Archive | October, 2012

Surviving Sandy

30 Oct

(Credit: NASA GOES Project)

Sandy needs no introduction. The media has been saturated with coverage of the Atlantic’s largest tropical storm on record. She rose up from the Caribbean, then blasted her way onto land at the mid-Atlantic coast, closing down virtually the entire Eastern Seaboard, causing death and destruction along the way. That said, we survived with some disruption of our lives, but I think we got off relatively easy.

A few days before Sandy was expected to arrive, we made some minor preparations. Brad applied insulation to some potential leaky spots in our house’s foundation. He also moved everything from our deck and put it in the basement. We stocked up on ice so we could help preserve our refrigerated food in case of a power outage. I made sure we were well stocked with non-perishable food. Not being sure how power outages would affect early voting in Maryland, on Sunday I stood in line two and a half hours to vote. (We will be in Barack Obama’s hometown on election day.) I made sure my laptop and iPad were fully charged.

Tomato Sauce, Meatballs and Sausage

Birthday Sauce

Yesterday morning I began the day off by putting a pot of tomato sauce, meatballs and sausage on the stove. It was Brad’s birthday, you see, and that is the meal I traditionally make for him every year on his birthday. I started extra early, hoping to get the meal cooked before any power outages might occur.

That afternoon, We heard on the local news about a house two blocks from us that was split in two by a fallen tree. It wasn’t until the evening, however, after we had finished our meal (it was yum!) and cleaned the dishes, that we felt the brunt of the storm. Windows rattled, the wind screeched, and trees swayed ominously. Brad discovered water in parts the basement from a mysterious source and not the area he had insulated earlier. There was not a lot of water but Brad spent some time moving boxes and wooden items out of harm’s way, mopping up some of the water, and guiding the rest towards the basement drain. We moved the litter pans from the basement to the second floor bathroom.

Brad was working on his blog as I settled down to watch the new Upstairs|Downstairs on PBS, trying to comfort the kitties who were totally freaked by the scary noises outside. Then we lost power.

Well, it certainly didn’t come as a surprise. The surprise for me was that, even though I’d charged up my laptop and iPad, I still couldn’t get online because the cable modem was down. (Doh!) And my cell phone battery was almost dead because I’d forgotten to recharge it. (Doh!)

My brother-in-law, who lives nearby, still had power so we gathered all the items from our freezer, hauled them over to his place and put them in his freezer. (Irony: My brother-in-law recently purchased a whole-house generator. Of course, he didn’t lose power. Only those of us without a generator did!) We used the ice to help preserve the other items in the fridge. We lit candles and played scopa, an Italian card game until it was time for bed. The house was cold but were comfy under a pile of blankets. And both kitties crawled under the covers with us—I guess they were cold (and scared), too! It took me a while to fall asleep as I worried about the tall trees near our house, swaying about at Sandy’s whim.

I tossed and turned much of the night. In the morning I kept peering at our radio alarm clock, hoping to see the digital numbers flashing as a sign the power had come back on. No such luck. We arose about 9 a.m. this morning and, lucky us!!, the power came back on a half hour later. Inspection of the basement revealed most of the water had dried up overnight.

So, 13 hours without power—most of it overnight—and a little bit of water in the basement made us feel pretty darn fortunate. Our hearts go out to those who suffered worse than us during this historic storm.

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Badster Strikes Again

22 Oct

Evidence found in the freshly painted guest room on the recently refinished floor.

Culprit apprehended without much difficulty.

Too Much Stuff

22 Oct

Just a few of the tins in my collection

We’re just about finished unpacking the boxes of stuff we had in storage and I can only conclude we have too much stuff. This is stuff we haven’t used in two years. I was tempted to just tell the movers to dump everything in the trash. I mean if we can do without this stuff for two years, we can do without it forever…right?

Wrong.

Why is it I can’t bear to part with my record collection? Then there’s my matchbook collection and sugar packet collection. Not to mention my collection of wine bottle corks, restaurant business cards, post cards, beer coasters, and subway cards from Tokyo. Oh, and then there’s my collection of tea pots and decorative tins. I’m sure I’m forgetting another collection or two.

Not even half of my tea pot collection.

I managed to acquire new items in Israel for some of my collections: sugar packets, restaurant business cards and wine bottle corks, for example. But my matchbook collection is doomed, now that smoking has been banned just about everywhere.

Oh, yes, I remember one other collection of mine: Baxter’s and Lulu’s whiskers! Yes, I know. I’m nuts.

Back Home

18 Oct

A lot has happened since my last entry but our days have been so busy that when we got back to the hotel, I was ready to collapse with no energy to update my blog.

One of the highlights of last week was my purchase of a new car. I  got a Scion xB. It’s a boxy compact hatchback. She’s kind of like a grown up Peppino but with lots more pep. Yes, she’s a she and her name is Zelda. I love the way she handles and I feel so comfortable behind the wheel. Her color is an eggplant purple, unless you see her in bright sunlight, then you see bright red sparkles on her surface, earning her the official color name of “sparkling crimson.”

We checked out of our hotel today and have moved back into our house. Baxter and Lulu seem to be happy to be home. I’ve seen them scampering about, happily exploring their old stomping ground. Brad and I are happy to be back home as well but will be happier once all our stuff arrives. We living in a kind of limbo here with only half our furniture. We’ll be sleeping on an air mattress tonight. Our bed frame is all set up but our mattress and boxspring won’t arrive from Israel until late November.

Last Wednesday, our air shipment arrived — four large boxes filled with essential kitchenwares, bed linens and towels, delivered by three Latinas who struggled with the heavy boxes but managed to get the job done in about a half hour. Yesterday, the items that we had in storage were delivered. Oddly enough, the crew chief was the same fellow who headed up the crew when we packed out two years ago. He and his crew were pleasant and efficient. It took about three hours for them to uncrate and unload the items.

The night before moving out of the hotel I got online and ordered our phone, internet and cable TV service. The cable guy came out this morning to hook everything up. He actually arrived earlier than scheduled. I’d barely enough time to locate the small TV we use in the kitchen and one telephone so he could hook them up. In less than an hour we were wired. What a difference from the experience we had getting wired in Israel! I loved the time I spent there but I must admit the country could stand to develop their customer service.

We have begun unpacking boxes and are slowly managing to put our household back together again.

Baxter and Lulu relaxing at the hotel.

Zelda

Last leg of the long journey home, leaving the hotel and heading to the house.

Busy Weekend

7 Oct

Friday was another day of cleaning at the house. It will take a long time to get it in shape. Based on research Brad had begun before we departed Israel, we hired a company to refinish our hardwood floors.

Saturday morning we had breakfast at our local classic diner, the Honey Bee. Israeli breakfasts are good, but you just can’t beat down-home American diner breakfasts! Comfort food at its finest. After breakfast, we met the floor refinishers at the house. The foreman brought in two crews to do the job to make sure the floors would be ready before our storage shipment arrives on October 16. We moved the kitties into our hotel room since they can’t be in the house while the work was being done. Since we couldn’t be in the house either while the work was being done, we went car shopping. Brad bought a beautiful fully loaded Jetta station wagon. She’s a beaut! In the evening we attended a members-only event at the Walters Art Museum in which we got a preview of a wonderful exhibit that opens to the public on October 14.

On Sunday morning we received the happy news that the floor refinishers would be completing the job that afternoon. The crew had worked until around 7 p.m. on Saturday; they’d arrived at 7:30 a.m. on Sunday and would finish applying the final coat by the afternoon. We stopped by mid-morning to check the progress and were extremely pleased with the results. The floors look brand new and will really help set off the decor in our house.

I went to see “Looper” in the afternoon with my sister. Great movie!! Joseph Gordon-Levitt was great in the lead role, managing to out shine Bruce Willis, imho. In the evening, Brad and I went to visit a friend who had been storing some items for us that Brad had brought back during one of his business trips to the States. We all went out to dinner at Mi Casita, a great little Mexican restaurant in our friend’s neighborhood. The food was yummy and the margaritas even better.

Cleanup Time

4 Oct

Baxter rediscovered one of his favorite perches.

While the kitties spent the day reacquainting themselves with the house, I went shopping for supplies at Home Depot, Safeway and PetSmart. In the afternoon I was at the house, cleaning.

We were lucky that the tenants had not caused any major damage to the house but appalled at the filthy condition we discovered in certain areas. The stove area had been splattered with some sort of orange goo. As I cleaned it up, I began wondering what could have caused such a mess. Did the tenants subsist on macaroni and cheese alone? My overactive imagination conjured up images of a huge vat of velveeta cheese spluttering away on the stove. I encountered additional horror stories too grisly to tell in the drains of both kitchen and bathroom sinks. The lack of care of lawn and garden was also disconcerting. Our beautiful rhododendron is dead and the fig tree has gone missing.

Lulu stretches out at home.

Brad had to go into the office for a few hours, started shopping for cars and then met me at the house in the afternoon. In the evening we got together for dinner with my sisters and a friend at Grano in Hampden. Mmmm… good eats!

The Long Journey Home

3 Oct

Baxter and Lulu at Ben Gurion Airport

The driver arrived promptly at 2 a.m. We loaded all our bags and kitties in their carriers into the van and made our way to Ben Gurion Airport. Lulu cried nearly the entire way. And Baxter puked on his towel just minutes before arriving at the terminal. All standard and expected behavior for those two. Check-in at the airport was smooth and speedy. I was a bit miffed, though, that no one even asked to see the paperwork for the kitties that I’d spent so much time and money preparing before our departure. After we checked into the flight and paid for the kitties (they were flying as “excess baggage” at $200 per cat) we wheeled Baxter and Lulu in their carriers to an elevator where a Lufthansa employee took over and whisked our kitties away. It broke my heart to part with them and I prayed we’d soon be reunited safely in the U.S.

A four-hour layover in Frankfurt was mitigated by being able to hang out in the Lufthansa Senator Lounge, thanks to the subscription frequent flyer Brad had invested in. In the lounge we had comfy chairs, free wifi and free food at our disposal. And a Lufthansa rep checked on the kitties for us and verified that they had safely arrived and were resting in the “pet lounge.”

On the shuttle from the airport to the rental car facility

We arrived at Dulles Airport around 3:30 p.m., about a half-hour early only to find ourselves waiting in an hour-long queue to go through passport control. Ugh! While we were shuffling through the line, I spied Baxter’s and Lulu’s carriers way against the wall on the far side of the baggage carousels. As soon as we got through passport control I made a bee line for the kitties while Brad collected our luggage. Both Baxter and Lulu were alert and appeared healthy and there were no messes in their carriers. Baxter was hunkered down in the far corner of the carrier while Lulu cried and paced back and forth in her carrier. She calmed down as we began wheeling them out of the baggage area. We breezed through customs. Again, no one asked for nor looked at any paperwork relating to the cats. We loaded our bags and the kitties onto the shuttle to the rental car facility where we picked up our rental van.

At the rental car facility

By the time we hit the DC Beltway it was 6 p.m. We heard scarcely a peep out of Lulu and Baxter on the drive home. We figured by now they’d resigned themselves to their fate. We drove first to our house where we dropped the kitties off for the night. We opened the carrier doors and they both burst out into our empty house, and began exploring every inch of the house — jumping on top of counters and cabinets, nosing into closets, running up and down the stairs. I wondered again if they recognized  the place.

We’d arranged to have kitty litter waiting for us there and had brought cat food with us, so they were set for the night. By then we were famished and decided to stop off for a bite to eat before checking into the hotel. Luckily, one of our fave Thai restaurants is located just around the corner from the hotel. It was 9 p.m. by the time we checked in. We’d been on the road more than 24 hours. I slept like a log.