Thursday, August 26, 2010

country drive

This is one of the reasons I'm falling for Ohio.

The bonus is that the landscape will look completely different in each new season.  I have a feeling I'm going to be enamored with those trees come October.

Won't you take a drive with me?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


How do I put this delicately?

The wild animals in NE Ohio are suicidal.

Ask someone who has lived here for any period of time and they will tell you to beware of deer, 'possum, raccoons, bunnies, geese, squirrels, and other vermin.  Common warning phrases include: "Turn your brights on when driving on country roads in the dark, so you see the deer first," "Watch out for groundhogs on Reagan Parkway," and "Whatever you do, don't hit a skunk."

I have never hit a skunk, but we did see one in our front yard the other night and decided to enter our driveway very slowly, so we wouldn't startle it (we've smelled plenty of skunk juice around our town to know better).   Sadly, I did hit a bird not long ago.   I was driving down a rural highway when it happened.  In every other scenario where I've approached a bird with my car, the bird has flown or waddled away.  They always move!

This one didn't.

I was traumatized and initiated in the same moment.

Accidents involving wildlife are common in this part of the country. So common, in fact, that every other person you meet has a story, and the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles has a section in their driver handbook detailing post-collision protocol for processing a deer.

I thought living in a city without red light cameras was a relief, now I have creatures with self-destructive tendencies to worry about.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

frog jump

A short story titled "Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog" made Mark Twain famous.

In it he tells the tale of a bet made between two men: Jim Smiley and a stranger.  Who's frog can jump the highest?  The stranger won by weighing down Smiley's croaker with buckshot.  This 1860s story was retold in a 1950s opera by Lukas Foss, and became an event made notable in Calaveras, CA (fondly known as Frogtown USA).  NE Ohio's very own Valley City climbed aboard the frog-jumping band wagon in 1962 after the county fair's general chairman and local historian came up with the idea as a way of entertaining all ages at the township's sesquicentennial celebration.

It was a big hit back then and continues to grow in popularity.  Now, we know why.

We had the privilege of attending our first Frog Jump Festival in Valley City last Sunday.   Thanks to the Sandors who gave us free meal vouchers, we started our afternoon with a plate of sweet corn, grilled chicken and coleslaw.  The heat was menacing that day, which made our cold sodas taste that much colder and the food that much more savory.  We even had an unexpected visit from Medina County Commissioner, Pat Geissman, who joined us at our table for lunch.  In addition to her many responsibilities as commissioner (including a judge and Frog Jump announcer), she is a wife and a grandmother, and her husband is recovering from shoulder surgery. We had a pleasant conversation and I hugged her as we left.

I also hugged the wife of the man who grilled our chicken.
It was that good.

With country music and classic rock tunes as our soundtrack, we took our full bellies down to the tents where the frog-themed games and merchandise were, said hello to our friends, and proceeded to the main event.  In a small arena, children and adults coaxed their pets one by one, trying to get them to jump.  Coincidentally, the frog owners resembled frogs themselves as they crouched down on their haunches, tilted their bodies forward and smacked the ground with their hands.  Some frogs needed more persuasion than others, but all of them ended up hopping with panache.  I mean, with names like Sr. Frogsire Esquire, Fudgy Nickels, Mojo Jojo, Fluffy, and the Punisher, how can you not watch?

Mark Twain was certainly on to something all those years ago, though I doubt he considered the future celebrity of his narrative.  Frog jump t-shirts, postcards, postage stamps and animal rights activists?  Don't worry PETA, all of the amphibians in Valley City are safe.

Until next year.

Friday, August 13, 2010

tourist attraction

Cleveland is quickly becoming one of my favorite places to visit. Located only 30 miles north of Medina, it's the perfect place for me to get my urban fix.

While Medina isn't puny, it does have a sort of rural personality. Farmland is only minutes away from our house, and a few of our new friends actually own their own farms and make a living doing so.  We even know people who have their own lake for fishing!

Then there's the story about the Allens being woken up at 4am to find a neighbor's cow eating their raspberries, and the hilarity that ensued when they tried to get the cow back to it's home.  Doesn't that remind you of a scene from Anne of Green Gables?

Sure, we've only been to Cleveland three times so far, but it has left its mark on me.   During those three visits, we've enjoyed a carnivorous romp at Brasa, taken a driving tour of Tremont, discovered the wonders of the West Side Market, lunched at Sushi Rock, and watched our dear friend Michael Miller perform at a downtown bar.

Some interesting facts about Cleveland:

Cleveland is the 33rd largest city in the United States and is home to Playhouse Square Center, the second largest performing arts center in the United States.  Cleveland has served as the setting for several major studio and independent films (This Is Spinal Tap, Major League, Almost Famous, American Splendor, The Soloist, etc.), and Langston Hughes attended high school in Cleveland in the 1910s. Apparently, Cleveland was originally spelled 'Cleaveland' (a fact I just learned by watching TV Land's show, Hot In Cleveland - love that Betty White!).

Not to mention, the Cleveland culinary and tourism scenes are alive and well.  We have a growing list of places we want to try, including Momocho, Empress Ethiopian restaurant, and a gourmet grilled cheese sandwich joint called Melt, The Bodies exhibit, Fashion Week, The Rock Hall, and Cleveland's International Film Festival.  Plus, for only eight dollars, you can tour the home that made leg lamps popular.

You know you want to move here.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

sucking mouth parts

© photo credit:

While doing research on cicadas this morning, I came across the phrase, "sucking mouth parts."  As in, "In Ohio, there are two common types of cicadas, the annual and the periodical cicada.  Both have sucking mouth parts."

It kinda made my day.

You may be interested in knowing why I was researching these insects in the first place.  It's simple, really: they are noisy.  I was convinced their signature chatter was the sound of birds or electricity running through telephone cables, but was later informed they are indeed cicadas.  We don't have these bugs in my hometown, so I needed to investigate.

Cicadas aren't very pretty to look at, but they are certainly memorable.  Several Ohioans have told me that the sound of the cicada is nostalgic, reminding them of childhood summers.  I would say the same thing about music from our neighborhood ice cream truck.  Our friends also tell us that there is such thing as a 17-year cicada.  Trust me, it sounds like something out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie.  Then again, Ancient Greeks made a habit of keeping cicadas in cages for the pleasure of hearing them sing.

Hmmm.  Not in my house.

According to another cicada facts website, probably the best known and most mysterious cicada is the Black Prince followed closely by the Green Grocer.  Other popular names include the Double Drummer, Redeye, Floury Baker, Cherrynose, Hairy Cicada, Bladder Cicada and Yellow Monday.

If you were a cicada, which kind would you be?  I would be a Cherrynose because it sounds so cute, or the Floury Baker because everyone likes being friends with a baker.  Let's face it, Hairy and Bladder probably get teased on the playground.

My favorite thing I read about cicadas today was this quote by author John Berger:

"Do you know the legend about the cicadas?  They say they are the souls of poets who cannot keep quiet because, when they were alive, they never wrote the poems they wanted to."

You're welcome.

Friday, August 6, 2010

embrace the pink

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Apparently, I have this woman to thank for my pink bathroom.

Mamie Eisenhower.

Because I fell in love with our house the moment I entered, I found myself overlooking things like random fixtures, inadequate wiring, jerry-rigged plumbing, and the pink bathroom.  Maybe I thought it would magically not be pink when we actually moved in or that maybe it wasn't as pink as I originally saw it.

Nope, it's still pink.  Mamie pink.

Would you believe there is an actual web campaign trying to preserve the pink bathrooms of the world?   See for yourself.

Throughout the process of buying, remodeling, painting, repairing, cleaning and preparing our home for our move-in date, we gave several tours to our friends wanting to see the new place.  When I revealed the guest bathroom, the response was the same across the board.  Everyone was as perplexed and amused as we were, until we showed our friend Melanie.  Sure, she smiled at the sight, but it was her comment (in response to my color criticism) that stuck, and ended up having a profound effect on me.

"Stop fighting the pink, embrace the pink" is what she said.

Since we didn't have the budget to re-do this room, I took Mel's advice: I embraced it.   I quite like how it turned out.

Then I branded her phrase on my heart.

We have faced a number of new situations, new scenery, new relationships, new ministry, new climate, new a lot of things here in the midwest - some of which are easier to acclimate to than others. I am trying to embrace the new things that make me uncomfortable, instead of fighting to change them when they are not within my control to change.

Even if that means wading my way through the Ohio State Board licensing process or (thanks to humidity) sweating without moving.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

fair food

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My love of elephant ears was born probably the day I was born.

I grew up in Washington state, not far from the Native American population.  When I was young, it seemed that every festival and community event we attended included people selling homemade fry bread (with your choice of sweet toppings).  The fondest memory I have is that one summer in high school when our youth group spent a week living on the Lummi reservation, hoping to share the love of God with tribal members.  Not only were we blessed by their kindness, we ate elephant ears for days!

After my husband and I married in 1998, we moved to Southern California.  During that season of our life, we lived in Los Angeles and Orange County with not a fry bread stand to be found.  Many people tried to convince me that what I was really looking for were funnel cakes.  For those who love elephant ears as much as I do, you know that funnel cakes are not the same. (Nice try, though.)

And now, several years later, we find ourselves in Ohio.  I can tell you with great enthusiasm that fry bread is alive and well in Medina!

This week is the annual county fair and I have shamelessly stuffed my gut with delicious eats.  Yesterday my first stop was the elephant ear stand, followed by fresh lemonade (shaken not stirred), corn dogs, Italian sausage, french fries and a steak sandwich for my husband. Today will involve another round of elephant ears and maybe some fried cheese on a stick or a deep-fried pickle.

Sure, there are other elements of the fair we enjoy, but nothing quite seals the experience like cinnamon and sugar down your front, mustard on your collar, grease between your fingers, and a smile on your face.