Thursday, May 12, 2016

Man's Best Friend Behind the Wheel

During the winter, I trudged through the Giant parking lot, pushing a cart of groceries when I suddenly did a double-take: I spotted this calm canine sitting in the driver's seat of a car. Normally I worry about dogs in cars but that morning, the temperatures were still in the 30's so I felt the pup was safe. Instead, I marveled at the familiarity of the dog's pose ...

... because this patient pooch reminded me of a parent waiting to pick up a kid from an activity -- an all-too-familiar scene here in Olney -- or of an empty-nester spouse waiting for his or her spouse to finish shopping. 

As I passed in front of the car, I saw the dog from a different angle -- he looked like he was actually driving the car! Like most humans, though, this canine looked a bit weary of endless carpools, pick-ups and drop-offs. I could almost hear him, "Ruff! Okay, where to next?"

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Post-Valentine's Day Advice for Couples, Part 2

To continue my list of dating tips from my previous post, I present Post-Valentine's Day Advice for Couples, Part 2:

1.     Dinner Date: Pick up takeout on a busy weeknight while the kids are either at an activity or at home doing homework.
2.     Shopping Date: Take the kids to the mall and then browse stores while waiting for them. Warning: this could turn into an Expensive Date if the couple decides to buy new and unneeded large-ticket items ... or an Ugly Date is the couple disagrees over the purchase.
3.     Environmental Date: Take old leaves, grass clippings, retired Christmas trees and large recyclables to the Transfer Station and unload them there.
4.     Travel Date: Give your partner a ride to the airport, train station or Metro station or, better yet, extend the date by continuing on the trip or commute with him or her.
5.     Serious Date: Go to the UPS Store to notarize official documents (like wills) requiring both of your signatures.
6.     Show or Movie Date: Leave the kids at home and see a show at Olney Theatre Center or a movie. The last time we tried this though, we ended up too tired for the late show of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The Force awoke but we turned around to go home and sleep.

So I urge all Olney couples to extend Valentine's Day romance throughout the year by seeking "date" opportunities in everyday life.

Post-Valentine's Day Advice for Couples, Part 1

After Valentine's Day few years ago, I posted dating tips for couples. Although Valentine's Day 2016 just passed, in order to keep the flames of romance burning here in Olney, I present more Post-Valentine's Day Advice for Couples, Part 1.

Many couples are too busy to hold regular Date Nights, so why not try to find date opportunities while running everyday errands together, preferably without the kids. Here are a few "dates" you can have as a couple:

1.     Exercise Date: Shovel mountains of snow after a blizzard.
2.     Adventure Date: Trek around the snowbound neighborhood to see if anyone has been dug out and can get out of the neighborhood.
3.     Good Samaritan Date: Help dig out and push a car stuck in a snowdrift.
4.     Cheap Date: Redeem Giant Gas Rewards Points at the Shell station by driving two cars there to fill BOTH tanks at a discount of $0.10-$2.20 off per gallon.
5.     Driving Date: Drive both cars to a garage, leave one car there for servicing, and then drive home in one car.
6.     Expensive Date: Drive back to the garage in one car to pick up the car you left there ... which ended up needing %&$@!-dollars' worth of repairs. 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Loud Planes: Alien Invasion or Maverick and Goose?

One night last month, I heard thunderous noise overhead that continued for several minutes. I didn't think it was an airline passages plane passing by. Eventually the roaring faded away.

The next day, the Olney-Brookeville Exchange was abuzz with people speculating about the source of the loud rumbling. Various theories included: testing at Fort Meade; C130 planes instead fighter jets; sonic booms caused by new jets flying over the Patuxent River (suggested by OBX member A.F.) or even an alien invasion! 

The funniest explanation came from writer Beth Fusion: "It's possible that the planes were additional security detail because both houses of congress, POTUS and his entire cabinet (minus one) were in the same room at right around that time last night for the State of the Union [Address]. But now that I think about it, some might consider that to be its own form of  alien invasion."

And what would aliens find in Olney? As I pondered in my earlier post "If an Alien Landed at Olney Community Night", an alien would find gyms, spas, restaurants and banks!

And two nights ago I heard more loud rumbling... as did many others on the OBX. One person, olneykm, posted a logical explanation: NORAD's exercises over the Washington, D.C. area.

I love Mike Dankmeyer's theory: "Maverick and Goose doing a flyby" to which OBX member J.M. replied, "Ha ha, they have a need.  A need for speed."

Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Old Man and the Snow

Now that enough snow has melted to reveal grass again, surreal shapes have popped up. Most of the smooth white mountains have shrunk into jagged gray piles of slush, some which resemble impressionistic sculptures. I spotted this example across the street:

To me, the snow pile on the left looks like the face of an old man or a cranky crescent moon. It seems to be talking to another the snow pile on the right, which could be a boxy cat or pig. I thought maybe I was reading too much into the shapes but even my skeptical adolescent daughter could see these shapes in the snow piles.

Can you see the eye, nose, open mouth and tongue of the face in profile on the left? With a larger stretch of the imagination, can you spot the dark eye and nose spots as well as the two peaks suggesting cat/mouse ears on the right?

As a result of the relatively mild temperatures, rain and sunshine, the gigantic snow piles have melted more quickly than anticipated  ... and this afternoon I had to say goodbye to the old man (or cranky crescent moon) when, sadly, the top of his head (or top of the moon) fell off.          

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Neighborly Acts of Kindness in the Snow

Olney's 3o-something-inch snowfall brought out neighborly kindness. As I mentioned in an earlier post, my next-door neighbor cleared my driveway twice with his snow blower. People with snow blowers cleared other neighbors’ driveways, walkways and sidewalks while those with low-tech snow shovels would "detail" or dig out areas inaccessible to snow blowers.

After the snowstorm ended, my husband and I wandered around the neighborhood. A few residents near the entrances could get out and reach the already-plowed main roads. Most of us were snowbound, however, and the rest of the world seemed to be moving on like cars whizzing by on Bowie Mill.

We witnessed more neighborly acts of kindness, like residents (with four-wheel drive vehicles) delivering groceries to stranded neighbors or able-bodied people digging out/pushing drivers spinning their wheels in the snow. Perhaps the greatest neighborly act was my street's snow blower brigade. Over two feet of snow covered the roads and several neighbors decided to clear a path just wide enough for a car to pass through and escape.

When the sun finally melted enough snow to expose the pavement, I couldn't help but think of the effects: I felt like I was out at sea floating among icebergs with smaller ice floes  

or that we all live along the banks of a snowy river.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Snowstorms and Decadent Chocolate Chip Cookies

Snowbound with cabin fever, my vegan daughter wanted to bake something. We didn’t have red beans for vegan brownies and of course couldn’t run to the grocery store, so I suggested My Best Big, Fat, Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies. Remember them? I thought we could give a batch to our saintly neighbor who cleared our driveway with his snow blower, twice!

Neighbor snowplowing our driveway. Notice white snow drift on the right? There's a car buried under it!
During the blizzard in early February 2010 -- when people were stuck home as they are now -- someone posted on the Olney-Brookeville Exchange, “Does anyone have a killer chocolate chip cookie recipe they are willing to share? Or anything with chocolate in it?”  Another OBXer posted this:

My Best Big, Fat, Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.
2. Sift together flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.
3. In a medium bowl, cream together melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar until well blended. Beat in vanilla, egg, and egg yolk until light and creamy. Mix in the sifted ingredients until just blended. Stir in the chocolate chips by hand. Drop cookie dough 1/4 cup at a time onto the prepared cookie sheets. Cookies should be about 3 inches apart.
4. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the edges are lightly toasted. Cool on baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely. 

Many OBXers tried this fabulous recipe … multiple times. One member wrote, “I think we will all need to go on a diet after this snowstorm.”

Well, my daughter’s batch didn’t make it to our helpful neighbor after all. After polishing off the cookies, I said to my husband, “Let's just get gas for him instead. Oh wait – we can’t get out of the neighborhood to buy gas.” By the time we are plowed out and can drive to the gas station, my neighbor will no longer need gas for his snow blower … until the next storm. It is only January.