Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Frayed Nerves and One Bent Shingle

by Susan Burnell

(Note from Suzzwords: My friend Susan Burnell, her husband, teenage son and two cats live in northwest Houston, where they "sheltered in place" safely during Hurricane Ike.

She is now involved with a fundraising effort by the local chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators to help injured and displaced employees of the historic restaurant, Brennan's of Houston, which suffered a devastating fire during the storm.

Susan is a free-lance professional writer (visit her website
Imagination Ink) whose clients include Forbes, The Wall Street Journal and The Menninger Clinic. She also developed and maintains American Travel Sampler.

She is guest-blogging on Suzzwords today, sharing her experience before, during and after Hurricane Ike struck Texas on September 13, 2008.)

I survived Hurricane Ike. Our sturdy brick home weathered the storm beautifully. The worst part was eight and a half days without electricity in the Houston heat.

During the height of the storm, I dragged my yoga mat and a blanket, a 99-cent LED flashlight and a wind-up radio into the master bedroom closet and tried to sleep. The roar of the storm was unlike anything I’d ever experienced. The closet was the safest spot in the house and also the quietest. Between 2 and 3 a.m., when the wind was at its most ferocious, the power went out.

I thought I was pretty well prepared. Friends who’d been through hurricanes recommended freezing containers of water ahead of time and doing all the laundry. That was excellent advice. Those blocks of ice lasted a long time. Having clean clothes to change into helped make me feel human.

There are a few things that don’t always get mentioned in the hurricane preparedness guides. These came in especially handy for me after Ike’s strike:

Hair scrunchies – without a hair dryer, I gathered my wet hair into a style reminiscent of the “I Dream of Jeannie” look. So very fashion-forward.

Battery operated votive candles – perfect as night lights, safer than burning candles. They have an on-off switch. Keep away from small children, the batteries are tiny.

Portable power inverter – this hooks up to your car battery. Until we were able to acquire a generator on Day 6, it powered the laptop and 5-inch TV.

Chocolate – I attribute a large portion of my sanity to this essential supply.

Mobile broadband – this supplied the remainder of my sanity when DSL went out. About $2 a day with a two year contract, but I would have paid more, just to get online news, weather and email.

Farmland Lil’ Milk – small containers of milk that don’t need refrigeration. Great in coffee. A decent substitute when you need cream for your Kahlua.

Zip-loc bags – all sizes. Great for storing items in the cooler so they don’t get soggy. Also good for dividing ice from large store-bought ice bags to fit into coolers. And if you’ve never had a heaping helping of pasta salad and a couple of boiled eggs out of a baggie, you really can’t call yourself a camper.

Hurricane cookies – I adapted an oatmeal cookie recipe and made several big batches before the storm. Took some to each family in the cul-de-sac ahead of time, exchanged phone numbers and promised to watch one another’s roofs. That little bit of neighborliness came back to us in wonderful ways. One neighbor with a generator kept us supplied with ice. Another let us know about the bent shingle, which he could see from his second-story window.

An online community – or several, if you are lucky. When phones didn’t work, emails from friends, family, colleagues and customers were a precious connection to the outside world.

P.S. Here's the cookie recipe.

Crispy Oatmeal Cookies aka Hurricane Cookies


1/2 cup (1 stick) margarine or butter, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup oatmeal
1 cup Rice Krispies
1 cup Craisins (cranberry or orange flavor)


Set oven to 350
Blend margarine and sugars with mixer on low speed.
Add egg and vanilla, mix well.
Add flour and baking soda, mix until smooth.
Stir in oats, Rice Krispies and Craisins.
Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls on greased cookie sheet

Bake for 12 minutes or until brown.
Cool and store in an airtight container.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Bugs in Light Fixtures

With all the amazing discoveries and advances in science, you would think someone would figure out why bugs crawl into light fixtures. Why don’t they just crawl back out? Do they have some sort of death wish or it is elder bug tradition to be slowly toasted to dust rather than be a burden on their families?

What is really intriguing is how they get into closed light fixtures; you know, the ones with the globes or covers that fit into holders and have to be tightened down. Do they transform into slivers of themselves, able to collapse their outer shells in order to fit between the fixture and holder. Do child bugs have to attend special classes to learn this skill?

Here in Florida we have a variety of light-seeking bugs, so you never know what you will find in a light fixture. Unfortunately, by the time you finally take the fixture down to change the bulb, what ever the bug was, it no longer is. Are bug remains flammable?

Now that the longer-lasting compact fluorescent lamps have come on the market, does that mean by that by the time we change bulbs any remnants of bug life will have long desiccated into powder? Humm, wonder if bug powder can be turned into an energy source, sort of like cow chips? I can see it now, huge factories toasting bugs to supply the fuel needs of tiny autos powered by bug powder. Then there would be bug bounty hunters on the prowl for bigger bugs to supply our never-ending quest for cheap alternative fuel.

Maybe the solution to bug-filled light fixtures would be trap doors in the fixture to dump the bugs out. You know, kind of like changing the batteries in the smoke alarms once a quarter – change batteries, dump bugs.

Whew, I’m glad we solved THAT problem.

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