Caught Off Guard

Last Sunday afternoon, when we decided to stay the week, we had no idea we were about to endure yet another winter storm — one that would result in thousands of canceled flights, hundreds of traffic accidents, dozens of highway closures, at least 10 deaths, and Cloud 9 encased in ice. Although our water supply and tank drains froze solid, we muddled through Winter Storm Mara relying on bottled water, limited toiled flushes, and supplemental heat from our oil-filled radiator. After five days, temperatures climbed into the 50s, all residual patches snow and ice melted away, and the only casualty for Cloud 9 was a cracked water filter.

The biggest challenge to hunkering down in the Airstream was dealing with the dogs. We tried unsuccessfully to get them outside to do their business — they defiantly and repeatedly did their business inside so as to avoid slipping and sliding across the frozen campsite. Who could blame them? Cliff took a nasty spill stepping out of the Airstream while holding our smallest dog, but, thankfully, neither Cliff nor Duke was injured.

Toward the end of the week we were finally able to make our way back to Hampshire, where we discovered that we would once again need to replace all of our landscaping, just as we had to do after Winter Storm Uri in 2021. Throughout this winter’s event, we discussed the lingering PTSD we experienced from Uri, when we went for several days without power or heat, huddled around the gas fireplace for warmth, uncertain if we would be among the 246 people who ultimately died as a result of the storm.

Returning to Cloud 9 on Friday, we settled in for our weekender, which included an exquisite Date Night dinner of Steak Diane, pan-seared to perfection in our trusty electric skillet. We had invested in a 17-inch Blackstone tabletop griddle, but it proved to be a bulky, high-maintenance appliance that required the additional inconvenience of hauling around a supply of propane tanks. The electric skillet does just a good a job and, as a bonus, can also be used indoors when the weather warrants. Plus, it can be used for pan-frying, deep-frying, and sautéing. While the Blackstone had distinct “hot zones,” the electric skillet maintains a consistent heat across the entire surface, with high side walls and a lid to offer a better-controlled cooking process. And did we mention the electric skillet is a third of the price of a Blackstone griddle?

Next day, as Jon spent hours delving into his ancestry, Chef Cliff prepared both brunch and dinner in the electric skillet. Saturday night’s panko-crusted pork chops were accompanied by stuffing, blanched broccoli, and cranberry sauce. We ended the evening watching “The Karen Carpenter Story,” a 1989 made-for-TV biopic starring Cynthia Gibb and Mitchell Anderson as Karen and Richard Carpenter. Considering it was the 40th anniversary of Karen Carpenter’s sudden death from anorexia in the closet of her parents’ home in Downey, California, it seemed only fitting to watch the TV movie produced by her brother just six years later. In an interview 15 years after its broadcast, Richard Carpenter said he considered being involved in the film one of his biggest mistakes, primarily because of concessions he had to make for the sake of “creative license.” Interestingly, we learned that he insisted that Cynthia Gibb wear Karen’s original clothing and even her makeup, which she found unnerving. Too soon?

Sunday found us engaged in our typical routines: watching “CBS Sunday Morning,” reading The New York Times, blogging, brunching, napping. The week’s weather forecast includes spring-like temperatures and rain, with another glorious weekend on the horizon.