Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Time Flies, Holidays Happen

I can't decide if Michaels is off message again for this year, or maybe on message. I guess it depends if HOME means you stay put or if you travel. Stay put, okay?

It looks as though we will have 5 out of 6 kids with us for Christmas (because 4 are already living here and the other is local and lives alone), so I feel lucky compared to a lot of people. But I was still dreading it, because we usually have another family over for dinner, which makes the day feel special, and that can't happen this year. 

The whole thing was making me miss my friends more than usual, and I wondered what we would do all day, once the gifts were opened. I sure didn't want everyone to retreat to their own rooms, like the housemates that we now are. So I half-jokingly suggested to the "kids" that they spend Christmas Day building gingerbread houses, like they used to, out of graham crackers and confectioners-sugar glue and candy. LOTS OF CANDY.

The results (2012 here) could be fairly impressive, I must say...

As you can imagine, when they were small, this was a popular Christmas time activity, one we would invariably invite neighborhood kids to, and there was generally enough sugar flowing that we'd have to administer insulin shots on their way out the door.

I exaggerate, but you get my drift.

The amount of prep required? Also fairly impressive.  

Anyhoo, as everyone aged out, soon it was only Susie who wanted to build a house and so the practice fell by the wayside. And I didn't really think anyone now (ages 15 - 29) would be interested. But they all pretty much jumped at the idea, and so that's what we will be doing on Christmas Day. Building graham cracker houses. 2020 has yielded quite a few surprises, so I'll just add that one to the list.

I'm in the final stretch of Christmas knitting, which never looks pretty:

My hands hurt. A LOT.

And we went all out for Chanukah, making latkes AND sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts), both events being spearheaded by Theo, because I hate frying things.

Disappeared so fast, I didn't even get a photo of the full plate

Tree is up, gifts are bought, Thanksgiving feels like eons ago. EONS. And, of course, Christmas cookies are baked:

Pecan bars, YUM

What a stupid year this has been. I mean, really. I feel as though we will all wake up on January 1st and shake our heads and go, "What the heck happened?" 

In the meantime, we soldier on. Stay safe! And keep your hands off those cookies...

Monday, November 16, 2020

Miscellaneous Taken To A New Level

Whelp, here we are, once more at the end of our family's birthday season. If you check out the info on the right there, in the sidebar, you can see that all my kids are getting really old. I don't know how that happened, actually, but with Theo having just turned 29, I can't ignore it anymore. I'm not sure if people without younger kids are even allowed to blog, so I'll have to check the rule book on that and get back to you. In the meantime, let's catch up!

Halloween still life, with Twizzlers

Halloween - our second year with no resident trick-or-treaters, and I'm still sort of annoyed about that. It's no fun stealing candy from myself, TBH. We saw 54 trick-or-treaters for our modified festivities this year (candy left at the end of the sidewalk, with us old people waving and exclaiming over costumes from the front porch). I am currently experiencing the remorse of one who has way overindulged in those fat little strawberry Twizzlers that are sold only for Halloween.

But the most exciting news from October was that the appliance repairman finally returned with all the needed parts and fixed our dishwasher. Honestly, toward the end of our broken-dishwasher ordeal, I had pretty much convinced myself that we were way more efficient at doing dishes when we had to do them by hand. "This is actually much better," I would announce to anyone who would listen, as I washed my 51st fork of the day and balanced it in my overworked Michael Graves dish-drying rack

"Dishwashers are a waste of time and energy resources," I'd say primly, as I tried to scrub the food stains off my white plastic cutting board. "Really," I told a not-listening Larry, "let's just take out the dishwasher and put the condiment fridge in that space."

The other residents of our household wisely chalked up my ravings to the dishwashing version of Stockholm Syndrome. But now we have our dishwasher back, and oh, it is a joyous experience to load up those 3 racks and start it up. JOYOUS, I tell you.


8 WEEKS, people. We went without this miracle of modern convenience for 8 weeks. No wonder I was suffering delusions by the end.

Spending less time washing dishes means I finally finished knitting the socks I've been working on since March and which will forever remind me of COVID-19. I am now fixated on knitting fingerless mitts, because it is November and Christmas is coming. Also, bulky cowls. And watch caps for the boys. That's my plan, anyway. Hopefully that dishwasher stays fixed.

The official colors of COVID, I guess

In other not-so-exciting news, I cleaned out some kitchen cabinets and discovered that I possess not even one complete set of measuring cups. Also? I unearthed a sippy cup lid (we haven't used sippy cups here in the past decade) and some taco holders (ditto) which I recall made some of my children very happy a long, long time ago.

Remembrance of things past

I do hope no one came here expecting anything other than the mundane. If there is one thing you can count on in this crazy, mixed-up world, it's that I will continue talking about broken appliances, my inept housekeeping practices, and knitting, all while waxing maudlin about the inexorable passage of time.

Oh, I almost forgot - I voted.

All the cool kids were doing it

I spent the 2 days before the election canvassing for Get Out the Vote, and I spent 4 hours volunteering at the polls on Election Day (hey, someone had to erase those ballots and fill them in the right way, you know - HA HA JOKE JUST KIDDING NO FRAUD HERE), so I spent Wednesday lying on our couch and wondering, along with the rest of America, just what was going to happen. I was exhausted. Spent. Wiped out.

But hey, at least I didn't have to do any dishes...

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

On The Road

 It's been an exciting 2 weeks, because NY and NJ finally decided to permit the citizens of my apparently COVID-ridden state to visit, so we took full advantage of the opportunity. Susie and I jumped in the car and drove to the Jersey shore, to our favorite beach town, where we stayed cheaply in an almost empty hotel (its being midweek in October). 

Requisite not-so-healthy car snacks

The town was sparsely populated, so no worries about COVID, and it was warm enough (high 60s) to lie out on the beach for a few hours and pretend it was summer. Somehow Susie and I managed to log upwards of 25,000 steps both days we were there, just walking around watching sunrises and sunsets and looking at seagulls and really, these 2 days were just about the perfect antidote for the previous 7 months of pandemic craziness. Highly recommend.

Oh, just one of the coolest sunrise photos I've ever taken, is all

On the way home, we packed the car full of NJ hoagies (yes, they ARE the best) and NJ bagels (ditto), stopped at a farm market to pick up half a bushel of apples and a package of cider doughnuts, and then drove back to reality, all the while feeling as though we had plundered my birth state. But in a good way...

While we were at the shore, we met up with friends from home who were remodeling their beach house. This couple nefariously lured us onto their new rooftop deck to admire the view from all sides, which was indeed magnificent. While we were up there, however,  I - acrophobe that I am - realized that we were trapped. You see, the spiral staircase leading up to the deck was not quite finished - the platform between it and the deck had no railings on either side. Going from the spindly staircase to the solid deck had been only moderately scary. But going down would mean traversing what seemed to be a postage-stamp-sized piece of metal in an attempt to land safely on the narrow top step of the staircase. The mere thought of this maneuver made my legs feel like jelly.

So the whole time we were up on the deck, admiring the view and discussing the furniture to be delivered the next day, my internal monologue was running along the lines of "Pretend there are railings? Scooch on my butt? Live up here until the railings are installed?" Over and over and over.

Susie, it turns out, was doing the same. We're a fun pair.

Not bad for an amateur, eh?

The next week Larry and I took off on Wednesday night - without any offspring - to go hiking in the mountains of southern NY. Again, hotels were really cheap midweek and we packed food for the first day's lunch, and aren't we frugal? 

Not really. Its being Larry's birthday weekend, he got to choose where to eat for dinner the next night, so - lover of beer that he is - he opted for the local brewery/restaurant, which had ample outdoor seating (my requirement). That means we ordered what I considered to be overpriced food that took approximately 11 hours to reach our table, plus we overtipped the waitress, because pandemic. In short, we spent what seemed to me to be a buttload of money and time for no real return - the food was mediocre, at best, and I found myself pining for those NJ hoagies of the previous week. 

No matter, I thought, Larry's enjoying himself drinking locally brewed beers. It's his birthday, so it's worth it. The second day, as we were meandering through the town after checking out of the hotel, I said, "Hey, didn't you want to buy some of the local beer to take home?" And he said, "Nah, it sort of sucked."

We're not very good at this vacation splurge thing. I guess you can take the girl out of fast casual, but you can't take fast casual out of the girl.

The hiking was wonderful. I love the Catskills, it was autumn weather, and it wasn't crowded on the trails. 


This was billed as a "scramble over some rocks." Yeah, no. Terrifying.

It was so pretty up there, we got carried away and ended up hiking/walking over 12 miles that first day, although some of those steps happened because we decided to take the scenic route back to the hotel after our sad excuse for a fancy dinner and we got lost. Like, really lost. Like, walking by a graveyard in the dark and not knowing where we were, LOST. 

I blame Larry. I wasn't interested in the scenic route after sundown, myself.

Let me point out that this was the first time Larry and I have gone on a trip by ourselves in, oh, 29 YEARS. When we mentioned this to our offspring, I could sense each of them thinking, Yeah, I'm never having kids. All in all, it was very novel to go on a trip and not be worrying about keeping even one child or adolescent happy. Relaxing, even. I could definitely get used to it. 

But I'm choosing the food next time, for sure.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Dare To Repair (Or Maybe Just Call Someone)

So I woke up last Thursday morning and found Larry messing around in the laundry room where the magic Verizon box is and swearing quietly to himself. NO INTERNET. Thus started a 4-hour ordeal of his being on the phone with Verizon, trying to troubleshoot the problem, before they agreed to send someone to our house later that day.

These wifi thingies were all glowing an apocalyptic red Thursday morning

In the meantime, the rest of us wandered around the house, bereft and confused, but still too cheap to run up the data charges on our phones. Guys, it turns out we use the internet A LOT. ALL THE TIME. CONSTANTLY.

So, after we endured 4 more hours of living as though it were 1999, the repair guy came to the door and was treated as the conquering hero that he was. We all had to wear masks while he was in the house, which believe me, was no problem. Heck, we would have held our breaths if we had to. JUST GIVE US OUR INTERNET.

Which he did. Whereupon we all heaved a sigh of relief, put away our checkers and our whittling knives, and resumed a happily internet-dependent, 21st-century existence.

But somewhere in the middle of that - I guess while Larry was on the phone with the Verizon help line -- I heard him saying, "I have to set up a new PIN?" and I thought, Oh, no, not that.  You see, Larry -- security conscious as he is -- usually chooses passwords and PINS that no one (i.e., moi) can ever remember. 

And yes, we do try to write them all down, but we can never find the darn list when we need it. Look, I never said we were the most organized couple in the world, all right?

Anyway, Larry came up the stairs shortly thereafter to where I was busy sitting on the couch, missing my internet, and said, "Our new Verizon PIN is ****" (those are numbers, I'm just not telling them to you,because well, duh). Ever the optimist, I tried to make some sense of the 4 digits he chose, but I couldn't. Important date? Someone's phone number? Our old license plate number from the first state we lived in, which happens to be the only plate number stuck in my memory? No, none of that.

Me: How the heck am I supposed to remember 4 random numbers like that?


Me: Well?

Larry: It's the date we met.

And that's how I lost a whole bunch of marriage points in one fell swoop. (Although, as a friend later pointed out, I'm still way ahead because of all the points I won from the bagel-slicer incident.) AND I had to watch Larry act insufferably smug for the rest of the day. 

But I did have my internet, so I couldn't complain. Much.

In other news, I became seriously delusional at some point last week and decided that, in true Rosie the Riveter fashion, I was perfectly capable of stripping the old caulk from our kitchen sink and replacing it with new caulk. So I went to Home Depot and bought some tools and implements of destruction, waited until Larry went to bed (I was trying to surprise him, in a good way), and commenced my operation.

These are much harder to use than they look

People, it took me almost an hour to dig out all the pieces of rotting, moldy caulk, even with that handy-dandy tool pictured up there. But once I did, I thought, Hey! Now I just squeeze this stuff out of the tube, smooth it, and let it dry. Easy!

[Narrator: It wasn't easy]

In one corner, I managed to get that nice, smooth professional look of freshly applied caulk. The rest? Well, it looked like a 5-year-old had done it. And the more I tried to fix it, the worse it got. It reminded me of the time my parents left me with a sitter and I got Silly Putty stuck all over the bathroom faucet and I finally gave up trying to remove it and went to bed. It was all gone in the morning, and no one ever mentioned it, much to my relief.

So, hoping for a similar miracle, I taped off the sink and went to bed.

Back right-hand corner looks good, right? RIGHT?

Unfortunately, it still looked pathetic in the morning, but Susie had helped a little by leaving a note for Larry: "Mommy worked really hard on this, so say it looks good."

Larry said it looked good. But he was shaking his head a lot all morning.

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

The Ties That Bind

 Today? I cleaned out the miscellaneous drawer in the kitchen. It had been bugging me for months, what with it jamming on the doohickey that spreads out crepes and the oversize pizza cutter my kids insisted on buying, so I tackled it. I did a darn good job, if I do say so myself:

I will absolutely need ALL of those rubber bands some day

But while I was cleaning it out, I found a zillion (more or less) twisty ties and plastic thing-a-ma-bobs that are used to close bread bags. I was throwing them away as I scooped them out, but it suddenly occurred to me to wonder where they came from. I mean, I have never made a point of saving one of these things myself. As you can see in the picture, we have those handy-dandy bag clips from IKEA that we use for everything that needs sealing. Yet, those twisty ties had been sitting in my drawer, unnoticed by me, because I (like everyone else my age, most likely) grew up in a house that had a drawer holding twisty ties. 

Maybe, in the back of my mind, I believed they were a naturally occurring phenomenon in kitchen drawers?

Later, all 4 of the at-home "kids" happened to be in the kitchen at once, eating breakfast or lunch or something in between, because really, who knows anymore what meal they are eating, as time has no meaning in this age of corona. I seized the moment to get to the bottom of this mystery: "Hey," I asked. "Which one of you is saving these twisty ties from the bread bags?"

They all denied having done any such thing, which means - stay with me here - Larry is the culprit. What's more, if he is the one doing it, that means he has been saving them for the past 30 years of our lives together and I NEVER NOTICED.

What's up with that?

"Why do you think Dad's saving them?" I asked the not-kids-anymore human beings at my table. To which question they responded - literally - as one: "Because that's what old people DO." that's another theory: Larry hasn't been saving these things for 30 years, it's just a habit that naturally developed once he hit age 50 or so. It's like your knees starting to get stiff or suddenly having eyebrows that attempt to grow all over your face. Suddenly, you find yourself tossing bread ties in the junk drawer like the self-respecting almost-senior citizen that you are.

This idea is disturbing. Also, just as FYI for my kids, we're not THAT old. Not saving-bread-ties old. I'm not, anyway. 

The rubber bands don't count, dammit.

Monday, August 31, 2020

Do We Even NEED To Use Silverware?

Remember April? When this whole pandemic/social isolation thing was still new and my dishwasher broke (AGAIN) and Larry -- after sexily trying to fix it -- ordered us a new one that arrived within a week and saved us from having to wash and dry dishes for 5 (now 6) people?

Remember how excited I was?

5 months, people - the shining, three-racked wonder pictured above lasted 5 months in this appliance-killing household of mine. Granted, in dishwasher years, it was over a year old, not a puppy anymore, given that we run it 12 times a week instead of the 4 its projected longevity is based on.

4 times a week - what is up with that, anyway? If I had so few dishes that I only ran this thing once every other day, I wouldn't really NEED a dishwasher, now would I?

So, yeah, it's broken. And, yes, Larry spent about an hour trying to fix it, which is just exactly what he loves to do with an almost-brand-new appliance. But it refused to respond to his not-so-tender ministrations (some cursing was involved), so I made an appointment with Maytag (it's still under warranty, because it's almost brand new - have I mentioned that? I think I have). 

The soonest available appointment? 8 days out. Okay, I thought, we're strong. We can make it 8 days. Maybe.

So last Thursday, while I was out waving my flag and trying to be an activist, Brian was home to let the repair guy in to, you know, fix the dishwasher. As I marched along, tired as I was, I reveled in the thought that there wouldn't be an entire sinkful of dishes (and silverware - it's the silverware that kills me) to wash and dry that night. Instead, having done my civic duty, I would go home and rest peacefully on my couch while listening to the familiar hum of a not-so-trusty kitchen appliance, repaired and restored. 

I think it was somewhere around mile 4 when I noticed Brian had posted a message to the family group chat: NO DISHWASHER FIX TODAY. 

Turns out, the dishwasher model I have is new this year and apparently there have been a lot of problems with certain parts, and because of COVID, all those parts are back ordered. Meaning, we have no idea when it will be fixed. According to Brian, when he asked, the guy just shrugged and said, "We'll call you."

So we don't even have a day to pin our hopes on, a goal to work toward. This ordeal (YES, it is an ordeal, dammit, you try washing a zillion forks every single day) could continue for weeks, or months. We don't know. And, gosh, isn't THAT a familiar feeling in 2020?

In the meantime, we're back to this:

My trusty Michael Graves dish-drying rack

Sometimes it's the tried-and-true that holds you up when everything falls to pieces. Family, friends, dishracks...especially dishracks...

In other news, Susie and I went to Michaels the other day and decided that they really should have rethought the Halloween marketing for this year:

Seems a tad tone deaf for 2020, you know?

Maybe just put out some cheerful pumpkins and scarecrows and leave it at that? Thanks.

And...Larry once again proved his ability to provide for our family by locating not one -- not two, even -- but THREE containers of Lysol-type wipes at Wegmans recently. This, my friends, is almost as sexy as trying to repair a dishwasher. At least, in 2020 it is...

Friday, August 28, 2020

Black Lives Matter, But So Do Bathrooms

So Jennifer doesn't just inspire me to risk all on an eggplant/tofu experiment for my daughter's 18th birthday. She also inspires me to step outside my comfort zone to meet up with a group of strangers and walk several miles in support of Black Lives Matter. 

I had a lot of reasons not to do this: strangers, the uncertainty of bathroom availability, hot weather, did I mention strangers? But Jennifer's posts about Walk the Walk -- a march from Charlottesville, VA, to DC -- made it all seem possible, so Thursday morning I got up early, filled a water bottle, borrowed a backpack from Susie, and set out to join the group for that day's walk. 

This pack is made for walkin' - just, uh, not too far...

I chose one of the shorter days, because I'm no hero. It was 12 miles, which I thought sounded doable, because I walk a lot. But you know something? Even if you have been walking a total of 4 miles a day for forever (well, since March, which in these pandemic times feels like forever), you still may not be ready to walk 12 miles in extreme heat and humidity. 

When we stopped for lunch, I sat down to put some bandaids on my blisters and guzzle an entire bottle of water and then tried to stop feeling weird in the head (it was HOT). At that point, another woman my age said, "My husband's picking me up. You want a ride back?" 

Reader, I said yes. Even though I really liked walking with that group, I felt that they just didn't need to be having to carry me when I passed out around mile 9. It was hard to admit to myself that 12 miles might be a stretch, because I still picture myself as being 25 years younger and able to do just about anything. Remember? I was the one who thought I'd be fine a few years ago, traveling cross country on a train and sleeping sitting up in coach.

So my day ended up with my walking only 6 miles with a group of really nice individuals. Part of the time I carried a Black Lives Matter flag someone gave me to wave at passing motorists. I'm a hardcore activist now, people. I had a flag. The rest of the group chanted things, but I had to save my energy for breathing. And waving that flag.

The group finished their trek this morning, walking from Alexandria, VA, to DC to join up with the larger March on Washington. And I'm sitting here at home, newly humbled, listening to the speakers and looking at the crowds on YouTube and thinking, "How are all those people standing up for so long? And don't they have to pee?"

I have high aspirations, really I do! But reality seems to get in the way of implementing them.

Monday, August 17, 2020

2020 Ruins Donuts, Too

 Still here, still have housemates, still celebrating birthdays (it's our birthday season)...

Anna turned 27 this month, which is utterly ridiculous, because that would mean I'm 57 and...oh, wait...yeah, I guess that checks out. So while I was in my room having a mid-life crisis (or whatever you would call a midlife crisis that is occurring over a decade too late), Anna and Brian and Susie created our family's first-ever homemade ice cream cake.

Considering that Theo is allergic to all dairy and Anna and Brian are lactose intolerant, this was a rather Herculean effort on everyone's part. They cut the brownie base (cooked by moi) to fit the springform pan we bought a few years ago but never used because Rachel's cheesecake-making plans fell by the wayside. Oatly (determined to be the best fake ice cream after several months' of diligent taste-testing) and Oreo fragments were alternately layered on top of the brownie by my enterprising offspring.

The top is "all wrong" 

Susie wanted the remaining Oreo fragments dusted over the entire top, with some whole Oreos piled haphazardly in the center. She didn't articulate her vision clearly enough, however, so Brian and I ended up executing the more formulaic version you can see in the image above. Susie expressed extreme displeasure with the result, but the damage had been done. Also, the cake was melting. 

Can't really tell once it is cut, though

For Rachel's birthday, a mere four days later, I ran out to the store in the morning to pick up a few birthday essentials. And here 2020, as is its wont, reared its ugly head. For some reason - even though we have been living with COVID and all the changes it has wrought for several months now - I thought I would be able to select my own assortment of donuts at the store bakery. But no, they were all prepackaged, so people wouldn't breathe on them, I guess.

I hate sprinkles
This is the real fascism, people. First they came for the self-serve donuts, and I said nothing...

Where was I? Oh, yes, Rachel. She turned 18 and spent her day pointing out to us that she was now a grown-up. 

[Narrator: No, she isn't.]

The coup de grace, however, was when Rachel turned to 15-year-old Susie and said, "YOU are the only non-adult in this family now!"

I mean, harsh, right? I miss the days of their fighting over stuffed puppies. Life was simpler then.

And, yes, I do seem to be ignoring the eggplant in the room. I picked it up with the donuts because I made this eggplant-tofu thing from Jennifer's blog for Rachel's birthday dinner. I must admit, the entire time I was making it, I was thinking, This can't be right. Too much eggplant. Too little sauce. How do these bell peppers fit into the picture? What was Jennifer thinking? But I soldiered on, because it was all I had planned for dinner. 

I'm sorry I doubted you, Jennifer. The dish was an absolute hit! Except with Larry, who hates all things eggplant...

Not very photogenic, but quite tasty
Rachel's birthday was on a Wednesday, so she ended up getting a second birthday dinner on the weekend, when Theo could be there. It was a complicated week, all right? We ordered Chinese food, which was incredibly extravagant (hello? I'm still unemployed), but I ended up saving money in the end, because I had offered to take Rachel and her friends to a socially distanced paddleboard outing at a regional park and that got rained out.

Renting paddleboards? Ridiculously expensive. Don't do it.

So now our birthday season is pretty much wrapped up, except Larry's and Theo's in the fall. That means I get a 2-month respite from figuring out how to make a birthday dinner exciting when we have already been cooking elaborate meals almost every night since this whole social isolation thing started. Burned out, I am...

Hey, do you think we'll be able to select our own donuts by then?

Sunday, August 09, 2020

Spicing It Up A Bit

Way, way back, when Theo was one year old and I was a mere infant myself in the ways of homemaking, I bought an entire set of Tupperware spice containers WITH the special carousel. This was an unprecedented purchase for our household, financially speaking, one that I agonized over before submitting my order.

As it turns out, I have no regrets. None. Zero.

My birthday presents - it's relevant, read on...

You see, Theo was an extremely fussy baby, and I couldn't afford to waste the precious 15 minutes between crying bouts rummaging through the pantry looking for the right spice container. I know this sounds silly, but it was a real problem. I NEEDED TO COOK QUICKLY.

Which I guess was good training for one of these cooking competition shows now, but I'm past my prime for that. Born too soon...

So I bought the containers and, in a fit of organization that could only have taken place while Theo was either sleeping or being walked around outside by Larry, I put tiny stickers on each of them with the name of the spice/herb contained therein. This system worked surprisingly well for over 20 years. Oh, sure, the oregano and thyme stickers fell off fairly early on, with the oregano container thereafter being identified by the fact that it had retained a little gummy residue from the missing sticker, whereas the thyme container had no residue at all; and, yeah, the turmeric label fell off sometime in the 2000's, but you could still see a vague imprint of the ink from the label and besides, turmeric looks pretty unique anyway, so who needs to label it? 

By 2015 or so, however, neither the paprika nor the cayenne had their labels anymore, either, a situation that was, admittedly, a little tough, because they look fairly identical. But after one particularly traumatic cooking mistake, Rachel wrapped the cayenne container with a rubber band to distinguish it from the paprika, and we all moved on with our lives.

We're survivors.

Oregano, far left; cayenne, far right - no problem here!

All this to explain that, for my birthday in June (see, I told you that first image was relevant), I received from my family a package of blank labels. That's sort of cute, right? Also, it pretty much amounted to an intervention staged by my grown kids, who had become tired of playing what was essentially a game of  Russian roulette every time they wanted to cook something in my kitchen.

People, this $2 gift has changed my life. As you can see in the photo above, even the stickers that had remained on the containers were 27 years old and looked worn and tired (like myself, come to think of it, but I'd rather not). Putting new labels on my tried-and-true Tupperware spice containers has given my pantry a face lift of unprecedented proportions. What's more, now we don't have to pass around a container of red powder for a sniff test: Paprika? The dreaded cayenne?

No more rubber band!

Hello, easily identifiable oregano!

It's a beautiful sight, everything being clearly labeled and put in its proper place, and it makes my heart leap with joy every time I open my pantry door (look, it's 2020, so it doesn't take much to make me happy, all right?). 

Best of all? We can now rest secure in the knowledge that we will never again have to relive the infamous broccoli-sprinkled-with-something-other-than-salt incident of a few years ago. 

(Not to name names, but BRIAN)

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Nothing Is Normal And Karma Doesn't Work

It's been 4 1/2 months of hunkering down around here, and I've prided myself on how well I've handled it. I've gone running almost every morning (I know! Just a mile, but still...), I've taken my yoga class on Zoom twice a week, we've been cooking up a storm and eating healthy. I mean, if anyone needs tips on how to live the pandemic lifestyle, just send them here, right?

Chicken shawarma - yes, I AM awesome

I think that all ended today. When I woke up, it was raining, so I skipped running. Anna needed the basement family room for a work call, so I skipped yoga. Went to Costco, bought all sorts of chips: potato, pretzel, pita - you name it, we have a huge bag of it in the house now. Sampled some when we got home. Took a nap. I mean, why not? Life's gone to heck in a hand basket, and all that exercise lost me nary a pound anyway.

And then there were these:

Oopsie, that bag seems to be open...

Way back in April, I realized that -- 2020 being what it was -- we wouldn't be able to do our traditional Easter egg hunt in the neighborhood's courtyard. BUT, I thought, when this is all over, we can make up for it.

So, yeah, I went to CVS the day after Easter and picked up several bags of Easter candy at half price. It might take a few months, but someday we'd once more see all the neighborhood kids running happily through the grass, looking for chocolate.

It was a nice idea that kept me somewhat sane, all right? I mean, we're all doing what we can here to survive. So I put the chocolate away and thought, July. We'll do this in July

But July came and went and nothing happened, because 2020 is awful and no one is allowed to have any fun and life as we knew it has ceased to exist. The candy sat in my pantry.

So today was the day that I just dug in (after my nap) and started eating these. Or, to put it another way, today was the day I lost all hope that anything would be anywhere close to normal anytime soon. I like to think that this is healthy, this facing of facts. Also, it's delicious. Sorry, kids!

Speaking of CVS (I mean, we were, sort of, right?), Anna came home the other day and said, "Some old guy was yelling at the cashier in the new CVS because there wasn't a sign on the old store telling him where the new store was. So I told him he couldn't talk to people that way."

Anna spent years waitressing and bartending. She sticks up for anyone working a service job.

"Did he stop?" I asked, alarmed and proud at the same time.

"He turned on me and yelled, 'Who do you think you are?!?' and stomped out of the store," she said.

End of story. Only, it wasn't, not really. Later that day, Larry took me on our after-dinner forced march. It's usually still hot out in the evenings, and it's humid as heck, but we go anyway, because otherwise I'll just sit around doing something non-productive, like eating other people's Easter candy. "I did a good deed today," Larry announced as we walked. "I was leaving the dry cleaner's and I saw an old guy peering into the windows of the old CVS and looking confused, so I told him it had moved a few doors down to the corner."

I stopped and looked at him. "An old guy?" I asked.

"Yes!" Larry said. "He was really grumpy and said, 'Well, why don't they put a sign up or something?!?' and then he stomped off to the new store. But it still feels good to have helped someone." 

Or, rather, it feels good until your wife tells you that the person you helped? Turned right around and yelled at your daughter...

Friday, July 10, 2020

When COVID Hands You Lemons...

OMG, I MISSED YOU. I just...I don't know. At work I was processing 6000 words a day, and I think I needed a vacation once I was laid off. So I've knit and I've sewed (masks, of course, what else?) and I've deep-cleaned the house and weeded the yard and generally recovered from a whirlwind 17 months of never, ever being quite on top of anything.

It felt good.

I like how this looks all seamstress-y

This month we shelled out the big bucks (well, all right, $6.99) for Disney Plus and watched Hamilton with the rest of America. I was worried I wouldn't like it because every time I tried to listen to the soundtrack on Spotify, my brain would get tired. I mean, there are A LOT of words in there, people. But we all ended up loving the movie (or whatever you call a play that is filmed, I don't know), it was fun family-bonding time, and (unfortunately) Hamilton will always remind me of this stupid pandemic.

Bonus: now I can listen to the soundtrack and understand it, just like all the cool kids.

Remember all the bread-baking (and eating) that was happening here March through May? That bread was our butter-slathered emotional support food through the early months of the current health crisis. So, as it turns out, our summertime emotional support food seems to be lemonade, a half-gallon carafe that sits in our fridge and is constantly replenished (by me, of course, who else?).

Did I ever mention that when the kids were younger, I would only make lemonade if the temps hit 90 or above? I wanted it to be a special treat and not have the kids begging for it every day, is why. So this is what the pandemic has done - it has made every day a Special Treat Day. YOLO. Carpe diem. Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you may be dealing with COVID and having to wear masks in the house.

Lemonade, anyone?
I spent almost 30 years of married life without owning a nice pitcher or carafe (Larry and I eloped - I understand that those who have normal weddings possess many of this type of item). Instead, I've only had those ugly Rubbermaid pitchers which are, let's face it, totally function over form. What's more, if I wanted to make lemonade, I'd often have to go outside to locate the pitcher because we also used it for watering plants.

All this to say, I have spent years pining for something nicer, more festive, to put lemonade in. Being indecisive, especially when it comes to buying things, I never did find the perfect pitcher (i.e., pretty but unbreakable), but when I was in Harris Teeter the other week, I spotted the item pictured above and thought, Bright-colored lid! Fun shape! Good enough! and brought it home.

This purchase represented the culmination of my long-held dream to (somewhat) elegantly pour liquid refreshment into the waiting glasses of my family, so as I placed it on our kitchen counter, I felt an unwonted sense of housewifely fulfillment. "Look!" I said to Susie, who had just walked into the room. "A nice pitcher!"

Whereupon Susie said, and I quote, "THAT looks stupid."


Friday, June 19, 2020


Hi! Just getting used to being unemployed here - and you? I spent my first day of freedom scrubbing down the "kids" bathroom, which yes, they could do themselves, but they don't and I'm not living like that. My second day of freedom involved going to ALDI and spending over $200 (which, honestly, I didn't even think was possible) to restock the pantry and freezer with everything we had run low on, because seriously, it is no joke having 6 grown humans living and eating in one house.

Today? I received the results of a lengthy experiment I've been conducting. You see, over a month ago, weary of seeing my frightening visage on the screen during Zoom meetings, I panic-shopped for something, ANYTHING, to fix things. I settled on the three items in the picture below. Only, I couldn't help wondering, How do I know if these really work?

These promise THE WORLD
I figured the lockdown was giving me a prime opportunity to do some real research. All these products said that after a month I would see a big difference. So I decided to use them only on the left side of my face.

On the right side (the CONTROL, for those of you who speak science), I would stick with the one thing I already use (and can get fairly cheaply at Costco):

Not sure this makes a difference, either

This morning was the day of reckoning. After my shower, I left my face bare and then pounced on the nearest victim, Anna, who had come upstairs to the kitchen to refill her coffee. "Anna, tell me the truth - which side of my face looks better?"

I wish I had thought to take a picture of her expression when I asked that question. Seeing it, I tried to elaborate. "No, I mean, does either side look less wrinkled? The skin younger? How about around the eyes?"

"You look VERY YOUNG," poor Anna said, trying to back out of the kitchen with her mug.

"No, don't worry! I'm not asking that!'s science. Does either side look better than the other, or no?"

Poor Anna.

The verdict, delivered with trepidation by my cornered daughter? "Not really. Maybe the right side? No, no, they're the same, mostly."

So, there you have it: after more than a month of my using the miracle creams (with Retinol!) on only the left side of my face, there is still no difference between the wrinkles on the left side of my face and the right. Not even under the eyes, which is really a bummer, because there are truly frightening things happening there. The upside, however, is now I can spend my money on items that won't betray me, things that will add true value to my life. Like chocolate, say, with hazelnuts.

I'm a simple person.

Oh, and when I explained the experiment to Anna, she said, "Of course those creams don't work!" This last was uttered with all the insouciance of Youth, unacquainted with the desperation wrought by the ravages of time.

Can I have that back, that insouciance? Because this is when I need it.

Tuesday, June 02, 2020

2020. And 1985. All At Once.

I was standing in our upstairs hallway today, looking at the closed doors of the other 3 bedrooms, each with a grown or almost-grown person behind it and thought, What does this remind me of?

Let's see...people living in their own rooms, kitchen cabinets stuffed with everyone's favorite snack foods (don't touch!), arguments about whose turn it is to take out the trash or whose dish is in the sink, established quiet hours, and semi-frequent communal meals around the kitchen table...

Roommates - that's what it is. Somehow, in the year of our Lord 2020, at the ripe old age of (almost) 57, I have ended up living in a situation that reminds me of nothing so much as a house full of college roommates. WHY?

Oh, yes, 2020. But of course. We're in the upside-down now.

Korean beef, cooked by one of my roommates
You know, that empty nest was so close, I could almost taste it. But now, if I want privacy, I shut myself in my bedroom, which is crammed with not only a bed and dresser but also a desk (I had to give up my office when Brian came home last month) and most of my personal possessions (um, that would be yarn - a lot of yarn). I venture out only to clean the bathrooms (because I am NOT going to let those be like the ones I lived with in college) and to dump strange-smelling items out of the fridge

[Okay, that last item isn't new - I've always done that]

and bitch at my roommates over who clogged the toilet and didn't take care of it. It's the 1980s all over again for me, complete with living in leggings and having really unruly hair. And hearing about Donald Trump in the news all the time, actually...

So! Brian came home mid-May from college, which forced me to clean out my yarn room/office and move everything into mine and Larry's bedroom. I left Brian the pretty glass desk my friend gave me (too big for my bedroom, anyway) and wasn't sure what I would do for a new one, because - as it turns out - every cheap small desk online is SOLD OUT.

Because 2020. Of course. Everyone is working from home.

Susie and I came up with a solution:

Yes, the chair is excellent. Get one.
It's perfect and cute and I can look out of the window as I work. So there I was, all set up to continue working from home, and then...

Remember, it's 2020...

my entire team was told we will all be laid off mid-June. Which means I will soon have no excuse to shut myself in my bedroom upwards of 6 hours a day in blessed privacy.

But I am going to do it anyway, for my sanity, because I am not 22 anymore and this roommate thing is utterly insane, even if I did birth most of them. And I'm keeping the desk. Who knows? Maybe I'll even blog at you more than once a month now.

I'll miss that money, though. Money's nice.

Mother's Day was the best ever, even though I had just lost my office/yarn room that weekend (oh, have I mentioned that already?), because Brian brought home a very special gift for me:

Still can't find these in the store
These were all the Lysol wipes I had sent him to school with, freshman AND sophomore years. I was torn between motherly joy at receiving such a useful, much-wanted gift (because, all together now, 2020) and utter disgust that he apparently hadn't cleaned his bathroom all year.

Brian says he did so clean it. Twice. Okay, then.

Anna made me a gorgeous flower arrangement:

And she also spearheaded a project where the kids put together some photos of their younger days on foam poster board with funny captions. I almost cried with joy. Only, they don't know that even better than the gift itself was listening to them the day before, behind Susie's locked bedroom door, laughing and working on the project together.

Like I said, best Mother's Day ever.

Brian also brought home with him the dorm fridge another friend had gifted us his freshman year. I took one look at it and decided it was the answer to my dreams. You see, the condiment situation around here - which has always bordered on insane - had become completely unmanageable, what with 2 different types of BBQ sauce, 2 types of mustard, assorted hot sauce, the soy sauce that my kids insist we refrigerate or we'll die, and I don't know what all.

So I now, finally, have a separate refrigerator just for condiments, which is utterly ridiculous, but there we are.


Monday, May 04, 2020

Looking At Life Through Red-Colored Glasses

That peaceful nap on the couch? Hasn't happened yet. One blessedly uneventful day continues to blur into the next, so I guess it's like being at sea for a month or so, right? Only with Netflix, of course...

So I thought, Hey, I'll just look at my camera roll on my phone and see what the photos tell me we've been doing! You know, all those photos I've been taking?

There were three since I last posted. THREE. Here's one:

Larry bought me flowers, cheeky devil that he is
That's on my desk. I spend 40 hours a week there. I don't mind, because I get paid and hey, what else am I going to do? Also, it gives me an excuse to go into a room by myself and shut the door, because OMG I was not made to interact with people 16 or more hours a day.

But I lose my office in another week, when Brian comes home. I also have to move a lot of the yarn out of there, since I assume he won't like having his nightstand drawers filled with my collection of fingering weight yarn, and I'm betting the bookshelf loaded with bags of unfinished knitting projects won't exactly be his idea of good interior design, either.

See that plastic tumbler up there? I wrote about buying 6 of those from the clearance shelf at Target 6 1/2 years ago. Last time Benjamin was home, he managed to get 3 of them stuck together and someone ended up throwing them out (not me, I was waiting to figure out how to get them apart). The other three have become oddly misshapen and the only thing we can figure is that our new dishwasher runs hotter than the two previous ones on the drying cycle and is melting them when we put them in the bottom rack.

Normally, I could count on finding some more on the clearance shelf during my regular trip to Target, but that's not how life works now. In fact, I can't remember the last time I was even inside a Target. So the fact that these tumblers have been ruined is all mixed up with the fact that EVERYTHING IS DIFFERENT from the time a younger, more carefree version of myself plucked them off the shelf 6 1/2 years ago.

Which explains how I can possibly feel weepy over 3 plastic tumblers that cost me 50 cents each...

Another picture:

Fancy lunch one day this week
Food is all we think about. Not because we're starving or anything, but because it's the only interesting part of the day. We talk about plans for lunch and plans for dinner. It reminds me of when all the kids were little and we couldn't afford activities for them, so cooking was our main source of amusement. Anna made a roasted eggplant and pepper salad for dinner tonight. I marinated steaks and chicken and Larry fussed over his new grill as if we were an old retired couple with nothing else to do. Susie made guacamole for appetizers.

It's weird, all right? Also, over the course of the past year or so, I finally weaned myself from having a month's supply of food at the ready, because, hey, the grocery store is right down the road and I can go there anytime and pick up anything I need, right?

Apparently, WRONG. That's not how life works now.

Larry's excited about the grill, because it is the first one we've owned that we actually bought new. The others were all old ones either left by the side of dumpsters or gifted to us by departing neighbors. So, yeah, new dishwasher, new grill - we're trying to help the faltering economy. I also almost got a new vacuum today, but unfortunately Larry managed to find the sock that got stuck in the one I have, so I missed out on that opportunity.

Vacuum cleaners sound really weird when there is a sock stuck in them.

I'm glad it's working, though, because otherwise I don't have anything to chase centipedes with. Usually I'll send Larry after them, but not if he's already asleep, so that's when I need the vacuum. We did have to wake Larry up this evening, however, because a wasp showed up in Rachel's room and we all immediately started yelling "Murder Hornet!" I mean, it's 2020 - what else could that thing be?

Maybe just a wasp, but he chased it around and it sounded like quite a ruckus in there, because the room was a little chaotic to begin with, and it didn't get any better as Larry tripped over stuff in an attempt to get at the wasp, and it reminded me of the scene in Annie Hall where she calls Alvie over at 3 AM to get a spider out of her bathroom:

Larry didn't manage to get the wasp/hornet/whatever, so now Rachel is sleeping in my office/yarn room, and I'm thinking maybe I'll just look up the prices of studio apartments in the area. A room of one's own is starting to sound pretty darn appealing to me right about now. I mean, as long as there are no bugs...

Third photo - can you guess? Of course you can:

Not tired of it yet

I wonder if we'll still like homemade bread after this whole pandemic/social distancing/shelter in place thing is over or if it will just remind us of this weird, weird time. Like the smell of Lysol, maybe...