Thursday, February 22, 2007

A night with power outage

Tuesday last week (Feb. 13th), due to the freezing weather all over the U.S. Midwest, power outage occurred in some areas in Bloomington and other central Indiana.

According to Duke Energy (Electricity company), there were about 50,000 households which experienced periodical power outage on that day, but 46,000 households got their electricity back after several hours, leaving the rest 4,000 without power overnight.

And guess what, our house was one of these unlucky 4,000. We lost power at 4pm on Tuesday and didn't get it back until 10am on Wednesday (which happened to be Valentine's day ;-). When the power is gone in our house, it means that we cannot even cook, since our cooking stove top is electric; and the central heating system in the house doesn't work either.

At first I thought little of the situation, assuming that we would surely get back power in a few hours, based on my experiences in Japan. But alas, it soon proved to be wrong. By contrast to myself, Amar was totally ready for the situation, and actually was even cheerful and excited when he learned that our house was totally in black!

As soon as I reported to him about the situation on the phone (N.B.: the university hadn't lost power supply), he assured me that he would come home as soon as possible, with hot food and lots of candles. Most restaurants in the town were closed due to power outage, but he managed to find one of the few ones that were open and got hot food there, which was a real treat for us that night. He also got a lot of logs for the fire.

"Hey Michiko, I got hot food for us! And I also bought a lot of logs to keep the fire going for a long time!"

As you can guess, this challenging situation stimulated his "sense of adventure", which he told me that he had acquired through a lot of experience of camping in the bush with his father in his youth.
After we ate the dinner with a candle light, he said,

"Hey Michiko, let's make a fire and heat water in one of our old pots, then we can have a hot coffee!"

Now you can see how he was enjoying the situation as if we were having some fun camping ;-) Well, it was all for good, of course(^^). All this time I was feeling just how lucky I am to have such a resourceful and countable husband, you know ;-).

So we put our old pot into the fire like this:

The coffee was great, and helped us to remain cheerful (and of course to keep me thinking how lucky I was!

After that, we even tried to bake my apple bread in the furnace fire (!), which I had been working on that day and had been perfectly prepared and ready to go into the oven just before the power was gone.

(LEFT: This was the dough being proofed before going to the oven (around 3:00pm). / RIGHT: Finally, the bread dough was thrown into the fire! What is the doom of this bread....?!)

(LEFT: ... So this was the doom of this bread. The bread was totally burned and black at the bottom. (>_<) / RIGHT: But the bread was supposed to come out of oven this way, if only the oven was working that night... @@)


Next day, I took some snapshots of the icicles on the trees around the house, to show you what caused the power outage. (The electricity line was broken off because of these heavy icicles.)
But even though these icicles caused us much trouble, trees with ice flowers like this looked really beautiful, reflecting sunlight with shiny sparkles.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Pilates Studio Opening

Last Friday I was invited to a studio opening by my pilates teacher, Kirk Smith.
I started taking pilates classes in January this year. As it turned out, my teacher Kirk Smith also moved into Bloomington (from Boston) about the same time as I moved into Bloomington in May 2006. I found it quite impressive that he managed to open his own studio as soon as within one year since he moved to the new town. (Our classes until then took place in a studio that Kirk was renting for each of his classes.)

His new studio is very large and well organized, and has a clean and quiet atmosphere - I like it a lot, especially the fact that big windows gives us an open feeling.

The studio opening seemed very successful. A lot of people visited and showed interest in pilates exercises, and Kirk was busy explaining the concept of pilates, demonstrating exercises, and greeting all the visitors. I was very happy for him that the opening was successful. As I had heard that Kirk was going to open some bottles of champagne, I contributed a little bit of my chicken liver pate (=paste) and crackers to the event, and was glad that Kirk enjoyed and apprecaited it a lot.

Though I have just started taking Kirk's classes and this is my first time to try pilates, I can see that Kirk is a very talented teacher, as he can immediately spot and treat any problem we have in our body movement, and also as he can verbally and minutely explain each movements and its significance to our body function, which I really appreciate. (I like to understand why we do this and how before doing anything, not only for pilates but for piano, bread baking and everything;-) My classmates in the pilates class, Lisa and Theresa, are also very nice, so I enjoy the class a lot.

Here are some more photos --- unfortunately, I forgot to take my camera with me and so they were taken by my cellphones. Sorry for the bad resolution.

(LEFT: Kirk demonstrating an exercise / RIGHT: Kirk explaining something to Natsuki, a friend of mine and my piano teacher)

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Amar's one-week trip

(Beautiful Spanish handcrafted plate that Amar got for me as a souvenir from Spain)

Amar made a one-week trip for conferences in Michigan, US, and a workshop in Seville, south Spain, from Jan. 31st to Feb. 8th, and has just got back home 3 days ago.

His trip turned out to be the one he would never forget, because of so many "calamities" and a lot of "good luck that came out of bad luck". The first one was the delay of his flight from Michigan to Spain due to the snow. Not only the delay itself but the fact that he had to drive his rented car in the blizzard from the hotel to the airport in Michigan made it so "unforgettable", Amar told me. He said it was the most scary experience in his driving history. (Well, so I can imagine...) After all this driving, he had to go back to downtown in Grand Rapids, Michigan to stay overnight there (luckily one of the faculty in Calvin University gave him a lodging), and next morning he took a train to Chicago to catch the plane for his trip to Spain.

But this misfortune brought him good luck: thanks to the flight change, he was allowed about 18 hours in London for transit, and he managed to see both his father and sister living in London and stayed overnight with his sister and her husband.
His stay in Spain became short and quite hectic because of these changes, but of course he was much happier to see his family than otherwise.

The last of the "calamities" was that his luggage was delayed somewhere on his way home from Spain, and that he happened to have put his car key in this luggage(!). Since I have got my driver's license just two months ago and am not a very good confident driver yet, he had driven to the airport by himself with his car and had parked his car in the airport parking, so that he could drive back home by himself. But now, his lost luggage made it impossible for him to use his car to come home. So he called me from Chicago airport and asked me if I was up to driving my car to the airport to pick him up. It was such a big challenge for me, who had been phobic about driving in the past 15 years. I had never driven such a long way by myself yet, and to make things even worse, it was midnight and I would have had to get on the freeway as well (!)....
I felt so bad knowing that Amar must have been very tired, and after a lot of debating in my head, I said, "OK, then I'll come to pick you up," with a tragic but brave resolution (well, as far as I was concerned).

When we almost finished reviewing the direction and map together (on the phone) to check all the tricky points on the way to the airport, however, there came help from God or some Benevolent Will: a friend of ours, Erika, happened to be there at the Chicago airport waiting for the same plane as he was, noticed him and came up to say hi to him. What a coincidence and what good luck we had!!
So, after all these, Amar was given a ride by Erika and her husband Simon and came home safe and sound at 1AM on Thursday night. You can imagine how grateful I was for Erika and Simon, and for whatever good luck contributed to save us (^^).

After we went to the airport to fetch his car yesterday (Saturday), Amar started feeling a bit sick with a sore throat and headache. So I made a home-made chicken soup (upon his request), and after watching a DVD ("The Planet of Apes" --- classic!), we went to bed as early as 9pm. Fortunately he is feeling much better today.


While Amar was away, I kept myself quite busy catching up with several girl friends (lunch with Amy, visiting a couple of Japanese friends' houses, and having Natsuki, my piano teacher, at our home for a girl's pyjama party), sorting out and cleaning the house, practicing the piano a lot, and doing quite a few "kitchen experiments". Among such home experiments are homemade "natto" (=Japanese fermented soy beans), home-grown broccoli sprouts, a wild yeast culture raised from an apple, and a loaf of bread using this yeast culture (see the pictures). This "apple wild yeast culture" is somewhat similar to a sourdough culture, but different in that the wild yeast used here are the ones which reside on the apple skins, instead of the ones living in the wheat flour.

(The picture on the left is the bread I baked using the apple wild yeast.) The bread made with this home-made apple yeast turned out quite tasty (not very sour and yet has a subtle apple flavour). But the bread didn't rise as much as the other bread I have baked using a commercial yeast, so I guess my experiment on the home-made wild yeast is just on its starting point - and this is the kind of challenge that I like ;-).

Although I enjoyed my "girl's week" during the time he was away, I surely missed him all the week and it was really nice to see him again after as long as 9 days!