Archive | March, 2013

Off we go again

18 Mar

Jim and I are getting ready to head off to three more states: Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Delaware, plus Washington, D.C. and a bonus return visit to Virginia — a state we visited  back in May 2012. I knew when we set this trip up that it was awfully early in the spring to be traveling to this part of the country, and I was nervous about the weather. Now that we’re actually going, I’m mostly concerned about what kind of coat to bring. As of this morning, it is snowing in Washington, D.C. (as it is here in Ames), and the forecast is for highs in the upper 40s and low 50s by the end of the week. In Lancaster, Pa., our destination for Thursday, it is also snowing today and the forecast says it will be 26 degrees when we arrive, with a high on Thursday of 39 degrees. That sounds like a winter coat to me. Although I’m not too keen on wearing my winter coat in the rain…so this mixing of seasons is sort of freaking me out. Oh, well, I figure whatever I take will be wrong, so I just have to accept that. I will let you know how it all turns out.

Sunshine in a glass

12 Mar


What could possibly be more “Florida” than orange juice?

The state of Florida produces 67 percent of all U.S. oranges and accounts for 40 percent of the world’s orange juice supply. Next to tourism, citrus production is one of the top moneymakers for the state.

Tropicana buys 30 percent of all oranges grown in Florida. The Tropicana plant in Bradenton, Fla., processes 50 million oranges a day. That translates into a million gallons of orange juice.

Brenda Lanning Marlow (’88 consumer food science) is a manager in manufacturing at Tropicana, where she’s worked in a variety of positions for the past 21 years. She’s a quality control expert, working to roll out new products, keep production costs down, and improve efficiencies in the manufacturing process.

During our visit to the plant in mid-February, Brenda gave Jim and me a tour of just a small part of the huge, 285-acre plant, including the fruit-receiving area where truck after truck filled with fresh-smelling oranges pulled in and dumped their loads.

A Marshalltown, Iowa, native, Brenda is an avid Cyclone sports fan, as evidenced by her office decorated with Iowa State posters and other paraphernalia (“I really didn’t do this for the photos,” she insists. “It always looks like this. Just ask my co-workers.”) She’s also the president of the ISU Alumni Association Club of Tampa.

As we prepared to leave, Brenda gave each of us two cold cartons of orange juice to drink on the road. And then she mentioned, as if it were no big deal, a huge personal accomplishment: She recently lost more than 90 pounds and has begun organizing Weight Watchers meetings for a group of co-workers, resulting in more than 100 pounds of weight loss within the group just over the past few weeks. Wow – that’s  truly impressive leadership.

Brenda is married to Steven Marlow and has two stepchildren, Joshua and Rachel.

A perfect match

4 Mar


At first glance, Rafael Perez-Micheli and Bridget Moore seem like total opposites.

Bridget (’02 English) grew up in Ames, Iowa, the daughter of “hippie” parents. She was a “nature girl” who loved to get her hands dirty, to go camping, and to crawl under things looking for salamanders.

Rafi, as he prefers to be called, (’97 art & design, ’03 graphic design) grew up in a large city in Puerto Rico, the son of conservative parents. He’d only been to the United States once before enrolling at ISU: to visit Disney World. And he’d never seen snow.

The two met in the unlikeliest of places: Hickory Park Restaurant in Ames. Bridget was an on-again-off-again college student working as a waitress; Rafi was following in his sisters’ footsteps attending Iowa State and was working as a cook.

Their home in Sanford, Fla., is the perfect mix of their backgrounds: Its size, downtown area, and vibe remind Bridget of Ames. The summer heat reminds Rafi of Puerto Rico. They both agree that they “love everything about this town.” Sanford is home to an annual film festival, monthly juried art shows and street parties, funky bars and restaurants, art galleries, theatres, a farmers market, and antiques stores.

“The town is disgustingly cute,” Bridget says, laughing. “It’s an oddball town, with musicians and artists and creatives going in a hipster direction.”

The couple has been together 16 years and married for 10; they moved to Sanford in 2004. Bridget, who has a master’s in English with a technical writing focus from the University of Central Florida, is a proposal development supervisor for Akimeka, LLC, an IT services firm. Akimeka has multiple office locations; Bridget works in the corporate office in Maitland, Fla., just north of Orlando. Rafi is an art director for the Parenting Group at Bonnier Corporation, which is owned by the Swedish Bonnier Group. He works at the Winter Park location of Bonnier Corp.

When Jim and I visited them on a Saturday in mid-February, they were shopping for fresh produce at a farmers market in downtown Sanford. It was such a nice change of pace from central Iowa in the winter to see fresh okra, avocadoes, strawberries, cabbage, radishes, beets, and kale. Both Rafi and Bridget eat a healthy diet: Rafi recently ran his first Disney Half Marathon, and Bridget finds a wide variety of gluten-free foods in Sanford’s restaurants, bakeries, and markets.