Riding the Bike with One Pedal.

Category: domesticity (Page 2 of 4)

All By Myself! (mostly)

Yeah, I had some serious Girl Power going on, because I decided I could install a new bathroom sink faucet, all on my own. I read a very helpful how-to article on Lowes.com and proceeded to make my list of necessary supplies. (Pretty short, actually – faucet, plumber’s putty, and a basin wrench.)  I went out to Lowe’s on my lunch hour, got a little help locating the wrench, and then headed to check out.

Now, I was very confident about the faucet part. The drain? Not as much, because the article said every drain was different, and to consult the instructions that come with the faucet. Okey-dokey. But Lowes isn’t right next door, so I didn’t want to find myself doing the typical “And back to Lowe’s I go again!”. But since my facet was all bound up with plastic straps, I thought I’d find another helpful person.

I found Duane.

Duane and I looked at the instructions, and Duane looked at me, and told me I probably had everything I needed to do this. (Duane was very encouraging, in a go-get-’em-tiger-Grandpa-knows-you-can-do-it sort of way!) It looked like the only tool I wasn’t sure about was a pipe wrench. Duane looked at me solemnly and said, “You’ve probably got a pipe wrench at home.”

I looked at Duane. Skeptically. I said, “Duane? If I have to come back here to get one of those, you know what I’m going to do? I’m gonna find you.”

Duane proceeded to give me his address, curiously located in Honduras. He even came over while I was checking out to tell my cashier not to let me find him if I returned.

So, good time at Lowe’s. But the fun was just beginning! It took a lot of time. James had to find a couple pipe wrenches for me, and I chipped the sink in a couple places when I was trying to loosen the faucet (it had corroded and been there for at least 8 years or more – we’d been told 3 years ago by a plumber that his fix of the leak was just a stopgap & would have to be completely replaced down the road.) The chips are bugging the hell out of me, but in comparison to everything else, I need to just suck it up and deal with them. (After all, to replace the sink – which I am now 100% confident I can do – would quadruple the cost of this project!)

The only thing that really gave me fits was the drain, as I predicted. Good golly. I worked on that pipe for an  hour, at least. Got it down to the last two threads – and then it just spun. I had to wait and have James help by giving me some resistance from above, to finally loosen the trap completely. Washed out the pipes (nassssty), liberally applied plumber’s paste, and turned the water back on. Yep, dripping. But quickly resolved, just a bit more tightening on the replacement pipe, and by this time, I was pretty exhausted, arm-wise. (And a little tired of up-down from the bathroom floor!) The only thing left to fix is the lever on the backside that controls the drain, and that thing was so fiddly, I just said screw it, I’ll fix that tomorrow. (Which is now today, but I’m waiting for the Aleve to fully kick in, so I can go back to bed – nothing like waking up at 3:30 with all your arm muscles shrieking at you!) My only complaint about the instructions that came with the faucet was that apparently, we’ve become so stupid, there are no words used to explain what you’re doing. Just pictures! The only words differentiated between the drain directions – if you had a metal drain or a plastic one. I need words, people. I want to understand what step I’m on, the why, the what’s next, DETAILS. So staring at pictures with no corresponding words was probably the most frustrating part of the whole endeavor.  That said, I was very proud of my accomplishment, and I so wanted to be able to do it completely by myself – I kept hearing “I am woman, hear me roar,” playing in my head while I battled the pipe! But sometimes you just need an extra set of hands, because unless my arms were chimpanzee-sized, there was no way I could wrap my arms up and over and into the sink while also cranking on to the pipe below!

Got plenty more to talk about, so now that I’ve upgraded my WordPress files and done all that fiddly stuff, I’ll be back with the lost dog saga and a new word I’ve coined. Never a dull moment!

Handy Life Advice

You know how they say you shouldn’t go to the grocery store hungry? Well, take it from me, you shouldn’t go when you’re tired, either.

Last night, at about 10:55 pm, I realized that almost all the things on my list were from the big four-day “10-for$10” sale that was ending in an hour and five minutes, and I had a choice: skip shopping altogether, or suck it up and go right away. I decided to suck it up, threw on my coat (no, not over my pajamas, I was fully dressed!) and headed out.

When you grocery-shop-tired, you don’t impulse-buy salty snacks and ding-dongs. In fact, you stick to your list like a crazy, obedient zombie. The store is almost desolate, except for all the shelf-stockers. (Note to those who ignore my advice and do this at some point: make sure you have your list, as all the signs for the sale items are down well before midnight!)  My big goal, the ground turkey, was still well-stocked, and I loaded up my cart, pleased with all my savings. I even bought a bottle of honey bourbon, wondering if it was possible to buy liquor that late on a Sunday. (It is. It’s Missouri!)

When you’re tired, you make choices about what you might leave in the car in the garage. Potato chips, for instance. Minimize the number of bags that have to go in. And I can guaran-damn-tee you that of all the bags you grab, the one you won’t have a good grip on? Will be that fucking bottle of bourbon, and as it falls, your brain wonders if it’s the bag with the can of pineapple juice, or is it the bag with the dish soap and then your ears tell your brain the sound was glass, and your nose tells your brain that the garage now smells like a saloon. And you’ll see all those savings from the ground turkey smashed on the cement floor, spreading under the car and it’s 11:30 at night and all you want to do is go to bed. So you’ll try to get all the glass, and put down a bunch of paper towels and grumpily put yourself to bed, knowing what awaits in the morning.

Cleanup, aisle 10!

Donner Party, Table for Two, Please.

I am ready for a new year.  Christmas wasn’t much to shake a stick at, but then you wake up and it’s Boxing Day (if you’re in Canada), and you think, ok, we just gotta get to New Year’s Day, and the fresh new calendar page will stand before you, awaiting your move. And then you think, godDAMN it’s cold in here, and did the husband turn the furnace down this morning? And in the shadow of the hallway, you peer at the thermostat, flipping the light switch and seeing that it’s only 53 in the house and it looks like the temperature has been overridden…..to be bumped up to even higher than normal. So you throw on the big fluffy robe over the pajamas and shuffle out to the living room, thinking you hear the furnace moving air but still not sure, and comment on the abnormal chill in the air. To be agreed with, by said husband who has resorted to the space heater singing the hair off his legs.

Yeah. Dead furnace. On the day after Christmas, on a Sunday.  Let the calling begin. We called at least 7 companies, some required a second call to even get a call back, and while the technicians did help the Wo determine it’s the Smart Valve, absolutely nobody had this particular valve rolling around in their inventory. Several told us they might have something, but it would be $130 just to show up and possibly tell us they didn’t.  Then, the real humdinger came from one company who said they could come out today, but it would be a thousand dollars. Uh, wut? But if we waited until tomorrow, it would be $600. Mind you, this part runs about $150. And I get it, it’s Sunday, and a holiday weekend, but REALLY? One Thousand Dollars?!?! That’s like, half a new furnace. With tax deductions for a new one. So we’re toughing it out until tomorrow, and James discovered why the part failed (a tiny leak from a water line valve dripped onto it), so it’s a straightforward job, and certainly not requiring a new furnace installation.  Good Lord almighty. And of course all this happens on the coldest day of the week – forecast for Thursday is 60’F – but tonight will drop to about 14’F.

We went out for Thai brunch (they said we could stay as long as we wanted!) and then over to our friend Staci’s to watch the Chiefs triumph and to bask in her heated home.  Just spent the rest of the day running multiple space heaters and the furnace in the upstairs (office/craft room) to semi-insulate us.  Of course, I can find the electric blankets? But no cords. So my side of the bed looks like a f’n Arctic princess is about to go to sleep, piled high with comforters and blankets (plus a heating pad by my feet!) and I shouted out to the Wo, “I NEED FURS!”

(Speaking of fur…. the dogs put out a little heat, too, and they’ll be fine. I joked we’d just wear them draped over our shoulders or like coats if it gets really bad.)

My fingers are crossed for tomorrow to go smoothly, quickly, and WARMLY, and then like I said…. January, you can get here as soon as you please.

ATB: All Things British

It’s no secret. I love you Brits and your television shows. It probably started with Helen Mirren and the fantastic Prime Suspect series. Because combining crime procedural with British storytelling and accents? OMG, I just wet my pants.

Unfortunately, the Wo does not share this devotional level of interest. Here’s a little snippet of last night’s conversation:

Me: “We have a Netflix movie.”

Him: “What is it?”
Me: “Hmmm, I don’t know. Let me check. ‘Harry Brown’.”

Him, now looking at me with a head tilt, with suspicion in his voice: “Sounds British.”

Me: “No, I don’t know, maybe, um…..”
Him, reading little envelope sleeve: “MICHAEL CAINE? Uh, yeah. Gritty vigilante thriller SET IN ENGLAND? Some dude named IAN? Anyone named IAN and it’s British.”

Me, (as if this is the first time we’ve ever discussed this): “So…… you don’t want to watch it?”

We started watching 30 Rock, Season 4 on Netflix streaming, instead. Excellent compromise.

And in the meantime, I’ve gotten my friend Tim hooked on MI:5 “Spooks”, which is STILL running across the pond in its 9th season, and I’m on Season 4. (Season 3 nearly killed me. KILLED ME. Gah. I shan’t say another word, but I am turning to the right with my stoic face.)

Oh, and Netflix, you bitch, you better get Season 5 up and streaming because the discs say “Very Long Wait” and I’ll want to beat you with a cricket bat if I have to go that route. And I KNOW I’ll be watching ’em by myself.

Stay Tuned!

I’m currently in a battle with the Water Department.

For some unknown reason, my account has been locked. I tried to log in and pay our bill, and surprise! No go. I figured it was because I had signed up ages ago and they just did an overhaul on the payment site. So I called the Action Line today, and after sitting on hold for 15 minutes (being reminded every five that if I indeed had a life-threatening emergency, to hang up and call 9-1-1), I was able to get through. Only to learn “oh, the water department? They all screwed up today, their phones ain’t workin’ and their computers are screwed up.”

Great.

The woman on the Action Line took my information, and -I am not shitting you – five hours later, I got a call back. I was told to just plug in my user name and the reset-password they gave me and it should work.

No.

Still locked out. I was informed that “Well, she can get right into your account.” WHO IS SHE. “She’s the lady who worked on this whole new website.”

Gee, you think maybe she’s got some fucking admin privileges I don’t? Because I’m betting she does. Nonetheless, we keep trying. I’m told to wait ten minutes and try again, and someone from the Action Line will call me in fifteen minutes.

I waited twenty minutes, no luck, account still locked. I even went into (gag) Internet Explorer to try it, thinking perhaps our new website is only as strong as its weakest platform. Nope. Still locked out. And it’s been an hour and fifteen minutes since I was supposed to get a follow-up call. Oh sure, I have other options, but I get like a terrier about shit like this, because it’s so STUPID, and should not take 8 hours to fix, or if it does, just say so. And if you think I’m letting go of this? mmmm. Nope. I have a case number.

Gosh. I wonder how they’d feel if I just took such a laid-back approach on payin’ ’em. Something tells me it’s not a two-way street.

Just Breathe

So, fair warning. Yes, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted, and yes, I’ve written about 30 different blog posts in my head. So many things I’m thinking about, so many things I’d like to say, some of which I shouldn’t, some of which I won’t. I had been thinking, OK, let’s get back in the swing of it, put the thoughts to keyboard, and had planned on writing something today.
Just not about this.
Fair warning again. It’s so gross.
I got some things done this morning, met a rep for lunch, and went to the grocery store. Got my car washed, filled up Mimi with gas, and headed home. I’ve got a lot of work to do this weekend, but I’m also looking forward to my evening out with knitting peeps and having some laughs. I decide to leave Mimi in the drive, as that will make it easier to get the groceries in, and after all, I’m heading back out later.

None of this is interesting, or of note, or even that different. I push open the door, the alarm warning goes off, the dogs greet me, and I walk through the breezeway and into the dining room. I am carrying as much as I can, and it’s funny how your brain multi-tasks: Make sure dogs don’t go out into the garage (as they could get out of the house or, more likely, attempt to eat all the dog food out of its bin.) Have a very short amount of time to get to the alarm, which we don’t have right by the door on purpose, so don’t dilly dally. Note that answering machine is blinking. And through all of this, Olfactory Gnome wakes up and starts sending up red flags. Alert! Alert! Something smells…… and something smells …… BAD.
Then I see it. Because now I’m across the dining room and about to enter the kitchen, only it is a mine field of dog diarrhea. One main source, but there was some travelling and then some tracking to boot. The smell is overwhelming and the alarm is still going. I think, “Do I tell the alarm company when they call that I just couldn’t cross a river of dog shit to turn it off? Would they accept that?” I think, no, I have to turn this off and so I do my own version of a Highland jig through our kitchen, screaming “BACK! BACK!” because Tripper is now eagerly following behind me and I all can think is we’re both expanding the cleaning area exponentially. I get the alarm turned off, the dog has retreated, and I repeat my jig back across the tile, breathing through my mouth.

Somewhere, in the recesses of my mind, Philosophical Gnome asks the question, “Which would you rather clean up? Dog vomit, or shit?” Well, duh, the answer is neither, but I’m going with vomit. Unless it’s just hardened overnight poop, which is unpleasant but nothing compared to the chore ahead of me. I get the rest of the groceries in the house, shut the garage door, and strip down to skivvies to handle the worst of it. (After all, nobody needs their clothing dragging through it to boot.) Paper towels everywhere, and copious amounts of plastic grocery bags. Yes, they may be evil but lord help me, this is why they’re on earth. I get out two trash bags. The Swiffer Wet Jet, a huge stack of mop pads, and I tackle it.

Partway through, I realized I sounded like Darth Vader trying to say the word “Halal.” (Hey, we don’t know if Darth needs his meats butchered according to Muslim law.) For to just breathe through one’s mouth is not enough – the stench was so horrific. I was trying to block my sinus passages with my tongue, which leads to very raspy, labored-sounding breathing. hhhhhhhaaaaaaaa….lllllaaaaaaaaaallllllllllllhhhhhhhhh. The anal-retentive chef from SNL has nothing on me. Everything is multiple-bagged, and then I mopped. And then everything went into another trash bag, while I still hhhhhhhhaaaaaaalllllaallllllllhhhh’ed around and took the trash to the garage. I’m dripping with sweat, I shoo the dogs outside while holding back dry heaves, and get the rest of the groceries put away. My phone’s ringing, I’m having a Silkwood Shower in the sink, I get a candle lit to put on the stove, and finally sit down in front of the fan to cool off.
Only to hear a huge clap of thunder roll overhead.
Dogs are hurried back into the house, and I throw my top back on, because remember? Freshly washed car sitting in the driveway. At this point? I can’t be bothered with pants. Yep. I did a SWAT-team-esque run to my car (only potentially being in-sight of someone driving by for all of 3 seconds) to get it put back into the garage before the heavens opened up.

Which, fifteen minutes later, they have yet to do. I didn’t need to crouchingly shuffle to my car half-dressed, but I did. And I didn’t really care if someone happened to drive by at that exact moment.

Basically? This is my life. I have a lot of good things in my life, and I’ve reflected a lot on the past year, over these past few weeks. Losing my job, almost a year ago, was really shitty. It was also really good. I haven’t done all the things I thought I’d do in that time, but I also haven’t gotten sick, had stupid office politics/turmoil with people clawing to climb over you or tear you down. Did you notice that first one? I haven’t gotten sick. No cold. No bronchitis. No walking pneumonia, for the first time in many, many years. I miss a couple of my clients, and I miss not worrying about money as much, but there’s really very little to miss about my former job except a couple of friends. The limbo, sometimes, gets to me. But I’m not all that different from most of the people out there. I noticed there’s a Facebook group making the rounds, “Be kinder than necessary, because everyone you meet is fighting some sort of battle.” and it’s really true. These aren’t easy times. When stressed and/or depressed, it’s even easier to feel overwhelmed and hopeless. And alone. But we’re not. So many people are riding this same current, and so it’s those moments of connection, we need to make them and find them and enjoy them. Because when I was at the grocery store, the checker asked me to put the big sign on the end of her checkout stand, that said “THIS LANE CLOSED”. I did, making sure I put it right on the spot where the belt wouldn’t grab it. Helping someone out. So imagine my surprise, as I’m finishing up paying, I see this very old lady in my peripheral vision, standing next to me. I look down, and she’s got items on the belt. I actually did a double-take, like, WHa? I swear I put that sign there, nobody’s supposed to be behind me, and I look at the checker, who’s looking at me and has seen my whole WTF reaction. I raise one eyebrow at her. She starts giggling. My eyes shift over towards granny, then back to her. Oh yes, the sign was there. Granny just decided to say “Fuck it” to the sign and what was anyone going to do? I don’t have to say a word, my face says it all. The checker is shaking her head, she gets it too, and is shaking with laughter. I’m chuckling, still with an eyebrow hitting my hairline, and we went on from that moment. That moment, those are the moments I seek in life. When we can look at each other and just laugh because there’s no point in getting mad, there’s no issue of race, or religion, or age, or income, or anything, it’s just fucking funny.

And when the shit gets too high, just take off your pants, light a candle and breathe: Hhhhhhhaaaaaaaa….lllllaaaaaaaaaallllllllllllhhhhhhhhh.

In The Air Tonight

Tripper, unfortunately, still spends more time getting into trouble when left to his own devices. Tonight I ran out to get Thai carryout, and when I got home, the paper towels I had placed over my bowl of tomatoes were shredded into pieces on the kitchen floor. Little fucker. (I love mint beef salad, so I order it with extra dressing, and pour the whole thing over two enormous tomatoes that have been cut into wedges. Nom.)

One of the things we’re remaining consistent with, as pertains to Sir Tripper, is keeping him in his crate at night. He loves to bark up an alarm at anything, so keeping him confined reduces his exposure to shifting light, shadows, the sounds of cats outside, etc. It’s bad enough before we go to bed that our reflections in the large dining room window send him into Freak The Fuck Out mode.

But.

There is this one thing he’s taken to doing, smack in the middle of the night, and it sounds like a small prison riot. We’re not sure exactly what he’s doing, or if he’s even awake while doing it, but as I crawled back into bed after one of his clangy outbursts, I had the funniest image in my mind: he’s performing a Phil Collins-esque drum solo out there.  There’s banging and scrabbling and the sound of furious paws of fury (but no throat noises or barking), it lasts about two minutes (just enough to really wake you up) and then all is silent.

Maybe he’s having a Michelob Light, the night did used to belong to them…. At least now, when he wakes me up, I half-grin at the situation.

And, as a child of the 80’s,  I have several heart-mind-humor associations with Phil Collins – but one of my favorites is a piece done by Starlee Kine.  If you’ve never heard the episode “Break Up” on This American Life, go stream it and enjoy.

Summer’s Delight

As we hibernated indoors yesterday, away from the stifling humidity, most of our energies wound up in the kitchen. I had been wanting to make Peter Reinhart’s recipe for Casatiello, and Italian Brioche, studded with bits of spicy salami and gouda cheese. What I love about his book is the complete thoroughness of instruction; he describes the process of how the dough will evolve, and what to expect. This dough has a high butter content, and after the butter has been added, the dough is very sticky, and altogether messy, resembling cookie dough. His instructions tell you to work the dough for 12 minutes, for in that amount of time the butter will distribute evenly and your sticky mass of dough evolves into a beautifully smooth, tacky ball that cleanly rotates around the mixer bowl. It was definitely one of those angels-singing marvel moments as I watched it happen. I baked it in a square springform pan to make one loaf; you can bake it in bags and in smaller sizes more typical of Brioche, too. It’s delicious, and made me wonder about other cheeses and even adding snippets of fresh herbs, such as the French tarragon that is always looking for something to creep into…..

Italian Brioche w/ gouda, sausage

In-between my dough mixing and shaping, James took over the kitchen and used the mixer’s food grinder attachment to make an amazing tomato sauce. The food grinder is great, because you get all of the pulp and meat and juices of the tomato, while efficiently discarding the seeds and skin. We have almost all heirloom tomato plants, and the flavors of these tomatoes are out of this world. Describing a slice of Carbon uses similar language as describing wine… smokey, bold, strong finish. So when you mix all these robust, intense flavors together, and cook them down all afternoon, you have a sauce that literally sings to you. He also incorporated caramelized onions and banana peppers, plus some sauteed chicken tenders. As James put it: summer in a bowl. It was excellent.

homemade tomato sauce

So where’s dessert? Well, this is a good example of how mistakes happen – even to those of us who’ve been cooking and baking for over 30 years. We had leftover egg yolks, because earlier this week, James had made zucchini bread, and one of the most awesome ingredients he uses is candied nuts. He’d done both pecans and walnuts, and the candying process uses a bunch of egg whites. So, what to make with egg yolks? Well, certainly a custard comes to mind – and with the heat, why not ice cream? Sounded good to me. Some things you take for granted, some things you don’t think about, and sometimes, even when you’re standing right there at the stove, stirring your mixture of cream and sugar and eggs and bits of natural vanilla bean, you take your eyes off what you’re doing to talk to your spouse, and the next thing you know, you have bits of cooked egg separating rapidly from your liquid. Gah. I tried plunging it into a water bath, stirring madly, but there are chemical processes that just don’t reverse themselves. I pitched a fit, pissed-off with myself for forgetting how quickly chemistry can happen, and then had to decide what to do.

I decided to give it a try, anyway, because the flavor was amazing, and not eggy, but the big question was texture. I chilled the custard, then put it in my Krups machine that I’ve had for 20 years. And waited.
It never froze. I think it was the fact my custard was too warm, still. So what to do? This is when experience is a good thing, because it makes you more resourceful. Rather than focusing on the failure of ice cream, I focused on what was wrong with my dish, and what could I turn it into? I had it: Milkshakes. I strained the custard through a sieve, removing the bits of hardened egg proteins. Then I added frozen strawberries to the blender until it was completely full. I figured that if any of the egg had made it through the sieve, the texture would be masked by the presence of strawberries (and keep in mind, the mixture never scorched, and was utterly, vanilla-ey delicious, despite the overcooking.)

The result was stupendous. My husband declared it to be one of the top 5 milkshakes of his life.

What was leftover was poured into a dixie cup, popped in the freezer with a fork in it to make a makeshift ice cream bar. The texture on that might be a bit grainy, but at least we know it’ll taste good!

Now it’s Sunday, and I think I’d like to go out for brunch.

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