Random musings–thirteen

Trust

It saddens me that Brian Williams did something so stupid that it has probably wrecked his career, except as guest on late-night talk shows, where, ironically, he first began to embellish his stories. He was my go-to guy on the news. I trusted him almost as much as Tom Brokaw. Lester Holt is a great newscaster, but I just really liked Brian. I’ve tried not to watch or read the analyses of him, but it’s hard to turn away from a train wreck. They say he’ll be back in six months, but I think he’s done.

Luck

According to some beliefs, if you’re born on Friday the thirteenth, you will be lucky for life. According to others, you will be unlucky for life. I think it’s six of one, half-dozen of another. If you have a fear of this occurrence on the calendar, of which there are three this year, you have friggatriskaidekaphobia (Norse god Frigga, meaning Friday, and triskaidekaphobia, meaning fear of the number thirteen). I don’t believe in superstitions or good luck or bad luck. I believe that life just happens, and that we’re all unwitting pawns in the game of it.

Men and space

Why, when you’re busy doing something, especially in the kitchen, are men always standing where you need to be at any given moment? It never fails. I shoo David out of one place, because he’s in my way, and he moves to the exact next place that I need to be. Always.

He goes back to work–sort of

David’s been offered an advisory position at a company with whom he used to do business before he retired. It’s as much, or as little, as he would like to do. Of course, until he’s 66, another two years, he can only earn a limited income before it affects his social security earnings. Up to $12,000, I believe he said. That would be nice. Maybe we could actually take a nice vacation. It’s been so long, I don’t even remember the last one that wasn’t camping. It’s been at least three years since we even did that without taking the grandkids. Or we could pay down the home equity loan. That would be more practical.

Winter

It’s really getting me down. We had no January thaw this year. So far, February is pretty awful, too. We did have a couple of days last week that melted off some of the snow, but the icy driveway is still a hockey rink. Yesterday, when I was driving to the post office, I drove past our old house and noticed that the driveway there is even worse than ours. So, I guess we’re better off than they are. I’m just really, really glad I don’t live in Buffalo or Boston. We’re definitely better off than those people are.

My house has big windows

And lots of them. The family room has six, plus two sky lights. One wall is basically all windows. The view is great into the backyard, but even though they’re good insulated Andersen windows, there is still a lot of heat conductivity through all that glass. The only window treatments are ugly cornice boards and some filmy sheer panels that don’t even go across the windows. They’re just on the side for decorative purposes. It’s going to cost a small fortune to buy insulated panels to put up. Oh, I guess that’s what we can use the new income for.

Speaking of ugly decor

Well, it’s not ugly per se, but it’s definitely not my style. I’m kind of a minimalist. I’m not into in-your-face decorating. The cornice boards are the worst. I’ve never liked them, and I don’t understand them. I know they were all the rage about fifteen years ago. The house was built in 2002, so it fits that whole French Colonial phase of decorating. The colors don’t really suit me either. There’s a lot of beige/tan, which is fine, but it’s the eggplant, metallic dark green, and metallic gold that gets me. The kitchen is mostly beige with two walls that have those other colors in stripes, and those aren’t done very well. When they pulled off the tape it also pulled some of paint on the edges of the stripes. And then there are the three little strips of wallpaper border at chair level that seem to be afterthoughts. That has to go. I want to paint the kitchen a nice soft buttery yellow. It will help with the darkness in there.

Cave kitchen

Lighting is so important in a kitchen. I will never understand why anyone would design a kitchen in this day and time with only three light sources. Over the sink, an island light, and over the range. That’s all I have. There are no can lights in the ceiling, no under-cabinet lights, and the fixtures that we replaced were solid metal and didn’t let any light go upwards, only down. The room gets a lot of outside light in the afternoon, but I do any baking in the morning. I designed the kitchen in my other house with tons of lights. It was awesome. You kind of needed sunglasses when all of them were on. The nice thing in the morning though, was being able to turn on just the under-cabinet ones, which created a nice soft glow that was perfect for drinking coffee and doing computer work. I think that’s the thing I miss the most about my old kitchen. I guess I was spoiled.

Open concept

It’s all they talk about on HGTV, and stainless steel appliances, and granite countertops. I do love the open concept here. My other kitchen was next to the family room, but closed off, so that I missed most of what was going on in there when I was cooking. The stainless steel appliances that we bought are beautiful, if you want to clean them every single day. Not a practical thing when there are sticky-fingered kids roaming around all the time. So they basically get cleaned when there’s company coming, except for the handles. Those get a daily wiping. I’m hoping if I ever have to buy appliances again, there will be a new trend. Maybe avocado green? Or harvest gold?

Cooktops

Gas ranges were numero uno in my book. I had a gorgeous five-burner one in my new kitchen at the old house. With heavy cast iron grates and a double burner that either burned super-hot or super low. It was also extremely time-consuming to clean. Mainly because it was stainless steel, and if you didn’t clean it completely every day, it looked pretty bad. Also, that super-low burner wasn’t really that low. If I wanted something to simmer, I had to put a diffuser between the burner and the pot.

This house had a glass cooktop and it was worn out, and the space wasn’t fitted for gas. I did a lot of research, and decided to go with a Bosch induction cooktop, figuring it was the least objectionable of all glass cooktops. (I had not had a good experience with early ones.) Since induction cooking requires pots and pans that can be magnetized, most of my cookware wouldn’t work. I had way too much anyway. I put some of it in the camper, and gave the rest to my mother-in-law who spread them around to others. I didn’t expect to love this cooktop as much as I do, diehard gas cooking fan that I was, but I do. It took a little getting used to, but it’s so much more responsive than gas. When you turn the heat up or down, it’s instantaneous. There’s no side heat from the burners, so the immediate area is a lot cooler, important when you are standing over the stove stirring something delicate for a long time, and it doesn’t heat up the kitchen as much. And the best thing is the cleanup. What used to take me a good ten minutes or more, depending on the grease or spill factors, now takes about one minute. A quick wash with the dish cloth, and then a spritz with white vinegar and buff with a clean dry towel. Once in a while, I use the glass cooktop cleaner if it starts looking a little dull. I’ll probably never go back to gas, if I have a choice.

Icemakers

Icemakers used to be so simple. They were inside the freezer compartment. They made ice at a decent rate, and there was a fairly large storage bin. Both of the new refrigerators I’ve had recently are not so simple. The refrigerator I chose for the other house was a French door one. All the rage, and I did love the bottom freezer compartment, and the wide fridge shelves. The bad part was the icemaker. It’s located in the fridge area for dispensing, so the storage bin is very small, and with all the opening and shutting of the doors, there was a constant dripping from the condensation. It dripped down into the freezer compartment and there was always a big layer of ice forming on that side of the door. It wasn’t just the model I chose, apparently it’s inherent in that style. So, for this house I chose a side-by-side, the largest they make. The icemaker sucks. It’s larger, but it doesn’t make enough ice, or sometimes it barely makes any, and it gets big chunks of ice frozen together in the corners that I have to break up with a wooden spoon. It’s not like we only use it occasionally. With seven people living here, it’s an everyday thing. Thankfully, I have an additional fridge in the basement with an old-style icemaker. It makes a ton, so I dump it into the one upstairs. I do miss the ice from the French door one, because the ice was that really soft kind that is good for chomping. I’m never satisfied.

Bitter Greens

I’m reading a book set during the period of King Louis XIV, the Sun King, called Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth. It’s about French novelist Charlotte-Rose de la Force, the author of Rapunzel, who was banished from the King’s court when she lost favor of the King. She was sent to a convent to live out the rest of her life. She had the choice to not go, but she would have lost her pension. I’ve only read a few chapters, but it grabbed me from the first paragraph. One of the nuns, Sœur Seraphina, tells her a tale about a child, Margherita, who was sold by her parents for a handful of bitter greens. Her father stole some parsley from the garden of Selena Leonelli. When he is caught, she threatens to cut off both his hands unless he gives her his daughter. This is the story of Into the Woods!  The witch is Selena who, as a young girl, was the muse of the artist Tiziano. Ms. Forsyth is skilled in weaving the stories of Charlotte-Rose, Margherita, and Selena together. I’m so excited to find it!

American Sniper

We saw this a couple of weeks ago. It has been controversial. Some people say it glorifies war. Some say it goes the other way. I found it to do neither. Yes, Chris Kyle is a patriot in every sense of the word, but he is just a man doing his job, and that job is to protect his fellow soldiers. He has a conscience, which is much more than you can say for his counterpart on the Iraqi side. The movie was intense. Even though the acting, the story, and the directing was excellent, I really wanted it to be over about halfway through. Bradley Cooper is truly amazing in the role. He is Chris Kyle. Clint Eastwood was snubbed in the director awards nominations, probably because of his politics. I don’t agree with them either, but I think Hollywood needs to honor people for their work, not punish them for what they believe. He should have had a nomination.

That’s thirteen things, and now I’m worn out.

See you soon,

Susan

 

 

Mrs. Filthy lived here

The previous owners of our new house will here be henceforth named Mr. and Mrs. Filthy. Her, mostly. Him, not as much.

When we were in negotiations on the house, I had several conversations by email and phone with Mrs. Filthy, who also happens to be our county auditor.  She was so sweet and accommodating, declaring here and there about how she was going to be hiring someone to expertly clean the house in preparation for our moving in. Our daughter, Aimee, after meeting her one time, nicknamed her Miss Thang. She was definitely all about looking pretty—perfect hair and makeup, worked-out body, coordinated outfits down to the scarves, of which she had plenty to choose. (There were probably 200 of them hanging on coat trees near the master bedroom closet.) She even drove the perfect car—a late model bright yellow Corvette convertible.

We bought several pieces of furniture from the Filthys (or is that Filthies?). The master bedroom suite (sans mattress set), a sleeper sofa, bookcase, old spinet piano, etc. They threw in a beautiful billiards table and accessories, mainly because they didn’t want to pay someone to move it, and they no longer had room for it.

We knew the kitchen appliances would need to be replaced. They were approaching thirteen years of age, and about the most one can expect of today’s appliances is fifteen years. Besides, I was leaving my beautiful, newly remodeled kitchen that I had planned with meticulous attention to detail, and, by golly, if I had to sacrifice that, then I was going to get something in return. However, Mr. and Mrs. Filthy didn’t know we planned to replace them.

The Filthys/Filthies were nearly underwater on their mortgage here and it had been on the market for over five months with no offers, so we got a pretty good price on the house, far less than its appraisal value. They probably didn’t have the money to hire professional cleaners to assure that my new house was squeaky clean (like I left my old house without the aid of pros, thankyouverymuch). Okay, I get that. But could they have at least made an effort to clean something? Anything?

My first clue was opening the refrigerator door and seeing disgusting crap all over the shelves and walls. Thank goodness, I didn’t have to put my food into it. We left the food at the old house, and waited until they delivered the new one two days later. I mean, seriously, who leaves that kind of mess for someone else to clean? Mrs. Filthy, that’s who.

Next stop on the filthy tour were the bathrooms. First of all, there are five of them, including the powder room. All of them have vanities with drawers. All of the drawers had The Filthys/Filthies’ detritus. They were empty nesters, sort of, so three of the bathrooms weren’t too horrible, as the grown kids were only there occasionally. The master bathroom was quite a different story. Every drawer had fingernail clippings, hair, accumulated dust and dirt, etc. And I don’t even want to remember what I cleaned out of the very slow-moving drain on her side of the double vanity. Really?? Mrs. Filthy, weren’t you embarrassed that people with whom you now have somewhat of a relationship, whom you might possibly run into socially, now know what a disgusting pig slob you are?? Mr. Filthy at least spackled all of the nail holes where pictures had been hanging.

The kitchen was in the same shape as the bathrooms. Not one cabinet was wiped out. The microwave/oven wall combo was in a similar condition as the refrigerator. It was the only appliance that we didn’t replace right away, mainly because they’re so darned expensive, and it still worked. The microwave part looked as if it hadn’t been cleaned in a couple of years, and they didn’t use anything to cover the dishes when they warmed plates of food. The oven part had aluminum foil welded to the bottom by grease drippings. Luckily, but not for our checking account, the oven combo went kaput about three months after we moved in, so I picked out a nice new convection combo that is pretty awesome. MerryChristmasHappyBirthdayHappyAnniversary to me! For the next five years!

Funny thing, I ran into Mrs. Filthy about a month ago at Aldi’s. I recognized her right away and said hello. She looked at me and didn’t have a clue who I was, or didn’t want to know who I was. Embarrassed? Maybe. Or maybe she doesn’t think she had any responsibility toward the new owners of her house. I’m glad I’m not like you, Mrs. Filthy. I could never leave a house in that kind of condition. Never in a million years.

See you soon,

Susan

Making do

“Make do, do without, use it up, and wear it out.”

My mother was fond of that old saying, and she put it into practice on a daily basis. No scrap of fabric, not one bite of food, no article of clothing or shoes was ever thrown into the trash. Mom even washed the aluminum foil and reused it over and over again, smoothing out each crease and folding it carefully for the next use. Our plates were so clean when we finished eating that I often wondered at the necessity of washing them. I tried voicing that philosophy to her once, and after receiving “the look”, I vowed to keep that particular opinion to myself from then on as I slaved over the sinkful of dishes.

I am my mother’s daughter, and I hold onto things, and reuse things that other people wouldn’t bother washing. There’s always more where that came from seems to be their philosophy. I do have to admit that when things get crazy in the kitchen, especially when I’m cooking a big holiday meal, I tend to not be quite as careful and toss for convenience sake. And I don’t save every butter and yogurt container the way I used to. I do save a few to put used oil and meat drippings for the trash. I have a hard enough time keeping my purchased plastic containers in order. I surely don’t need to add to the chaos.

There are two large containers of cast-off clothing in the basement to be used as rags for cleaning. If I ever cleaned that much, I would be worn to a frazzle. David just cleaned out his t-shirt supply after I told him I was no longer washing the ones with frayed necks. Well, they make great dust cloths. Ummm, I don’t do much of that either. It’s my least favorite housecleaning chore. I enjoy having a clean house. I just don’t enjoy the path that I have to take to get there.

I’m baking bread today. The aroma is wafting over to the island where I’m sitting at the laptop. We had to buy all new appliances for the new house. I thought we would be able to get by with the old oven for a couple of years, but last month it died. The door would no longer close, so it wouldn’t heat properly. It was a double oven—microwave on top, regular oven on bottom. I really wanted a double oven with two baking units like I had in my remodeled kitchen on Bear Swamp, but that kind wouldn’t fit in the space, plus I didn’t want a microwave taking up valuable counter space. I went with the same type, but with a convection oven on the bottom. I was leery of this move, because the one I had installed in the other house didn’t perform the way I had hoped it would. Pizza crusts didn’t brown on the bottom, trays of cookies didn’t bake evenly, etc. It was a GE Profile. I researched, mostly to read reviews, because all of the brands are so similar that one could easily say eeny-meeny-miney-mo, or play pin the tail on the appliance. The oven I chose is a Whirlpool Gold series. The convection feature works perfectly as far as I can tell, at least a lot better than the GE oven did. I especially love the convection roast feature. It beautifully crisps the skin on chicken, but leaves the meat tender and juicy. I can’t wait to try it on my Thanksgiving turkey.

I realize that I didn’t quite have a point here, but I was thinking about my mom and that started a little reminiscing. Hope you don’t mind.

See you soon.

Susan