The Kitchen Conspiracy

The Kitchen Conspiracy

ovrphil++2-4-2014-19-40-53It seems my husband and I are attracted to houses of “a certain age,” if you get my drift.  The centerpiece of our last kitchen was a Mary Kay-colored oven.  Alas, it thwarted my attempts to pawn it off on an antique dealer by celebrating Thanksgiving with fireworks followed by turkey tartare.

Our current kitchen if possibly five minutes newer.  I don’t like to brag, but enshrined on its counter is  the very first microwave ever designed. Yes, my kitchen’s vintage, but that’s no reason for this devious obsolescence conspiracy it’s plotting!

It all started with the faucet.  One day it worked perfectly, the next, not.  I suppose I should be grateful…some people pay a lot of money to  have a fountain in their home.

That litle malfunction actually saved me time in the morning.  I could wash the breakfast dishes, shower and water the plants in the hall, all with one twist of the spigot.

Annoying, but no big deal really… until I returned home from my two hour meeting.

You just know there’s a problem when you glance through the windows and see your cats perched in the chandelier.  The neighbors are still refering to our house as Lake Wobegon.

The next thing to join was the microwave.  Have you ever tried to open a microwave  that’s missing its handle? It is  far easier to open a new CD case wearing oven mitts.

Before I knew it, the dishwasher had signed on.  I have to admit, it had a bit  of help.

Did you know that when a 5’11” woman is surprised by an open dishwasher rack to the back of the knees, there will be ample evidence that prongs and thongs do not mix.   I no longer have to mop my kitchen floor.  It’s now self-cleaning when we flip on the dishwasher.

Then came the burners on the stove.  If you have never tried to fix a holiday dinner with only two burners and a microwave (handle affixed by suncatcher suction cups), you just don’t know what you’re missing.  It really took me back to the camping trip where I tried making spaghetti and meatballs in the rain, over a campfire, with only one pot, no colandar and a palmetto leaf as a hot pad.

The most recent appliance to adopt the conspiracy was the coffee pot.  Last week, for no apparent reason, the fancy schmancy carafe-less (also warranty-less) coffee maker barfed inky-colored water all over my kitchen counter that smelled like pond sludge from the Dunkin’ Donuts lagoon.  Thank goodness the cats tracked down its creature, evidenced by the paw prints across the off-white carpet.

Are you seeing a pattern here? With the water I mean?  My husband has  seriously begun to rethink the wisdom of having married a woman born under the water sign.

I’ve finally decided to believe that the kitchen is not really conspiring against us, it’s supporting our nomination for Extreme Makeover: Kitchen Edition.

Nevertheless, I’m wishing I could detach the garage from our house right about now.  It’s a little too close to the kitchen for comfort.  If the garage ever gets wind of this conspiracy, I’m afraid of the results.  As a precaution, we’ve cut off water to that part of the house, but still, there are way too many contraptions out there that could adopt a no-blow, no-mow or no-go policy.  I’d just as soon not be nominated for CMT’s new reality TV show, Trick My Leafblower,  where they run intervention on lawn equipment gone rogue.

 

P.S. Yes, I really did have a pink oven like the one above.

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Superpowers We Could Live Without

I recently saw the movie Incredibles 2about a family of superpowered humans, fighting to save the world. In this sequel, Mom (a.k.a. Elastigirl) has been hired by a business mogul to become the PR poster child, showing the world how great superpowers are, and why the Incredibles (Human beings with superpowers) should no  longer be outlawed.

I really do believe most people have a superpower or two. There are just a few we could probably live without.

Take X-ray vision, for example. What parent hasn’t had at least one kid who could ferret out any birthday or Christmas gift ever bought, no matter how high-up or deviously-hidden? And as if that weren’t bad enough, that same kid is usually also endowed with the ability to scale tall closets in one leap, to get them down. A package deal on those two  superpowers should be outlawed.

The more I think about it, I’ve come to realize X-ray vision must be a selective superpower. It’s really too bad it never seems to apply to finding math homework in darkened book bags or stinky gym clothes under beds.

Then there’s that much-envied ability (by those of us who don’t possess it) to appear and disappear at will. I don’t know about you, but come Thanksgiving, I’d sure like to divest a few members of our family of their ability to appear just in time to eat, then vanish into thin air as soon as the pie is devoured. And I haven’t figured out how, but these very same people seem to have the “multiply dirty dishes geometrically” superpower as well.

Alas, none of the rest of us — tasked with cleaning up caked-on mashed potato  mortar  — has developed that much-envied “instant clean up” superpower.

Speaking of cleaning up, I find the “Human Tornado” Superpower one of the most annoying. Studies show this seems to be gender-neutral, and bestowed on at least one member of almost every family (and woe to the family where multiple members possess this power).

Surprisingly, it appears this superpower can be used only when no one is looking. One minute, you’re admiring your immaculate kitchen. The next, you walk out of the room for a micro-instant and BAM! The Human Tornado strikes!

Why, anyone viewing the particularly devastating aftermath of this superpower would mistake it for an especially-vicious episode of Kitchen Wars, where the food is winning!

The problem with these superpowers is that the people who possess them actually use them. I can’t help feeling we’d all be better off if they came “batteries not included.”

Outgrowing Dolly

IMG_3054 DolliesI was on a walk this morning with Mia, our puppy, when I discovered that her beloved Blue Cow, who she insists on bringing on every jaunt, had fallen from my pocket. It gets stowed there when she drops it about a block out from the house and it’s returned to her once we’re almost home.

This morning, we retraced our steps to retrieve Blue Cow.  When Mia saw it lying beside the path, she ran to retrieve it. She walked the five blocks home with it clutched in her mouth, no longer trusting her treasure to my care.

It reminded me of the many times we retraced steps to find a little stuffed doll that has been my daughter’s most cherished possession since my husband and I gave it to her on her first birthday.

Dolly, who was never christened with a more sophisticated name, has been a constant in our lives for the past 11 years. She has been cuddled, dropped, photographed, lost and shipped back, washed and re-sewn any number of times.  She has been on play dates, sleepovers, car and camping trips, stroller, airplane and boat rides …she’s one well-traveled toy.

We’re now on our third iteration of Dolly, the first two having been so well-loved that I tried to replace them with Dolly Number Three. This last turned out to be an imposter. She didn’t “feel the same” as the the prior two whose velveteen has been worn thin by love.

In the beginning, Dolly was a constant companion, never leaving my daughter’s side except for nursery school. Eventually, Dolly transformed into a nighttime-only companion. Until recently, Dolly slept under my daughter’s chin, to be caressed, mushed and fondled throughout the night, even as my daughter slumbered soundly. My husband often teased – never in a critical way – about having to pack Dolly off to college with our daughter.

Lately, I’ve seen Dolly and her almost-identical sister relegated to the foot of my daughter’s bed, anchored in place only by the footboard. Each of these steps attests to my little girl’s ever-increasing self-confidence. She no longer needs the reassurance Dolly once gave her.

As a parent, I am so proud of how far she has come… with her growing courage, burgeoning creativity, ripening sense of humor and blossoming personality that only comes with maturation.  She’s growing up…growing independent.  I wouldn’t change it for the world…But that doesn’t mean I won’t still miss the Dolly Years.

 

Originally published…it feels like a lifetime ago, and only yesterday….

Father’s Day Tribute

Some of my fondest memories of my father revolve around reading.

Every Sunday morning, he gathered me into his lap and read whichever of the comic strips I pointed to. My father worked out of town a lot and was often home only on weekends, so these stolen moments meant the world to me.

On the nights that he was home, he would read to my younger sister and me from our book The Bedtime Book of 365 Stories. Once we outgrew the book, our younger brother had grown into the magic of these nightly tales. This book consisted of short stories and poems, amusingly illustrated by Richard Scary, that could be read in under five minutes. I  still recall the story about a lion visiting New York City that fell on my birthday, and the poem about kittens that fell on my sister’s.

In the evening after dinner, Dad always reclined in his blue rocking chair reading a detective novel or a western. It was reassuring to see him sitting there with his book. It meant life was as it should be.

I’m sure my relationship with reading, and even writing, was influenced by the relationship I had with books as a result of my Father.  I decided I wanted to be a writer early on. By sixth grade I was already crafting short stories. During my pre-teen and teenage years, I used my allowance to buy books that weren’t available at the library. It was rare that I had less than three going at once.

Years later, when we adopted our daughters, I went on Ebay and found a copy of The Bedtime Book of 365 Stories to share with my little ones. For my hard-to-buy-for brother’s next birthday, I returned to Ebay and found a second copy to give give him to share with his young children.

As he opened the package, tears welled in his eyes. I knew that, in that moment, my brother was five again, and Dad was sitting next to him on the bed reading. Of all the gifts he’s ever received, I think he would count that gift as one of his best, because of the memories that flooded back as he turned each page.

Written as Editor of BeyondtheNest.com and published in the June 15, 2017 newsletter issue.

Capture the Moment

It surprises me how often I’m talking with loved ones about an event or gathering we attended together where we each remember something different. It’s not that any of us has forgotten or remembered incorrectly. Certain things simply stand out more for one individual than for another.  That’s why it’s so important to capture the moment.

Although I am writer and videographer, my constant companion is my camera. For me, a video camera is for telling a story, the pen is for sharing feelings, but a camera… a camera captures moments in time, including emotion. Photos encourage us to revisit precious moments and savor them once again.

Although I’ve always enjoyed photography, which I first took in high school, many years lapsed before I picked it up again. I’ve really only redeveloped those skills in the past ten years or so years. That explains why my husband was chief photographer on our visit to China, where we adopted our twin daughters almost 17 years ago.

I recall being annoyed at times when it seemed his focus was on his cameras and taking photos, rather than on our new daughters. I remember one horrifying moment when I found one of our new infant daughters, parked alone in her stroller, in the middle of Tiananmen Square.

I minced no words sharing my anger with my husband at his having wandered off to take a photo, leaving her alone in her stroller. He countered with, “We may never get back to China again, so I have to get these photos now!”

He had a point. This moment in time would never come again, and it was important to capture it – for them and for us.

Our solution was to agree that when he wanted to photograph something at a distance, he would first entrust both daughters to me.

Now, as our daughters approach their 18th birthday, I’m ever so thankful he captured those memories. They were preserved (on film, at that time) and we have those first days of our life together to share with our daughters. They are part of keepsake adoption books for each daughter that has become part of our family story.

So whatever your choice of media is to capture and commemorate special times — and we now have so many options — DO IT! Pick up that video camera or phone, that pen  and journal or computer, and record the moment. Those sweet memories are part of your life story, and part of your family’s shared legacy.

Written as Editor of BeyondtheNest.com and published in the June 8, 2017 newsletter issue.

Choose to Twinkle

About a year ago, Neil DeGrasse Tyson was a guest on CBS This Morning. This man should be every child’s teacher, because he has a way of making science fascinating.

One of the things he discussed was the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). He shared that this telescope is so much more powerful than the Hubble Telescope, that it will be able to “see earlier in the universe than ever before.”

The JWST website explains that “The longer wavelengths enable JWST to look much closer to the beginning of time and to hunt for the unobserved formation of the first galaxies, as well as to look inside dust clouds where stars and planetary systems are forming today.”

I guess because I’ve never taken an astronomy course, I never before thought about the fact that, when we look up at the sky in the present, those stars are so many light years away that by the time their light reaches us, we are looking back in time.  Some of those stars and planets may no longer even exist.

I began to think about this concept in relation to people.

When you meet an individual, you’re seeing the person he or she is today. But in reality, that individual is a culmination of all that has come before…all the people he or she has ever known, all his or her past learning and experiences – good and bad – even all of the decisions and actions of his or her ancestors.

The next time you look out across a crowd of people at a festival or a concert, think about how similar it is to gazing up at the stars at night. At first observation, it’s simply a sea of people, or a sea of stars. But think about how that vision holds the key to so many amazing secrets of the past!
Now, think about yourself. It’s easy to see your past when you look in the  mirror each morning. Maybe you have your father’s hair or your mother’s perseverance. I know I have my grandmother’s body type and my grandfather’s creativity. I see persistent resilience and a complexion that burns, inherited from British Isle ancestors who came over on the Mayflower.

The thing about the person you’re seeing today is, tomorrow this person will be someone slightly different, molded by the experiences of today. Recognize that you have some control over what those experiences will be, what you’ll do today and how you’ll enrich your own life and those around you. Today, you can choose whether your light will fade a bit, or shine a bit brighter tomorrow. I recommend you choose to twinkle.

 

Written as Editor of the BeyondtheNest.com newsletter and published in the May 4, 2017 issue of the newsletter.

The Season of SSAD

Everyone’s heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, that hits you in the winter when it’s dark and gloomy. Did you know that there’s another little-known type of seasonal disorder that’s equally distressing and depressing? It’s called SSAD – Swimsuit Shopping Affective Disorder.

It’s almost Memorial Day which means swimsuit season looms like a Dementor.  I don’t know about you, but I get about as excited for it as a clam awaiting a clam bake. Inevitably, I pull my prior-year suits out of my dresser and discover they have all shrunk two sizes. I don’t understand how, just sitting there alone, they could shrink so much. I wish my laundry pile would learn that skill.

So it’s off to the department store I go…and it darn well better happen before Memorial Day, or all that will be left will be thong bikinis and suits that appear to be gym bloomers, outlawed by fashionistas in the ‘70’s.

After an hour and forty-seven minutes of rummaging through every mismatched and inside-out swimsuit on the rack, as well as  those that have flung themselves to the floor in despair, I gather up the suits in my size that are even dubious contenders, and head for the dressing room.

“Excuse me Ma’am. You can take three in with you. Just leave the rest here. You can come out and exchange them,” a size negative-three sales minion tells me.

What?!! Does she not know what it takes to disrobe, shimmy into each rubber-glove-swimsuit, then re-robe all this über-voluptuousness to make the exchange. not once, not twice, but thrice-and-a-third times?

As I step with my three suits, into the room I’ve apparently been assigned (because a word that looks more like “Caraway” than my name is affixed to the door), I realize this store did not get the fitting room memo. Joan Lincoln, Tony Infantino’s Fashion First consultant on the WARM 101.3 morning show, advises retailers to use peach-colored lighting tones in dressing rooms. Soft white lights with a gentle peach tint give a most pleasing and flattering effect. Pleasing and flattering is not what awaits me in my dressing room mirror. I look a lot like Mrs. Shrek on a bad bathing suit day, thanks to the gracious green glow of the lighting.

On my third trip to get three of the four remaining suits, I discover they are all missing from the rack.

“Oh, were those yours?” Miss size negative-three asks in a bemused and ever-so-slightly apologetic tone. “I’m so sorry. I put them back.”

With a sigh, I decide fate has spoken.

As I leave the store without trying on my final four choices, I realize I just might appreciate a return to bloomers.

Written as Editor of BeyondtheNest.com and originally published in the May 25, 2017 newsletter issue.