PlazaJen: The Blog

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Category: domesticity (page 1 of 4)

WHAT IS THIS WIZARDRY?

You know how it is, when you have a discovery and it’s like the lightbulb actually hovered over your head, illuminated the universe and then exploded into a thousand shards of brilliance?

Well, let me tell you something: The oven door comes OFF.

That’s right. Off! I suppose there are models where it doesn’t, and maybe really old stove/ovens require some sort of rare tool or brute force, but all I could think when I discovered this fact and did it for myself was, “DID EVERYONE KNOW THIS AND NOT TELL ME?” Because I’ve scrubbed plenty an oven floor in contortions, back in the day, and trying to work around an opened oven door is precarious, as if you lean on it, you very well could bring the whole damned thing toppling over onto you, or at the very least, scare yourself with some tipping.

Basically, you open the door all the way, and then look at where the hinges connect to the body of the oven. USE A SCREWDRIVER to do the next part, because some video I watched that had you flipping the little locks up with it cautioned that you could lose a finger if it snapped back. Ours is a newer oven, so it just required pushing the hinge guards down. Then, you take the oven door and shut it partway, as if you were going to broil something, and then grab the sides and lift up. Try not to drop it in your shock at succeeding at this! Now you can clean the oven quite easily and if you are inclined, you can also take the whole door apart and clean in-between the glass, if, say, someone you know accidentally hooked a shirt sleeve on a whole pan of cooled cooking oil, kept walking, and then launched said pan into the air, drenching the entire area with oil, much to the enthusiasm of a couple black labs. HYPOTHETICALLY SPEAKING YOU SEE.

Now, if you’re going to take the door apart, learn from me. Get some post-it notes, number them, and put the little screws you take out into piles and keep them separate and orderly. Also consider taking some pictures as you go, because you will have to flip back and forth and while you’re taking it all apart, sure, you’ll think, “this is completely logical and easy, I’ll just keep going.” And then when you go to put it back together, you’ll realize it took you three hours to get to that point, between watching a video, checking your steps, cleaning things, drying them, and having some lunch. And it will take you 7 times as long to get the door back together. DO NOT MAKE MY MISTAKES, GRASSHOPPER.

I’ve referenced a video for cleaning the door – here it is. It’s not the greatest quality? But it’s definitely informative, thorough, and it felt a little like having your grandpa around, showing you how to do a complicated project. I also was hooked by the opener, talking about what to do with a dirty oven door: “Three ways to solve it! Hang a decorative towel over the glass, buy a new stove, OR – clean it!”

And THEN, once you’ve gotten it all cleaned and the gunk is off the bottom and not threatening to set the smoke alarm off, you have the greatest sense of satisfaction you can imagine. And then? THEN? Someone should cook a frozen pizza in it without a pan or anything below the rack, and drip a nice big spot of cheese onto the bottom that you discover two days later, and you dance around in crazed disbelief, wielding a knife and trying to scrape the now-smoking burnt cheese out while the oven still preheats. (Hypothetically speaking, of course.) (Penance was paid. Hypothetically.)

Tales of the Crazy Cat Lady

So as you know, we’ve got a Crazy Cat Lady in the neighborhood. As in, across the street. This past spring she had what we could only guess was yet another small unfortunate fire, as random burnt objects starting showing up on her curb. (She is not familiar with the 3-1-1 Action Line for bulky pickup, either, so we get lots of opportunities to eyeball the assorted flotsam that resides on the curb for days on end.) One of the piles got dubbed “Crazy Cat Lady’s Rugs and Remnants” because it appeared to be some hideous ’70’s carpet, a carpet pad and god knows what else.
ANYhoo.
She is, sadly, mentally ill, enhanced and distorted by alcohol and prescription medications. Gaunt as a skeleton and severely aged by the ravages of her abuse, she is hard to look at, and she can’t make eye contact. She also pretty much detests us, as we are mean and don’t bend to her requests like, “Give me a phone,” or, “I need to come in your house,” or, “Give me three cents.” (I’m still struggling to puzzle out that last one.) Sometimes they are just statements: “I lost my cell phone.” Ohhkay. Sorry?

But I have not told all of her stories here – and there are some doozies. We are coming up on the year anniversary (Halloween), when she went completely batshit crazy and laid down in the middle of the street, barefoot and wrapped in two acrylic blankets. I was still at work, JWo had called the police, and a cheerful kind woman in a brightly colored caftan and sneakers had pulled her van over and was directing traffic around CCL, who was now curled up by our telephone pole. I came up over the rise in the street to see this montage of crazy in front of me and was boggled by the insanity of it all.

According to CCL, she was having a “surge”, and we should look it up on the computer. (JWo’s fast-witted reply? “I don’t think they make that soda anymore.”) She lurched back to her house just before the police arrived, and refused to let them in. We thought if she had stayed in place, we’d certainly have the scariest trick-or-treat house on the whole street, because her rising up out of the dark would scare the piss out of grown adults, let alone 8-year-old kiddos!

She really has become such a fixture among the fire department, paramedic team, and hospital that a couple strapping firemen came by a few weeks ago and asked us if we’d seen her, as they hadn’t gotten called out for a couple weeks and they were just checking in. It’s a strange blend of funny and sad, to be that reliant on public servants for help that they notice when you stop surfacing; it’s tragic to lose your existence into that pit, and it’s kind of funny because we’re all sort of thrown in on this same “team” whether it’s geographic or service based, so you can literally strike up a conversation – even with the 911 operator – about her, because everybody knows her. The veritable female version of Norm from Cheers, but less robust and certainly no match to his snappy wit.

Pretty sure the house will have to be razed when she finally departs this world (though there’s something about a certain breed of alcoholics – tough as nails and somehow bionically fueled by their diluted bloodstream, and she could be around for decades to come.) Right now there’s a hodge-podge of refuse by the curb, with more random piles and a large barrel for burning out back.

People keep pointing me to the Crazy Cat Lady action figure that’s out there -but what can I say? We’ve already got our own version!

CCL

Trying to Outfox a Fox….

A couple weeks ago, the handle apparatus inside the toilet broke. Snapped right in two, it was a plastic lever that had been there since we moved in 9-some years ago. James procured a replacement, made of metal, and after some internet consulting and installation, everything was fixed. (Apparently, you have to bend the metal ones to make it fit your tank, which wasn’t immediately clear on the package.) So, after being teased all evening about using brute force and tearing things up when he’s off hunting, I decide I can razz him right back! He had gotten into bed, and I was in the bathroom, and I flushed the toilet, immediately exclaiming, “Holy SHIT, I can’t believe it, the handle broke again!” I hear, “You’re KIDDING ME!” from the bedroom, and just as I say, “Yes, I am!”, the last consonant is leaving my lips and he appears in the doorway, indignant and ready to Battle Royale the toilet. I hadn’t meant for him to get back up, but I burst out laughing, and he scowled at me, having gotten him, and I was told to “watch out”, because he was going to get me back.

A day later, he calls to me from the kitchen, asking what’s wrong with the refrigerator. I say, “What do you mean?” He says, “The light won’t come on. I thought the milk was a little warm.”

Pause.

Me: “Are you trying to get me? Because it’s not working. I just got milk half an hour ago.”

Him: WHARRRGARRRRBLLLLLEEEEE “Dammit, Jen!”

Time Passes.

The toilet handle has issues with not stopping the water from running, so, fancying myself an apprentice plumber, I try things. At one point, I’m certain I’ve fixed it, only to discover a while later, the running issue continues. So this past weekend, I took the whole thing back apart, and adjusted where the bar went into the handle, and while it returns now to a more upright position (aesthetically annoying to me), it works. I told James this on Sunday.

This morning. I attempt to flush the toilet, to be greeted by silence. By now, I’m a motherfucking pro at whipping that tank lid off. I see there’s barely any water in the tank. Hrmph. How can this be? I stare at it. I lift the flapper. I touch ALL THE PARTS. Now, it’s still pretty early, but I’ve had a cup of coffee, and clearly, the issue at-hand is water. I think to myself, “Is there an issue with the water line?” I reach down and feel the shutoff valve knob. It seems solidly in place, no leaks… so I stare into the tank again. Brain tells me “Righty-tighty, Lefty-loosey!” and I reach back down to the valve.

Yep.

:Somebody: got up in the middle of the night & turned the water off. And the last time I checked, the dogs don’t have the requisite opposable thumbs.  I restore balance to the universe, turning the water back on, and decide to leave the tank lid off as a message. “Message Received,” as it were. Two seconds later, I grin. Nope. Better to put the lid BACK ON and leave everything in a working state, and say :nothing:. Because I learned about jokes, practical and otherwise, at the knee of the master, my father. Slicing open a package of M&Ms to fill it with one color, as a joke on his best friend after a hunting trip – left in the car for the friend’s ride home. The best moments can be had when you don’t even witness them, that filament in the brain, rapidly burning with realization as the person processes they’ve been had.

I stepped out of the bathroom this morning as James got up, and stood outside the door, toweling my hair, waiting to hear the water rush. Clink. Whoosh. Everything works. He turns, still stumbling with sleep, and I stand in front of him, leaning in to kiss him and whisper, “You’ve got to get up earlier if you want to outfox the fox….”

 

Ahhh, Fall

I love Fall. For so many reasons – the cooler air, the crisp bite of fresh apples, the faint trails of smoke on the wind once fireplaces start up…and… Fall TV. This year’s even bigger than ever, because I have several clients active on television and it’s important to know what is on, what’s new, what’s going to do well, and to avoid the inevitable bombs. (Hello, Animal Practice, I’m looking straight at you. Monkey sidekicks are a death-knell.)

It also means creative DVRing, because apparently Sunday nights are now going to be akin to flying into Atlanta after being re-routed for weather. It’s not helped by the fact CBS football always runs over, shoving Amazing Race back and requiring a safety cushion of 30 minutes over, sometimes adjusted to an hour. Because just hoping I remember everything is a thing of the past, this is what I do:

Because only the networks fit onto one page, I’ve got crib notes for the cable shows as well – even if they’re not starting tonight, I need to remember they’re coming. Sundays for cable are crazy!

New shows that have some promise – 666 Park Avenue (ABC, Sundays, 9p CST)  might be a good replacement for the Desperate Housewives set, though with a slightly more devilish twist. (It can always be dicey when you pull Satan on tv). We watched the premiere of the Mob Doctor (FOX, Mondays, 8p) and it was rather entertaining – plus Revolution seems to be doing well right out of the gate (NBC, Mon, 9p) and will probably be their winner of new prime shows.  The Mindy Project (FOX, Tue, 8:30) will do well, Nashville (ABC, Wed 9p) looks good as well. I’m excited for Vegas (CBS, Tues, 9p) – hello Michael Chiklis, you’ve been missed, as well as Elementary (CBS, Thur, 9p) because I don’t believe you can have too much Sherlock Holmes, ever, plus Johnny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu are easy on the eyes. The X Factor (FOX, Wed, 7p, Thur (Results) 7p) is actually quite good, because Simon has moved on and it’s a fresh(er) take on reality singing shows.

First shows to bite it will be The Neighbors (ABC) and as mentioned earlier, Animal Practice (NBC). My poor rep tried to convince me Animal Practice was going to make it and had no rebuttal for “It’s a horrid concept! WITH A MONKEY.” Guys with Kids (NBC) is probably not too far behind.

Returning sophomore shows I think are good and I try to catch on demand, or am just impressed at how they’ve succeeded – Grimm, and Once Upon A Time. Person of Interest is one we watch, I’m glad to see it return, and while I don’t watch Revenge, I have several friends who get very dramatic at just the drop of the show title. (“Reveeeengggge!” they all exclaim, with big eyes and great drama….)  2 Broke Girls is definitely doing well, as it’s now the 8p lead on Monday.

Cable shows I’m stoked for (already started or returning): American Horror Story (FX, Wed, 9p, premieres 10/17) – holy crap-my-pants is this one scary show. I have to wait until Saturday morning to even watch it), Sons of Anarchy (FX, Tues, 9p, premiered 9/11), Walking Dead (AMC, Sun, 8p, premieres 10/14) – that one will get recorded at like 1 in the morning, thanks to these returning favorites crowding in around that elongated Amazing Race setting:  Dexter (SHO, Sun, 8p, premieres Sept 30), Homeland (SHO, 9p, also premieres Sept 30) plus Boardwalk Empire has begun (HBO, Sun, 8p) Thank you, Oh Great On-Demand Options on the Holy Cable Box!

At least I’ve got PLENTY of yarn to knit with as I watch my newbies and returning favorites. Though Walking Dead and American Horror Story :do: make my gauge get noticeably tighter….

View from the Tripper

Tripper: Hullo. Hullllooooo, we came right back this morning, yes, did you notice?

Me: Good dogs! Very good. Sit.

Tripper: We were so good. Now let me show you with my nose where the real treats are, ok, lady? OK?

(Tripper counter-cruises the stove, snuffling like a truffle pig. I see the pork shoulder that was in the smoker overnight is wrapped in foil and parked squarely – safely – on the back left burner, which also happens to be the furthest accessible point from either direction.)

Me: Laughs.

Tripper: Oh my god, so, like, can I have that? I’d really like that. That smells AMAZEBALLS, and you know, you did take my balls away from me. I’d really like that meat. (SNUFFLES DEEPLY) I mean, ok, I sound selfish. I’ll share. With her. (looks at Polly) Like, so, can WE have that? We’d really like that. We’ll be super good. Swear.

Later, I discover Mr. Tripper paid Polly with false promises of future treats to go in his kennel last night (in the dark hallway, after they came in from their nightly constitution) instead of him, so he could have free-range of the house for just one night. James got up at 2 am and realized the mistake, as a waggly happy Tripper was ready to go go GO outside (I smells meat!) and poor Polly was in the crate. Guess I need to turn the light on tonight to make sure this sort of mischief doesn’t continue! And no. No meat treats for breakfast. They got plenty of bones yesterday, and a rib bone tonight, so no matter how pathetic they try to act, we are ON to them.

Church of Stove

I got up this morning & hit the ground running!

James got a Weber smoker a week or so ago, and we had a turkey in the deep freeze, so we arranged to have our gardening friends Julie & Todd over to have a late afternoon meal. The turkey will be smoked, along with a large pan of homemade baked beans, and greens are simmering on the stove. Grandparents are also rumored to be showing up as well, so it will be a full table!

The beans are my first attempt – and a salesperson I was dining with on Friday sent me her recipe, as she also loves to cook & these beans are requested over and over again from her friends and family. I modified it a little bit (of course) by adding in some frozen Serrano peppers, and omitted the bacon because we had about half a pound of smoked pork butt that I chopped and added to the mixture. I doubled the recipe (of course) so hopefully these freeze well! Three kinds of beans – pork & beans, red kidney beans, and butter beans, plus ketchup, molasses, brown sugar, vinegar & mustard.  Here’s a shot of what didn’t fit in the pan:

Moving on from there (as I was cutting up onion after onion!) I sliced up some hot Italian sausage, and got that cooking with an onion. Added chicken broth, a huge bag of fresh spinach, and about five potatoes, cut into chunks. That’s simmering on the stove, and will get a last-minute addition of some half-and-half before serving. That’s going to be “early brunch”. Homegrown spinach is so fantastic!

On to the last onion… James went out in the rain and picked a giant tub trug of Siamese Dragon greens… basically a huge mixture of all sorts of greens, including bok choy, mustard/turnip greens, some crazy escarole-like fronds, and I started sauteing the onions and browning the delicious-looking smoked ham shank. I added a pitcher of water, a few cubes of vegetable bouillon, and got to work cleaning and stripping the greens from the tougher stems. Once a sink basin was full, in to the pot they went, and the process began again. Eventually, the huge bucket of greens compressed into a stockpot, where they will simmer all day – to be dressed at the table with some Serrano vinegar!

The house is redolent with savory smells… rain is falling outside, and it’s time for another cup of coffee. Enjoy your Sunday, no matter how you spend it!

 

Spiceh…..

James grew kale this year, for the first time – it’s lovely, sturdy, frilly, and I’d heard about all these kale chips, so I thought, hey, why not? Give it a whirl.
They’re terribly easy – you just tear out the thick stem, toss with a little olive oil & sea salt & throw in the oven at 350’F for 15 minutes. One recipe mentioned using some pepper flakes, so I grabbed the tub of smoked Thai chili peppers my MIL had brought us, sprinkled some over the fresh greens, and let the oven do the rest.

Should have washed my hands more thoroughly, it turns out – my bagel had a distinct afterburn, not something one normally gets from an Asiago cheese bagel, and that heat, combined with the fact my nose and corner of my mouth were EN FUEGO from an innocent face rub with the spiced-up hand, made me realize these weren’t ordinary chili pepper flakes.

Sensation confirmed after the chips came out of the oven. Delicious, though! And we’ll certainly be having more of them. I’m intrigued by the idea of crushing them and sprinkling on popcorn, too – with a little parmesan cheese. It looks like it can be prepared just like spinach, as well, which is good, since the spinach has run its course. My friend Jane puts kale in her smoothies all the time, thought she does have the mixer that makes things “disappear” – I’m a little skeptical about my two-speed Hamilton Beach retro-style blender doing more than macerating the leaves or chunking them up. We’ll see. For now, it’s just nommy salty-spicy goodness, with loads o’ vitamins!

 

File Under: “Phrases That Will Lead To No Good”

“I could make that.”

“I should learn to play the ukulele!”

(This will be a recurring feature, I have a feeling.)

Still Kickin’

Busy times ’round these parts! Between work, the house, the garden, the dogs & all the other plans, my birthday came and went, and half the month has already slipped by!

Saw Harry Potter 7.2 or B or whatever, you know which one I’m referring to (unless you’re living on a cult campground, and in that case, WHY ARE YOU READING MY BLOG? Get out! Escape! Cults are bad!) Anyway, the movie was fantastic. I think splitting the book in two was a fitting way to wrap up the series; it made you wonder how spectacular it could have been, had they split all the books in two, but probably not realistic.  James did the big extravaganza, seeing all 8 films over four nights; he asked if I wanted to go, but that pesky “I have to get up and work” thing just didn’t make it practical. He loved it so much, he was totally ready to see it again, and we were not alone – the only open sets of seats when we got to the 10 am show were in the first two rows! Totally captivating, and during one particular scene in the woods, I started to cry so hard I was afraid I was going to emit those terrible uncontrollable sobbing sounds. My dear husband put his arm around me and got me through it. Sigh. The people we love are with us…. always.

Our white-trash pool is doing well, though right now, it’s about as delightful as taking a hot bath in a steam room – this weather is utter crap, and I’m turning into a mole person, staying indoors with fans and the a/c blasting. I had no idea above-ground pools were considered white trash, I think I read it on the interwebs somewhere,  but whatever, I say suck it, because when it isn’t 8 million degrees out, it’s pretty nice to take a dip and have a frozen adult beverage poolside.  Though with all the research I’ve done on pools, and looking at other sorts of pools, I get served up banner ads for pools every single day and it makes me want to put in an Olympic-sized pool AND get a pool boy. Gotta love my bidness and the hyper-targeting of cookies!

I turned 43 and I’m already mentally calling myself 50.  I think it will help ease me into that decade, and then there’s the added bonus of when I remember exactly how old I am, I’m not 50! James made me a fantastic, three-layer chocolate cake, with cream-cheese frosting in the middle & chocolate frosting on the outside. It was going to be four-layers, but a certain Labrador Retriever (Tripper) who counter cruises with his nose along the stainless steel trim decided the temptation of a cooling layer was way too much, and nommed about 1/4 of it off the counter before I realized what was afoot in the kitchen. You can always tell with Tripper, when it’s quiet… it’s too quiet. Like how he snuck in last night and got the corn cobs out of the trash…. such a doofus. Anyway, it worked out, because there wasn’t enough icing for the outside, and so I had a bi-racial cake, with white and chocolate both on the outside. It was delicious and made with love! Later in the week, my knitting friends treated me to one of my favorite digs (BRGR, though we had aberrant bad service, unfortunately) and some wonderful pressies and a huge wedding cake cookie for all of us to share.

 

OK – this post has sat as a draft for five days now, so I’m just gonna hit “publish” and try to do another update shortly! The heat is stupid, I’ve noticed a lot of tempers flaring and crazy behavior – let’s try not to make this the Son of Sam summer, k?

The Flavor of “WOW”

We had our friends Jeremy & Abby over on a Saturday night recently; we realized it had been a really long time since we’d last seen them, since they’d, y’know, had another kid and the oldest was walking and talking.  They brought the kiddos Wesley & Audrey along, and they were a real treat – well-behaved, hilarious, and cute as all get-out.

Jeremy was disappointed the dinner date took place past his birthday, since last time he’d been at our house, he’d paged ahead on the calendar and put his birthday on it, a little surprise waiting a couple months out. (We keep the house calendar hanging in the bathroom over the toilet…it’s the best way to keep dates and plans fresh in the minds of those who stand to pee….)

Anyway, they brought some wine and dessert – and Wesley was very proud that he had helped pick out the cookies at the store (sugar cookies with blue frosting and red & white sprinkles). He asked me if I knew what kind they were, and playing along I said I didn’t, but could he tell me? “They have the flavor of WOW,” he said quite seriously. We all agreed that was pretty special indeed.

Later, after dinner, he was playing on the Wii in the living room, and he came back into the dining room, sidling up to James and looking at me. “Jennifer?” he asked, very seriously. “Yes?” I replied.

“Can James come play the Wii with me?”

That one was a lot harder to not burst out laughing, but chuckling, I did agree that in a little bit, James could come and play with him.

Lots of laughter, lots of fun, an evening flavored with Wow.

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