Archive for the ‘Household Matters’ Category

My adorable grandson turning three–how to adequately observe this important event? Well, the youthful celebrant modestly indicated that SPIDERMAN CUPCAKES might fill the bill, and his fond mama indicated that a party of possibly 30 revelers would be taking part in the festivities.

Let us say, 4 dozen confections.

Making them: not a problem.

Transporting them to Brooklyn: MAJOR PROBLEM.

But this stout-hearted granny relishes such challenges! Two weeks in advance of the day, I borrowed a 2-dozen cupcake holder to stand beside the similar device I owned. Then, I inquired of Amazon if it might have a set of wheels to move these mighty double carriers about on the earth and particularly in the train station. YES! Such an item was obtainable, and not very costly either. I ordered it, together with 4 dozen Spiderman candy decorations.

Then, my oven blew up.

Which is to say, I had put in a sheet of cookies (pecan sandies, if you must know) and the oven decided to thermoblast them so that they melted into a sort of cookie lava, coating the oven floor and running onto the kitchen floor.


Here is a bit of hard won wisdom for those of you encountering the same disaster: do NOT press the Oven Clean button. Doing so will produce an eye-watering cloud of smoke which will fill the house with a bitter long lasting stench. Sigh.

So, once the smoke had dissipated:

  • I scrubbed away the repellent muck;
  • I REBOOOTED the stove computer;
  • I bought an oven thermometer and tested the stove. Seemed fine!
  • I cautiously tested it with a pan of Magic Cookie Bars;
  • Completely fine!

So then I baked 4 dozen cupcakes, iced them, laid the little Spiderman decorations on each and prepared for my demanding journey!

All went well, though the carriers did NOT hold all the cupcakes upright and allowed some of them to tip sideways, breaking my heart. The trip was long, and the train (as usual) was FREEZING COLD; I bought a sandwich made of pressed sawdust filled with orange laminate: lunch! With a bag of Pnut M&Ms for dessert. Once in NY I took a taxi to Brooklyn–thus actually seeing the marvels of the city under which I usually pass within the roaring subway–and enjoyed the time with my charming family. The party was the next day, in a park, with hordes of exhilarated children bouncing about.

Afterwards we all went home and had a nap, and then I took the train back to Washington. With an agreeable feeling of a job well done.

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On his last visit, my 2 and a half year old grandson adamantly proclaimed that he would NO LONGER sleep in the crib but only in the bed (preferably his mother’s), which meant it was time to replace the hated device with a Big Boy Bed. And–in what I now see was an excess of grandmotherly zeal–I took apart the crib and stored it out of sight.
However, as you might expect, the crib is now needed for the second grandson (who so far is content to sleep wherever his parents put him.) SO, I got out the bits–MY, there were quite a lot of them–and stared at them dubiously from time to time.
Then, last weekend, I began the assembly.

I had bought a special tool for taking it apart–a long handled Allen wrench–which now drove the bolts back into their little holes with satisfying force. HOWEVER–each hole was equipped with an inserted socket which moved about in a feckless and whimsical manner, so that the bolt couldn’t find it. Added to this aggravation is the way the crib bars are carefully placed VERY close together (so no angel baby foot can get trapped) which means access to the tricky inner areas is limited. I’m sure experienced handymen have a better way to tackle this vexing problem, but what I finally did was push a little sticky wax onto the socket to hold it in place while I carefully inserted the bolt.

THAT settled its plaguey tricks!
So, the crib is put together and will be ready for my darling grandson once I have found the sheets. Which are surely somewhere safe.

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I was just lolling about, eating my breakfast and reading the paper, when suddenly –CRACK–the lights went off in the dining room. This is the charming fixture that once illuminated my parents’ dining room in Ithaca, NY–6 globes painted with dainty flowers, suspended by a writhing mass of golden vines. Each globe is secured with 3 tiny screws, difficult of access. Yes, it is an idiotic device to hang from the ceiling but family sentiment placed it there.

And family sentiment will force me to pay enormous sums to the electrician to rewire and resuscitate it. He’s coming Monday.

I forgot to buy milk at the grocery store, and finding myself in the drug store, bought it there. The next morning, I carefully sliced the banana, covered it with cheerios, added a few blueberries–and got out the milk. I sniffed it–a pleasant smell of sweet milk–and poured. YUCK YUCK! It was thick, with globules. I thought, it is FINE, like CREAM, it is FINE–but I could not stomach it. The next day I took it back to the drugstore for a refund, and trudged into the grocery store for grocery store milk.

I may have noted before how difficult to coerce the garden watering system to obey my commands. OH NOT MORE THAN AN HUNDRED TIMES, HOPE. So, this year I have placed hose after HOSE on the pipes and each god damn hose LEAKS. Each one. Not just the ones I fecklessly left out in the weather over the winter but brand new hoses from the store. So, with that touching faith that the next hose will NOT leak, I plan to try again this weekend.
You may be thinking something like ‘the definition of insanity is repeating the same actions over and over again and expecting different results.’ HA HA! But these will be DIFFERENT hoses, you see.

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Remember General Tso’s Chicken–that sweet and spicy staple of Chinese restaurants? The kids used to love it and I used to call it meat in jam sauce. Which it is, basically–but recently I found a recipe for it and have made it a few times. And what do you know, it’s really tasty. YES, a certain amount of work, but worth it. That dark spicy sauce, those crispy little nodules of chicken!
So yesterday was easeful Saturday and I thought I would ORDER OUT–something I do very rarely, but which the kids do all the time–and I bade Grubhub fetch me some of that tasty General Tso’s chicken from a local establishment. Alas, NOT a success. The restaurant version–or at least, the quotidian restaurant version–is indeed meat in jam sauce, an insipid sauce which is neither dark or spicy, but rather a sickly red syrup.
Well, I managed to choke it down, but have come to realize that either 1) I have to try this dish from some more distinguished restaurant, or 2) continue to make it myself. Or of course, 3) stick to the old curries and pasta standbys.
And, SPEAKING of General Tso’s chicken, remember that ghastly but irresistible movie called Legend, starring Tom Cruise as a wayward whimsical WOOD ELF kind of chappie, and Tim Curry as a spectacularly horrid Lord of Darkness? Tim Curry’s outfit had him glistening as if he were covered in red syrup–one couldn’t help but instantly picture him as a toothsome nugget in that delectable dish. This unfortunate image has persisted in my mind for over 35 years….

NOTE: There was also a UNICORN and a PRINCESS in the movie. It was exquisitely dreadful.

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This morning I bravely went out to garden. My plan: to labor for a couple hours and then escape inside as the temperature and humidity achieved the summer norm, i.e., unbearable.
Step one in this endeavour is of course to drench all exposed flesh with Deet, a singularly smelly chemical which repels most insects. They just can’t stand that stench. Neither can I, but I persevere. And shower afterwards.
Then, onto clipping, raking…toting dat barge, lifting dat bale, etc. I proudly brandished my new Black and Decker electric clippers, and the shrubs fell back, abashed. I was the mighty battle horse, saying among the trumpets, Ha, ha; and he smelleth the battle afar off, the thunder of the captains, and the shouting. Though there were no captains about except Bertie and he was mostly asleep on the patio. Still, I set to with a will, and soon the garden was SHOWERED with debris and I was dripping with sweat. Luckily it was not until I was at the very last shrub that I clipped through the extension cord. BANG! Stepping into the garage to toss out the now useless cord I noted that all the basement lights were out. SIGH. I found a flashlight–of such superior dimness, a sort of Darkness Visible device–and entered the Stygian gloom of the basement to confront the circuit box. One day I will–I SWEAR IT– organize and remake the many ancient bits of paper that mark which breaker controls which bit of the house–one chart to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.
Ah. The basement lights and garage were not represented on any of the lists. And then I remembered–there is ANOTHER CIRCUIT BOX! Why it has been placed over by the basement stairs is a mystery, but there it is, and when I flicked the switch, the miracle of light happened.
Then I went back out, filled the bags with biomass, swept up, put away the tools and came inside for a shower and a little lunch.
Weekends, so tiring.

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On Monday I rose especially early and sprinted for the bus stop–endured the extreme vexation of seeing the bus pull away from the bus stop as I approached–stoically waited for the next one–and I was OFF, embarking on Day 1 of a VERY VERY LONG two day meeting.
NOT perhaps the best Monday and Tuesday ever, but not the worst either, and it eventually drew to a close.
Once finally home on Tuesday night–a full HOUR later than usual said the cats with meaningful glances at the empty food bowls–I fed the starving throngs, and then gazed sadly into my empty fridge.
But NO, couldn’t face eggs for dinner again.
The cupboard was rich in half full boxes of spaghetti.

So, climbed into car and drove to grocery store, bought some meatballs and a jar of tomato sauce.
The meatballs had a strange bounciness, seeming to resist the teeth, and the tomato sauce had a cloying sweetness, with that canned tomato soup flavor–very familiar from childhood, but not a recent experience for me.

However, I manfully chewed away–and after all we cannot always be eating pâté de foie gras to the sound of trumpets.

This weekend I shall don the apron and cook REAL food.

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My morning activities are completely circumscribed, elegantly scheduled, so that I appear in the kitchen exactly an hour after rising from my bed–washed, brushed, dressed, and ready to feed the ravenous cats. As I fill their 3 little bowls, I usually sing them the Cat Feeding Song, but they have no interest in art, merely prowling back and forth darting me sad looks of anguish and starvation. Once the bowls are down and the cats are gobbling their breakfast, I turn to my own humble meal. Today: oatmeal! With dried cranberries and raisins, a veritable feast! As it cooked in the microwave I expertly made the coffee–a complicated process which involves grinding the beans, setting them in the machine, etc. I flatter myself on my coffee prep skills–if there were a prize for making the breakfast coffee, I would surely have a good chance of winning it. And as for apple slicing, well, I cannot but confess that I wield the corer and knife with astonishing dexterity.
Oatmeal done! Neatly turned into the bowl, sprinkled with sugar.
Then, I opened the refrigerator to get the milk.
I had forgotten to buy milk.
In the end, I opened a can of evaporated milk, and reluctantly poured a bit of the oddly beige liquid onto my lovely oatmeal. It was…OK. I managed to eat the oatmeal and its alien milk.
But I thought, next time check your supplies, Mrs. Expert Breakfast Preparer.

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