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Archive for the ‘Household Matters’ Category

Like everyone else, I clamor for advice and aid from Google, and am an enthusiastic viewer of Youtube tutorials.
For instance, today I bought a new sprinkler for the garden area I am pleased to call my Lawn (which while it may not have the emerald lushness that characterizes my neighbors’ lawns is at least mostly covered with vegetation, much of which is grass).
So I brought the device home and attached it to the hose!
Nothing happened!
I went wailing to Google and discovered that my device did NOT look like the others of its kind. EVENTUALLY I found that the manufacturers had separated it into two bits, and clamped the one to the other with cunning black plastic joinery that looked EXACTLY like it was part of the machine. But it wasn’t, and once I acquired the courage to do so, I removed it and BINGO! Water spraying about in a wild and jubilant fashion!
The internet does not ALWAYS answer so well, however.
See, last night I presented my dinner guests with a lovely Pavlova–what is a Pavlova, you ask? An elegant dessert composed of meringue layers, whipped cream, and berries.

Making a meringue is not difficult, but the baking must be done just so. My recipe said to use parchment to line the baking sheet. But upon seeking further advice online I found that other recipes said NEVER use parchment, the meringue will stick to it! One of them even offered advice on sticking the shattered meringues together with whipped cream (“no one will NOTICE”)–reminding me of a recipe for quenelles (poached dumplings of pureed pike) in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, which was immediately followed by a recipe called “In Case of Disaster: Fish Mousse.”

One wishes CLEAR INSTRUCTIONS when baking.
I decided to use the parchment– if the meringue was ruined, we could have M&Ms for dessert instead.
However, it wasn’t so we didn’t.

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My house is usually a peaceful oasis, with only the sounds of gentle music and the breath of warmth blowing from my little heater breaking the quiet.
And of course the occasional unwelcome croak of a cat bringing up a hairball.
However, the other day a sudden unfamiliar BEEP startled me. WHERE was it coming from? In the modern house there are a multitude of machines eager to announce themselves by various noises. My refrigerator for example has a praise worthy desire to keep its doors closed, and trills when this is not the case. I come running whenever so summoned.
It was not the refrigerator.
Was it the stove timer? The toaster, the microwave, the phone?
None of those.
Was it the computer, the tablet, the Sonos system, the projector?
NO.
Sighing, I sat down at the computer and asked Google. And LO, Google knew: it was the Verizon Fios box battery! Well, it wasn’t Google that knew, it was some fellow who had gone through the same exasperating thing as I had who knew, but all the same: MAGIC.
So I located the vexatious item, found a button to shut it up whilst I ordered a new battery and waited for it to arrive. During which time I had to press that (rather grimy) button quite a few times. Finally the new battery arrived!

I unplugged the Fios box and began on the task of INSTALLING THE NEW BATTERY.
Widowhood has been an occasion for learning so many new skills. This one took a Youtube tutorial, a chat session with Verizon, and several desperate sessions with inappropriate tools (e.g., nail scissors) but eventually I got the cover off the box, the leads connected to the new battery–and then, could NOT get it into the box. Sigh. It is a HEAVY little item, and I eventually propped it up on a stool and went off for lunch.
But what was this–I had no internet connection!! WHAT?? WHY ?? I stalked about, reset the router, restarted the computer–nothing!
Then it suddenly occurred to me to plug the device back in. The internet returned.
And after lunch I tried again to heave the battery into its box and *whump* in it went.
I spent the rest of that day in a glow of satisfaction.

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I congratulate myself on making it through last week–a horrid week, both out in the world and here in my own little corner of it. Which corner was subjected to wrenching change: the floor in my home office replaced and the room painted. This elegant embellishment required hours of toil in preparation–removing all the books and trinkets, unplugging and moving out all the electronics, dragging out the chairs and other portable furniture. The office stood bleak and bare while the rest of the house looked like an old junk room, complete with Christmas tree brightly beaming in the corner.

First came the floor men, and then the painters. During the week I threaded my way between the piles, and worked on the dining room table.

Which was bad enough, but then my darling elder cat lost all his vigor, wouldn’t eat, and seemed intent on dying. And the other two stopped eating in sympathy.
So I took him to the vet–a dire procedure in these days of plague, in which you (masked) hand the terrified animal over to the vet’s assistant (also masked), in the parking lot. And then you sit in the car, reading whatever work of sensational literature you might have on hand until the vet calls with her report. Which was that nothing was really wrong, old age issues, but nothing fatal. So I brought him back home with two wee medications, one for arthritis pain and one for appetite enhancing.
AND, instead of recommending some expensive food which Bertie would naturally refuse to eat, she cheerfully suggested Fancy Feast. So having dropped the invalid home, I rushed to the grocery store to stock up. And he DID nibble a bit that night, and a bit more the next day, joined by his colleagues who also agreed to start eating again.
Possibly the reestablishment of peace and propriety in the house also helped, everything back in its place, the Christmas tree turfed out onto the curb.
And this morning, Bertie caught a mouse! He may be aged and infirm–but he caught a mouse!
And so, Happy New Year dear friends!

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The UK government is going head to head with the pubs, I understand–beer can only be sold to customers when associated with a “Substantial Meal.”
But WHAT, people would like to know, constitutes a substantial meal?
LAWYERS are involved, by the way.
Quote: “High-end crisps” served in “substantial portions accompanied with various elaborate dips” were considered a substantial meal in a 2017 Westminster City Council hearing, with the council congratulating the owner on “[creating] a ‘non-Walkers’ crisp offer and the desire to celebrate the great British potato at its peak and most hip”.

Which is all very well, but most people want to know–HOW ABOUT A PORK PIE? Substantial enough for you? Or a Scotch egg–does that suit?
One cheeky pub, so I understand, set up a fake tap for a beer called Substantial Meal.
Let me say, it is never a good thing to set yourself up against the pubs.

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I remember my first microwave–an enormous machine, big enough to COOK A TURKEY. Of course, cooking a turkey in a microwave is spectacularly foolish. But what did we know in those days? However, as time went by the machine became more and more a standard part of kitchens, and I have always had one in my kitchen.
I didn’t realize how much I used it until it BROKE. Oh, it lit up, whirled the food about merrily, and tinkled its happy little tune –“food’s ready, Hope!” But the food was so NOT ready, shards of ice still glittering on the surface. All day, I kept forgetting and putting things in it–my oatmeal to cook, my coffee to be heated up, my ice cream to soften–finally realizing something MUST BE DONE. So I asked Amazon to send me a new one, and had it set up in time for lunch today.

Yes, just about everything it does you can do on the stovetop. But all those pots to clean! And as for heating up your coffee on the stove, VERY much not recommended.
Really, SUCH a blessing to the modern cook!

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Such excitement yesterday! I had not only TWO electricians but also THREE fence repair guys rallying around, all working hard to bring my house a little closer to the ideal. And while it is quite true that the money is drunken sailor cartoonPOURING OUT LIKE FLOOD and earning me the Spending Like A Drunken Sailor Award for 2020––what a comfort it is knowing that both my electrics AND fence are in tip top first class shape!
As I hunker down gnawing on my dry toast with a side of beans.
HA HA, just JOKING! There is plenty of cash left for even more ambitious projects!
HOWEVER.
After the electricians left, the fence guys were booming away with their fence repair machine and I was comfortably working on my computer–when, *WHUMP*! The screen went blank. All the carefully updated electrics OFF!
My home office: dead as a stone.
Note that this includes the heavenly Modem/Router which bestows the blessings of the internet upon me and my house. Without which my life has NO MEANING.
Frantically I wiggled the circuit board bits, but nothing happened. I called the electric company–send the lads back!–but no one could come until the next day.
The evening was a SHAMBLES.
Well, yes I had warmth, light, food–and OK, yes, wine, books.
But no music–no movies–no shows! No fetching little videos of cats doing cute things! No tutorials on how to make a 3-D cupcake in Blender!
Dispirited, I went to bed early.
And this morning greeted that fine electrician with beaming smiles! He wiggled the circuit board bit, but with much more force than I had done last night. SUCCESS! Hurrah! Now I have all the wonders of the internet once again!
And am quite horrified at how completely bereft I was without them.

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Kindly Boss

Last night I was dozing off when the phone rang, and someone announced that she had just left my gift on the doorstep–I heard this through my faithful machine which knew I didn’t want to pick up the phone but carefully recorded what she said and let me listen as it did so.

So this morning a LARGE BOX sat by the door, and once I had fed the cats (who are very firm about rejecting any kind of delay to breakfast) I opened it up–WHOA! It was filled with a dainty assortment of comestibles including a large silver sack that said REFRIGERATE.

Which was filled with CHEESE and other Delicious Things. Directions on how to assemble a stylish cheese board were included.

RIGHT. Party this weekend.

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Any house requires cleaning and a house with 3 cats, more than most. There are INCIDENTS. Let us not go into details.
So I was delighted with a cunning little carpet cleaner product standing modestly on the shelf at the grocery store this morning–it HAD A BRUSH!

HOW cute, no?

Charmed, I bought it and once home, got ready to clean some carpet!
HOWEVER.
The instructions on the back say “Shake well. Remove plastic tab from back of dispensing brush head.”This had baffled me in the store but I thought that once home I would figure it out.
NOT SO.
This plastic tab–was it what you pressed to release the foam? Remove it? It was very solid indeed, and would not budge however strongly pressed. No foam emerged.
Eventually I consulted Google, and after quite a search, came up with a comment on a YouTube video that explained the absolutely HEINOUS disregard for their customers Woolite designers demonstrated in the product. The tab (which is indeed the tab pressed to release the foam) is VERY strongly held to the inside of the container with two tiny and well hidden connecting tabs. These need to be cut with scissors, which releases the tab, joyously free now to do its essential job of spraying foam.
Whoever wrote those completely fraudulent instructions should be instantly sent back to writing class.
Or possibly, pushed off a bridge.
And now I will try to figure out how to get the sprayer to work on the newly purchased Thomasville Hard Wood Cleaner. The power to resist is very strong in this one. But I shall not surrender!

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Food Art

I have just been looking at Lilek’s Regrettable Food book, a charming volume in the library of the Smallest Room in the House.

It made me think about modern day food pictures. Of which there are TRILLIONS. Each one more perfect, more adorably artless than the next. And the photographers are obviously DELIGHTED with themselves and their art, using many many visions of the same item.
Say you are seeking a recipe for lemon pie. YAY, THERE IT IS, you found it! And now start rolling down the page, looking for, you know, the actual recipe.
First, a dainty picture of the pie itself.

Then an artistic shot of a piece of the pie–then one with a bite taken out! haHA!

Then one of cream being whipped, then one of cream being applied to the lemon filling. Then another of the whole pie. Then just when you think perhaps the page is concerned primarily with the philosophical concept of lemon pie, there it is! The little recipe!

I realize it is too much to ask for the recipe first, but how about a little link, allowing us to cut to the chase? Would this be too wounding to the baker’s artistic spirit?

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Just when it seemed we were emerging from our National Nightmare, we are struck another blow–riots rampaging through the cities. The murder of George Floyd was horrible, and Derek Chauvin is rightfully charged with murder, fired from his job, imprisoned. I admit I am somewhat taken aback to find that smashing and looting stores is considered a reasonable response. But it’s summertime! In America! Laissez les bon temps roulez!
Let us hope that peace will be restored soon.
Meanwhile, by way of seeking comfort, I have returned to a show I watched 4 years ago–Montalbano! He is the sly Sicilian detective, who swims in the turquoise sea every morning, and adores his dinner–often a dish will bring tears of happiness into his eyes. There is one which which actually features as a plot device in one of the stories: arancini. Delicious little items, his housekeeper is making them for New Year’s Eve, and he finds a way to stay in Sicily to enjoy them rather than spend the evening with his girlfriend in Paris as he had promised. NOTE: he is something of a jerk to his girlfriend. I can’t but think that it was his passion for the adorable fried rice balls that pushed them onto the menu at Whole Foods–where I have seen them on occasion and resisted the temptation. But I found a recipe and might be forced to make them if the news doesn’t get a little cheerier this week.

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