Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Things to Do When the Power Goes Out

Tuesday, March 14, 2017, a big snowstorm "ripped" through the Northeast, "pounding" the New England states with more than a foot of snow.

Sounds pretty serious, right?

I'll tell you a secret.  Big snowstorms, in Maine, during the winter, aren't a novelty.  It happens.  In my two decades of living in here, it's happened more times than I can count.  I've stopped taking pictures of the snow, because as beautiful as each storm is in its own right, my computer, phone, camera SD card, and Facebook page are full of snow pictures.  They all look, mostly, the same.  It's snow.  It's white.  It's piled up around stuff.  Most of the time, I'm only taking a picture to record the sheer volume of the white stuff for those who don't believe that we got a lot of snow.  We measure it in feet.  When my southern friends talk about their three inches of snow, I laugh.  Three inches?   I don't even bother shoveling.

I'm not making fun.  It's just that, like really hot weather down south (and go ahead and laugh at us here in the northeast when we complain out our 90° days - you've earned it), snow is a normal event here. 

But I love the news stories that paint this - and every. other. snowstorm. in. every. other. winter - as something that's remarkable and new and different ... and newsworthy. 

I mean, yes, tell me about it.  Yes, cancel schools and close businesses, because driving in snowstorms, like the one we had Tuesday, is dangerous.  Yes, encourage us to stay home and enjoy some peaceful, quality time with our families. 

I guess it's actually pretty awesome that nothing else was going on yesterday that the purveyors of news had nothing else to tell us.  That's good, right?

What's more funny, though, was the news article about the woman who lost her power.  Instead of using candles or a flashlight, she used a headlamp.  Umm ... pretty sure a headlamp IS a flashlight, but whatever.

What was sad (other than that this was considered a "newsworthy" story) was this comment she made: "There's not much going on really, no TV, can't do anything."

So, for people who are looking for something to do during a power outage, I thought I'd make a list.

1.  Make a meal.

But how can I cook without electricity?  You ask.  There are dozens of ways.  I cook on my woodstove, but I realize that having a woodstove is the exception rather than the rule - even here in the northeast where winters are cold and long, and the electricity does go out ... a lot. 

A few years ago, my daughter was given a dessert fondue set as a birthday gift.  It was one of the most creative and fun "toys" she was ever given, and I completely fell in love with the whole low-impact aspect of it.  The ceramic bowl holds chocolate that is melted using a tea light candle.  It really works.  The chocolate really melts, and it really does get hot. 

I imagine that we could melt butter using this fondue pot.  We could, then, gently saut√© some vegetables in the butter - things that are best served still slightly crispy - like broccoli - or that cook fast - like greens.  If we have leftover or canned meat, we can add that to the saut√©.

It's also possible to roast marshmallows and toast bread using just the heat from a candle. 

2.  Play games. 

Like having a woodstove, I might be an anomaly when it comes to the collection of board games my family has, but given the huge success of game-making companies, like Milton-Bradley, I'm guessing I'm not.

But even if one doesn't have the assortment of factory-made games that I have, that should not preclude one from enjoying games.  Making a checkers board is so simple, even I can do it.  In fact, I did!  And it turned out pretty awesome - if I do say so myself

And the bonus of making the game board is that it will also take up a bit of time.  Making the board and playing the game could fill up an entire evening.

3.  Read a book.

This one can actually be a lot of fun for the whole family with everyone taking a turn reading, or the adults reading and the littles listening ... or the littles reading and the adults listening.  Pick a book everyone likes and make an evening of it.

Trust me ... it's WAY better than TV.

4.  Weave a basket out of plastic bags. 

Although I have never made a basket from plastic bags, I have made baskets out of barn rope.  Imagine the conversation piece when you're done. 

Friend:  Hey, that's a cool basket.  Where did you get it?
You:  I made it.
Friend:  What?  When?
You:  Remember that winter storm, Stella?  We lost power, and I made a basket, because there was no television.

5.  Play music.

Many years ago, I read the dystopian novel, "Dies the Fire."  In it, one of the groups of survivors headed by an ex-military type, meets up with a different group of survivors headed up by a Wiccan matriarch.  The paramilitary group is impressed when the Wiccan clan brings out their instruments and begins entertaining the group with songs and dance.  The military guy admits that he's missed music.  It was completely alien to me that no one in his group was the least bit musically inclined.  I mean, not even any a capella?

Okay, again, my family is weird.  We have a whole band's worth of musical instruments from simple recorders to an acoustic bass.  We could spend hours playing music together with each of us playing two or three different instruments - depending on the song.  I know not everyone is like us - although to be honest, we're not exceptionally talented.  It's just that we made this sort of thing a priority in our lives.  We like music, and how better to appreciate it than to learn to make it?

Not having a houseful of instruments shouldn't stop anyone from creating music, though. 

The other day my very talented daughter, who skillfully plays five different instruments, asked for a kazoo.  Um, okay.  We went to the dollar store in search of one, but the dollar store didn't have them.  What?  So, I found a tutorial on making kazoos from a toilet paper roll. 

It's easy.  Wrap wax paper on the end of a toilet paper roll. Hold wax paper in place with a rubber band.  Using a pencil, poke some small holes in the wax paper.  Hum into the open end of the cardboard tube. 

And, like the example of making a game board above, making the instrument will take a little bit of time. 

Don't stop at a kazoo.  There are dozens of musical instruments that can be made from stuff we just have lying around the house.   

6.  Make sock puppets.

One year we were trying to decide what to do for my daughter's birthday.  Initially, she asked for an ice cream party, and we thought we had booked the space at a local ice cream shop.  Her birthday was late in the year, and this seasonal shop was closing before her birthday arrived.  She was  so bummed!  Two weeks before her birthday, we were scrambling for something else to do with all of these kids who'd been invited.  We decided to move the party to our house, have an ice cream bar here, and also make sock creatures. 

We bought a book to help give us patterns and ideas, but I'm sure we could have used our imaginations to make them, also.  At the end of the party, all of the kids had a belly full of ice cream, and they got to take home a toy that they had made themselves.  It was fun. 

There are certainly adults reading this who are thinking, "What do I need with a sock creature?" and the answer is nothing, really, but there are places where one can donate toys - some of which may be tax deductible.

Or better, if one does not wish to make toys to donate to humans, how about toys to donate to shelter animals?  There are lots of options for making pet toys from stuff that's just collecting dust around the house.  I, personally, have several vases full of wine corks.  I should probably get busy repurposing those into cat toys.   

7.  Write a letter.

Admit it - you like getting snail mail.  So does everyone else, but no one ever writes letters anymore.  It's just too easy to sit down and type up an email message or send a quickie text message.  We're all guilty. 

Several years ago, before Deus Ex Machina and I were married, but after we had announced our engagement, his mother sent a card to me.  It was the middle of April.  The card was a Father's Day  card.  Okay.  I wasn't a father, nor was it Father's Day.  She explained that she and her friends had started a Crazy Card Club.  The goal was just to send cards, the crazier the better, because people like getting mail, but no one ever sends mail anymore (sending mail was more usual back in those days, because we didn't have email, yet, but phone calling had replaced letter writing). 

What better way to spend a day without electricity than starting up a crazy card club ... and it's something that can be done when one has electricity, too.  It's also a lot more fun to read a card from a friend than it is to watch some putz "lose" a million dollars on some ridiculous prime time game show. 

8.  Draw or make a picture.

When my daughter was eight, she sat down one day and started cutting shapes out of construction paper.  The result was this amazing picture.

I loved the pockets on the person's jeans.  The detail was just spectacular. 

If one was looking for something to do, because there's no television, drawing, cutting out shapes and taping or gluing them to paper, making a collage from magazine pictures, or just coloring in a book using colored pencils or crayons, can be therapeutic ... and certainly is something to do. 

We don't have a television, but we do watch stuff using our computers.  I'll also admit to spending a goodly portion of my day on the computer.  My children spend a lot of time on their computers, too. 

But when the power goes out, we don't lament not having Facebook or YouTube.  We do something else.  It's not a big deal, and we enjoy our day without electricity as much as we enjoy our days with electricity.

How about you?  What do you do when the power goes out? 

1 comment:

  1. Lots of great ideas! I remember years ago when we had a high wind advisory with power outages projected. I made dinner early in a cast iron pot, baked dessert. We sat back and watched the weather, then when we lost power (for most of the evening) we ate and relaxed. Turned on our hand cranked radio and listened to music. Not a bad evening, but a short stretch.