We pause for this commercial break

It’s a well known fact that I have little respect for the commercials that come on television these days. The fact that we get so many of them as compared to the amount of television programming we get doesn’t help the situation. While I realize that it is difficult to develop an advertising campaign that pleases everyone, I have to question how many people are pleased with what they are seeing today. I’m not sure my husband was as aware of this fact as I was until the other night when we decided to watch a program together.

Now the program we wanted to watch was an old movie on a cable station, so it had to be figured that they were going to cut out some portions of the movie in order to fit in a few more commercials. As it turned out, the most entertainment we got was complaining about the commercials.

“I really like the movie that we’re watching,” my husband said, “but there do seem to be a lot of commercials and a lot of the movie is being lost.”

“Oh I know what you’re talking about,” I responded, “and I have to say the quality of some of the commercials don’t make it worth the cuts.”

We spent the next few minutes eating popcorn, quoting our favorite lines from the movie, and grinding our teeth over commercials which offered you everything from food delivered to your door to elaborate weight loss programs and exercise equipment. It seemed a little counterproductive, but it didn’t make us enjoy our popcorn any less.

“Okay, I think my least favorite so far has been the musical that the pharmaceutical company puts on to sell its pills,” I said, after having watched this commercial for the thirteenth time.

“Well at least there’s a catchy tune that goes along with that one,” my husband responded. “The one that’s beginning to freak me out is the one with the little blue box that walks along and talks to you and tries to convince you to take a dump in it. That one’s just wrong.”

“It’s all for the sake of medical improvement,” I was trying to be fair. “Wait until you see the one with the little bladder. It takes you by the hand and leads you to the bathroom. I have to admit if my bladder ever shows up and tries to lead me to the bathroom, I’ll probably have to have something for a heart attack.”

At that moment the movie started up again so we had some comfortable time watching that romance develop on stage. It was the perfect movie; I enjoyed the romance, my husband enjoyed the action. Unfortunately, it was necessary for them to pause for the station identification. That means 10 commercials in a row, most selling or offering nothing that I want to buy or take.

“I’ve given it a great deal of serious thought, and I think that if someone shows up in bed between us trying to sell us higher quality furnishings, I’m gonna call the police, I don’t care if they are a celebrity,” was my husband’s next observation.

“Oh I would agree, but even that is not as disturbing as finding a little green lizard or large ostrich and his weird friend appearing before me trying to sell me insurance,” I decided. “When I see those commercials, all I want insurance for is to make sure that none of them show up at my house.”

“I have to say I really like the candy commercials, except the one where they’re trying to convince us that one side of the candy bar is different than the other. I know they’re just trying to get my attention, but it gives me the impression they don’t think much of my intelligence.”

“Well, the movie is nearly over,” my husband said. “Hopefully, we won’t have to watch anymore commercials for cars we can’t afford, exercise systems we would never use, or kitchen utensils intended for a professional chef.”

I didn’t mention it, but I thought in my own head I wouldn’t mind those commercials, but if I have to inspect the bear’s behind one more time to be certain that his toilet paper got it clean, I may stop watching television altogether! I hope you all enjoy your summer programming.

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Cleaning house…or a classroom!

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I swear that every year, at the end of the school year, I clean up my cupboards and desk before I leave for the summer. At least, I think I do this…but this year I discovered that I may not have been quite as thorough as I imagined!

This year is different because I plan to retire this spring. That means none of my stuff should be left in the cupboards and desks to make some bright, young teacher wonder about me. The trouble is, the more I dig through things, the more I’m beginning to wonder about me.

One cupboard was where I kept my cleaning supplies. I admit it, I normally come in the fall and automatically bring an entire range of cleaning products without checking to see what’s already there. When I began setting out all the cleaning items in that cupboard, I discovered I have enough product to clean the moon and several stars, although some of the wipes and spray are so old that they are kind of dry…okay, they are as dry as the moon as well!

When I dug behind them, I discovered that I had a huge supply of paper products. I have enough napkins, Kleenex, cups, paper plates, etc., to supply a small nation. What do you do with fourteen opened packages of cups, plates and napkins? I’d tell you what I did, but it would require me making a confession that environmentalists would not care to hear!

I enjoyed going through the books the most. I discovered that about half of the single titles in the stacks in the cupboard had my name in them. Some of them are books I have looked everywhere for at home, while others have not been missed and so will doubtless be donated to some library where they can wonder what to do with them! The rest I’ll take home and shelve next to the new copy I bought of them because I thought I’d lost them!

I sorted through a mountain of construction, card and other colored paper that has somehow landed in my room as my students worked on projects over the years. Index cards cropped up from pretty much every drawer and there aren’t enough recipes in the world to fill them. I also found enough envelopes with the school’s return address on them to send a personal letter to everyone with whom I ever came in contact and have some left over. My only comfort here is that with this amount of paper supply, the school should be able to cross off those supplies on next year’s budget. I’ve got it covered!

It was when I began going through desk drawers that I found the things of most personal regard. My desk is a big, old wooden number with deep drawers and tunneling to the bottom of those was interesting…or maybe disturbing. I found that I had three lighters and a box of matches—we’re not allowed to have candles, so I don’t quite know what they were for. I found three tape measures, two spools of white thread and an old film canister full of needles. Perhaps I could take up dressmaking in my retirement years!

Then there was the silverware. I unearthed no less than 18 forks brought to eat luncheon leftovers and then crammed in the drawers—no, I don’t know why! I also found the other half of my set of white-handled spoons and two perfectly good steak knives. My silverware drawers at home will be overwhelmed!

Amongst the half empty bags of cough drops and outdated bottles of aspirin, I found a set of feminine products that I haven’t needed for 15 years. I donated that to the trash can.  At the very bottom of the drawer were two cans of pears…one of them outdated and the other not. Obviously, I intended to use the spoons to eat them, I just don’t know when.

My desks and cupboards are pretty clean now, so I won’t be leaving any mysteries behind for the new teacher in this classroom. However, I’ve just realized that I have several shelves in the room that I need to sort through…I’m not sure I want to leave things behind like my bust of Shakespeare, which might make sense to a new English teacher…but I know I don’t want to leave my statues of Santa Claus and the goat behind—it would leave a certain amount of questions! 25 years sure goes fast!

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A Tale of Two Pumpkin Pies

I know better than to volunteer to make food to bring to a family gathering. When it comes to holiday parties, I should always stick to volunteering the three Ps (Paper Plates, Paper Napkins, Plastic Forks). That’s why it puzzles me about myself that I would volunteer to bring pumpkin pie to this year’s Easter dinner. And of course, the bakery in the grocery store didn’t have one left!

No problem. How hard could it be? My grandmother used to make a great crust with flour, lard and her little beat-up, round metal bowl. I inherited that bowl, but it hangs on the wall because I didn’t inherit her ability to make a decent pie crust. Not to worry, though, they have them ready-made…all you have to do is roll them out into the pie plate.

I bought a set of the economy pie crusts (because, why spend more than you have to?) and one can of pumpkin. I recently cleaned out my cupboards, so I knew I had the evaporated milk and another can of pumpkin at home.

I got out my pie plates and opened the packages with the crusts. They were full of flour, very dry and apparently rolled and packaged about the time of the third Crusades. I pinched and poked and cursed and blasphemed (a good Crusades word) and managed to lay down a semblance of the crust. Oh well, who eats the crust on a pumpkin pie anyway?

Then I turned to the pumpkin. I needed two cans; I reached into the cupboard for the second can–and I didn’t have one. I was sure I had it, but everything in the cupboard was soup or fruit or pork n beans, none of which would work. I quickly ran back to the store and got a second can of pumpkin. Back to work.

I emptied out the two cans of pumpkin into the bowl (see photo above) and then, I shook the evaporated milk vigorously. I opened the first can and without checking, poured it in. If you refer again to the photo above, you will see the evaporated milk–that orangish brown liquid and the little curds. I checked the bottom of the can. It seems I have been harboring that particular can of evaporated milk since 2018. I looked at the other can: it was much better; I have only had that since 2020 and it looked a lot like it might have had the virus.

Now what? No evaporated milk and no pumpkin. Everything went into the garbage and I went back to the grocery store. The disadvantage to a small town grocery store is they KNOW when you’ve screwed up your cooking project. I had been in there buying pumpkin less than an hour before and now I was back, for the third time today. The stock boy smirked knowingly at me and I refused to ask for help when I had to get down on my knees (something they don’t like to do) and reach to the back of the bottom shelf to get more pumpkin. Then, I went to the evaporated milk aisle. I read the bottom of those cans to make sure that they were not old enough to vote and then for good measure, I got some brown sugar. I had a momentary thought that maybe I didn’t have any. As an added bonus, I also bought some name brand pie crusts. Might as well go whole hog.

I didn’t know the clerk who checked me out and I could tell she was trying to remember if I had been in there shortly before. She studied the cans of pumpkin and then my face. Something about my face must have convinced her not to question it. She rang up my purchases. I inserted my debit card. The machine rejected it. I tried again. It rejected it again. I dug through my coat, my pockets and my purse and came up with enough dollar bills and coins to pay for my food and dragged myself out of there.

Back at home, I tried again to make the pies. The final straw was that the cans of pumpkin that I dumped right into the bowl, did not call for the evaporated milk that I had also dumped in. I had to dig through the garbage to find the recipe that called for evaporated milk. But I was sure to have enough brown sugar, because I bought a bag…which is now being stored with the other three bags I already had.

The pies are in the oven and I’m hoping to be lucky enough not to burn them or drop them, etc. before I get them to Easter dinner. I will probably not tell the story of the creation of these pies until everyone is done eating them and still upright with no digestion issues. But in the future, I’m going to be much smarter and stick with the three Ps.

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Early, antique, faux, reality check Jackie

Okay, I’m a little steamed right now. In fact, I’m downright angry right now. Why? Well, if you’re still reading this far, I’ll tell you: I just read an article from a so-called “decorating expert” about all of the things you shouldn’t have in your house because they are just “tacky” and I fit just about every category she didn’t like.

So, just for her, I took a picture of what my living room looked like this morning. It shows every bit of my early, antique, faux, reality Jackie look and if that decorator were to see it, she would undoubtedly light it on fire!

For one thing, my pictures are not quality, they are things my family makes and the prints (not originals) that I saw and liked, so I bought them. My furniture, according to her standards, is too bulky, mismatched and in some cases, loudly printed. I have taken care of that with the comforters hanging off of much of the furniture and the pillows I set in the mostly unused chair, in case we are watching something boring on television (like a home decorating show) and we want to take a nap instead. I have furniture that is from the 1950s, the 1990s and some ultra-modern stuff from this century. I don’t put rugs down (except for that crooked one the dog always slides on) because I am messy and rugs pick up dirt and smells quickly.

I also have no color scheme and my lighting comes from mis-matched lamps that allow me to see what I’m reading or sewing in the evenings. I had no idea that there was such a thing as too much lighting or “appalling” lamps. Now that I know that, I will turn on my too-bright lamp, so that you will be able to see my face, which just doesn’t care.

I have a cupboard in the corner containing all of the mugs I have collected in my travels. They are all there, but I put them there, so I could look at them and remember, with some fondness, when I traveled to those places. If the decorator does not wish to look at them, she should probably not look in that corner!

However, if she turns to look in the other corner, she’s going to see the copy of the Lord’s Prayer that I have hanging there. No, I do not believe my house is a chapel, but I also don’t believe you get to tell me whether I hang up religious quotes in my house or the latest quotes from the stock market.

By now you’ve figured out that I have a problem with decorators. People who want to use them are most welcome to do so and I have seen many a beautiful home which has been decorated by them. However, if I want to hang up wallpaper with fake books on it, I think that’s my prerogative and no skin off the decorator’s nose.

I feel so much better for having got that off my chest and now, I’m going to go get a cup of coffee, sit down in one of my mismatched chairs and probably leave whatever book I’m reading on the mismatched end table beside me! Happy decorating!

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Jump for the sky

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My daughter posted on Tik Tok the other day about her lack of belief in people who react strongly when surprised. She said any jumpiness she has is because of me, her mother, and MY jumpiness. She says people can look me in the eye and say “Boo” and I will jump. This, of course, is not quite accurate, but I was startled enough by her post to decide to address it.

While it’s true that I am a little jumpy, I take issue with the fact that someone who looks me in the eye and says “Boo” can make me jump. This is not true. They do not have to go through the effort to look me in the eye. Just say “Boo” from anywhere in a 20-foot radius and I will hit the sky.

I know that I’ve always been like this and I also know that people tend to use someone else’s jumpiness to entertain themselves. My husband and I had not been married very long when he discovered that I was a very jumpy individual. He exploited this in a way that he somehow instinctively knew he could get away with then. He was a new bridegroom. I was too much in love to kill him so early on.

So, he would come into the bathroom during my peaceful showers and throw a cup of water on me. He soon discovered that it didn’t have to be cold (although he preferred that), just any cup of water would cause me to jump a foot off the shower floor and shriek.

He also found that hiding around corners and barking like a dog (we didn’t have a dog then) would cause the desired jumpy reaction. He continued that until one day, he tried to bark at me and discovered that it was his mother coming around the corner. My mother-in-law is a very mild woman and that is the only time I heard her give him the “I brought you into this world and I can take you out” speech. It ended the barking.

Over the years he has learned that only a new bridegroom gets away with scaring his wife and things for us have settled down. Not so with others.

I once whacked my boss in the face for appearing in a doorway where I was not expecting him. He wasn’t terribly pleased, but it seems his wife was also a jumpy person, so he understood. My children liked to wait for me in unusual places: in the bushes, in large containers, in cupboards and then, when I actually registered that they were there, they would say “Hi” or something and I would throw whatever I was holding into the air, emitting the requisite scream.

Being jumpy for a teacher can be even worse. Students will leap into the room or bang on the side of the door, or sneak up behind me and they get the hoped-for response. Some have been hit or lambasted with books or papers, but that does not seem to slow them down. I recently had a new administrator tap me on the shoulder from behind and he received a fist to his shoulder for his trouble.

My jumpiness when people are around is nothing compared to my reactions when I am working late in the school building. It’s dark through most of the building and even my desperate singing to the radio does not alleviate all of my jumpiness.

The worst reaction ever was when I was ready to turn off the lights in my room and head for home. As soon as I doused the lights, I became aware that someone was crouching on the floor; I could feel their presence on my leg. I reacted instantly: I screamed and kicked that person soundly, even following them as they tried to get away. Then, I hit the wall light switch and discovered that I had very ably drop-kicked my large trash can across the room. Serves it right. Never rub up against a jumpy woman in the dark. That trash can has learned its lesson and now does its best to stand over in the corner, making itself small whenever I walk by! Sometimes it pays to be jumpy!

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Ask the two and a half year old…

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It’s been a while since I wrote a blog, but I have been experiencing the unpleasant aspects of growing old. A lot of knee and shoulder pain have been occupying a great deal of my time and attention. Since this is the time of year I don’t spend much of my time traveling anyway, I haven’t really considered how I might look to the outside world, but a visit from my grandsons took care of that.

I went from days of my physical therapist spending her time and effort to make me contort myself into positions that she assured me were better for me: Me: But Kayla, I can’t bend my leg like that–Kayla: Sure you can–let me just add this weight to help you. I advanced from that to at least two of the three grandsons visiting and finding that dear old Grandma is a little under the weather.

Now, Grandma usually has some kind of fancy meal for when they arrive. This time they got hamburgers and chips–because Grandma couldn’t do much cooking. They ate without complaining, but before and during the meal, I got lots of hugs (unprompted, which is unusual) from the middle child and the oldest, unbidden, loaded the dishwasher, insisting that “I can bend over a lot easier than you, Grandma, I’ll do it.”

Walking around, using a walking stick for balance and trying to get by with a clumsy gait, I think, at least the older two gave me a lot sympathy. The youngest, not having seen me for several months, was not too receptive. He clung to Daddy and Grandpa and tended to give Grandma and her clutzy walking a wide berth. He responded when questioned, but when you are two and a half, you either are interested in something or you’re not.

I had a little better success when I put on Curious George–a perennial favorite show. He watched with rapt attention, even when his oldest brother–a fan from way back–complained about the quality of the artwork–he remembered it as being better. I tried to explain that a different television can change things, but I was an old woman on a crutch–what did I know?

I was moving around the house, making sure everybody had all of their things, when I noticed the two and a half year old, squatting a little and grunting. “Oh, oh, he’s trying to fill his pants,” I thought. I was incorrect. Watching him more closely as I followed him down the hall, I realized he was simply bending his knees slightly and walking in a slow, ponderous way which was kind of familiar to me. Then, I heard him, grunting with every step just as I was doing. This, then, was the 2 1/2 year old’s perception of what I looked like..it was not flattering.

So, while I struggle to recover from all of my problems, I must face the fact that my oldest grandson is more helpful and considerate, the middle grandson believes I’ll be cured if he just gives me a little extra lovin’, and for the youngest grandson, my physical struggles are an opportunity for him to do a little mimicry and provide me with a mirror to see my own physical presence. I think it’s time to do the job and recover, if only to prove to the youngest that he is not quite correct in how Grandma normally appears!

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I baked some cookies…

In every family, there is a code sentence that always signals trouble. For some families it’s “sit down, we need to talk.” In other families, it comes with, “you won’t believe what I’m going to tell you now.” In our household, everyone knows there is trouble when I say, “I baked some cookies.”

I will apologize in advance to those women out there who love to cook, and some of those are in my own family. I apologize because for myself, I can think of no greater punishment than having to cook…I’m pretty poor at it and I’m okay with that. In addition, I never and I mean NEVER cook anything for the pure pleasure of it. But when things are at their worst, I bake cookies.

When Roy and I began traveling life’s highway together, he was unaware of this. It took five months into the marriage for him to stumble out of the bedroom one night, wipe the sleep out of his eyes and say, “It’s two o’clock in the morning, what are you doing?”

“I’m baking cookies,” I reply as I spoon some more dough on the cookie sheet. “Why, am I disturbing you?”

“Not you, just when the timer goes off,” he replied dryly. “Why are you baking cookies now. Come to think of it, I didn’t know you COULD bake cookies.”

“I don’t make cookies except in extreme circumstances,” I answered.

“And 2:00 in the morning is extreme because…” he prompted.

“I can’t sleep and it seems like a dangerous time of night to go for a walk in my pajamas and slippers,” I replied, sliding another batch into the oven. “You go on back to sleep, I’ll try to catch the timer before it goes off.”

From that point on, he adjusted to the fact that when his wife goes into the kitchen on purpose and bakes cookies, something major is wrong.

The time I hit the garage door with his fancy car, I baked a lot of cookies. Then there was the time that all the plumbing in the house was leaking. It was hard to do much washing up, when every pipe was leaking, but I made a batch of cookies anyway. Every time one of the children had an illness, I stewed and fretted and baked cookies. For all I know, they faked illness just to score a chocolate chip cookie! For the most part, I had them convinced that Oreos came from an old family recipe handed down from my grandmother, so when freshly baked cookies appeared in the house they were stymied!

So, today, on day two of the blocked in by the snow days, I got out the old mixer and a bag of flour and set to work making cookies. Roy came home and sniffed the air, and stopped dead in the doorway. “Oh god, let me see, uh, you’re leaving me?”

”Of course not, don’t be ridiculous, why would you say that?” I handed him three cookies, fresh out of the oven.

“You’re not leaving me. Did you wreck the car? Run over the dog? Chop a hole in the deck with the snow shovel?” His concern over why I was baking didn’t stop him from downing the cookies and hooking a couple more.

“I didn’t do anything. Nothing is bothering me. I’m just fine and so is the dog. However, it was a long, slow day, so I decided to bake some cookies. Can’t a person just bake some cookies?”

“I suppose so, but it’s never happened around here before. Cookies normally come with a side of milk and a major disaster. So, I wondered, why the sudden influx of fresh-baking?” he still couldn’t quite believe it.

“Honestly, that’s so insulting. You act like I never cook anything, and that’s just not so,” I said, and he finally relaxed and headed for the living room. A moment’s silence and then he asked, “What happened to my good recliner? I was going to take a nap.”

“About that,” I said, coming in with a plate of cookies and a glass of milk. “I was gonna mention that. But first, here, I baked some cookies….”

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All hail the weather rat

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Now, I have reconciled myself to the fact that we have a day entirely devoted to predicting the weather that has nothing to do with meteorologists. I have even reconciled myself to the fact that we have chosen a glorified rat as our spokesperson. I’ve even endured the replaying of Groundhog Day so many times I feel like I’m living the movie. All of this just adds up to the facts of life.

What I don’t think I can reconcile myself to is the fact that the back-stabbing little rat keeps predicting six more weeks of winter. Just the other day, on the edge of my seat, I observed yet another “prognostication” from the furry little rodent stating that we get six more weeks of winter and why? Because the little wimp saw his shadow!

What stymies me the most about this situation is that there is an entire cult following on this tradition. I was curious enough about it to research its beginning. I found that in Germany, Feb. 2 is Badger Day and a badger coming out of the hole in fine weather determines whether there will be four more weeks of winter.

It was continued in this country by the Pennsylvania Dutch, who adapted to a groundhog as the weatherman of choice and they decided to add two more weeks. So, while a badger, sunbathing in Germany on Feb. 2 means four more weeks of winter, a groundhog in Pennsylvania, wandering out of its hole on Feb. 2, predicts SIX more weeks of winter. That’s great; four weeks wasn’t enough, let’s punish ourselves with six!

The official ceremony takes place in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. They do it up right, complete with all night parties, a whole council in tuxedoes and their loving little rat…Punxsutawney Phil. I have to tell you before we go any further, that I will never be in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania on Feb. 2, dressed in a tuxedo so I can help drag a groundhog with too much influence out of its hole to tell me the chances for an early spring…or not!

This winter may have put me in the wrong frame of mind for this beloved holiday. Since November, we have had nothing but winter. We have endured snow, ice, blizzards, cold temperatures and did I mention the mountains of snow, week after week for months now. As I am driving to work through the latest ground blizzards, I do not want to hear that there is a creature with the unprepossessing name of “groundhog” who has the nerve to tell me I’ve got six more weeks of this. No! I refuse, groundhog!

If we absolutely have to have this prediction made, can’t it be done by scientists, meteorologists, ect.? Heck, I’d even take a prediction by the badger–he only predicts four more weeks! So perhaps we need to drive to Pennsylvania and nail the groundhog’s door shut, or put laxative in his tea (that would distract him), or something to put an end to this frustrating holiday.

For those of you who feel I am overreacting, I invite you to come to visit me and look out upon my front yard. Oh, wait, my front yard is not visible because of all the “winter” piled up out there. So, if next year, I am not the first one in line to pat Punxsutawney Phil on his furry little head for ruining my day, and possibly my season, you will understand. However, if you hear that somebody punched the little rat in his protruding, weather-predicting teeth, just pretend you don’t know me. Have a nice Valentine’s Day, Presidents’ Day, any February holiday except Groundhog Day!

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Cooking is not one of my life skills

I believe the title of this blog says it all. I have never in my life claimed to be, aspired to be or imagined myself to be a cook. I have many fine skills, it’s just that cooking is not one of those. And I am really okay with that, but the rest of the world seems to think I should be in a fine state of panic about my inability with a saucepan.

Please! When I was but a child of 8, I managed to set the kitchen curtains of my parents’ home ablaze because I wanted to make myself some french fries. I started there and I have never looked back. In the kitchen, my primary skill is fire and most things I touch with it are not the better for the effort. If I were an elemental witch, I would be the witch of fire and earth because my food either tastes burnt or like dirt!

I believe if you check back somewhere in my distant past you will find that I told the sad tale of meeting my husband when he, as a professional fireman, showed up to quench the polish sausage I had planned for my supper. After that misadventure, we were brought together under less traumatic circumstances and discovered we had met before over a scorched pan and a sausage burnt beyond recognition.

I always tell this story and then I add: “And he married me anyway, knowing full well I couldn’t cook.” There is no argument to this and I assumed when we made the match that my lack of culinary arts skills was not a hindrance for him. However, after years of having to silently chew the burnt offerings or the underdone potatoes or the hard-as-rock cookies, he has been known to grumble from time to time. However, since my answer is inevitably an invitation for him to take over meal preparation, he always backs down because, you see, he is no more fond of the kitchen than I.

That brings us to the pan I have featured in the picture section of this article. That pan is a wonder. I boil stuff in it and fry stuff in it and I have been known to bake stuff in it. That’s why it came as such a shock to me when someone saw the pan and remarked, “Oh neat, a stove-top wok. Do you do a lot of stir fry?”

Stove-top wok. I had no idea. Keep in mind, my idea of stir fry is a bag of frozen vegetables with some left-over meat, soaked in a bottle of teriyaki sauce. I don’t need a special pan just to make that! As I was cutting the evening’s boiled potatoes in it tonight, I told it, “We don’t need fancy titles or elegant trimmings. We’re real, you and I and we’ll get along fine.”

Apparently, the stove-top wok didn’t like my little pep talk, because when I had cooked the potatoes and mashed them, they had the consistency of stringy cheese or wallpaper paste. Roy didn’t complain, though, he choose to look on the bright side.

“Are those potatoes okay?” I asked looking with concern at the swipe of potatoes hanging from his chin like a surrender flag.

“Oh, they are just fine,” he said, if somewhat grimly. “They are much better than last week’s, with the little chunks of underdone potato hidden throughout the dish.”

Way to look on the bright side I say, because my cooking doesn’t improve with compliments. Come to think of it, my cooking doesn’t get a lot of compliments, and there is good reason.

I troll through Facebook and I watch every single one of those cooking videos, and I laugh because there is no way it would come out that way for me! I have never yet tried one of their recipes, they look so good, I just don’t have the heart to show them how they could be ruined! Likewise with recipes in magazines. I tried one once for chicken-fried steak and my husband, after two bites, tossed the plate aside and swore he could taste cinnamon and sewing machine oil in the meat. I only spilled a little, he shouldn’t have been so picky!

It is my plan, as I head to retirement, to take on more complicated cooking tasks, because I’ll have time to really devote to it. The trouble will come, of course, when I discover you can’t read a book on the deck and stir the béarnaise sauce in your evening concoction at the same time. The béarnaise sauce is going to lose, I can tell you right now!

Well, I have now shared with you another chapter in the sad tale of Jackie’s cooking adventures. While I have no recipes to share at this time, I have thought of a fine logo for my efforts. I figure a cloud of black smoke billowing out of the stove while a firetruck clangs around the corner should just about do it!

In the meantime, come over anytime for a meal. My stove-top wok makes a heck of a good pancake…if you don’t mind well done!

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Teaching the old dog

Photo by Alexandru Rotariu on Pexels.com

There’s a saying out there from when I was young, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” It never meant much to me back in my youth (a long time ago), but now that I have achieved a few years, I understand it much better. I have a terrible time figuring out new programs on a computer, I don’t know how to load “apps” on my telephone and when I pick up the mult-numbers of remotes for my television, I break into a cold sweat.

However, I found out this week, that I CAN learn new things. I had to do two things I have not tried before: constructing a small desk and conveying a purchase code from my account to my daughter. These may not seem like much to the young of the world, but to an old dog like me, they present a massive achievement.

“I ordered another small desk to add to my workspace,” I informed my husband one night.

“Fine, as long as you don’t need it too soon, because I’m at my busy time at work,” he said as he dashed for the door.

“I’ll put it together myself,” I was offended. “I’m not helpless, I can follow directions and construct things.”

“This is news to me,” he scoffed. “But if you’re so good at it, why don’t you finish putting together that stand lamp in the living room.”

“It IS put together!”

“It bends so much in the middle, it looks like it’s bowing,” and out the door he went.

Boy, that really revved me up! When that desk came, in about four million pieces, I was determined to get it together myself and then hide the one million pieces that I had no idea what to do with.

It was tough, and I wanted to give up. I was too old to learn how to do this. The fact that my ten-year-old grandson could do it in a half hour was not helpful to me, because he was miles away and he would have wanted too much money to keep his mouth shut about it to his grandfather.

I dived in. During the first hour, I opened that plastic package they send with all the screws and nuts and bolts in it, too roughly, and small metallic items went flying every direction and many of them were lost forever in the rug. I put the shelves on twice, once upside down and once right side up. Then, I decided it was time for the old dog to take a break. I don’t drink alcohol, but I sat in the living room and toasted the bowing lamp with my glass of soda.

Then, my daughter called. She needed a purchase code from my Amazon account. “If you need me to, I can get on a video call with you and help you through it.” This was just insulting! I could do it myself! And after about an hour and several abortive attempts, I was able to send her the image she was looking for.

She said, “That’s perfect!”

I preened with pride. “I’m a computer genius!” I was sure she would then praise me for figuring it out.

“You also sent me a picture of the cover of The Long Winter,” was her next remark.

“I thought you’d like it,” I lied, “So shut up and enjoy it.” And no, I can’t tell you how I got such a thing in there. The old dog can do a new trick, they just can’t explain it!

But, then I went back to desk assembly and I got done before my husband got home. I conducted him proudly back to the room and showed him the finished product.

After duly admiring it, or at least looking it over, he said, “I thought you were going to put the books shelves on the other way.”

“Well, yes, but those x-thingys weren’t marked very well and I put them on backwards. But this will work.”

“Why isn’t there a nut on this bolt,” was his next remark.

“I can’t find it,” I was not concerned. “It blends in with the rug. Besides, I don’t think all those nuts are the same size.”

“Some nuts are much bigger,” (it took me a while to figure out that zinger). “But this isn’t tight,” and he wiggled one, causing the whole thing to sway like a belly dancer.

“Don’t do that!” I yelled, “I lost that ellen thing and can’t tighten it any more!”

“The allen wrench?” he asked, trying hard not to smirk. “Well, if you’re satisfied with it, I guess it will do fine.”

I was elated. He said it would do fine! The old dog has learned a new trick! If you’re wondering why I didn’t post a picture of my new desk, it’s because I’m waiting until my husband has time to just “smooth over the rough edges.” Maybe if he can tighten some of the bolts, it will lose that tilt and sway it’s got going on right now. But it’s done! And I did it! So see, you CAN teach an old dog new tricks…or at least portions of them!

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