Things I Learned While Watching the Big Game

February 6th, 2011

Aaron Rodgers goes long

Aaron Rodgers goes long

The Packers beat the Steelers 31 - 25 in Superbowl XLV and this is what I discovered while watching the game:

1. I actually enjoy watching football. Thanks to having to learn the rules to support my brother in high school, I can adequately follow the game (I stopped asking why you can have more than one “1st down” a long time ago).

2. Even though I’m not a fanatic, I’m still a Bart Starr lovin’ Packers fan. I live a lot closer to Pittsburgh, and I don’t have division allegiances, Green Bay just makes me happy. And it will be a lot easier for Arron Rodgers to respond to the Brett Favre (Brett who?) comparisons now.

3. Hardcore competitive sports make me twitchy because I start thinking about how sad the losing side will be. In 1993, the White Sox were in the pennant play-offs and I started begging God to take the series to at least five games (for my Dad). I then started thinking about people who where living with wars and starvation (aka real problems) and backed down. I haven’t been the same since.

4. It doesn’t matter who’s playing halftime, the sound is going to suck and it’s going to seem like a lame concert to the people watching at home. I’m sure in the stadium the Black Eyed Peas were awesome.

5. I’m just really happy that a team from the smallest city, smallest TV market and that is community owned won. And, truly, both teams were class acts. It’s much more fun to watch when highly paid athletes aren’t acting like 5 year-olds.

Congratulations Packers!

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It’s Chili Time!

February 5th, 2011

Fixin's!

Fixin's!

This week, I am entering two different competitive chili cooking events. Tomorrow’s at church will be won by virtue of how many people pay for a taste of my chili. The prize at the annual chili-off at work (which I won two years ago and thus began slacking off) is awarded based on averaging the rankings given by the staff. In either case, it’s a chance for me to win a cooking contest - something that is slightly crazy considering that I mostly only cook for me and I rotate about six meals in total.

My base recipe came from my mom. The first time I made it, I had a tactical error and added a tablespoon of salt instead of the required teaspoon because the recipe card said tps and not tsp (my own fault though - I should have recognized the transposed letters). Since then, I’ve experimented - adding more chili powder and garlic and, recently, frozen corn for color and sweetness - and now I feel like it’s really my chili.

I suppose you think something is yours when you can make it without a recipe. I know what I need and how much without pulling out my master cookbook. And, honestly, for anything I make that’s more than “add cheese,” this may be the only recipe I can say that about. When my mother met my father, so the story goes, one of the few things she could cook was spaghetti sauce (she is now a wonderful, and very adventurous, cook who loves discovering new things for her massive recipe file). And that sauce is really good. It’s a meat-based tomato sauce, cooked slowly with wine added that gives it a richness. When I was leaving for college, I asked for the recipe and she said, “There isn’t one! I just pull together whatever tomato cans are in the pantry!” She ended up writing something down, but it still said: tomato sauce or paste or soup, what’s on hand. Mom’s spaghetti is all the more special because it’s hers, and it can never truly be mine.

That’s OK! I have my award-winning chili (which I don’t make for family, because it’s too spicy). For the record, tomorrow’s chili will be vegetarian, because every last person I asked last Sunday said, “You can make it with meat, but then I won’t eat it.” Tuesday, I could go crazy and make a new recipe - to stay on top, you have to innovate. I was going to make a Cincinnati-style chili, but I won’t eat tomato sauce with cinnamon, so I wouldn’t be able to give my pot a high enough ranking to win. I’ll make “my” chili, and be very happy eating it!

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Keeping My Balance

February 4th, 2011

This poor cat is currently completely buried in the middle of my front yard.

This poor cat is currently completely buried in the middle of my front yard.

I think there’s some truth to the impression that Midwesterners are never fully happy with the weather, no matter what season. In the summer, we complain that it’s too hot. And, this winter, I heard my first complaint about snow maybe three weeks after the first flakes fell. It’s like we all forget what’s going to happen next (which at this point is snow and ice until March - and that’s if we’re lucky).

And, the funny thing is, I think most of us in the upper Midwest really love the change of seasons. We even love snow (well, maybe not those poor people stuck in their cars on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago for 12 hours). What makes me cranky - and probably everyone else - is our lack of mobility during winter. In summer, I get dressed, run out of the house, jump in my car and drive to work. Now, I have to wrap up in 19 layers - sweaters, coats, boots, hats, mufflers, gloves - before I even crack the front door. Then it’s scraping the windshield, brushing the snow off the car, digging out the driveway and driving slowly, trying not to slide off the road. Plus, I can never walk at a normal pace. The first time you try to go somewhere quickly in winter, bam! Down you go and you’ve broken something.

But, maybe that’s good. Every year I can relearn my lessons about patience and diligence and finding joy in quiet, inside moments. The ice makes me aware of my balance and forces me to count my steps. The snow gives me 10 minutes of cardio while I consider the day ahead. And every trip - by car or by foot - is deliberate. When nothing is easy, each decision is important. Winter makes us stronger because we must own our lives in a very different way from the carefree days summer. Still, a nice thaw every now and then with a bright shiny day thrown in never hurt anyone.

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They Aren’t Really My Friends

February 3rd, 2011

This is the shelf for TV shows. It's mostly Friends.

This is the shelf for TV shows. It's mostly Friends.

I’m not watching Friends right now - and that’s ok. There are reruns every night from 10 - 11 p.m. and I’ve watched the entire run of the series more than once. Then, I bought the series on DVD - used at the CD Game Exchange - so I could watch the shows without bits cut out for syndication (plus I can listen to the producers say basically the same things - like how they love the episodes when it’s just the friends alone in their apartments - over and over in the commentaries). It all seems really extreme.

I don’t know what it is about Friends. It’s not my habit to buy DVDs of TV shows (I’d say unless they’re British or really old - but truthfully, all I have are 7 seasons of Friends and one season each of 30 Rock, Gilmore Girls and Coupling) and I saw all of these shows the first time around. Maybe it’s because the show debuted when I was in grad school and was on through school, the year in Florida and my early days at WKSU - it takes me back to happy days. Or, it’s because I think Matthew Perry is cute. I’m not sure.

So, I can come in here and blog and not mind missing the one where Rachel lets Marcel out and the creepy girl she went to high school with tries to take Ross’ monkey (not a euphemism). Because, I can always watch it later.

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Snow Day!

February 2nd, 2011

Cathleen bundled up for winter. In a card store.

Cathleen bundled up for winter. In a card store.

The main Kent campus was closed for the second day in a row and, since I’m not essential, I stayed home. The funny thing is, I managed to actually work a full 8 hours (round abouts - there’s no time clock in the guest room). Because this year, and I don’t know why, we’ve had so many snow days that they no longer seem exotic. I could sit around in my pajamas and watch bad television or I could rework the awards spreadsheet (which I emailed home at the first sign of trouble) and start E-Notes. Wearing stretchy pants.

It’s sad to lose the joyful anticipation that snow days brought on when we were kids. But, we’d get bored then, too. I’d bake or read or do crafts. I remember once, taking the bus downtown and working in the Ft. Wayne Civic Theater’s scene shop for the day. During the giant spring blizzard in 1978, we were snowed into the house for days, drinking powdered milk and driving each other crazy. I finally walked across the street to visit my best friend Cathleen. It took me an hour. To cross the street. Her family came back over for dinner and when her mother saw all of the snow in our driveway, she said, “Forget walking!” She lay down on the snow and rolled herself to the door (we followed suit).

Snow days are fun mostly because they are a surprise and we don’t already have 19 things planned for a “vacation” day. But, like anything, if we get too many, they’re not that special anymore. It just means an extra half hour digging out tomorrow and lots of catch-up for people who didn’t spend today on awards and E-Notes (while wearing stretchy pants).

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Testing My Stamina

February 1st, 2011

Amy Adams gets up every morning at 5 a.m. to blog. Don't count on that.

Amy Adams gets up every morning at 5 a.m. to blog. Don't count on that.

Last week, I rented “Julie and Julia.” The movie is your average, everyday tale of a blogger, turned author juxtaposed with Julia Child (played by Meryl Streep - so awesome) and her days in France. As usual, I completely missed the main point of the movie (I could not get past knowing about Julie Powell’s second book, her affair, etc.) and came away mainly thinking “I should blog more.” I know why I don’t. I’m tired, it’s cold, I’d rather watch TV, there’s a cat on my lap. But, I think I’m going to make an effort to be more like Seth Godin and post every day for a while. It could be a boring disaster, or it might be interesting. Who knows? Seth’s posts aren’t super long, so I’m not saying I’m going to write a chapter a night - just a few observations.

Like, snow is really beautiful. I hated Florida and Georgia because winter just meant all the trees dropped their leaves. Snow actually gives the season change some heft. And, it makes summer so much more sweeter. Although, the older I get, the less fun it is trying to scrape 1/2″ of ice off of my windshield - even if it does go in my plus column for aerobic activity today. Also, even though I have everything I need to bake cookies, I haven’t done it because I don’t have an occasion. I used to bake a lot, just for the family and I could do it for work (many of my coworkers bake for us), I just don’t. One more - every year I dread January, because I know how busy I’m going to be with awards, etc. But, the truth is, even though I’m crazy busy, the time goes very quickly and everyone is very helpful, even when our timeline is blown out because of unforeseen circumstances. And, the more I accept a Zen state of mind around awards, the better it is for everyone.

Check back tomorrow and see whether I’ve posted again. Don’t judge me too harshly if I just give up and watch my new DVD of Georgy Girl.

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Ack! It’s jeans season!

September 21st, 2010

jeansA few weeks ago, Talbots sent me a flier. It said their new line of jeans had a style to fit every body. I have a great pair of Talbots jeans that are tight, but not too tight and look good enough to wear to work. So, I packed up my optimism and headed off to the store. All the way to North Canton I’m thinking about color finishes and lengths and just having viable options.

Buying jeans is tricky for every woman. Ladies are not men - their bodies do totally different things, especially in the hipster area. But, jeans were originally pants for a guy’s guy. Work pants. Sturdy, no nonsense, riveted denim, the right number of pockets, I wear these only on the weekends and it’s not necessary for them to look awesome kind of pants. And, for some reason, women’s jeans always seem to want to return to their roots - square cut, straight legged, stopping somewhere south of the waist.

It’s part of the fashion circle of life. Designers have to change their lines every year or women won’t buy anything new - because they already have it. They’ll through colored denim into the mix or break out blue into 10 shades. Or, they’ll destroy the jeans that fit me perfectly in favor of something that doesn’t even go past my muscular calves. This year, not only do I have to contend with mid-rise hip huggers - something that didn’t fit me when I was 12, much less now - but the skinny jean is back as well (along with its even eviler counterpart, jean leggings). Skinny jeans are intended to be worn under a tunic or long sweater, giving the illusion of casual elegance while you’re looking for a wall to lean on because you can’t bend your legs and you’re losing feeling in your feet from lack of circulation.

I should probably at this point make a disclaimer that indeed, all women are not shaped the same and the years they announce curvy fit jeans are awful for women who like square cut jeans. In all of my years as a person buying jeans, I have yet to see a company do both cuts well, or at the same time (regardless of the fact that women of both shapes happily co-exist on this planet). I’ve heard that there are companies that make jeans specifically to fit or offer an extensive style range, but these jeans tend to be over $100 - and I can not talk myself into paying $100 for weekend pants.

To finish my story, I went to Talbots and tried on every style they had (in two sizes) and nothing even came close to fitting me. When the first thing the saleslady says is, “These have less stretch,” I know I’m in trouble from the start (An aside: why would they take away my stretch? What did I ever do to them?). I tried on boot cut, original cut, traditional cut, straight leg, modified boot cut and trouser jeans (which are mystifying on a number of levels). I skipped the “boyfriend jeans” because that is code for girls who are actually shaped like their tall, athletic boyfriends. Which I’m not.

I had gotten all excited, convinced myself that $70 was a reasonable amount to pay for jeans, and pffft. I was so wound up, that I spent an hour at Dillard’s and Macy’s trying on Levis. Which is crazy, because I haven’t been able to fit in a pair of Levis since I got down to 97 pounds my senior year of high school to avoid giving blood (I don’t like needles - sue me). Each time I pulled on another pair of ill-fitting pants, I would feel sadder and fatter and older. And, it’s ridiculous! After each jeans fiasco, I would return to the pants I wore in, in both cases 6P pants that fit fine. They go over my butt and don’t have an 8 inch waist gap. I can sit in them and I don’t look like I’m trying to relive my campus days or about to show those near-by a street map of Paris, France, when I bend over.

In conclusion, I will stick for another year with the jeans I have, even if they are more functional than fancy. The fashion planet will turn again and soon it will be the other women’s turn to curse the giant pile of bad jeans at their feet. Remember this piece of sage advice, if you try on jeans and they fit, don’t think twice, just buy them. And, if you can, buy two pair. Because chances are, you’re going to have to wear them for awhile.

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Alex and LeBron - And What Really Matters

July 11th, 2010

00033839Last week, while the rest of the planet was finding out that LeBron James was packing his bags for Miami, I was watching So You Think You Can Dance to find out the status of an Achilles tendon. LeBron has left Northeast Ohio saddened - and angry - not just because of his decision, but the manner in which he chose to sucker-punch Akron and Cleveland (even more grievous if it’s true they began orchestrating the move in December). Meanwhile, a young dancer with tons of promise announced on national television that he had suffered a career-threatening injury. Which event do you think had me in tears?

In the end, LeBron could do what he wanted. He is one of the most-powerful athletes in the world and yet, he’s never more than 20 miles from the place he was born. He didn’t go to college. He was drafted into the pro team next door. So, this move is part of his life experience. The Cavs have had 7 years to earn a championship and it hasn’t happened - let him try with the Heat. LeBron is also someone who thrives with a team. That’s how it was at St. V’s. His team is not filled with guys like him, his friends are still his high school group. We wanted him to be loyal to the Cavs, because it seemed like our best chance at winning a sports championship. But who knows?

I think he’s going to hate living in Miami. Visiting these cities and living there are different things, and Florida has a weird vibe. It doesn’t matter, because the Cavs are moving on, with a new coach that really likes rebuilding teams and a group of motivated players. The fans are more behind the team than ever. It’s a matter of principle now - the team and the region have something to prove to the world, and that makes us all stronger. Maybe we can stop the universal self-loathing long enough to make a change and focus on the positives of Cleveland for once.

As far as the dancer’s future goes, Alex Wong will have surgery to repair his ruptured Achilles on Tuesday. If all goes well, he can dance again in three months. He is not a multimillionaire and even if he won SYTYCD (which he was likely to do), a dancer’s future is always iffy. The jobs are few and far between and they have a shelf-life that’s even shorter than that of athletes. The good news (something that makes his early exit harder on viewers) is that his dances so far were fantastic and he showed talent, heart and a great personality - so hopefully he will take up where he left off once he has healed.

Life is filled with tough decisions and all we can do is our best. Someday, I hope LeBron apologizes for The Decision, even if he never plays for the Cavs again. The team will go on and so will we. And, think about Alex on Tuesday. I want to see him dance again (and often).

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Music and Brothers

March 27th, 2010

Do it AgainI saw a film last night (oh, boy) at the 34 Cleveland International Film Festival called “Do it Again.” It was a documentary about one man’s quest to reunite The Kinks. The guy in question, Geoff Edgars, is a writer for the Boston Globe, and there’s all sorts of mid-life crisisy, print journalism is dead stuff mixed into the general message that the Kinks (at the least the Davies brothers) don’t really want to get back together.

And, all of that made me wish that my brother was watching the film with me. Everything I knew about the Kinks to that point I learned from Rich - that the Davies brothers hated each other and that the band would never really be functional because of it (younger readers, think Oasis). But, most of my early musical knowledge came from Rich. He (like my dad) loves music - a passion that I have come to see as particularly male. Most guys I know (keeping in mind that I work in radio) are obsessed with musicians and playing music - not to mention hunting and gathering records and CDs - in a way women seldom are. I mean, I write about musicians and I listen to lots of CDs, but I don’t wrap my identity around this stuff. Even with working at Folk Alley, where I’m out at concerts and constantly talking about what we play (mostly with guys).

Going to concerts that I know my brother would enjoy without Rich often makes me feel guilty - and he lives far enough away that he can’t just pop up to Cleveland for Barenaked Ladies or John Wesley Harding. And, he’s not the only guy that I’ve had CDs signed for just to make me feel better. I’ve seen grown men become pale in the presence of their favorite artist - even our DJs (I’ll have to admit, I avoided seeing Peter Buck in his latest band when they played at the Beachland because I was afraid I would cry. And, I have avoid eye contact with Richard Shindell).

So, Rich, I’m sorry I went to “Do it Again” without you. If it comes to Louisville, see it with some of your guy friends. It’s really funny, and touching - in a super guy, non-manipulative way. And, I don’t think the Kinks are ever going to reunite. It would ruin the mystic anyway, so it’s probably just as well.

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So, What’s Up?

March 14th, 2010

Craft of the month for December - the bandana stuff bag

Craft of the month for December - the bandana stuff bag

It’s been around a year since I started this blog and, while I was really good about posting at first, it really seems to have fallen on hard times as of late. The blog may in fact be a reflection on my own rather chaotic state. Let’s review, shall we?

Summer (yes, I’m going back to last June - do you remember it, because I’m a little fuzzy) started of well enough. I planted my tomatoes, mourned the loss of a lavender plant and wondered what it would be like without my precious Tracey cat, who died in May. My family came to visit over the 4th of July. And then, it all started to spiral out of control. A long list of eventsĀ  - including the maiden Folk Alley RV voyage to Newport, StoryCorps in Akron, “Whad’Ya Know?” in Wooster, PRPD in Cleveland, numerous dates at arts events all over the region - kept me (and I know it wasn’t only me, but this is my blog) insanely busy from

See how good a wrapper I am?

See how good a wrapper I am?

mid-July through September - during which time I also adopted two kittens. Then bang, fall fund drive. Pow, Kent State Folk Festival. Wham, pneumonia. Slam, my boss (Bob, aka The King) is reassigned. All in the space of about six weeks.

Christmas was lovely (see pics), but I didn’t have time to finish all of my projects and I was still feeling the effects of the pneumonia (aka, “When are you going to shut up about how sick you were?”). January and February were filled not only with my usual awards madness but also trying to figure out how to do Bob’s job on top of mine and a cold, because I tempted fate by going back to the gym.

Nisha, Mundles, Rich and Av

Nisha, Mundles, Rich and Av

Now, it’s March - we’re three months into 2010! The kittens are nearly full-grown cats. The tulips are coming up, the lavender is starting to green-up and I’ve put in my tomato order (again). I’m going to go out on a limb and say that it’s ok if things are a little less “exciting” for awhile. My sister-in-law has a new job in Louisville and I’ll be visiting my family as they make a new beginning in Kentucky. I have the name of a fix-it guy who might be able to fix my sagging gutter issue once and for all. And, I want to get back to my craft of the month projects with my cousin, Robin. I am seriously alright with living a little more below the radar. If someone wants to write 11 pages of copy for the station brochure that’s due Wednesday (day 7 of the spring fund drive and the day before the Cleveland International Film Fest starts), that would be swell! I’m going to take a nap.

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