All staff and visitors were gone after our volunteer’s ‘Opening Day’ on the farm and it had been our first sunny 80 degree day…. what better time to watch Christmas movies? Tired from the hot but awesome hike to the creek after working, we foraged on lunch leftovers and sat down for a spontaneous movie night and miraculously, everyone actually agreed on Home Alone as being worth their time. Life was Good.
Superstorm Sandy blew through our corner of Pennsylvania without much fanfare last fall. But here on the Hill, the anticipation of Sandy for the entire week before she arrived was pure torture. The best thing to come out of it (besides Brent’s amazing ‘Pocket Radio Hurricane Mobile’ that he made to distract himself from the weather channel), was my inspiration to blog here about the importance of weather and all those other seemingly harmless things that get in the way of an independent life and make things difficult for these guys.
But now, after a hike to the creek and spontaneous Home Alone togetherness along with last week’s 500th birthday party of the year (well, not really 500), I’m thinking a blog about all those little things that make an independent life so much better is a must. You see, these guys here and others like them, the ‘in-betweeners’, can survive in the community living semi-independently. With a knowledge of basic safety and microwave use, and a staff person that comes in regularly…. these guys can survive with that. But in order to thrive, we are finding that there are lots of little things each day that make life better.
Take waffles, for instance. Not the frozen kind… although they should be on the list as well because a quick breakfast of toasted frozen waffles when you are in a rush is pretty good. No, I’m talking about the kind made from scratch, right out of Joy of Cooking..thick but light and fluffy, and golden brown… a bit crispy on the outside….mmmmmm.
It all started the time we had our friend Dude I’m an Aspie Matt Friedman over for a Sunday brunch of Chicken and Waffles. It is just an awesome combination and we are all still talking about it. So I started mixing up the waffle batter (minus the chicken) and leaving it in a bowl next to the waffle maker on saturdays…. (the ‘if you build it, they will come‘ kind of teaching model :)). It worked with Ray, he just started taking the time to cook them. Around here, it only takes one person to start a trend. Pretty quickly, ‘waffle envy‘ set in and everyone joined in. Tonight when the leftover batter was gone, Jose said ‘These are much better than the ‘others frozen’. How do you make them? I want to learn‘. So I helped him step by step, wrote the recipe in the ‘NOTES’ on the house IPAD…. and I bet there’s going to be a lot of waffle batter in the fridge from now on.
Of course, you can learn to live independently without homemade waffles. But why would you want to?! We started making a list of all the other things that add to our lives here, our ‘How-To’ Guide’ for other folks out there who are planning to live on their own someday (some of our list is more for the country living folks…there are different ones in the city!). And here is our list below (starting with the obvious)
Holiday and birthday celebrations are a given, of course! Brent’s obsession with every holiday and Andy’s eye for important dates coming up on the calendar ensures a celebration for each and every one. The crowd of friends who make it a habit to drop by on Wednesdays have pretty much all requested that their birthdays (and their staff’s) be celebrated as well. So we have been blowing out candles almost weekly all winter long this year. It’s just the best thing about Wednesdays !
A home where friends and neighbors drop by …now that spring has arrived, we look forward to Wednesdays when our friends come to volunteer… and the group continues to grow.
Dessert ….. especially if it involves whipped cream and fruit served in stem glasses.
and Puppies… or other pets. Nothing like puppy cuddles. Now that Ray’s puppy Hahli is here, our Juniper Hill ‘village’ is helping to raise her together. Alice, our wonderful dog-like tuxedo cat, is always looking for a lap to nap on (which is very easy to find here.) and Bruno, our almost 30 year old cockatiel, always chimes in along with the dinner ruckus.
and there are lots of less obvious things that make us feel like we are Home:
Bird-feeders (cardinals in the snow, squirrels doing acrobatics to steal the bird seed)
Bingo tournaments (with prizes from the dollar store)
House plants (especially if they flower, like Christmas cactus)
Your own seat at the dinner table
Your favorite fork, perfectly sized and bent (and favorite cup, knife, and spatula.. )
A Water Cooler… because for some reason, a water cooler makes it more fun to drink water.
Rubber boots (to walk in the creek)
a House IPAD …this needs it’s own blog post, so many uses! Fun apps (Math Bingo!), email, facebook, YouTube, Music, detailed chore lists for staff to use when teaching skills, privacy internet (explanation? some other time), and now waffle recipes at the tip of your finger. Wow.
Photos on the fridge … family pictures, pets, our trips
Bus charts.. and other charts. Visual lists on the fridge to check off. Brent’s bus chart keeps him focused on going to work and helps him to board the bus, even when there is a new bus driver.
Christmas lights all year long.. just one strand?… OK so we changed the color and added red chili peppers so they don’t look Christmasy… it sure makes it cozy in the evening. We don’t think it is tacky.
Little pads of paper or notebooks.. and pens…lots… because everyone likes to make lists, draw, and write down facts (that they are reading off the IPAD)
Chickens. Highly underrated, entertaining creatures in your yard, especially the little bantams. Fresh eggs every morning. (well, probably will not be high on most people’s list, not really at home in the city!)
Saturday morning cartoons, forever….
Frozen strawberries in the freezer… so you can always make a smoothie.
Spontaneous movie nights. A VHS collection and player (I don’t know why. but it’s true). and also Netflix streaming all kinds of movies to please everyone… from Abbott and Costello to Anime.
TV Blankets…. to curl up with on cozy winter evenings. Preferably a Brent’s Blanket .
Tray Tables… cause sometimes you eat dinner in front of the TV.
Picnic Tables… cause it’s great to eat outside in the summer.
A Grill.. even a small one. for the hotdogs and hamburgers that you are going to eat at the picnic table.
A Crockpot. Throw in meat and vegetables at noon and cook it ’til dinner, and the house smells delicious all day.
A Vegetable garden. with tomatoes, and potatoes.
Night lights, and a guy with OCD who turns them on at dusk, as well as turning on a light in each main room in the evening (and the Christmas light strand of course!) … absolutely wonderful to come home to after work. Without him, the guys would sit in complete darkness with just the light from the television. Really.
A Pond, with fish. We have been working on this for two years, soon to be finished. We will let you know how nice it makes us feel, soon.
A Fireplace and someone who loves to build fires every night... and a place to sit by it with a book.
A Fireplace that streams on Netflix. Apparently almost as good as the real thing around here. Check it out!
Lots of tea choices, for a hot cup of tea on cozy winter evenings in front of the Netflix or real fireplace. Especially Tension Tamer, Sleepytime, Peppermint and KAVA Stress Relief.
and especially Music... really cozy when it comes from three directions in the house all at the same time… heavy metal from the basement, Christian rock in Spanish from upstairs, classical or jazz ‘soft music’ from the living room when it’s Andy’s turn for the IPAD.
We could keep going…
As time goes by here on the Hill, with the same guys and staff becoming a family after two and a half years, new traditions/habits/routines continue to evolve. We realize them in retrospect!
So go out and buy a waffle maker. Here is our recipe (simplified from Joy of Cooking): Turn on the wafflemaker. Put 2 cups of flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 2 tablespoons sugar in a bowl and MIX. Break 3 eggs into center of dry ingredients and MIX (just eggs), then MIX 2 cups of milk in with eggs, then MIX everything together. Add 1/2 stick of melted butter and you guessed it… MIX. Put a cup of batter on the pre-heated waffle maker, and set the timer for 5 minutes. If you don’t have syrup, yogurt or jelly works too!