Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A neighborhood park in need of a neighborhood fix

Julian Fisher Park.  A neighborhood park in need of a neighborhood fix. 

After playground equipment was removed in early 2011 due to years of wear and tear and vandalism, the community is taking notice as to the real shape of the park, whose namesake was a true community leader himself.  Times are tough, and it is no longer simply a quick fix- the revitalization of this park will require a complete community effort! 

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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Good Fences & Good Neighbors

We have all heard the expression, "good fences make good neighbors."  In fact, if you google the quote, you will find over 400,000 references to it online.  The line comes from Robert Frost's blank verse poem entitled, The Mending Wall. 

The poem is about two men, neighbors, who every year fix the stone fence between their properties.  We at The Neighborhood Fix wanted to know- what does it mean?  Do good fences make good neighbors?  For the sake of Mr. Frost, let's take a look at the poem:

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it
And spills the upper boulders in the sun,
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.

I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
‘Stay where you are until our backs are turned!’
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.

Oh, just another kind of outdoor game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, “Good fences make good neighbors”.
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
“Why do they make good neighbors? Isn’t it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.” I could say “Elves” to him,
But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather
He said it for himself. I see him there,
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father’s saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, “Good fences make good neighbors.”

For those of us who aren't poetry buffs, it may be a little hard to decipher, but that's what the author intended.  *Frost said he consciously used his "innate mischievousness" in setting up the argumentative dialogue in order "to trip the reader head foremost into the boundless."  The poem is about so many things: boundaries, barriers, (in)determinacy and conventions and also about tradition, innovation, (dis)agreements and individuality… and community, property, behavior, communication, knowledge, and folk wisdom.

Good fences make good neighbors. 
This proverb is passed down from generation to generation.  And it exists in many cultures:
  • "There must be a fence between good neighbors" (Norwegian);
  • "Between neighbors' gardens a fence is good" (German);
  • "Build a fence even between intimate friends" (Japanese);
  • "Love your neighbor, but do not throw down the dividing wall" (Indian [Hindi]);
  • "Love your neighbor, but put up a fence" (Russian).

Proverbs are not universal truths, just simple statements to help us deal with multifaceted issues.  Ask yourself: What is a good neighbor and how does a fence help you in becoming one? 

It is up to you to be a good neighbor- a fence cannot do that work for you.  I think we can all learn a valuable lesson from Mr. Wilson from the show Home Improvement!  Was he a good neighbor because a fence separated him from Tim “the tool man” Taylor? NO- it was because he looked over the fence at the real person on the other side.

*Thompson, Lawrance, ed. Selected Letters of Robert Frost. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1964

Monday, July 18, 2011

New Orleans Neighbors Speak

There are many neighborhoods that have come together in times of crisis, but after Hurricane Katrina none was so striking as in New Orleans.  Many times I have heard people wonder, "Why do they stay?" but those questions were answered when I saw a video of a neighborhood conference in 2008 designed to highlight community efforts from New Orleans residents themselves:

This clip provides highlights from New Orleans Speaks, an event of the New Orleans Institute for Resilience and Innovation, to discuss ways in which local knowledge and experience had led the renewal of the city.

New Orleans remains troubled by deep race and class divides and high levels of crime, but the city, by all accounts, also had a lot more civic life than most of the United States --- not just cavorting in the streets during Mardi Gras season but a long tradition of gregariousness and neighborliness; people knew their neighbors, talked to strangers, called everyone by endearments, invited everyone on the block to the crawfish boil, had strong networks in carnival krewes, second-lines, music groups, social clubs, churches, to say nothing of the extended families so many people have. It's why a lot of people come back, or want to, and it's a major resource for reclaiming the city after Katrina. - Rebecca Solnit, 2007, The Nation

Would your neighborhood stay?

Friday, July 8, 2011

The World at Your Fingertips?

If you are reading this, you are probably in front of a computer screen or a smart phone, ostensibly with the world at your fingertips.  That’s pretty powerful: the world at your fingertips.  You can “go” anywhere in the world through the power of the internet.  You can wirelessly connect to anyone in any country with such ease that it is hard to remember a world without internet, which in fact wasn’t that long ago.

But look up and look outside… now come back to the screen so you can finish reading...  What did you see?  What was happening?  What did you feel when you looked at it?  We spend so much time looking at the world at our fingertips that we are tempted to forget the world just outside our front door. 

In fact, the world at your fingertips is just a slogan used by technology companies.  Many of us long to see the world, to travel, to see new things and for only the cost of a monthly cell phone or cable bill, these companies are telling us we can get there!  The first thing I did when I started making an actual paycheck was get internet.  It’s an incredible technology and communication tool.  Without this technology, you wouldn’t be reading this blog and we wouldn’t be able to spread our neighborhood message, but we want to remind you that the world outside your front door can be just as exciting as the one on the screen in front of you!  Plus, it broadcasts in 3D without you needing to wear those dorky glasses.

My challenge to you today is to do as much exploring outside the front door as you do online.  Start really looking at your neighborhood and all of its eccentricities.  Here’s what I recommend you try this weekend:
      Walk around the neighborhood.  Try a time you don’t normally walk and see if you catch different people or see different things.  I walked at night yesterday because it was too hot to walk earlier and was stunned by the number of families out at the corner ice cream store at 10pm!
    Take photos of your neighborhood as you walk.  Upload your photos, and you can use the world wide web to enhance the world outside your front door by connecting with people.  Check out this great blog to see how one person does it: http://livinginmonrovia.blogspot.com/
      Sit on your front porch with your laptop or smart phone… just make sure to look up every now and then and wave at people at cars who go by.
      Does your City have a Neighborhood Services Department?  When something happens in your neighborhood that is exciting, hilarious, eccentric or just plain story-worthy, write it down and email it in to them!  These are people who love to celebrate the uniqueness of neighborhoods and they will always be interested to hear what’s going on.

Have fun in the world outside your front door this weekend!  And if you have a great story to share in the end, make sure to email us at theneighborhoodfix@gmail.com.  

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Straight from the pages of Parade

           Perhaps taking cookies door-to-door isn’t quite your style.  A stranger’s front doorstep is a vulnerable place to be.  You don’t know if they’re home, do they have dogs, are they going to shut the door in my face, will I remember their name tomorrow, is this a bad time...I could go on.  This post is for those of us (yes, me too) who have a hard time mustering up the nerve to overcome those fears but want to be...well, neighborly.  Yeah, it does sound a bit old fashioned, but I’m an old fashioned kinda girl. 
I propose that there is another way!
          Yes, there are indeed countless ways to welcome people into my life and allow them to welcome me to theirs.    
          The following article was passed to me last year and I have just been waiting for the right opportunity to share it!  That time has come.    
          I know it’s cheating to use another person’s article in a blog, but here’s the thing...it’s a good story!  Also, I’m not a writer. You will enjoy the time you spent reading this much more than you would enjoy me re-telling a story in my jumbled and far too informal language. 
          May this story inspire us all to make the most of the relationships that surround us each day.   Let’s participate in life together.
May 02, 2010

Meet the Neighbors

When Jodi Lee, a librarian, bought a home in 2004 near downtown Columbus, Ohio, neighbors told her about “Wednesdays on the Porch.” From the first week after Memorial Day through early fall, residents take turns hosting a weekly porch party for their neighbors. It is a way to get to know one another, exchange information, and keep in touch. Jodi was encouraged to host one. She followed the advice and, a few weeks later, on her own front porch, met her neighbor Bill Sieloff. Four years later, he became her husband. “The wedding was almost like a Wednesday on the Porch,” Jodi recalls, “so many neighbors were there.”  

Doug Motz, one of the founders, estimates that since these Wednesdays began eight years ago, about 75 different families have held more than 130 porch parties in the neighborhood. “It’s a time for sharing—opinions on new restaurants, how to find good painters and home-repair people—but it’s primarily social,” Motz says.  “And the nice thing is, the hosts don’t have to worry about cleaning up inside.”

New traditions like this are a welcome exception to the trend favoring privacy over community, which goes back to the post–World War II flight to the suburbs. According to social scientists, neighborhood ties today are less than half as strong as they were in the 1950s. Recently, the trend has accelerated with suburban “McMansions,” huge houses set back from wide streets with big backyards that further isolate neighbors from one another.

It was a tragedy 10 years ago on my own street, in a suburb of Rochester, N.Y., that got me thinking about how we Americans live. One evening, a neighbor shot and killed his wife and then himself. Their two middle-school-age children ran screaming into the night. Soon, the kids moved in with their grandparents and the house was put up for sale.

But life on our street seemed little affected.

Asking around, I learned that hardly anyone had known the family well. In fact, few people on the street knew anyone more than casually.

In an age of discount air travel, cheap long distance, and the Internet, when we can create community anywhere, why is it that we often don’t know the people who live next door?  

By not knowing our neighbors, we lose a crucial safety net. We also lose social and economic benefits: the ability, in a pinch, to borrow a cup of sugar or a dash of vanilla instead of making yet another trip to the supermarket, and the simple pleasure of daily, unplanned contact with people with whom we have become friends.

Bucking the decades-long trend toward isolation, people around the country are finding new ways to break down the barriers that separate neighbor from neighbor.
To view this story from it source and share it with a friend, click the link below.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Amish Friendship Bread

As promised, here is the recipe for my favorite recipe to share:  Amish Friendship Bread. 

I learned about this bread when a friend gave me a large Ziplock bag of goopy-looking dough and written instructions.  I started reading the instructions and saw that the process took 10 days.  I believe my response was "Not likely."  Upon more careful inspection I saw that almost each day, the instructions were "mush the bag,"  and I thought to myself "now that's my speed."  Ten days later, I had seriously delicious cinnimon bread (more like a coffee cake) and 4 Ziplock bags of my own with dough starters to pass on to other people.  Amazing! 

This is magic bread in my book. 

Amish Friendship Bread Cinnamon Loaf Recipe

Do not use any type of metal spoon or bowl for mixing - I don't know why, I just do what I'm told.
Do not refrigerate.
Batter will rise, bubble, and ferment ... release air from the bag as necessary.

Day 1 - receive the starter and do nothing
Day 2 - Mush the bag.
Day 3 - Mush the bag.
Day 4 - Mush the bag.
Day 5 - Mush the bag.
Day 6 - Add to the bag 1 cup each flour, sugar and milk. Mush the bag.
Day 7 - Mush the bag.
Day 8 - Mush the bag.
Day 9 - Mush the bag.
Day 10 - Follow these instructions:

1. Pour the entire contents of the bag into a non-metal bowl.
2. Add 1 1/2 cups flour, 1 1/2 cups sugar and 1 1/2 cups milk. Stir.
3. Measure one cup batter into four 1-gallon Ziploc bags and give to friends along with a copy of the recipe.
4. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
5. Add to the remaining batter:

3 eggs
1 cup oil
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 cups flour
1 large box instant vanilla pudding
1/2 tsp. salt

6. Grease 2 large loaf pans
7. In a small bowl, mix together 1/2 cup sugar and 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon. Dust the greased pans with 1/2 of this mixture.
8. Pour the batter evenly into the 2 pans and sprinkle the remaining sugar mixture over the top.
9. Bake 1 hour. Cool the bread until it loosens evenly from the pan (about 10 minutes). Serve warm or cold.

If you keep a starter for yourself, you will be baking every 10 days. The bread is very good and makes a great gift. Only the Amish know how to creat the starter, so if you give them all away, you will have to wait until someone gives you one back.

The cycle has to start somewhere though right?  So here's the recipe to start your own Amish Frindship Bread train...

Amish Friendship Bread StarterThis is the Amish Friendship Bread Starter Recipe that you’ll need to make the Amish Friendship Bread (above). It is very important to use plastic or wooden utensils and plastic or glass containers when making this. Do not use metal at all!


1 pkg. active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (110°F)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
1 cup warm milk (110°F)


1. In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in warm water for about 10 minutes. Stir well.
2. In a 2 quart glass or plastic container, combine 1 cup sifted flour and 1 cup sugar. Mix thoroughly or the flour will get lumpy when you add the milk.
3. Slowly stir in warm milk and dissolved yeast mixture. Loosely cover the mixture with a lid or plastic wrap. The mixture will get bubbly. Consider this Day 1 of the cycle, or the day you receive the starter.

For the next 10 days handle starter according to the instructions above for Amish Friendship Bread.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Yes, the title of this article is simple, but telling.  I really love food.  Have you ever wondered why all MAP events involve food?  Food has the unique ability to draw people together and create opportunities for conversation, laughter and even friendship.  We may be different sizes, shapes, colors – we might be from different neighborhoods, attend different churches and vote in opposite ways …but we all have to eat; and most of us thoroughly enjoy it.  If you find this to be a common thread through many of my posts, you now know why. 
If you are familiar with our MAP Neighborhood Newsletter, you may have read a short article in our April Issue in which a group of people reached out to homes on the 200 block of East Colorado.  Their mission was to build relationships and they did it through…yep, you guessed it – Food.  Cookies and baked goods to be exact.  Some people from the group were kind enough to share their experience with us.

“ ’Are you serious? Are you serious?! That is so sweet! I'm going to cry!’

((The neighbor on Colorado)) was eager to talk to us about her street, and was very kind. But what was most impacting about ((her)) was her ability talk to us with a trusting spirit. ((She)) made the choice to share her story with strangers, even after having been so recently accosted with violence in her neighborhood.

There were some neighbors that afternoon who would only speak through their screen doors, which is an act of security that I can understand. However, there were many more neighbors like ((this woman)): people who were willing to believe that despite occasional risks, engaging in community is worth it. Loving your neighbor is more powerful than bullets any day…Love wins!”

            -Megan Lundgren
                        Neighborhood Leader - Royal Oaks Ave


While today, I am unable to bring you all a batch of fresh cookies, I would like to share with you one way I was given a gesture of friendship in the form of food.   Check back on Friday (April 22nd) for my favorite recipe that’s perfect for sharing with everyone.  You won’t be disappointed.   

For now, I send us all off with a challenge:

This week, use something you love to make someone else smile.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Getting to Know Your Neighbors

Today, I am inspired by Mother Teresa, who said, "I want you to get to know your next door neighbor.  Do you know your next door neighbor?"

As I step out the door to follow her direction, the immediate question next is:
How do you get to know your neighbor?! 
There are many different degrees of knowing someone.  Some neighbors will be great friends, some good acquaintances and some will be challenges.  The thing to remember is that you're all in it together!  So here are some examples for you:
  • Food!  I live in an apartment complex, and my neighbor and her husband invited several of us neighbors over for cake one day, just because she had made extra.  Breaking bread is a great way to get to know someone and a BBQ will always bring people over.
  • Sitting out on the front porch, you are sure to see your neighbors go by.  Make sure to wave and smile!  Just being friendly goes a long way.
  • Take advantage of the little opportunities that are given to you!  If you get a piece of mail that belongs to your neighbor, walk it over when they're home and say hello.  Knock on the door and let them know (if they're like me) that they have left their keys in the door after a long day's work.  It sets the scene that you're all looking out for each other.
  • Know where you can find mediation programs!  Not all neighbors will get along, we understand that; but it's important for your own sanity that you find a way to live alongside each other.  Check City Hall- many cities like Monrovia offer free mediation programs where you can learn to live with your differences.
  • And remember, as a wise neighbor once told me, "Influence your environment before it influences you!"
What other ways are you getting to know your neighbor?  Did you find out something interesting that you didn't know before?  Send us a comment of email us.  Share this blog with your friends and neighbors.  As always, we are on the lookout for the perfect neighborhood fix!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Welcome to the Neighborhood Fix!

We love to get our Neighborhood Fix!  So, we've created this blog to highlight all the cool, creative, exciting and rad things that are going on in our neighborhoods & yours.  We think there are some great things to be learned with every neighborhood project, activity and event on the way to building better, safer communities.  Our goal is to bring you the how-to's, what-not-do's and FYI's that will spur us all on to being better neighbors!

Let's start sharing ideas...