Sunday, March 20, 2016

My Birthday Weekend (2016)

 Let me just start by saying last week was an excellent week. For starters, the weather was pretty nice (mostly sunny and unseasonably warm). Sometime around midweek I was going through some of the e-mails in my Goodreads folder and saw one marked, ‘Comment from Lisa.’ When I opened it I was pleasantly surprised to see it was a comment from the author of a book I had written a review for last autumn.

Here’s my review for Five Days in November (by Clint Hill and Lisa McCubbin):

I was surprised by how much this book moved me. This happened 7 years before I was born, and all I have as a connection to it is stories told to me by various baby boomers who remember where they were when it happened. My dad's proudest memory is getting to shake Kennedy's hand when he came to Willoughby (OH). This is a book I can definitely recommend as it's an easy read (mostly pictures), but one best to be taken slowly as the tragedy is certainly overwhelming emotionally. Even though it can easily be read in a day, I found myself having to set it aside numerous times so I could process the depth of emotions I felt when reading it.  

Here’s Lisa’s comment:

Thanks for taking the time to write this heartfelt review, Cindy. I too was born after the assassination and yet I felt the same emotion you did. Glad Mr. Hill and I were able to convey it to you as well.

When I saw her comment I was absolutely over the moon that a real live author actually took the time to write to me (and to do so favorably) about my review. I eagerly texted my best friend and sent an e-mail to my dad and uncle. All three sent me back notes of congratulations as well.

That’s the best birthday present I could have received.

A few days later a coworker was kind enough to bring me a hot fudge sundae from McDonalds when he went out at lunch, which was nice and totally fitting with the theme of my work B-day card (a cat doing yoga while eating a pint of ice cream).

Later after I finished eating the sundae, our substitute mailman, a young chap probably only in his mid 20s asked me, “Didn’t you used to have braces?” Surprised that he noticed since I don’t see this young man very often, I eagerly answered, “Yes, I did.” He answered, “You look good.” He also told me he was supposed to have braces as a child, but then didn’t end up needing them. I told him he was lucky to dodge that bullet since I had also had braces as a teenager. When he left I eagerly grabbed my phone to send a text to my friend telling her all about how the cute mailman noticed I no longer had braces. BTW, I told him he really made my day. I am just grateful I didn’t have chocolate on my face like I had a couple days earlier (after I had my midafternoon snack - a cup of pudding). Hence, even though it wasn’t Good Friday (that’s a week from now), it was definitely a Good Friday for me!

Sunday March 20, 2016
Even though it was a somewhat cold day (mom said it was actually warmer than this on her Jan. 9th B-day this year), we at least had sunshine for most of the day, so it didn’t turn out to be as miserable a day as I thought it would be (weather-wise).

My only plans for the day were to go out to brunch. We had originally planned on going to Super Chef (there’s a branch in downtown Columbus), but after I saw a commercial for IHOP (International House of Pancakes), I totally changed my mind. Andrew was just as happy since it’s a lot closer (near the Sawmill exit of 270).

I had the Brioche French Toast with bananas and peanut butter, which was good, but I think I would have liked more of a Reese’s Peanut Butter cup experience (which was more similar to what I was going to order at Super Chef). Andrew seemed to like his Strawberry Cheesecake pancakes which had chunks of cheesecake in the batter. Since we got in and out in under an hour we definitely can’t complain about the service and I’m sure we’ll go back sometime.

After brunch we made a stop at the Kroger marketplace (like a super-sized Kroger with a mini department store inside) to pick up a couple ingredients we needed for dinner (since I forget to pick up some stuff at Walmart yesterday). Having not been there for ages I had forgotten how big (and nice!) it was inside. It’s too far to do our weekly shopping, but still fun for the occasional visit.

When we got home I made a point of opening the presents from Andrew’s parents, Uncle Russ and Andrew leaving all the misc. items I had purchased/ordered for myself until later. Andrew’s mum had left a birthday greeting on our answering machine, but when we tried to phone them they weren’t home (Colin was apparently at church playing the organ). Mom phoned me at noon and we ended up talking for about an hour and a half, during which I opened what she had bought me (from the Madison Historical Society). She purchased a couple Christmas ornaments for me – one is a little porcelain girl on ice skates and the other is a (female) head surrounded by lace. Both will look lovely on our tree next Christmas. She also bought me the Golden Book called, “Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Little Golden Book. Funnily enough I had bought that very book in the e-book version several years ago, but I always enjoy having a hard copy of a favorite book, so I will treasure it as much as I enjoyed the Golden Books we had growing up.

After I got off the phone with mom, Andrew and I took a walk to see a Nextdoor Ridgewood neighbor who was selling a store-bought painting she received from a friend, but had no room to hang it. We both enjoyed talking to Beth and commiserating about the problems that come with owning a post mid-century modern home (like her front garden that was a bit clumpy from the grub problem she had last year). Beth said her parents built the house across the street, and she had spent many happy days over at this house (which she now owns) where her childhood friend once lived. I love that story! I hope our paths cross again because Beth seemed like an interesting person (and a fellow “Downton Abbey” fan).
When we got home I took down the picture which had been hanging in our library (probably for 7 or 8 out of the last 10 years) and put the one from Beth in its place. It’s nice to breathe a little new life into the room.

We finally managed to reach Andrew’s parents and talked to them for nearly an hour – about the weather, my birthday, politics (how scary it would be to have Donald Trump as the Commander in Chief), and Tamsin’s constant run-ins with our neighbor cat, Izzy.

After hanging up the phone I finally got around to opening the rest of my presents (to myself) and was pleasantly surprised by the cameras I had ordered off of E-bay. The Pixie is so much smaller and cuter than I thought, and I really like the freebie they enclosed, which is definitely a more solid miniature camera. If I had the time and inclination I wouldn’t mind trying to adapt a roll of 110 film to fit inside it, but I think that would take more time and effort (not to mention $$$) than I am willing to put forth. I love, love, love the Olympus Ecru. Now I just need to figure out how to adapt the strap (I purchased separately) to it since it needs a bit of wire or something fine to fit around the little knobs. I’m sure Andrew and I will figure out something.

Having not shot film in awhile, I had forgotten how satisfying the sound of the “click” can be. The Ecru is somewhat motorized, so it sounds different from a more manual camera, but is definitely a cool piece of craftsmanship. [Too bad the self-timer button doesn’t seem to work, so I guess I won’t be shooting any selfies with it.]
These are the four cameras I purchased between 3/20/15 & 3/20/16
Andrew opened a bottle of Prosecco (and shot the cork halfway across the room) to have with our 3 Beef Cheese casserole followed by a couple cupcakes (one chocolate, one Red Velvet) we split. If I had remembered I would have gotten out the Lego candles I bought last year, but I guess you get forgetful when you get old!

Have a good week everyone!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Another fun weekend in Columbus

Another busy weekend largely spent near the OSU campus and the edge of Short North.
Saturday afternoon we drove to the Gateway Film Center with the intention of seeing yet another Studio Ghibli film - this time, "Princess Mononoke." However, as sometimes happens, the dubbed version proved to be very popular. In spite of arriving somewhat early (since I wanted to stop in to Cold Stone Creamery for some ice cream), it was already sold out, so we went to Plan B - see "Zootopia" instead. We were going to see it the next morning while having brunch at The Movie Tavern, but nixed that plan in light of the current situation.
In spite of seeing the same trailer for "Zootopia" over and over again, it still proved to be a delightful film with lots of surprises (including an ending I definitely didn't see coming). My favorite scene was when Judy's parents were telling her how it's good to have dreams, but you don't necessarily have to follow them. Sometimes you have to settle, and settle hard, like we did! Laughable, but true, so true...
After the film we still had over an hour to kill before we had to be in Short North for our 5pm meadery tour and tasting at Drake Brothers. I think the first store we went into was the Hippie Hut - Guitars and Things. The 'and things' refers to pipes (for a "special" kind of smoking), record albums (hopefully I'm not the only one out there who still remembers wax?), t-shirts, etc. I actually purchased a cool-looking b/w t-shirt that has an overlay of circles on it - much like lots of little record albums. For $10 I couldn't resist.
Next door is a similar shop, but with more clothing and novelty-themed items (in addition to more pipes and little hand-made cloth bags to store them in). I loved their awesome collection of retro patches, many with a sort of 'Peace and Love' message. I will definitely have to come back once I decide what to sew them on. The store mascot appears to be a very mellow (female) bulldog who delighted in waddling around the store to personally greet to each of the customers. I liked the necklaces, tie-dyed hoodies and hand made purses. Except for the necklaces, most of these items would have pushed my budget, so we ended up leaving empty-handed.
Across the street and down a little ways we stopped into a retro toy store (called "Evil Twin") that sells pop culture items from perhaps as far back as "Scooby Doo" up to more recent cult favorites like "Walking Dead." A slice of my childhood definitely resided in that store. That's the first time I have ever seen box upon box of movie/TV trading cards like I used to collect. I think I donated my collection to Goodwill, but if I am wrong about that, I know where to take them! Although I would have liked the funky "Partridge Family" lunchbox ($90), I settled instead for a miniature Ms. Easter Bunny Potato Head knick-knack and some McDonald's Happy Meal transformers to add to my collection.
Next door to that is an interesting store that sells a lot of Japanese toys that reference unfamiliar- to-me TV programs or movies? but are super cute (and not cheap!). Had we had more time to kill, I might have selected something. They even had sheets of puffy stickers ($2) for those on a more modest budget.
I also want to give a shout-out to 'Out of the Closet' second-hand store, which we definitely didn't have time to visit (but I stuck my head in briefly to see what it was like inside), but I'd quite like to go there when I have more time to shop. It's a thrift store which benefits an Aids charity, something we don't seem to talk about much today since Aids publicity seemed to go out of vogue once the 80s ended, but sadly the disease still hasn't been eradicated (especially in Africa). There are worse places your money could be spent (I'm looking at you Walmart).
A little before 5pm we made our way over to the Brothers Drake Meadery tucked away behind Out of the Closet. Since our tour included a sampling of the mead, they gave us our glasses (shot-glass size) and filled them up while we waited for our group to gather. Since it was a warm day, the patio was open, so people congregated out there as well as near the Japanese food truck on the other side. After a few sips of mead, all was well with the world!
Eventually our group was shown to the back where the mead is processed and bottled. Since there's lots of different flavors incorporated into the mead, Andrew and I wondered at which point those flavors (like lemon, blueberry, apple, etc.) are added, so I asked when the opportunity presented itself. Turns out it is added early on, left to age a bit, then more flavor is added later. Like many companies in Columbus, they use locally sourced products (the honey, water and whatever other fruit or herbs). However, they did say they're owned by the San Francisco Mead Company, so that's probably how they maintain financial stability.
During the tour we got to sample the Bergamot Blue (which we later purchased), the Apple Pie, Ginger Verve, and either the Blueberry Chai or Scarlet Solstice. I forget which. By this point I was in such good spirits the thought never occurred to me to take notes (or photos). Afterwards we sampled another mead with a very strong coffee flavor. Although interesting, not sure it's one I'd care to have on its own (though they are excellent when mixed with other liquors to create exotic cocktails). It would probably work well in Tiramisu.

We later plan to buy a bottle of the Apple Pie since we think that would be a fun one to share with the family in the autumn. I did learn that mead can be both sweet or dry, depending on how long you age it and what you add (I'm just guessing there since I really have no idea). We sampled both sweet and dry mead and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the samples. I had expected them to all be sickly sweet, but they definitely weren't.
While walking down High Street looking for somewhere to have dinner, I spotted a shop I've always wanted to browse in called "Flower Child." It's an antique store. Half is clothing and accessories (including lots of train cases and other misc. luggage and purses) and the other half is household items. I heard more than one person (including myself) say their grandma had this or that item. Now I know where to take Grandma Goff's salt and pepper shakers. I bought a little handmade (leather?) purse for $10 to add to my "little purses" collection.
Love the funky hat!
We ended up having dinner at Basil (Thai) Restaurant since it wasn't busy enough to require reservations. It certainly lived up to its excellent reputation as both the food and ambiance was good. We split an order of crab cream cheese wontons; Andrew had the pepper steak while I had the pineapple (chicken) curry. They even gave us extra rice to take home with our leftovers.
While walking back to the car I told Andrew how much I missed walking places all the time, like we did in the UK. Of course the novelty eventually wears off and you start to appreciate having a car, but it was still fun walking up and down High Street on the 65+ degree sunny/cloudy day.
I also decided this was going to be like day #2 of my birthday weekend (since we already celebrated day #1 a few weeks ago when we went to the Wex and then to the cinema). Who says you actually have to celebrate your birthday on the actual day? (especially since, so far, the weather is supposed to be total crap on my actual birthday). We did that at Christmas, so I think we're going to keep up this tradition. After all, it is a free country.

To finish off the day we watched another installment of "Back in Time for the Weekend - the 1980s," which was somewhat appropriate having spent so much time browsing in antique stores earlier in the day. This seems to be the decade where electronics took over and put a fracture in quality family time. I love when the Ashby-Hawkins' received their VCR and the two kids (12 and 17) weren't quite sure what it was. Later in the episode 12-year-old Seth and his friend rent a couple movies from a local Blockbuster, which neither Andrew, nor I, are quite certain even still exist in the UK since the last one closed stateside probably half a decade or so ago. Definitely an enjoyable episode with lots of color (blue eye shadow), funky patterns (which I still miss), and a power suit with big shoulder pads (remove the shoulder pads and the suit would still work today).
Daisy, stop stenciling your brother!
We'll probably finish off the series next weekend since the 90s is the last decade covered.
Have a good week everyone!

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Declutter for Charity...

 I had quite a busy weekend. (first weekend in March 2016)

Friday night Andrew and I went to the Sideswipe Brewery so he could finally cash in his Groupon which was good for a tasting for two, with free pint glasses and growlers to go. Even though I'm not a beer drinker, there were a few flavors that really weren't too bad.* One had a slightly fruity taste while the other was a little coffee-like. He were lucky to get a table since it's a pretty small place and it was pretty busy. I think it's a favorite Friday night hang-out for people. I just wish I liked beer so I could have enjoyed myself more. However, I took my job as designated driver very seriously and Andrew was grateful that I did since he didn't feel up to driving home. I like how the brewery had games you could play, so we took one down and looked at it. It was a very "adult" game similar to Apples to Apples, but strictly 'R' rated. Andrew ended up purchasing one of the beers he sampled, so we left with one full growler in addition to our other three souvenirs (of which I had to do a little rearranging of the contents of our cupboard to accommodate).

* My two favs - Defaced Imperial Red Ale and Coffee Mastermind

Saturday I was at St. Brendan's to help add some faux flowers to the altar for Laetare Sunday, then I volunteered to do the grocery shopping since Andrew was feeling a little hung over : P About mid afternoon I rolled up my sleeves and decided to finally tackle the basement with the goal to separate empty cardboard boxes from empty containers from seasonal decorations and whatever else I had stacked in the middle of the room. I was mostly done by the time I had to leave for church, but I finished up the last of it today.

I ended up with (2) bags and (2) boxes of stuffed animals, (2) boxes of toys/games, one box of misc. stuff, and one bag of material: all to go to different charities. The toys and games went to Westside Free Store Ministries. A girl a few streets away volunteered there recently and said they were greatly in need of many things including toys. I also went to Giant Eagle on Tuesday and bought a cart load of stuff (which I think I told you about already), so I tried to be generous. The box of miscellaneous stuff was dropped off at Goodwill and the bag of material went to my church. Sister Joanne is currently collecting mason jars and cotton material to make  chocolate chip cookie mix in a jar for new members of our parish. I went through my stash of material and found some great big swatches that I think will look fabulous, so I cut her several pieces and dropped them off earlier this afternoon.

Now I am just waiting on someone to come pick up the cardboard boxes on our front porch (all of which I collected from work over the last couple of months). I feel a lot lighter, but I still have lots of boxes of stuff to sort, but at least now everything looks all tidy. I also have a whole bunch of empty containers I plan to sell at Karen's garage sale this summer (unless I decided to sell them on Craig's List first). I have a bunch of papers to sort that I plan to divide into 7 different folders so I have one folder to go through every night. I think that's doable.

I almost forgot - at work I got a sort of promotion, or at least a new responsibility. For the past few years, on and off, I have been inputting the billing totals for our region and the Cincinnati region (which is only about 7 people). Starting Monday I will be doing it for our other two regions as well, so that's at least another 8-10 people. I think I also have to compile a monthly report, which I will be shown how to do.

Tomorrow we have a new part time regional secretary (whose job this would have been, but they've decided to just let me do it since I'm more stable and already know how to do it) starting, so I have to train her on how to answer the phones, etc. I always dread this because it doesn't take very long, then I'm left just making small talk to kill time. Also, my lunch hour has been bumped up an hour so I will eat at noon now instead of 1pm, making a very long afternoon, so kind of dreading that. However, my friend from upstairs has an early lunch too, so we might take walks together, which will be nice. When I was in England my lunch hour was 11:45-1pm (and I often worked til 5:45pm), so I have had earlier lunches previously (and Andrew has his early too).

Well, hope you (mom and dad) enjoyed Jay Leno on Friday. I think I will postpone watching the final episode of "Downton Abbey" since it's scheduled from 9-11pm, and that's past my bedtime. Instead we'll probably watch the 70's episode of this show: and then "Walking Dead" before calling it a day.

"Back in Time for the Weekend" (the 70s)
Have a good week everyone!