to go about her business.

….ate LOTS of fresh mahi and crab. And hush puppies…real, southern hush puppies.

….remembered why it is crucial to run early in the day on Tybee. The Georgia sun can be brutal.

….relearned how to ride an upright coaster bike. After two years of riding only a recumbent tricycle, this was a challenge and there were a few unbalanced moments. Once we got the brakes adjusted, travel by bike was the ONLY way to get around.

…. found that sleeping on the beach is best done under an umbrella.

Beach dude

….watched dolphins playing about 100 yards offshore. First, you see a fin moving slowly across the water. Suddenly the dolphins are playfully diving — showing off for their audience.

…. watched some gorgeous sunsets — best from the Back River Beach.

Sunset on Tybee

…. took a long, early morning walk on the beach during low tide, and stared, fascinated, at the pelicans standing at the far end of the sand bar. Later in the afternoon, five pelicans flew overhead in formation. Only by watching them in flight, can one appreciate their amazing wingspan.

…spent an afternoon in Savannah — a beautiful, old city — but breathed a sigh of relief as we left the city behind and felt myself relax again as Tybee came back into view.

…. remembered how nearly impossible it is to get the sand out of one’s bathing suit.

…. remembered that if one takes a water bottle to the beach, one will inevitably take a slug of water only to realize that sand had somehow infiltrated the bottle….thus resulting in a mouthful of gritty sand. Yum.

…. had to ask — at least once a day — what day of the week it was (the true sign of a relaxing vacation).

…. found not one, but five cottages that most certainly meet my requirements for a retirement home.

…. documented a whole slew of ideas for continuing to make our house seem more of a “beach house”…including a shell-embedded toilet seat.

Lucite toilet seat with embedded shells

*To be continued…

Runners, take your marks….

In 1974 — that’s 37 years ago for those of you trying to do the math — I went to the OHSAA state track meet in Columbus. Not to run. My own obsession with running didn’t start until two years later.

My friend, Deb, and I — then about to graduate from high school — were at the meet to cheer on a couple of guys. One of them was a pole vaulter and the other a sprinter/short distance/relay runner. What I remember about those two days was that it was hot, sunny, and lots of fun. We sat around a lot, watching and waiting through the preliminaries and finals. But as a track statistician, I was accustomed to that. I don’t care what all you football and basketball fanatics say — track is never boring.

As track meets go, it was exciting. But as one might also suspect, we did not spend the entire two days at the meet…and the two days were not without a few glitches. One of those involved a minor run-in with a Columbus policeman who picked us up when we drove the wrong way on a one-way street after dark. That wasn’t the worst of it. There were three of us in her two-seat 1973 Opel GT and the third person — a guy — was scrunched into the little space behind the seats. We were lucky to get off with a warning from a kind-hearted cop. Of course, I never told my parents about this part of our trip, so now my mom is going to find out. Isn’t there a statute of limitations on parental disapproval for poor judgement?

Anyway, this morning while I was running, it occurred to me that one of the guys we were cheering on – the sprinter — will be back in Columbus this weekend. Not to run this time. He’ll be watching his own son running a leg of the 4 x 400 relay. The rest of the crowd will see him cheering like any other proud parent, but I’ll betcha anything his heart will be back on that track — that final kick propelling him forward. You don’t forget those things…even after 37 years.

Last night my husband looked at me and said, “Are you going to the state track meet this year?” He knows I’m not since we start our own cross country trek in a few days, but he also knows how much I wish I could be there. Next year maybe. In the meantime, I have one piece of advice for the Bluffton High School qualifiers and their coach,  Denny Phillips.

“Run like hell and end the agony.” Clarence DeMar, seven-time Boston Marathon winner who won his final Boston in 1930 at the age of 41