Miss These?


This blog has been a bit quiet lately, but I’ll be writing more in the days and weeks ahead. I’ve been a bit busy!

I saw this scene earlier today and it got me reminiscing over something I rarely use anymore:  the payphone.   In the days before the ubiquitous cell phone, pay phones were a lifeline.  They were the way I stayed in touch when traveling.  I especially liked the ones that were like this phone: pull up pay-phones.  Never had to leave your car. Rockford, Illinois and the Quad Cities seemed to have pull up payphones everywhere and it was awesome (on the few occasions I found myself in those cities).   I was less of a germaphobe back then and it’s a good thing or I probably wouldn’t have used them.  Ugh, the thought of all those strange, sweaty ears pressed against the phone creeps me out, in retrospect.  I think I remember the last time I used a cell phone.  I think it was about 8 years ago on a trip back from Canada, I stopped to use a pay phone at a rest area outside of Toledo because my cell phone battery was dead.  Gone, but not forgotten: the pay phone. Do you have any special pay phone memories to share?



Reflections on 40….


I could see the activity out my kitchen window this morning:  an SUV loaded with plastic totes full of her worldly belongings, pillows, milk crates crammed with books and electronics.  I was witnessing a late summer, late adolescent rite of passage.  My neighbor’s teenage daughter was headed for college for the first time.  For a young adult, that’s often one’s first taste of full freedom.  I know for me it was. It was startling and jarring when my parents walked away from the grassy green quads of John Carroll University in Cleveland, leaving me to fend for myself for the first time

.  We prolong childhood in the United States longer than in most other societies.  In plenty of countries, 14, 15, and 16 years is considered adult enough to be in the workforce (other than flipping burgers) and even lurching towards marriage.  In the United States, college for many is a way to squeeze four more years out of childhood. For me it was a way to squeeze 10 more years…I didn’t finish until I was 28.  

And now in short order (won’t say the day:) I’ll be 40.  FORTY??  How the heck did I get here?  So much of life is perspective.  Vice-Presidential candidate Paul Ryan is 42-years-old and all the newspapers are referring to him as very “youthful” which is heartening for me.  I watched an interview on TMZ with dearly just departed comedian Phyllis Diller.  At 94 she was still handling journalists questions like someone 70 years younger.  Life plays horrible tricks on one by altering perspective.  40 seems old to me now, but when I am 60 I’ll probably be pining for the days when I was 40.  I’m old enough to appreciate that fact now and maybe do something about it. Rare is the 20 year-old who seizes the prism of perspective to appreciate the moment.

So how do you handle aging?  Any tips?  Do you find you are happier as you get older or is all the good stuff in one’s youth?


Car Wrecks…


I’ve been in a few fender benders over the years (remarkably, none my fault).  I tallied it up the other day and here’s my total:  6.  Three of those have been with me as a passenger, not driver.  Two of the remaining three were minor bumps from behind and one was when someone hit me head-on at about 10 miles an hour (the driver was ogling some teen girls standing out on a corner advertising a car wash).  The head-on bump was a minor mishap, but it was just enough to total my aging car.  I was tallying traffic mishaps, because #6 was worse than the previous 5 combined.

Last week I was traveling with my wife, sister-in-law, and brother-in-law on a leisurely drive.  I was trying to enjoy some down-time last week (but it ended up being almost all work). However, the afternoon I spent with my in-laws exploring an island and visiting a farmer’s market was quite relaxing until on the way back home the trip took a harrowing turn.

All I remember is my sister-in-law screaming (she could see the impending doom in the rearview mirror), hearing a sickening thud, and then feeling our car skidding seemingly endlessly.  It skidded right into a lane of oncoming traffic on a busy highway and, fortunately, people swerved successfully to avoid hitting us head-on.  I am a big proponent of seatbelts, but the belts in the back of the VW Bunny were really just a minute or two before the crash, I had unbuckled my belt. I had done that about 4 times that day, unbuckling it, loosening it, and then clicking it back into place.  This time I didn’t have a chance to click it back into place, which turned out to be a good thing because the driver of a van (he told us later he had fallen asleep at the wheel) plowed into an Oldsmobile behind us and apparently it acted as a ramp sending it airborne onto our car.  The van hit our car’s roof and then landed in the road on its side.  I am in awes of that little car’s structural integrity to be able to withstand an air-borne 15-passenger van the way it did.  If that roof had really crumpled in, the results could have been horrible.  Remarkably, the sleeping driver (presumably now wide awake) climbed out of  his van unharmed.  Meanwhile, back in our car I was whipped like a ragdoll onto my brother-in-law’s lap.  He was in the back beside me.  The van’s impact was right where I was sitting and had I been buckled in, I might be typing this from a hospital bed now or maybe worse.    But other than my wife having a seatbelt burn and me a sore shoulder, we were all able to walk away.  But were were shaken up, so let’s swap stories….Have you been in a bad traffic accident before?  How did you fare?  I know we were lucky….

Microwave vs. Toaster-Oven


Wow, it’s been awhile since I wrote on my personal blog.  I guess this is just a rare period when I don’t have much to say!:)  But I did want to vent about microwaves today.

I remember when our family got our first microwave.  It was sometime in the early 80s and it was the size of a large television.  With it came a hardcover cookbook of microwave recipes with scrumptious formulations for everything from steaks and chops to casseroles and desserts. As a teenager I regaled my family on more than one occasion with creative items like microwaved twice-baked potatoes and nuked soups.  Once the novelty wore off the microwave became more of a “zapper” than a cooker, I’ve used the microwave to heat frozen meals and reheat leftovers ever since.  But our microwave went on the blink over the weekend so I’ve been forced to make do with the toaster oven. And, you know what? The toaster oven food tastes a ton better!  I heated a veggie corn dog (basically the same as a corn dog, just a veggie dog in the middle) in the toaster oven this morning and the breading was so crisp and flavorful compared to the dully, soggy version in the microwave.  I’ve found the same result with other foods.  Now when we do get a replacement microwave, it’s going to be weighing sheer speed versus flavor, but it really didn’t take that much longer to cook in the toaster oven. Of course I could use the regular oven for these same things also and I am sure the result would be the same the toaster oven.  Is there anyone else who has sort of sworn off the microwave?  How is life without it?Image

Two Newspaper Towns – Which Ones Are Left?


I ran a post on The Amish Cook site today about the Amish settlement in Clark, Missouri.  In that post I linked to a story in the Columbia Missourian newspaper.  What makes that newspaper unusual?  Well, it is a student-run daily newspaper published by the University of Missouri. But it’s not just any student paper, it’s truly a full-service daily that serves not just the campus community but the whole surrounding area.  That means it butts heads against the main city paper the Daily Tribune which in effect  makes Columbia a two-newspaper town, a real rarity in today’s world.  When I began in the newspaper business back in 1991 the list of cities with two papers was dwindling even then, but many were still hanging on…some examples:

1)  Muncie, Indiana still had two dailies…The Muncie Star and The Muncie Evening Press.  By then the Evening Press was in its dying days and looked it, but it hung on until the mid-90s before finally folding.

2)  Cincinnati….In 1991 the Cincinnati Post was still a scrappy competitor to The Cincinnati Enquirer.  When The Post picked up The Amish Cook I was excited.  At the time you could buy The Post each day within a 50 mile radius of the city of Cincinnati, they were a worthy competitor of the Enquirer.  But gradually the Post began withering away and by the time it ceased publication in 2007 it had become a sad shadow of its former self.

And there were still plenty of other cities back in 1991 that had two papers: Tulsa, Tuscon, Indianapolis, Norfolk. El Paso, and Pittsburgh to name just a few.  But as the internet began its ascension, the fragile few began to fold.

Today, besides Columbia I can name only a few places that still have two daily newspapers.  Obviously the big cities like New York, Chicago, and Boston hang on with two or more, but so do some other more unlikely places:  Fort Wayne, Indiana.  I’m not sure how a city smaller than Dayton, Ohio still hangs on with two, but the Journal Gazette and News-Sentinel do battle daily (they are able to because of what is called a Joint Operating Agreement,but that’s a whole different post).  York, Pennsylvania still hangs on with two dailies.   Probably the most bizarre case of a two-newspaper town remaining that I can find: Crawfordsville, Indiana. With a population barely registering 15,000…two daily papers still publish. Wow!

Did your hometown have two daily newspapers? Or does it still?  Does the demise of the newspaper in general make you upset or are there enough other news sources out there that it really doesn’t matter?

Cumulonimbus Cloud


Sure sign of a thunderstorm in the vicinity is to look for the tell-tale “anvil top” shape of the clouds.  You see an anvil top and that pretty much means there’s a storm under it. In meteorological parlance, this cloud is called a cumulonimbus cloud. We need the rain so I wish we had been under this cloud.  This is a photo of a cumulonimbus cloud as seen from Middletown, Ohio facing east on the evening of July 5.  Anyone reading this who lives near Waynesville or Harveysburg, Ohio was probably getting drenched and zapped by lightning.  While the storm appears close in the photo, weather radar confirmed it was actually about 30 miles away.  This perfectly formed anvil top cloud was getting a rosy blush from the setting sun.

Grocery Stores, I Miss the Old Days….


My city has, in my opinion, too many grocery stores for its size.  We have a Meijer (a regional chain), Kroger (a national behemoth), Wal-Mart, a couple Save-A-Lots, an Aldi’s, a Marsh (regional chain), and a local independent store.  These are all full-service groceries and that just seems like too many for a city of 30,000 people.  Rachel and I usually shop at Kroger, although my loyalties still lie with the local Mom & Pop independent (Dillman’s).  IGA used to have two stores in town but those shuttered long ago. Do you still have an IGA in your town?

I think the demise of the independent stores is sad.  They’ve tried to compete.  In northern Kentucky a decade or so ago IGA made a spirited stand opening IGA-PLUS with a bank, dry cleaner, and massive grocery store under one roof. But they still couldn’t compete with the buying power of a national giant.

I thought a grocery store poll would be

would be fun.  Where do you shop?  And are you saddened by the demise of the neighborhood grocery, where the butcher knew you by name and the the baggers carried your groceries to the car?

The poll was tough to narrow down to 10 or so names because there are so many.  I put “other” as an option.  Giant is a great chain in the east, as is Weiss Markets, Sweet Bay in Florida, TOP Foods in Washington State…the more local the chain, the more I like them!:)

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