Saturday, July 28, 2012

Blast from the Past

What is it about cleaning house that brings up these little gusts of wind from the past showing us how far we've come in 15 years?  Cue up Eminem's "Cleaning out my closet" song!

Since I've been light on posting and this story has never seen the light of day, I thought I'd share with you all something I wrote about a dishwasher adventure in my tender early years of my first marriage (a.k.a, before I knew any better).

Names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent.

The year was 1997.  I was barely 21 years old and had recently moved to Hawaii.  I'd been married for just over a year and still had the traditional 50's housewife upbringing hammered into my skull, guiding my life choices at this point.  As I re-read this 15 years later, I'm more disturbed at my lack of knowledge and expertise of home appliances than anything else!  LOL  What a difference 15 years makes.

Enjoy this blast from the past as I continue cleaning out my many closets.
We live in a townhouse almost as old as we are.  Built in the late 70s, everything but the floor and the refrigerator in the kitchen were still the originals!  I didn’t mind when we first moved in, because the dishwasher still worked.  I figured if it worked, I wouldn’t worry about it.  Besides, they promised us the whole kitchen would be remodeled right after Christmas.  (Christmas soon came and went, with no new dishwasher in sight).  Then in February or so, I noticed my beautiful new white dishes (hey, we’re newlyweds, it’s all new!)  were getting RUST stains on them!  ACCCCKK!  I’d dreamed of these dishes since I was EIGHT!  And they’re getting RUSTED!  So we asked if they could please get us a new dishwasher, as the old one was ruining our dishes.  “Well, we’ll have to come see what it’s doing.”  A month later they finally come out to look, decide they think water is really the problem, (yeah, that’s why the racks have rusted through the vinyl….it’s all in the water) but say they’ll replace it anyway.  More time goes by, and no dishwasher.  I resign myself to having brown and white dishes.  Meanwhile, one day at my job, with circumstances being incredibly in my favor, I gather up the nerve to ask my boss for a raise.  When I got it I was just flying high.  I could conquer the world!  So that same night I call up our landlords and ask when we’ll be seeing that new dishwasher.  Next Wednesday, they say.  (I told you I could conquer the world that day!)  So, with that all in mind, here is how we finally got a new dishwasher installed in our kitchen:

The Dishwasher, Part II

A couple of days before the appointed “D” day (d being for dishwasher of course), I discovered Sears was having a sale on dishwashers.  I decided to “remind” our landlords about their promise, guising it under the pretense of saving them money.  It just so happened they were forwarding their calls to their cell phone that day and they were at the mall right by us!  Right by the Sears store!  (Am I good or WHAT???)  So they say they’ll check it out.  A few minutes later they call back, asking for measurements.  (COOL!)  A couple of days later, it musta been the 3rd of July, ‘cause I had the day off (the 4th was on a Saturday this year) Landlord Wife (LW) calls to say they’re buying the dishwasher can they bring it over this afternoon to install it?  Can they install it???? Heck, I woulda paved the driveway for them to roll it up on!!

So a little while later Landlord Husband (LH) comes over with the dishwasher in the back of the truck.  He comes in, I squirrel the cat out of the way, and he proceeds to look at the old dishwasher, seeing what it will take to remove it.  He takes the bottom off, hems and haws, pulls on this and that, fishes out tools left and right, and finally says it has been built into the cabinets, and the tile was tiled around it.  This does not sound good.  I have a sink and countertop full of dishes I want to wash---don’t tell me it’s built in! 

But, dislike it though I may, stuck it certainly is, and he’s not sure how he’s going to get it out.  He asks if we have a power saw.  No.  Then he decides to just bend up the leg things at the bottom and pull it out.  It comes about an 1/8 out, and it’s stuck.  Back it goes.  He takes the door off.  Takes the top rack off.  Does this and that for about an hour and a half, and finally, piece by piece, the old dishwasher is removed.  Then he discovers there’s still water pressure going to the supply line.  He checks under the sink to turn the knob tighter, and says the handle is crumbling in his hand!!!  (And they wanted us to BUY this place?) 

Meanwhile, I’ve run to get a towel to soak up the stray water.  So he says we’ll have to shut off the water via the hot water tank.  (Ok, where’s that thing?)  It’s built into the back of our cabinets.  (So that’s why we have the ugly looking joint back there!)  A couple of twists of the screwdriver, and off comes the back of the cabinet.  “Oh no!”  I hear him say.  “You’ve got a nest of fire ants!”  (Fire ants?!?!?!?!  That last run-in I had with fire ants I couldn’t sleep for three days from the itching!!!  Oh no isn’t the half of it!)  So I grab the Raid.  They don’t care!  I empty the whole bottle on them, changing the carpet from brown to pure white Raid foam, and they’re still running!  They must be triathlon fire ants!  I go for the dustbuster!  One by one, I suck up the fire ants, keeping them out of the carpet.  I FINALLY get them under control while LH finishes installing the new dishwasher.  Then I hear “Oh no” again.  (What is it this time?)  Turns out the supply line won’t connect to the hose!  Off to Eagle Hardware!  He comes back, discovers that the lady gave him the wrong part size!  But he has an adapter thing and does something with it.  Then he can’t get the water to quit leaking under the sink!  (“Do you have a large bowl or something?”)  He showed up at 2 pm and left at 9 pm, ready to tear his hair out, and me with no working dishwasher!  (Good thing I wasn’t paying him by the hour!  Good thing I wasn’t paying him at all!)  So, he decides to leave.  His wife is ready to kill him, and he’s ready to kill the dishwasher, so they call a truce until Sunday.  He patches up everything so the cat can’t get into it, then leaves with a promise of returning Sunday.

Luckily, the hot water didn’t work in the sink.  No hot water, no dishwasher, I can’t do the dishes!  We have to eat out!!  (It’s every wife’s dream.) 

Sunday the 5th he comes back, and everything gets assembled properly, and he’s on his way, with us left to level the legs.  (LH couldn’t deal with it.)

We now have clean dishes (whenever I get around to loading the thing) and I don’t have to wash them by hand anymore.  It’s a beautiful black dishwasher, that somehow ties together the ugly yellow stove and the almond refrigerator!!!!! 

Ahhhhh… beautiful kitchen.

Monday, July 9, 2012

What has been seen cannot be unseen

If you watched yesterday's video all the way to the end, you may have seen this video as one of the suggested ones to watch next.  I saw the dog laying there in what looked to be abject agony, so I clicked on it to see what was going on.

After starting the video, I could not look away.  Then once it was done, I could not get the images out of my mind. 

This is so sad.  I weep not only for the animals shown here, but also for the humans.  Performing this type of work has to take a toll on their humanity.

The light of life is precious.  Those who extinguish it can never escape the after-effects. 

Please.  Don't take the creation of life recklessly - have your pets spayed or neutered and adopt from your local shelter instead of breeders.

I didn't create this video.  But I'll never forget its contents.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

I Sing the Body Electric

 Ray Bradbury, God rest his soul, is an inspiration.  His book "Zen in the Art of Writing" describes his creative process as, each morning he wakes up and steps on a landmine.  "That landmine is me.  I spend the rest of the day putting myself back together."

My house (apartment), ever indicative of the status of my life, has stepped on a landmine.  But I'm finally putting myself back together.

In preparation for our next big adventure, we are selling and gifting possessions like never before.  The closet that had become so full you didn't dare enter it without the light on is now starting to echo when I walk into it.  The dining room is piled high with things waiting to be photographed for our virtual yard sale.  (Yes, I could do classes on virtual yard sales, too.  No arrows required.)

My office is in shambles, with documents waiting to be sorted, waiting to be scanned, and the trepidatious growing stack of documents waiting to be shredded that daily thank their lucky stars for my procrastination.  (I tell them it won't hurt.  They don't believe me.  And neither should you.)

When all's said and done, the apartment will most likely look like a nicely furnished apartment or hotel room.  (Sans the maid service.  Damn.)

Don't even get me started on what's changed in the food department.

For now, I leave you in the hands of Weird Al and your wonderful imaginations:

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Deep Thoughts

Once upon a time, I was shopping at Second Glance, my favorite upscale secondhand clothing store.  Hubby was qualifying for hubby of the year award, so he agreed to accompany me and give his unvarnished opinion of any and all outfits as I tried them on.  (To this day he claims his only motivation was a futile attempt to stem my tide of shoe purchases!)

At any rate, we were standing in front of the shirt section, and Hubby was pulling out shirts to get my "yay" or "nay" judgment before I took a pile of clothing to the fitting room.  One particular shirt had me hemming and hawing, when I finally replied to go ahead and put it on the pile, because I was desperate for shirts.

Out of the clear blue, a woman's voice came over to me and said in a kindly yet authoritative voice, "Don't ever be desperate, honey.  That's when we buy bad shirts."

Over the years, my mind has morphed this conversation to the point where I cannot recall if she said "That's when we buy bad shirts" or "That's when we make bad decisions."

Because she was right.

Desperation can make us do the most inane things.  Things that we wouldn't dream of doing if our logic and intellectual faculties were intact.  (Such as the 10 rolls of duct tape I purchased during my first hurricane when I lived in Florida!)

Ever since that conversation I've tried to live my life in such a way that I never feel desperate.  Each time desperation tries creeping in, that memory pops into my head, and my perspective changes in a flash.

On a day of deep thoughts, the thought I leave with you is this:

Don't ever be desperate, honey.  That's when we make bad decisions.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Life is uncertain: Eat Dessert First!

Today was supposed to be a massive cooking day.  I had my new disposable pans all ready:

The yogurt was starting in the crock pot:

The strawberries were prepped and sliced:

The bar syrup was cooling (recipe to follow):
And the potatoes were being peeled in the sink:

(Yeah, I forgot to photograph them.  But you can imagine.  Bunches of nekkid little potatoes, huddling together for warmth.)

Things were going along great until the sink stopper of doom decided to stop by:

So......I decided to eat dessert first:
It didn't last long........
And suddenly it was gone.....
I think the drain monster ate it.

(Recipes will be posted here soon.)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Yogurt in a Crockpot

Several years ago I modified a recipe for homemade yogurt so that it could be done in the crockpot, one gallon at a time.  We were going through a gallon of yogurt a week, and this saved us a ton of money compared to buying the store-bought version.  In addition, hubby loves my homemade yogurt way more than store-bought!

I haven't made this for about two years due to the workload of my last two jobs.  However, now that I'm Chief Bargain Hunter, it seems like a great time to dust off the old crock-pot and try it again. 

Essential items:
  • Food-grade thermometer
  • Crock-pot (I use a 5.5 quart to make a gallon of yogurt - feel free to adjust accordingly, just make sure you have 1.0-1.5 quarts more crock-pot than yogurt)
  • 3-4 good thick towels, or 6-8 thinner ones
  • A large bowl or measuring cup - something that can hold 4 cups of liquid easily and pour back into the crock-pot without a mess
  • A ladle is helpful, but not required
  • Lots of intermittent hovering time - start around 10 am or so on a weekend or day off where you're planning to be home and do other things (it pairs really well with laundry day)
  • 1 gallon organic whole milk (the organic is MUCH creamier and the taste is SO much better - I use Meijer's or Target's brand)
  • Yogurt starter (available at health food stores) OR 12 oz of yogurt from your last batch
  1. Pour gallon of milk into crock pot, cover with lid
  2. Heat (use high or low settings, depending on your time constraints) up to 180 degrees F
  3. After the milk measures just over 180, shut off the crock pot. Cool milk down to between 110 and 115. You can speed this up by leaving the top off, but don't cook or chop anything near it or the yogurt will pick up that flavor (yes, I once had green pepper flavored yogurt by accident!)
  4. Once it cools to 110-115, spoon out 2-3 cups of the warm milk into a 4-cup measuring cup (or large bowl). Add in yogurt starter or yogurt from prior batch. Mix in well, especially if it is the starter -- those powders take a bit of mixing to dissolve. After it is mixed well, pour slowly back into the crock pot, stirring into the warm milk as you do so.
  5. Once it's all back in, stir again gently, replace the top, and cover the top and sides with thick towels. Let sit overnight and in the morning place the crock and lid into the refrigerator. By evening your yogurt will be ready to eat - just stir and enjoy - it's really that easy!
Tips for Success:

  • Organic whole milk really is best. If you use non-organic, you'll want to pull out some of the milk and replace it with heavy cream.
  • Homemade yogurt is runnier than store-bought because it doesn't have artificial thickeners. But the taste is well worth it. You can strain the yogurt if you like, which will give you "Greek Style" yogurt, but then you lose out on the nutrients from the whey that's drained off. Some people like to drink the whey -- it's a little weird, but not too bad.  

WARNING:  Drinking whey can leave you susceptible to nursery rhymes regarding eating curds and whey dancing in your head. 

  • Pick a day when you'll be home with other things to do, like laundry. The heating and cooling takes hours, and once you make a few batches you'll get a better feel for what parts take what amount of time. The overnight part can be up to 24 hours if need-be, but the longer it sits like that, the more tart/sour the yogurt will be. I prefer 10-12 hours personally.
  • I really like to place fruit in my yogurt when I eat it. Grapes are my favorite. Some people also like to drizzle honey or fruit jams in their yogurt.
  • Don't let the milk cool lower than 110 -- doing so will not "re-awaken" the yogurt cultures. If it gets this low in temp, reheat to 180 and start again. For this reason, I always work very quickly once it drops under 120 on my thermometer. Have all your supplies ready and on hand so you're not fumbling with the lid off for long periods of time.
  • When you're getting close on your temps, set a timer to take with you for your other activities so you don't forget to check the temp again. I usually set it for 15-30 mins depending how close it is on temps. This is another thing you'll get a feel for after you have several batches under your belt.
  • If you're adjusting amounts for smaller crock pots, make sure you have 1-1.5 extra quarts room. What they claim as quart capacity in the crock pots does not always match the volume of quarts when the milk is poured in! Especially after you add in the yogurt from your prior batch.


Monday, June 18, 2012

Adventures with Bob Ross

If you've ever seen this man's shows on public television, you know that he makes painting look incredibly easy.  In 30 minutes, without any time lapse photography, he goes from a blank canvas to an incredibly life-like picture at the end.  Throughout the show, you hear this calm, soothing voice talking about happy trees, almighty clouds, and how everyone can be a painter and learn to paint what is in their heart.

He's pretty much a joy to watch, whether you're interested in painting or not.

Hubby surprised me a couple days ago with a bunch of Bob Ross' videos to watch, and after about 3-4 episodes, I had to try it.  It looked so simple.  A few brush strokes here, a few flicks with the painting knife there, and voila!  A beautiful print!

So after dropping hubby off at work this morning, I zipped on down to Michael's, one of our local arts and crafts stores.  After browsing everything else in the store for probably an hour (I'm like a cat in these places - have to sniff out everything that looks interesting before getting to what I came for in the first place!), I finally found the paint section and then found the Bob Ross section.  I picked up one of his instructional books and found the list of supplies I needed and started piling them into the basket.  When I got up to the cash register, my total was over $400!  *GULP*

So much for my time as Chief Bargain Hunter.  It was nice knowing all of you.

Out in the car trying not to have a panic attack over what I just spent, I decided to head over to Hobby Lobby, our other arts and crafts store in town.  In there, I checked the ad and saw that all "Artists Sets" were on sale for 30% off.  So I headed down to the paint section (avoided browsing anything else - panic brings incredible focus sometimes!) to see what their prices were for Bob Ross' stuff.

Lo and behold, there were Bob Ross STARTER KITS for a mere $59.99.  That's a heckuva lot better than $400!  So I picked up the box, headed up to the cash register, and with the 30% discount it was a grand total of just under $45 with tax.

Fortunately, at home I already had an easel, some canvases, and a painting area due to a previous interest in oil painting that netted one cathartic abstract piece of "art."  So the only items I needed to supplement were paint thinner and Bob Ross' brush cleaning system.  His brush cleaning is my favorite part.  (Shown here, around 0:55 timing.)

So I got everything set up, pulled out the written instructions, and cursed myself for being too cheap to buy the "Master's Set" that came with a DVD.  Instead I was stuck with pictures and written directions that were really confusing at times. 

Minus the bad glare in my photograph, this is what it was supposed to look like upon completion:

My first attempt failed so badly I had to start over.  I know that Bob Ross says there are no mistakes, only "Happy Accidents," but I was REEEALLLLLYYYY not happy with the accident at first. 

After starting again, things went much better with the sky this time.  I got the yellow in the right place, the pink came along nicely, and the purple stayed high enough that it didn't get streaked over the yellow on the blending step.

Then I tried those damn mountains.  And cursed a blue streak with how horrible they came out.  Then cursed even more at how horrible my blue trees in the background looked.  And by the time I had gotten most of the canvas covered, I was NOT a fan of Bob Ross.  I was SO MAD AT HIM for making painting look so easy when it was REALLY REALLY HARD!

So I QQ'ed a while with hubby over his lunch and he laughed at my blue hand

(which was much bluer by the time I was done) and encouraged me enough that I kept going.  When I finally got it to the point that I wasn't ready to throw the brush across the room, it looked like this:

Barely a step above paint by number quality.  But here's where I really have to hand it to Bob Ross.  He's right.  Damned if he wasn't right about those happy accidents.  Because as much as I hated my "scripted" picture above, when I went back to my "failed" canvas from attempt #1, I was able to change the painting into this:

My failed mountain became a beautiful iceberg in the middle of the ocean.  I actually like this "failed" picture more than the "successful" one!  Happy accidents indeed.

A great part of my journey in walking away from my job was to search for greater happiness in life.  As frustrating and difficult as these lessons may be to learn, I think Bob Ross' painting techniques may be teaching more than just how to create pictures on canvas.  If I can learn how to view mistakes and failures as "happy accidents" instead of the depths of despair, I'll be light years beyond anywhere I've ever been in life.

So thank you, Bob Ross, for challenging every facet of my life in this adventure - from financial to self control (in not throwing my brush across the room in frustration!) to life-changing perspective changes.  I look forward to learning the Joy of Painting!