Wednesday, May 26, 2010

< 6 Degrees- L. Johnson

Born in England in 1821 this woman watched eight of her siblings and eight of her cousins die before her age of 16. Her family moved to Cincinnati, Ohio where her father began a sugar business like the one he had run in England.

After being rejected by 16 schools this woman was finally accepted by a college in New York. After many years of difficult studies and flagrant discrimination from predominately male students and the townspeople as well, she graduated on Jan. 23, 1849. Her name was Elizabeth Blackwell and she attended Geneva Medical College to become America's First Female Doctor.

In 1949 only 5.5% of medical students were women and in 1979 only 22.4%.

MEET: Lois Johnson, or more precisely I should say Dr. Lois Johnson. Currently, at age 79 she is a retired pediatrician as well as a teacher. Petite in size but a giant in her accomplishments she is quiet and unassuming. Imagine the phenomena of being a female, back in the day, and graduating from medical school yet none of us knew until I showed her house for sale and spotted her degrees hanging on the wall. Dr. Johnson also taught at the University of Cincinnati and Central America in Cincinnati. Although she is an avid quilter and knitter, Doc Johnson enjoys repairing antique clocks. This was a skill she acquired from a friend pediatrician years ago while many of the docs shared a 40 room house in Ohio. How many degrees separate you from Lois?

Married for 44 years, she and her husband recently moved to Bridgewater Retirement Home (her house sold). Three to four times a week, around 6:30am you can find them in the pool at the RMH Wellness Center working hard to maintain good health. She won't make herself known so you may need to initiate the conversation but I promise you it will be well worth your time. We commend you on your accomplishments, it certainly could not have been easy. You are a wonderful example for us to follow.

Monday, May 24, 2010

REAL ESTATE - Property Taxes

Folks have been grumbling about the recent increase in real estate assessments in Harrisonburg. I can't imagine why since the average productive person only pays 60-70% of their annual income in some kind of tax.

The complaint seems to be that the city is raising the tax assessed value of our property when the real value has gone down. Now, the first mistake we make is to believe that assessed value is what your home is really worth when the objective of the real estate tax system is to generate income for the city and not evaluate property. The system is suppose to be a fair way of taxing citizens according to their wealth so if your house is assessed at 10% more than its actual value, that is ok as long as every other property owner has an equally overvalued assessment.

I think we sometimes become so irritated by this property tax process that we don't see the real problem with our city government and that is spending. If the city didn't spend so much money, our taxes wouldn't be so high. Let's concentrate our concerns more on the spending side of the city budget and less on this irrational assessment process.


The 5 and Dime - BBQ


I believe my husband concocted The Atkins Diet but if I am incorrect, I am here to testify that he certainly espouses the idea. Several weeks ago he decided to have a backyard bbq cookout and he invited a few friends and family. The number of eaters attending was never deemed an important issue but Steve calculated somewhere between 20-30 people. That sounded totally reasonable since that was the approximate size of the group last year.

At this point I must make it perfectly clear that the group was not comprised of all males but rather more females and no where in the crowd was there even one Washington
Redskin "hog". That said, when his bbq crew ( see picture and please note the size of the grill) arrived to begin cooking this is how they must have reconciled the question, "How much meat should we buy?"

Barb: "Steve, I am at Costco to buy the ribs but how many do you think we need. They weigh about 8 pounds per pack. Two packs?"
Steve: "No, I don't think that will be enough."

Barb: "OK, well how about 3?"

Steve: "You know everyone loves the ribs so maybe we should get more of them."

Barb: "But I thought you said we were only expecting 20-30 people."

Steve: "That is probably right but you never know so maybe we should pick up 6 packs."

Barb, who is now quietly wondering if he has lost his mind replies: "Whatever you say boss."

Now Blake, bless his little heart, goes along with the grill sergeant (see picture - Steve) not because he is the boss but only because Blake is also a M-A-N and meat
and men go together like a horse and buggy. If the truth be known, Steve and Blake had probably said to one another earlier, "Well, we might as well load up this lil pup (grill) with all the meat it will hold cuz everyone loves meat."

It seems to me that a man's governing action when bbqing (is that a real word?) is meat for everyone and lets us just disregard the other food groups because Mr. Atkins said so. Now don't misinterpret what I am stating, by no means am I a vegetarian, I love meat just like the next guy.

The bbq was a tremendous success, the meat melted in your mouth and was succulent and spicy. Perhaps one of the best meals I have had.

By nightfall when calm was restored and we reflected on the evening we arrived at these stats from the event. Seventy-two pounds of ribs, chicken and pork butt to feed twenty-two people. Yep, you read it correctly. I think if you do the math that comes to approximately 3.272727 pounds of meat per person. That sounds reasonable don't you think?

Mr. Atkins, Steve did you proud and I think you should honor him in your next diet cookbook. You can reach him, along with his pit crew at 540-746-.........

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The 5 and Dime - Bread Maniac


Thanks for taking a peek at the beginning of my journey to master bread baking.
I am attempting to make whole wheat pita bread along with other whole grain breads.

Peter Reinhart's cookbook, Whole Grain Breads, has created visions of bread loaves that dance through my head. However, he has also been the perpetrator of my bread frustration, bread obsession and occasional bread success = bread mania!

On May 18th, Carolyn Frank, my friend and co-maniac, and I traveled to Richmond to attend a cooking class with Mr. Reinhart. It was an exciting opportunity to quiz the expert and I will share some of his great ideas with you in my next post but meanwhile, I invite all suggestions and guidance be shared with me at this site.


Thursday, May 20, 2010

The 5 and Dime - Overview

These past few weeks we have been in a quandary lamenting over a name for our new section of the blog. This section will deal with diverse topics such as knitting, cooking, handling elderly mothers, grocery store specials etc. As you can see we have an enormous amount of obscure thoughts floating in our heads that we are eager to express. We only trust that you are eager to read and react to them.

Our task was to arrive at a name that was short, clever, engaging and one that adequately defined the category. Many names were thrown out such as Peek a Boo, A la Carte, The Ben Franklin Store, Multifariousness and others. Finally today however we both decided on "The 5 and Dime". Do you remember the variety stores known as Ben Franklin or also the 5 and dime? So now we have it and we can begin a weekly posting here. The first one will be about bread making and will be published within the next few days.


< 6 Degrees

Melvin Jones was the founder in 1917 of this organization. There are over 44,500 clubs, more than 1.3 million members in 203 countries in the world. All funds raised by this club from the public are used for charitable purposes while administrative costs are paid for by members. In 1925 at Cedar Point, Ohio, Helen Keller addressed the convention and charged these folks to be "Knights of the Blind".

MEET Philip and Penny Sharpe. Phil forgets exactly how long he has been a LION but it is somewhere between 35-40 years. These years of service as well as their 47 year marriage is extraordinary at the least. Although Phil had a full time job as an Accountant and Penny as a Data Processing Manager they continually offered themselves, of their own free will, to service for the Lions Club. How many degrees separate you from the Sharpes?

In July, as has been the way for many years, they will head to Wise County in Southwest Virginia to work for the week preparing meals for some 1,000 - 1,500 volunteers for the RAM project. RAM, The Remote Area Medical Expedition, annually
heads to the Wise County Fairgrounds to provide the underpriviledged citizens of Appalachia free medical services. Although the services are offered for two and a half days, the food team must work for the week in order to complete their tasks.
It is estimated the medical team performs somewhere between 6 - 7,000 encounters at a cost of over $1.5 million for the care.

So today we thank everyone involved in this endeavor. My admiration for Phil, Penny and the others is huge and I sing your praises for your humble hearts.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

< 6 Degrees

Winston Churchill, adored cats. Churchill used to refer to his cat, Jock, as his special assistant because Jock attended many war-time Cabinet meetings along side Churchill. It is even believed that Jock was on the bed with his master on the day the great British statesman died.

MEET James Guest, born in London and educated as a General Contractor. In 1993 he moved to Florida as a temporary stop for an American experience on his way to Asia however he never made it out of the U.S. There he met and married "a wonderful woman" who became his wife, Cara Meixner. How man degrees separate you from James?

In 2007 Cara accepted a job at JMU and began working here however the job situation was not as easy for James. While strolling downtown he noticed a sign in a store front looking for help to renovate the space. He "poked his head in" and offered to assist. There he volunteered his time and knowledge for completing the interior design work and supervising the construction of what is now the new home for Cat's Cradle. With no job possibilities on the horizon he returned to Florida where his contracting business was prospering. For 2 years James and Cara survived a long distance marriage but in January 2010 he wrapped up his business in Florida and decided to move here permanently. Currently James is working on a variety of jobs and is grateful for the work. Most especially he is grateful to be living full time with his wife once again.

James is a skilled contractor, eager to do excellent work at a fair price and in a timely fashion. We wish you the very best here and hope we can help to build your business from your own credentials.

Our BIG Garden

There is something very fulfilling as well as mystical when you harvest vegetables from your own garden.

On April 9th & 10th we placed what appeared to be minute, insignificant seeds under an inch of amended soil. We questioned whether our bounty would fill a paper lunch sack or a 30 gallon bag and the anticipation of what would come grew more intense as the days slipped by.

Now today, after having escaped the last of May freezes in our area we are gathering tender, succulent spinach and lettuces. It seems almost ethereal to dine on food that grew from the sweat and toil of your own hands.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Real Estate - Summer of ' 63

Franklin Street was the best place to be in 1963. It was a time when folks did not hide out behind privacy fences on backyard patios because we had front porches. Who needs Facebook when you can just sit there and have your own social network as neighbors stop by to share the news on their way home. It was always my first stop when I came home from work and the last place to wind down before going to bed.

You just sit there, in a big rocker or on the swing and enjoyed the best part of the day. You could see a whole block and you knew who was at home because they were on their porch too. When you walked downtown, to stores, theaters, the library, bowling alley, restaurants or Klines Frozen Custard, you saw everyone else on their porch and you stopped to chat or at least waved. You knew who was from the neighborhood and who wasn't, who had company or who was alone. You checked on your neighbors and they checked on you.

I suppose neighborhoods have evolved beyond the porch stage since we now have central air, 150 channels and the internet to keep us occupied. On nights like tonight though, when I am sitting on my private deck, shopping on Ebay, I think about that Franklin Street porch and the summer of '63.

Jim Acker

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

< 6 Degrees

What animal only sleeps between 10 minutes to 2 hours a day?
This is a ruminant, quadruped African animal.
When I asked this man this question he was QUICK to respond with the correct answer, the giraffe.

MEET Mack Orebaugh. He graduated from JMU with an MS in Education in 1973. He doesn't admit whether his birthplace is West Va. or Va. but we all know that if he lived in Arizona they would have checked his papers by now. Partially named after Connie Mack, one time owner of the Philadelphia A's, his sister carries the name Connie while Mack claims the latter. In his earlier years he coached at McLean High School where he coached Connie Mack's great-great grandson, named none other than, Connie

A highlight of Mack's (not to be confused with Connie Mack) career was when he ran a baseball program in Newfoundland between 1983-1993. Mack currently works at the RMH Wellness Center and can be found sharply at 5:15am greeting us with a hearty "Good Morning" during the week.

Interested in everyone, he engages in conversation learning about others as well as sharing trivia in hopes to expand our knowledge. When asked what he enjoyed most about his job he responded, "The knowledge I gain each morning from others, getting away from my mom and watching Stormi walk by every morning at 8:15."

How many degrees separate you from this man? Thank you Mack for brightening up our mornings at the gym, for your wonderful sense of humor and most especially for making each of us feel important. I have one more question for you before I end however, how many stomachs does a cow have? I will bet you Mack knows!

Our BIG Garden

The saga continues . . . . .

the rabbits are oblivious to her signs and have thwarted her plans. She believes they can not read so now our Q.G.G. (Queen Garden Guard) has devised a new plan to scare off the marauders. This one involves a frog riding a bicycle! Now you may be asking "What the heck does a frog riding a bike have anything to do it, much less scaring rabbits?" That is a very prudent question but one that I can not answer. Perhaps you should take a look at the picture and see if it clearly explains her thought processes:

. . . . yet again, there is serious doubt stirring among the "real" workers as to the Q.G.G.'s competence in her position. Perhaps you should comment with your thoughts and help her out with reasonable solutions so we can keep her employed. (ie. foil pie plates hanging throughout the garden)