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...