no more HGTV for you

19 10 2009

chipsWhat was I thinking?  During these months of hauling out junk from Billy’s basement, my guilty little pleasure has been wrestling the remote from the Mrs.’ hand and moving as far away from the Weather Channel and Fox News as I could.  Naturally, I’d land on HGTV.  She can watch all the Dr. Phil she wants when she is alone.  Truthfully, I have no idea what she spends her time watching when I’m not there.  She waited a long time to control her own remote and she can do as she pleases.

We would chat about the shows but I never really entertained the thought that she was taking in much information for her own personal use.  Last week, I walked into her house to find that she had decided that the mug rack on the kitchen wall was terribly outdated and no longer useful.  It was all taken down and she had rearranged some decorative plates to take over that space.  Nicely done, I might add.

On a rare trip to Kmart together a few months back, the Mrs. and I wandered through the bedding department and picked out a new bedspread.  With her full sized bed and bedroom furniture (given to her by her dad when she was still in high school) all back in her bedroom, it was time for a little pick-me-up.  I need to take down some balloon curtains she has had up since forever and replace them with something different.  She’s dreaming of a “soft dovey gray with blue undertones” for that room.  Maybe an early spring project for me will be getting some new paint up on those walls.

The long and short of this…I was delusional to think that the only thing I was doing there was cleaning out the basement.  I remember Billy being frustrated and vocal toward the end about her never ending project list.  It really isn’t much different than my list for our 100 plus year old Money Pit.  Truth be told, she couldn’t lift a finger around there in the last couple of years without him putting up a huge fuss about it so she stuffed it all down and waited.

I have opened Pandora’s Box.

On my current list of things to get accomplished in her space is spraying the basement walls with a bleach solution once a week for the next couple of weeks to try to put an end to the years of mold and mildew.  I realize though that I am like the Hoover Dam trying to hold back her rushing creative waters.  She wonders out loud what the re-cooped space would look like with a bright coat of paint on the walls.  Then we’ll get new shelving units for the walls…then…

I manage to control my voice to avert the guttural scream I feel building and tell her that first we’ll have to paint the new stair treads that Charlie & Co. replaced last Thursday.  Even before those three got damaged in the fun of the last months, she’d told me that she wanted to “spiff up” the stairs with new paint.  I have begged and begged her to not touch brushes till I am there for a few days.  Once I unleash that monster – there is no telling where we’ll end up.

Last week I took my shop vac along to start the process of cleaning the basement floor in a way that didn’t just re-locate all the cement dust left behind from all the jack hammering that went on.  I happened to look up at the ceiling of the basement only to see years and years of accumulated cobwebs and spider eggs that needed to find a new home.  She wanted to watch.  I was annoyed…until I remembered that young kids like watching adults do things that they can’t yet do.  I just needed to reverse the process in my mind and realize that she was watching NOT to be critical but with longing.  She wished I’d let her do the job but I didn’t want her craning her stenosis narrowed neck with arms over her head for about an hour.  It was a year ago this next week that she landed in the hospital for three days after a seemingly harmless trip to the dentist. Just having her head tilted back so the Dr. could see what he was doing, put her system in a nasty downward spiral for weeks and weeks.

But yesterday’s phone call just floored me.  “I was down in the basement and I know where the shower will go!” she excitedly exclaimed.  “EXCUSE ME?“, exploded the voice in my head just short of a rant of Tourettte’s.  Rationally and calmly, I agreed with her that it was an excellent idea and a good use of space but we might want to think about updating the bathroom on the first floor before we go there.  Built in 1958, there has been very little updating of the original bathroom with its gray plastic tiles and a nasty, carpeted floor which was THE update when I was in high school.  I’ve been secretly thinking about that space and even had a discussion with Charlie & Co. about a great Kohler tub and surround that he loves to install.

I felt Billy lose his cool.  The earth shook ever so slightly as he turned over in his grave.  Maybe there was a method to his madness keeping the basement wet all those years so he’d never have to tackle the next thing on the list.

As frustrated as I might get with all this,  she’s still on her own and I am supremely grateful.  We are lucky.  She is still mobile, thinking and dreaming.  She still gets more cleaning done on a weekly basis than I do in months.  It exhibits pride which signals a great sense self-awareness.  Any therapist would tell you that is a sure fire signal that some things are still working.  When she stops getting dressed in the morning because there is nothing to get dressed for – we’ll have a whole ‘nother set of issues to deal with.

So with punch list in hand…we face the winter months with projects to keep us busy.   She saw a new mail box she loved that was on sale so I picked that up along with the huge 4×4 post all waiting in the garage for when I can bamboozle some kind soul from her church to do an act of kindness for one of their widows.

And in my parallel universe, I need to clean out my basement so that I can have glass brick windows installed before the dead of winter.  When the estimator told me that they work from inside and outside, my heart sank.  I now HAVE to face my own demons to clear the way.  My goal this week is 10 bags of junk for the Salvation Army pick-up next Saturday.

Next, I’ll probably be hiring a painter to do my living room, entry, stairwell, upstairs hallway, kitchen, bathroom, etc. while I’m down at the Mrs.’ place painting the stairs, basement and bedroom for starters.  I have gone so far as to purchase my own Benjamin Moore color chip fans so that I don’t have to stand in the hardware store guessing at what I’m looking for.  This is serious business.

“Hello.  My name is Monkee and I’m a project-a-holic.”  Some addictions are hereditary.





Foodie? Schmoodie!

24 08 2009

smshrFoodie.  I don’t mind at all when the word is used to refer to people who really like to eat but those people who put a pretentious spin on it – gag me.  It seems to be such a trendy word to me even though it was coined in 1981.

Yes, I’m guilty.  I make sure you know when we are eating great culinary delights. One of my first after school jobs during high school was in a restaurant kitchen followed by many years working for many chefs.  I don’t mind spending hours in the kitchen making special meals for people I love – or even strangers for that matter.  The first meal I made a week after I got married was an early (May) Thanksgiving meal with all the fixins for 13 people.

Going out to eat and paying big money for a great meal has never been a problem in this house.  We don’t skimp and will order appetizers and dessert when we want to.  However, my inner food snob kicks in if I have to eat at most chain restaurants.  I’d rather go to a Ma & Pa greasy spoon for anything off the menu than most prefab foods found in those other places.  It’s not so much about the ambience as it is whether or not the food seems “real”.  I can be just as happy with a well made pie at my brother-in-law’s pizza parlor as I can finishing every delectable bite of a multi-course meal at a AAA rated 5 diamond restaurant like the 1913 Room.  I like to eat.

Is it just me or is there an obsession in the entertainment industry revolving around food lately?  (Eat, Pray, Love…now being made into a movie starring  Julia Roberts and the new movie that I will see next week and have to come home and make the Dr. something really tasty, Julie & Julia.) Countless blogs and websites talk up menus and ingredients, sauces and souffles because there are people whose love of the Food Network rivals my addiction to HGTV.  I just get put out with all the highfalutin gourmet hype sometimes.

I’d like to see a reality show where ORDINARY people compete by cooking ORDINARY food.

Cue theme song.

Camera one: tight close-up on contestants.

Voice over: host (with enthusiasm):

Home Cooker!…today’s challenge is…(wait for it…) MASHED POTATOES! You can use nothing more than one 2-quart pot, water, potatoes, salt, butter and milk or for some extravagance:  half & half or cream.  Each station is equipped with a hand masher.  No special electrical gadgets – no double baked – no garlic.  Your 30 minutes start  NOW!

I would win.  “Smashed” as they are called in my house with appropriate lumps to prove they are genuine.  I once peeled 100 lbs. of potatoes (by hand) working for a chef preparing a banquet for an association of lamb growers.  I do mashed potatoes.

And, what about fried chicken?  Yes, I know we are all health conscious now and fried animal flesh is really taboo…but what if we have simple, well cooked, not heart healthy, treats a few times a month?

Yes, this whole subject came up because of what I made yesterday.  After a particularly busy week, I left the Dr. alone with the Beast and the Mouser for about 2 and a half days while I was at the Mrs.’ place.  In my absence, he’d had his fill of left-overs (Spanish tapas…which by the way I was making long before they were all the rage here in the States).  His request: an old-fashioned Sunday dinner – a simple home-cooked meal.  Fried chicken, mashed potatoes and sweet corn on the cob.  My standard menu calls for green beans but we are at the point in the growing season when we can count on one hand the times to get those tender ears of golden goodness.

Best Boy peered over my shoulder for yet another tutorial with interest.  “That’s all there is to fried chicken?  I thought it was really complicated.”  No, making things that taste good for the ones we love is not complicated…it just takes time, effort and a little know how.

But more importantly I was reminded again last week during Mimi’s visit that it really isn’t about what is ON the table that makes it inviting. The first night was a couple of JB’s pizzas and the next was the Spanish tapas menu that takes me about two full days of prep. The conversation and laughter was just as delightful regardless of what we were eating.  You can be a gourmet chef and not be hospitable…they are different things.

Next time she’s in town, I’m gonna pull out all the stops and serve grilled peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.





doohickeys and whatchamacallits

7 05 2009

DSC_0084For Shop Girl – it is Nordstrom’s Rack.  For me – the hardware store.  Those places where just stepping inside makes your heart race just a little faster as your eyes dart back and forth at all the glory.  I go with a single purchase in mind and come out with something entirely different- even at times forgetting what I went there for in the first place.

It happened like that for me last week while I was at the Mrs.’ place.  Whatever it was I went for, was soon forgotten when, blinded like Paul on the Damascus Road, I mysteriously found myself standing yet again in front of the “Wall of Wonder” – the paint chips.  I never tire of stealing hands full  at a time for no good reason.  Well, I do have my reasons even if I never get around to purchasing a quantity that would fit in a gallon bucket.  Buying those itty bitty sampler jars doesn’t hurt at all and they don’t guilt you into commitment.  Genius – those wonderkins at Benjamin Moore that came up with that marketing ploy.  No wait! – I remember why I am am looking at these colors – a friend who lives 300 miles away is looking for new colors for her livingroom.  Or is it me…?

I blame Billy for my hopeless addiction to hardware stores.  There was nothing he couldn’t fix or at least attempt to fix.  Just last summer there was something wonky with their toaster one evening and I had plans to just toss it and get another one the next day knowing it had probably been around twice its normal life expectancy.  Magically the next morning it was working fine and in commenting on it, Billy piped up claiming to have been up all night, taking it all apart and fixing it.  There was NO WAY I was sleeping THAT deeply on the couch 5 feet away.  Maybe by then, he just did it by some means of psychokinesis – maybe we understand less about dementia than we think.

Regardless, I have inherited the DIY (do-it-yourself) approach to simple home repairs.  Plus, I have a leg-up with YouTube.  What’s not to love?  Or one better – my other addiction to HGTV.  Never mind that what I don’t have are the fifty people off camera to do all the heavy lifting, time-lapse photography that isn’t shown with the time code running, a mobile tool shed the size of Montana, a MegaMillions budget and the yummy carpenters to boot.

Since we seem to have passed the Big Thaw here in the Arctic Circle AND I finally got around to storing the garden hose sometime in Februrary, I have been noticing that the outside faucet was dripping ever so slowly and steadily – wetting the side of the house right where there is a seismic gap between driveway and the foundation large enough to stick my fist in. With my recently acquired first hand knowledge and terror of what water in a basement can mean when it is ignored for years, I was going to put a stop to it immediately.

In less than ten minutes, I had the entire faucet in hand (after shutting off the water valve you idiot!) and was inside my handy Ace-is-the-place-with-the-helpful-hareware-man store.  Lady #1 with the ear piece sent me to the correct aisle  and alerted any staff hiding away somewhere in the bowels of the store sorting penny nails that a customer needed help and let them know my “20”.  I pawed through the wall of cute little bins and waited.  Finally settling on what I thought I needed, she noticed me again and barked into  her mouth piece that the “customer has been waiting a LONG time for help!!!” and would someone please respond.

As I stood there with two gizmos in hand, another red-vested woman appeared and I foolishly thought this was going to be another “dispatcher” – “Are you finding what you’re looking for?”  I just wanted confirmation that I wasn’t getting a boiler drain or gas feed – she looked at the original I held and pointed to the 3/4″ and said “That one!”  I turned it over and over in my hand trying to see what markings had made her so sure.

“How did you do that?  It looks just like the 1/2”?

“Honey, after 31 years of looking at sillcocks – you’ve seen one- you’ve seen them all…you can tell the size just by looking at them!” In that moment, I was overwhelmed with jealousy – I wanted to BE her.

A sillcock!  Yes – this was no ordinary doohickey (Billy’s favorite utilitarian hardware word)…it was in fact a sillcock.  Not  – “outdoor-faucet-where-you-hook-up-your-garden-hose”.  I’m dying to know just how it got its name!

I could hardly wait to get home and the Dr. knew I was up to no good when I stood on the back porch – two sillcocks in hand- with a huge grin on my face.  “Are you proud of yourself?”  Silly boy – of course, I was!  I grabbed my Teflon tape (any girl worth her salt always has a roll on hand) and a few “righty-tightitys” later and a jog to the basement to turn the shut-off valve back on – and we were in business.  But all was not said and done until I asked the Dr. to check to see if his sillcock was dripping.  I love my job!

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