Thursday, May 30, 2013

We Got Shawshanked!

The Shawshank Redemption

…voted 2nd best movie of all-time (second to The Godfather) on imdb
…nominated for 7 Academy Awards in 1994
…deemed best film never to have won Best Picture in a 2005 BBC poll
…earned 3 and 1/2 stars from Roger Ebert

If you haven’t seen the film based on a short novella by Stephen King, rent it. If you’ve seen it and loved it, head to Mansfield.


Mansfield, Ohio is a small city in the middle of Ohio with a big claim to fame. It’s where most of the filming of The Shawshank Redemption occurred, and this August the town will celebrate the 20th anniversary of its success.

We were graciously invited by the Mansfield & Richland County Visitors Bureau to explore The Shawshank Trail. It began with a complimentary Shawshank package at the Quality Inn. I wondered if I should worry about a prison-movie package at a hotel, but curiosity got the best of me. What could a Shawshank package mean? A room behind bars with bread & water for breakfast? A rock hammer and a poster so that I could eventually work my way out?

goodie bag
Not quite. We entered the room to find a bevy of goodies relating to the movie: two tickets for the Ohio Reformatory tour, chocolate “prison” bars from The Squirrel’s Den, Jail House Java from the Blueberry Patch, a Shawshank tote bag, Andy’s Diet Root Beer, Red’s Strawberry Soda and a driving map to explore the rest of the Shawshank movie sites around town.

Brooks Was Here. So Was Red.

Our first stop was The Squirrel’s Den, where we wanted to see the chocolate replica of Brooks’ apartment. Brooks, as you may recall, was the old man released from prison, who had trouble adjusting to life outside bars.

A block from there, we stopped at the park bench where Brooks sat and fed the pigeons, hoping his jailbird crow Jake would return. Then two blocks down, we saw the Bissman Building, which was used as the external façade of the apartment building Brooks moved to.


Later when we toured the prison (which I’ll feature in a separate post), we learned that the actual room featured in the film was a small room near the chapel inside the prison. Here we saw the famous “Brooks Was Here. So Was Red” etching in the wood.


Other Shawshank Sites:

You may recognize the background in this scene. This is the outside of the prison where Red and Andy often sat and talked in ‘the yard.’ It’s also the imposing stone wall that Andy first sees when he arrives in shackles at prison and enters the gate.


DSCN1301A few miles away, on private property across from Malabar Farm is the oak tree that Red goes searching for at the end of the movie. There is no stone wall, and the tree looks a little different now that a tornado took down half of it, but trust me. This is the tree.

In addition, other Mansfield businesses have created Shawshank paraphernalia.
— The Ed Pickens Café has a Shawshankwich sandwich.
— Cypress Wine Cellars has bottled a Reformatory Red wine.
— Two Cousins Pizza offers a Redemption Pie.
— The Olivesburg General Store has a Shawshank Sundae, and is where you’ll find the original ceiling lights from the movie.
— Relax, It’s Just Coffee revs up with Shawshank coffee.
— Eatmor Bundt Cake has cooked up a Shawshank bundt cake
— And, of course, the Quality Inn & Suites Mansfield has put together a Shawshank Trail package, a Shawshank Reunion package, and offers Haunted Mansfield packages, too.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a town embrace their Hollywood claim to fame in the way Mansfield has. But maybe it’s because few films are as legendary as this one.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

May 18 & 19 - Greed and Gluttony at the Book Sale

Few things bring me as much joy as a "Fill a bag with Books for $5.00" sale. I look forward to these every year. They typically mark the last day of a used book sale, when the sellers are eager to get rid of their inventory rather than having to pack it all up and haul it away again. Can you blame them?

Knowing how fast the premier titles can go, I always go to the book sale the day before to buy the books I think I can't live without and to scope out the rest. It's good to know where to start.

So yesterday was relaxed and leisurely. I took my time browsing through books, reading inside jacket covers and getting a lay of the land. It was a nice way to spend an hour or so.

Today's bag sale was more brutal. It's hard to believe that a library's used book sale could bring out the worst in people, but it does. Year after year after year. It never fails to amaze me.

I got there early. I always do. It's part of the experience to be lined up at the door. I didn't have the wheeled carts that many people bring, nor the milk crates that they sometimes tether to their walkers and wheelchairs. Used books are a serious business.

I stood there in line; the fourth person. I saw school librarians I knew from my days working at Scholastic Book Fairs, and I saw my own childhood school librarian. Not surprisingly, I was the youngest one in line.

And yet, when the doors opened, the old men and women standing behind me rushed the doors with their carts and milk crates. I ended up being about the 20th person through the gate. They stampeded over to the used CDs, DVDs, and audio books and grabbed up hands full at a time without even bothering to look at the titles. Within minutes, six long 12-foot tables stocked with electronic media were completely emptied. Then they turned and chewed their way through the books like termites.

I managed to fill my bag with individually-selected books that I intend to read. By the time I left, the tables were emptying, too. Most of the patrons bought far more bags than they could carry. But I guess that's the nature of the bag sale, isn't it? Gobbling us as much as you can until next year -- when I'm sure to see the same characters again.

Friday, May 17, 2013

America's Next Non-Model

Today's activity was fun. We had a photo shoot at work. A stylist and professional photographer came in and took quality business image head shots.

I was a little dismayed that the stylist took one look at my hair and decided to straighten it. My hair is naturally wavy and I never wear it straight, or even want to. Still, I was game to play model and hoped that she knew what she was doing. I know the pictures will turn out looking very professional, even if they don't really look like me.

Now, if I can just get a book published, I'll be all ready with a picture for my "About the Author" page.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Terror! The Craft Box!

My daughter had a school project to work on tonight, so dragged out the craft supplies. I'm ashamed to admit this, but here goes: I hate arts & crafts. With a passion. As a mother, crafts were my Achilles heel.

Most people cannot understand this, but I get absolutely no joy from taking clay or paint or popsicle sticks and turning them into something else. Looking at a box full of craft supplies does nothing but fill me with a sense of dread. You want me to make something? Do I have to?

My son managed. He was left to do arts & crafts on his own, but preferred building things out of blocks and sticks and Legoes instead. Whew!

But my daughter. My poor, poor daughter. She LOVES arts & crafts, but got stuck with me for a mother.

I tried my best. When she was little, I pawned her off on her grandmother as much as I could. My mother loves crafts and is very artistic. It just skipped a generation, I think. Plus, I diligently took my daughter to the library for Storytime every week because they always did a craft at the end. I hoped it gave her her fix.

Some of the children's shows she watched explained how to make simple crafts, too. I reluctantly sat down and did some with her, but truth be told, I would have rather been doing anything else.

It gets worse.

In my lowest of low-mother moments, I convinced my daughter to do imaginary arts & crafts.
Yes, you read that correctly. I had her pretend to make something.

I am going to pay for years of therapy someday. I just know it. But thankfully, she has matured into a self-sufficient young woman who can get out the craft supply box and make things all by herself now. So, see? She survived.

If she wants to really get even one day, she'll send the grandkids to my house for "craft time." But only time will tell if I test their imaginations as well...

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Another Day that Revolved Around China

I really did very little today other than work. And most of that work revolved around getting ready for China.

Remember - it's Asian Heritage Month, so find some type of Asian festivity to attend! I know I will.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Academic Awards Night

It brought tears to my eyes. My daughter's name was called and she moved forward to shake her Principal's hand. She accepted her GPA award with poise and grace, then returned to sit among her friends.

"Parents, these are the academic leaders of the class of 2018."

We applauded, and sighed with relief. These are our children, and our childrens' friends. Their futures are bright. The whole world is before them. It made me feel like all is right with the world.

We should all feel good. These kids are our future.

Monday, May 13, 2013

This Day Was Made for Walkin'

With temps in the 60's and sunshine (finally!), this was the perfect day to walk. I took a two-mile walk during lunch, then came home and walked again. Bliss.

Fun facts about walking:
  • Given that the world is about 25,000 miles in circumference and that the average walking rate is 3 miles per hour, it would take a person walking nonstop approximately 347 days to walk around the world

  • A typical pair of tennis shoes will last 500 miles of walking

  • It would take, on average, 1 hour and 43 minutes of walking to burn off a 540-calorie Big Mac

  • An average city block is equivalent to 200 steps

  • To burn off one plain M&M candy, a person would need to walk the entire length of a football field (I'd go for the Big Mac instead)

  • Chickens, pigeons, cranes, quails, and at least eight of the 27 families of birds bob their head when they walk

  • In 1970, 66% of children walked to school. Today, only 13% walk.

  • Every minute you walk can extend your life by 1.5 to 2 minutes

  • Walking sideways burns 78 percent more calories than walking forward.

  • In your lifetime you will walk about 65,000 miles — that's three times around the earth!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother's Day

Another glorious Mother's Day. I got a phone call from my son, as well as a basket full of Bath & Body Works goodies from him and his wife. I got an espresso maker from my husband (which we immediately used). I got movies from my daughter. A memory foam bathmat and JC Penney gift card from my mom, and phone calls from family.

We enjoyed pizza with my aunt and 93-year-old grandmother, then watched an exciting game of soccer.

But best of all, I received this pinch pot my daughter made in art. It is sitting on my mantel next to the other artwork that my children have bestowed upon me. I look at their beautiful creations and think about mine. I am the luckiest mother in the world.

Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers out there!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Crew Game

Pre-game warm-up exercises

On almost any given day I can say that we're at soccer. We're at the fields for practices or games five days a week. But tonight was a little different. After my daughter's game, we headed up to Columbus to watch the Columbus Crew play the Colorado Rapids.

It was fun to watch the quick-moving game, but even more fun to watch the girls study the players' moves. Pre-game, they were allowed to stand along the sidelines and watch the pro teams warm up. They noticed immediately that the warm-up stretches and exercise drills are the same ones they do. I think that had a huge impact on them and made them realize how well-trained they are, too.

After the Crew's crushing loss, all kids under the age of 13 were allowed down on the pitch to take a penalty shot at the goal. That was certainly another highlight for my daughter and her friends, despite the fact that it was pouring rain and COLD. Par for the course, as far as I'm concerned. Most of this season's games have involved playing in the rain.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Movie Night

Finally -  a night where we didn't run around with a million things to do! Instead, we had movie night. A double feature, in fact.

We started with So Undercover starring Miley Cyrus. Very predictable. Basically a teen version of Miss Congeniality, if you ask me.

Then we watched Argo. I was a child during the Iranian hostage situation and knew nothing about it. The movie was riveting. High praise from me, since history usually bores me to tears. It deserved the awards it won.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Playing with the Foster Puppies

My mom once fostered two dogs for an organization called Hart. She ended up adopting them and didn't foster any more -- until her friend called her with a desperate situation.

"Can you take a mother dog and her seven puppies? The mother's been abused. They were dropped at the shelter and they're going to be euthanized today."

A mother and 7 puppies... in addition to my mom's three dogs. But what else could she do? She said yes.

The mother and her seven tiny babies were brought over, along with a large cage and all the equipment necessary for their care. The puppies looked to be about 3 weeks old. The mother was as sweet as could be and immediately formed an attachment to my mom. In fact, she didn't want to leave her side. She was probably so grateful to be treated tenderly and taken care of, after the horrible torture she'd been through. Here's what we learned:

Two guys in Kentucky had hung her from a tree and were taking a blowtorch to her nipples. Somehow, a cop came by and rescued her and her babies. I don't know whether the men suffered any consequences, but we all like to think there's a special place in hell for them.

The mother, now named Caroline, couldn't nurse due to mastitis that I can only surmise was brought on by her mistreatment. So my mom and aunt had to take over, feeding the babies formula on a schedule much like an infant's. Needless to say, they've been exhausted.

Now the puppies are a little older and are eating solid foods and playing outdoors. We went over to take a turn holding them, playing with them, and socializing with them. Not a chore for us by any means! I just wish we had more time to help.

The puppies and Caroline are thriving, thanks to their rescuers. And just as I hope there's a special place in hell for those two men, I KNOW there's a special place in heaven for my mom.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

49 Minutes - Again

Today, I walked a 5K race. The last time I did this, my time was 49 minutes and I was determined to beat it. So I huffed and I puffed, and I dragged my butt around the course, panting in the 85-degree sunshine until I finally crossed the finish. At 49 minutes. Again.

And no, I didn't win one of these trophies. Not even close.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Kids & The Crew

Today's activity (like most days in our household) revolved around soccer. But this event was a little different than the norm. This time, the Columbus Crew came down to our school district to run practice drills with the kids coming to their game this weekend. It was an incredible opportunity and the fields were swarming with kids of all ages.

Making it even better was the fact that they raffled off a Crew jersey and my daughter won! All the players there signed it. You can bet she'll be wearing it to the game. :)

Monday, May 6, 2013

Tow-Day's Activity

Not much activity around me today other than having my car towed for repairs. An activity I would have rather skipped. :(

Sunday, May 5, 2013

A Good Laugh

My day was full of activities today, capped off by Open Mic night at Wiley's in Dayton, Ohio. I wasn't sure what to expect. I thought a lot of these fledgling comics might not be that funny or prepared, but I was pleasantly surprised. They all had good material, good delivery, and seemed atune to the audience and what was working and what wasn't.

Bottom line: I laughed. They did their jobs and I had a great time. I'll have to go again.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The New and Improved Pampered Chef Party

It's been a long time since I've been to a Pampered Chef (PC) party. I don't remember it being such a production, or maybe the one I went to last night was just more elaborate than the one I went to a decade ago.

To begin with, there were about 30 women there. I was surprised at the turnout and really just went because I felt obligated to since my boss Lisa was hosting the party. I do like Pampered Chef products, so wasn't too put out. What I didn't expect was the sales pitch showcase that followed.

The PC representative told us she's been doing this for 22 years. She had products laid out on Lisa's kitchen island. That was nice. I like being able to see and touch items before I buy them. I actually got to do more than that; the rep demonstrated how easily and efficiently she could cook a meal for us using all those products. And we were welcome to help and try out any item we wanted.

She whipped together a Mediterranean chicken pasta in a heavy piece of Pampered Chef bake ware. She used the chopper and the manual food processor to prepare the ingredients, along with the garlic press, measuring spoons, measuring cups, bowl scraper, rubber (?) hot pan grabbers, knives, prep bowls, and olive oil spritzer. Then she made another dish using some kind of rubber item atop a pot of boiling water and a baking stone. I have to say, the demonstration was very effective. I'll bet most of us bought the items she used.

But she didn't stop there.

On the table behind us were beautiful displays of appetizers -- which were recipes that could be found in the Pampered Chef cookbooks. Plus, they were served in Pampered Chef dishware, using PC tongs and other accoutrement. Not surprisingly, everything was delicious and we eagerly filled out our order forms in between the appetizer course, main dish, and dessert.

But even more than the actual products, I was impressed with the presentation. I know my boss and the Pampered Chef rep made a fortune off of us last night, but they definitely earned it. It was the best sales pitch I've seen in a long time.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Bye, Bye Laundromat!

My weeks of hauling laundry to the laundromat are over! Our new washing machine was delivered today. We've already started washing the massive pile-up. But truth be told, I liked going to the laundromat. I could do several loads at the same time and had the luxury of reading while the clothes were spinning. Not so at home. Here I pop a load in and then turn around and see all the rest of the chores that need done.

I think I miss the laundromat already.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Reconstructing Amelia

My activity today (besides work, and all the regular stuff) was going to the library to return Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight.

The book was compelling, I'll give it that. I could barely put it down. It starts with a mother getting the terrible news that her daughter has committed suicide at school. She is consumed with guilt and grief, but then starts to question whether Amelia really killed herself or not.

She begins searching for answers and reconstructs Amelia's last few months of school through texts, the school gossip rag, notes, and emails. A much different Amelia than the one she knew starts to emerge and she begins to question how well she knew her daughter after all.

As a writer, I couldn't help but pay attention to the structure of this book. I don't mind books that use different formats to show us a character, or tell us a story. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society was an excellent example of this approach. It worked well in Reconstructing Amelia, too -- to a point.

The plot was full of twists and the writing was paced well. As I said, I could hardly put it down. My one criticism would be the chapters that were told from Amelia's point-of-view. While it was helpful to have her first-person account of things that were going on, it also created some confusion in the very non-linear structure. We got present day emails, then backtracking to Amelia's telling of her story, then texts, then her mother's perspective. I'm not a fan of this approach, but McCreight pulled it off well enough that I could piece it together. But I can't help but wonder how different our reconstruction of Amelia would have been if we didn't have her to fill in the blanks?

I'll definitely look for more by Kimberly McCreight in the future. Meanwhile, I took this book back to the library and had the hardest time figuring out what to read next. Good books always do that to me.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Travel Agents 'R Us

My inaugural May "activity" exercise turned out to be a little more sedate than those to come. I spent a good part of my day playing travel agent.

I have two upcoming business trips: one to China, and one to Dallas. Not surprisingly, I'm adding vacation days to both trips, so the first order of business was researching all the possible things I might do in each place. By "all," I mean ALL. Guidebooks and Internet sites have been exhausted.

Next, I had to build an outlined itinerary. (I really missed my calling. I should have been a travel agent.) The trip to Dallas is pretty easy. I only have one day to myself and I picked 4 sights to see. I've already been there once, so don't need to go back to the Book Depository. Plus, my hotel was chosen for me. I spent a fair amount of time looking at flight schedules that will give me more free time, and found the ones I want. Dallas is pretty much done.

China is another matter. This is where things get tricky. I'm going on business, so the week of business - hotel, schedule, dates -- are taken care of. My co-worker is going with me and she's never been, so we padded two days beforehand to explore. Then, after my business has wrapped up, my family is flying out for a week of vacation. So, I have sight-seeing to plan before AND after my business there. And both parties want to see basically the same things. Which I've already seen on my last trip to China.

It sounds like all this repetitious excursion planning should be easy, but it's not. There are some things I don't mind doing for a second or third time, some that I just don't want to do again at all, and some things that could be explored differently. I actually started a spreadsheet to figure it all out. I have to finalize itineraries soon because I need to choose hotels for the vacation parts of the trip before I can book tours (which will pick us up at said hotels). Plus, I need to have hotel reservations in place before I can apply for the trip visas we'll need.

Choosing hotels isn't easy! I want to optimize hotel reward programs, plus get a good deal, plus be centrally located. I've got maps out and reward program numbers all over the place. I want us to be able to walk and sightsee from our hotel but don't want to pay a fortune for rooms or cabs. I really need to finalize the list of things to see.

So far, I've reserved flights, made a spreadsheet of the best tours and sights I want to see in China, and figured out my extracurricular itinerary for Dallas. It sounds like I've accomplished very little despite the number of hours I've been working on this. But I consider this my researching and outlining stage. As with writing, once I do this legwork, fleshing out the details will fall into place quickly. Or so I hope.