Tuesday, August 30, 2011

How to Survive a Blackout & Come Out Smiling

Photograph: Nicole Zahour
For a lot of us on the East Coast, the worst of Irene is over.  The waiting and wondering what will happen, the gusts of air and worrying about flooding, the wondering about work and loved ones and personal property.  For a lot of us, however, there are still a lot of pieces to pick up...including the millions of people who are still without electricity.

My sister and her husband, are two of those people.

Photographs: Nicole Zahour
My sister and I both try to be as industrious as possible.  In fact, when my sister headed back to Westchester from her cabin in Maryland, and found that the stores were out of water and bread and batteries, she texted me and said.  "Well, we can drink the water here, and thankfully we know how to make bread from scratch, I am going to google how to make a D battery."  She was not kidding.  Well maybe she was, but I bet if she found out that there was a way to make a D battery, she would try it!

Not only did they prepare well for the blackout, but they are fairing well even as they still do not have power.  Here is what they did:

In preparation for the blackout they made sure to:

-fill up their bathtub with water for use for flushing the toilet during the blackout

-freeze a jug of liquid (there was no water at the store so they bought lemonade)...this jug will be put in the cooler to keep frequently used items cold.

-take items used often and put them in a separate cooler (this is to avoid opening and closing the refrigerator and therefore losing the cool air trapped inside).  Their cooler was filled with things like almond milk/soy creamer for coffee, seltzer, and other items used often.

-make bread

-make ratatouille and soup from foraged mushrooms

-fill a huge stockpot, a pitcher and various other pots with water for drinking

-brew a lot of coffee, days and days worth of coffee

-gather lanterns, flashlights and candles (although their co-op discouraged the use of candles, they made sure to have them handy in case)

-bring out board games

-move their car into the garage away from possible falling trees

-charge all phones and have a backup car charger for phone when inevitably the battery will die

Now those are some ways to prepare yourself.  
Here is how to come out smiling:

Take any opportunity you can to be nosey.  This is the time that you can bond with neighbors!  You hear a generator down the road: go check it out! In their case, it was locked up to a telephone pole, and a mystery as to who owned it.  

You see lights up the block: check it out!  Maybe it is just the workers coming to clear out a flooded area, but isn't it more fun to explore than to just sit in your house?

Wear a funny light hat.  What's more fun than having hands free lights in the house.  It will make you feel like you are spelunking in your own residence!

Break out the board games!  Time to invite people over for a board game by candlelight blackout party.  Let me remind you, red wine does not need to be refrigerated! 

Pet test.  On day three of the blackout, even if you had yogurt in a special cooler with the frozen jug by it, even if you open it and it smells fine: if your kitty cat takes one look at it and walks the other way: DO NOT EAT THE YOGURT.

Urban Homesteading.  Why not take this time to make some dill and sweet gherkin pickles?  I mean really, why not?!
Photograph: Nicole Zahour

Eat dinner in pitch black.  My sister and her husband Jan decided to do just that last night.  "We ate dinner in the pitch black to see what it would be like to be blind. (like that blind restaurant in Prague) {Pod křídlem noci} it was interesting!"

I kid you not, this is the text my sister sent me last night.  This is truly taking lemons and making lemonade! In case you didn't realize it already, my sister and Jan: rule. 

When all else fails and your food finally goes bad, and it's been days and days without lights in your house....eat the apple butter you spent hours and hours making the weekend before!

Happy blackouts!


Friday, August 26, 2011


As hurricane Irene approaches, I find it really helpful to look at peaceful times that I am thankful for.  I never know whether or not the news is sensationalizing the hurricane, or if I should really be worried...but I guess it is better to be safe than sorry. 

Currently I am writing to my sister in between classes to let her know that New York Times said the bridges will be closed down if there are sustained winds over 60 mph.  She is at her cabin in Maryland with her husband relaxing, canning tomatoes and mushroom hunting.  The cabin is on the Susquehanna River, and I am begging her to head back to the city soon so that she can get home safely.  

I am thankful for peaceful barbecues at the cabin with my sister...
...and her husband...
and shmiggs.
I am thankful for yummy portabello burgers! 
I am thankful for my favorite driving companion...
I am thankful for bridges.  The bridges built sturdy years and years ago that I travel over each and every day.  I am thankful for the bridges that connect me to others, physically and metaphorically.  I am thankful for the ability to travel, and to travel safely.
  I am thankful that these bridges are not only sturdy, but also beautiful, and I am thankful for the water I overlook as I drive over them each and every day. 
I am thankful that I have a job.  A full time job teaching.  A full time job teaching Art and Design in a tough economy, and when the arts are undervalued in schools.  
I am thankful for coffee, without which I doubt I could do my job.  Lots and lots of coffee.  AND patience, and fabulous coworkers, who give me mugs for my coffee.  
I am thankful for moments spent relaxing and reading after work. 
I am thankful for moments spent relaxing in the woods. 
I am thankful for the sound of bullfrogs, the rhythm of the water, and the cool breeze I feel every morning and night.  I start my day by this lake, and I think of 3 goals for the day.  I sit there and imagine what a beautiful day I will have.  Before I go to bed I sit by the lake.  I reflect on the things that went well.  I replay the smiles on their faces, and the "aha" moments they have.  I replay the tears on their faces, and the moments of being comforted by a teacher, or a friend.  I replay all of the blessings that I have had that day...and I think of how lucky I am to be alive...and to be a teacher. 
Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

oh the places you'll go

{or, rather, the places you have yet to go...}

Sometimes I like to think that I have checked out a lot of the states, and perhaps I have seen a few different areas in North America, but as you can see: I have stuck mostly to the coasts and have left the poor square states in the center (which I can't even name)...completely unexplored!  

I had wanted to take a road trip this summer across those areas, in fact, it was part of my Summer Goals. Unfortunately, this road trip could not happen this summer...but I definitely notice some places that I want to visit soon!

Sometimes I wish I had some sort of musical talent so I could tour across the country.  Hours on end in a smelly van with a bunch of other musicians sounds like fun!  Getting paid in pizza and beer sounds even better.  

I ask, is it too late to become a famous touring musician?  Oh...it is?  Well, even though I have no talent can I be in a band who actually gets shows?....No?  Hmmpf, Okay.  Well, at least I have summer vacations!


What I've Been Up To: Summer, Travels: Part Five

{My best friend Missy is getting married this weekend!!!}

I am so incredibly excited for her...I am getting the jitters as I count down the days in my head, and on my planner!

A group of us ladies did a bachelorette weekend getaway in the Catskills, NY.  The ladies drove down from Rhode Island, and I, for the first time ever, got a dog walker for Malomar and headed up to meet them after work on a Friday.  

We went to Villa Roma, mostly for the guido factor, but also for relaxing and of course... the llamas! 

Missy practicing her strut. 
Beautiful ladies relaxing by the pool.  Missy spilled her Pina Colada everywhere.

Oh, you know: just updating twitter, facebook, texting significant others: cool bachelorette party stuff.

Morning Margarita!
The beautiful walk to see the llamas.
This face can mean only one thing...Alpacas have been spotted. YES!!!

We called to the Alpacas "peca peca peca," which is a call that the girls had heard the farmer use last year.  Basically we sneakily used the official Alpaca call and had them all running down toward us...which was of course: the best ever!  

We proceeded to spend about an hour oohing and ahhing and giggling over how cute they are and snapping a million photos. Don't worry, I am only showing you about 100 out of the 100,000,000. You're welcome! 
Look at this haircut! 
just noshin'
We were so busy taking a million photos of the Alpacas and trying to pet them, that we didn't realize we were standing right in front of this GIGANTIC spider!  It didn't seemed to be bothered by us though either. 
Look at this face! So smug, and yet so so cute.  When we got home, Becky immediately researched owning an Alpaca farm.  Someday I will have one! They are too cute to pass up! 

Villa Roma also has such amazing things as bingo, awful dance music, and lots of friendly weirdos.  Here are some photos of the more traditional bachelorette party type action! 
Oh, did I mention the walls are covered in red carpet?  Well they are. 
Missy looks like she's wearing no pants.  She actually has sparkly booty shorts on. Same thing. 
"the guido" is making us "fist pump"  although, I am not sure we are doing it correctly. 
Best friend. 

Mark is one lucky guy. 

Only 5 more days 'til the big day!!!  So excited!