Monthly Archives: January 2023

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 bĂ©arnaise sauce in your evening concoction at the same time. The bĂ©arnaise 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

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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New Year, Old hangups

Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich on

Hello, everyone and welcome to the new year. Now, I am a big believer in New Year’s Resolutions and I sometimes keep them clear into February, but this year, I think it should be different. We are all supposed to resolve to eat smarter, lose weight, exercise more, be more organized, etc. All of those are good things for some people, but I think I will go in a different direction. I will resolve on things that most would count as frivolous, if not downright…dumb!

Allow me to explain: I don’t want to resolve on new things to do, I want to resolve on continuing the things I like to do now. Is this self-improvement? Maybe not; but it is a whole lot more fun for me. I also will be resolving to cease doing things that I already don’t want to do. That should be easy!

Let’s start with something simple, like M & Ms. Now, the world does not eat enough M & Ms. If they did, everyone would be a whole lot happier. So, I’m going to get bags and bags of M & Ms and resolve to not only eat more myself, but hand out as many of those little round circles of joy to all the crabby people in the world as I can. That’s a good resolution, now, isn’t it?

And if that resolution is not big enough for you, you will appreciate my next one. I resolve not to clean one single closet this entire year. Every year it seems, I resolve to get some closets, drawers, cupboards, etc., cleaned out and pare down the amount of junk I am storing. And every year, I clean one or two, dragging everything out, deciding I can’t get rid of anything and putting it all back. So, this year, I resolve not to clean any closets. I’m not even cleaning the refrigerator unless something in there evolves enough to talk to me!

I also resolve not to go on one single diet. Everyone out there who has ever gone on a diet at New Year’s, lost weight and kept it off for good, raise your hand: just as I thought; one hand raised and that guy is lying. I have tried breadless diets, sugarless diets, keto diets, salad diets, fasting diets and that diet where you eat nothing but Krispee Kreme doughnuts and the same thing happens. If I can stand it long enough to lose weight, that weight creeps right back on as soon as I start eating actual food again. So, I’m to skip the middle man here and resolve to stay the same chubby, fun-loving 120-pound beauty I am today. If you would like to challenge that weight declaration, you’ll have to come and get me and when we check it out, we’re using my scale!

I will make one concession-related resolution regarding my habits, however. I resolve that this year, when someone presents me with a dish that looks as though the cat were sick in a pan (and frequently smells a little like that too), and says, “Try this! I found this recipe in an old copy of ‘Meals to make for those you hate’. Does it need a little salt or something?” I won’t. I resolve that I will NOT try it, no matter the salt content. If I don’t eat things that don’t appeal to me, I might lose a little weight, don’t you think? So, no liver casserole or fried chicken feet for me! Good resolution.

I resolve this year not to lift anything more than five pounds and to never stand when I can sit. I will not take out the garbage unless the Health Department shows up and the dog will have all four legs fall off before I take her for a walk. I will resolve not to make any cupcakes or homemade bread and I will resolve not to hint broadly to all the cooks in my life to let me have some of theirs.

New year’s resolutions have always been tough–keeping them, not making them. Therefore, I will look for resolutions that don’t require a huge commitment of time or dedication. I resolve to leave the snow on the deck and hope everyone thinks I’m going for a beautiful, seasonal scene and they don’t guess the awful truth, which is that I am lazy and not interested in getting a pulled muscle or torn rotator cup, just so my deck is clean. The dog can walk through the snow and I can wait to sit on the deck until the weather warms up, should that ever happen!

I know, I know, by now you are thinking that I am not taking this whole resolution thing very seriously, and you would be right. So, for my final resolution, let me resolve to stop taking life too seriously and maybe have a little fun when I can. Now there is a resolution I can get behind. Happy New Year, all of you!

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