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.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Walk, Interrupted

Last Sunday, my neighbor and I took advantage of the mild temperature to go walking. Although the sky had started sprinkling, we thought, eh – it’s nothing! Instead of staying close to home, we headed out to the wooded path behind our neighborhood. As we hiked farther away from home, the wind picked up and the rain increased … but we stubbornly forged on, thinking the storm was just passing.

By the time we reached the path, however, the drizzle had become a downpour! Laughing at our foolishness but cursing our drenched state, we finally gave up, scrambled up a muddy hill and cut through people's yards to get back to our houses. 

Grimly striding home in clinging wet clothes, we noticed that the rain began to lighten. By the time we almost reached our street, the rain actually stopped and the sun came out. Nonetheless intent to reach home, we hastened along with our heads tucked down when we heard voice up ahead say, "Look!"

We peeked up and saw another (dry) neighbor in front of us pointing behind us. My wet neighbor and I turned around and saw this:  

With our backs to the double rainbow, we wouldn't have seen it! Notice that the colors of the secondary (upper) rainbow are reversed.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

What Makes a Great Town?

When I started this Only in Olney blog in 2010, I wanted to give our "townees" a platform to discuss topics meaningful to them for which our OBEX listserv wasn't the appropriate vehicle. I then decided that this blog would be a place of inspiration and giggles rather than a place for venting and complaining, if only to extend our lifespan.

I reached out to the community to find people of all shapes and sizes that were willing to be guest bloggers and share their everyday experiences in and around Olney (nod to the "Greater Olney Community") from their unique perspective. It's been a slow progress but as you can see from our blog archive, we currently have 9 bloggers who have posted a total of 136 blog posts.

The latest discussion on the OBEX is about whether Olney is a great town. So that got me thinking, 
What Makes a Great Town?

Certainly the people. I would surmise. But you'd have to add the amenities, the activities. Some might add the schools, green space, traffic, crime, diversity, services for specific populations.

As one OBEX poster noted, Olney is a community where:
  • People hold doors open for moms with strollers.
  • A wallet you leave at a checkout will still be there when you run back from the parking lot.
  • Generations have performed in the same high school musical.
  • Getting your house TP'd at least once is a given.
Perhaps that's a good enough definition of a great town. Perhaps not. Perhaps in 2016, because the world seems like a scary place, we are challenged with pushing that definition even further:
  • Are we satisfied?
  • Is it enough?
  • What more are we capable of?
P.S. I'm always looking for more bloggers. Are you a teen, young adult, senior citizen? We Want You!! Don't be scared. Blogging is easy!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Winter Holiday Decorations

Although I miss Halloween decorations, I'm always thrilled to see winter holiday decorations throughout Olney. I love all types of lights: colored, white, flashing, non-flashing, strings, nets, icicles, spiral trees, stars, snowflakes, etc. 

Houses bathed with shimmering spots of lights look magical. I like the way houses become canvases onto which projectors paint laser light shows; my teenage daughter, however, think the pinpoints of light look like "Christmas chicken pox.”

Lighted animals, such as grazing deer, add a more natural look to holiday yard scenes -- natural because real deer actually forage in our suburban yards. My neighbor created this very naturalistic tableau of an alligator stalking two pink flamingos.

Also many inflatables convey fun and action like skiing penguins, shivering snowmen, running reindeer, etc. My favorite busy Santa inflatables include

1. Hardworking Santa dragging his apparently extremely heavy bag of presents 

2. Skiing Santa on the slope (or is he walking with crutches?)

3. Daredevil Santa rounding a curve on the back of Snoopy's motorcycle. 
I'll be sad when the holiday lights darken after the New Year, but until then let's enjoy Olney's diverse and delightful decorations. Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Speed EnFORCEment Awakens

Remember how some speed cameras and their flash boxes looked like innocent beige birdhouses?

 Within the past month I noticed that the birdhouse speed cameras (one on eastbound Route 108 by Sherwood ES and another on northbound Georgia Ave/97 near The Inn at Brookeville Farms) have been replaced by new round white ones. As I drove past, I couldn’t help think that the new cameras remind me of something familiar… ah, stormtroopers! 

Last Friday -- coincidentally opening day of Star Wars: The Force Awakens -- I discovered that the this area’s last old birdhouse speed camera (on westbound Route 108 by Sherwood ES) was being replaced by the newer stroomtrooper model.

So although Olney 9 Cinemas are no longer around, our town can still celebrate the long-awaited movie with the installation of mini-storm troopers guarding our roads.  May the Force (of knowing when to slow down) be with you!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Frank's - the hot sauce. Not the hot dog

Olney, like most of America, is a melting pot. While on the surface we may look and sound alike, the truth is that we represent a diverse set of values, opinions, perspectives and traditions.

Why am I bringing this up now, you say?

Well, a recent interaction with my husband reminded me of this phenomenon. He from a small town in Massachusetts, me from a mid-size suburb in Long Island, NY. Though we've been together for over 30 years, there is still so much about us that is different. Take for example a simple grocery list. My husband, addicted to Frank's Hot Sauce, added "Franks" to the grocery list. Even though we don't eat hot dogs much anymore, when I looked at the word "Franks" on the list at the grocery store, I immediately gravitated to the hot dog section because where I come from "franks" means "hot dogs." You know, like franks and beans.  I thought it was strange that he wanted me to buy hot dogs but I rationalized that he had been camping a lot lately. Later that night, he went in search of his Frank's Hot Sauce to add it to yet another meal (I'm trying not to take it personally) and asked me where the Frank's was. I responded, "In the refrigerator drawer where it's supposed to be." Duh! He with a question mark on his face. Me irritated that yet again he wasn't looking beyond the top shelf of the refrigerator. And then it dawned on me. Oooohhh, you meant Frank's not franks.

So back to my melting pot thesis. The OBEX has come a long way towards developing a culture that is ever more tolerant of diverse but civil discourse on a variety of topics. This has not been an easy process but we should applaud ourselves that we've stuck with it and found a way to make it work. May all of our paths in life proceed with such grace.