Thursday, November 29, 2012

Fear of Party Food



It's party season, and I am afraid. Everyone brings dishes to share, and no one wants to provide anything that might be seen as boring, comforting, or safe.

I am afraid of dishes embellished with pomegranate and cranberry. Yes indeed, those are lovely reds, but I don't want to see them touching my green beans, asparagus, artichoke, or romaine lettuce.

I'm afraid of glazed hams adorned with slices of pineapple and maraschino cherry. I'm horrified by miniature meatballs resting in a light brown sweet sauce accented by currants and raisins. I'm appalled by fried tofu, which bears a startling resemblance to hockey pucks and may actually taste like hockey pucks. I haven't been tempted to try them.

I think breaded fish fingers and chicken nuggets might possibly be safe to eat if one person  prepared them from beginning to end, but most likely these items have come from the test kitchens of major corporations and contain a smorgasbord of ingredients that, if properly combined, could   make plastic, or a highly toxic poison.

I'm afraid of Spam and Cheez Whiz on crackers, a fad which has mercifully died or is on its last legs. Cheez Whiz is now a homemade stain remover for greasy stains. If that doesn't make you think twice before using it as a condiment, nothing will. 

Raw veggies come in a variety of colors and can be dipped into a variety of things (if you spoon those things onto your plate, that is, because sharing dips at a party is a good way to spread germs) but artistic arrangements --nay, sculptures-- are off putting. Who wants to be the first to remove Abe Lincoln's broccoli eyebrow, or George Washington's cauliflower hair?

Salami, Cheese and Pickle Kabobs
Salami, pickle and cheese kebabs are suggested party food at Betty Crocker holiday


Spinach and artichoke dip from the freezer section, with a salt content  marginally lower than that for the Dead Sea, was the fad a few years ago. May it never reach true food status, as salsa , hummus, and pesto have.

People get very coy about the ingredients of their showpiece dishes. Perhaps an ingredients checklist could go with each dish: This contains No Nuts, shellfish, HCFC, GMA,  polysorbate 60, red dye. Then again, perhaps someone will devise a dish that will contain all those things , and those who eat it will be issued cards that say "Proceed immediately to the emergency room."

Trendy, iconic, and amazing are words I don't really want to see again, but iconic foods can't be all that bad. Chocolate chip cookies, fudge, brownies, are iconic foods. Sorta like Mom's apple pie. My own mother abandoned pie-making when I was 12, claiming that I could make better piecrust than she could.(Blatant excuse!) But pie is messy to serve. Tarts would be nice.

I'm not precisely sure what makes up today's marshmallows, but extracts from mallow plants are not among the ingredients. Still, I do not want to see marshmallows adorning  raw salads, baked vegetables, cakes or pies. The proper way to use a marshmallow is to partially char it, and eat it nude and unadorned, preferably at a camp fire.  

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Simple Drapery Installation



No job is ever simple. I had thought to combine pictures of an electric screw driver, a stepstool and a traverse rod, separated by plus signs, ending in an equals mark followed by the word "Frustration." I can't make Blogger do this to my satisfaction.

When I found cotton damask shower curtains in just the perfect color, I bought four to transform into draperies for my bedroom. I lost them somewhere in the house. After I had lived with bare window shades for 3 years, they resurfaced. I made draperies for one window and hung them before noticing that it was not going to be that easy for Window #2, where the window shade hardware blocked the spot where the traverse rod bracket needed to be. 

Life would be so much simpler if the screwdriver that fit the screw when I was on the floor still fit it when I was on a step stool  trying to screw it into a window frame. Or if the rod holders had not been designed to be installed only by long skinny screwdrivers wielded by men, or anyone with upper body strength. I have a Black & Decker battery screwdriver. It works very well when I am on the floor, but the minute I have to hold it above my head, all bets are off.

I should have known, when the brackets for the window shade allowed themselves to be pried out with a screwdriver, that it was deceptively easy. I should have realized right then that getting the traverse rod brackets back up would require multiple trips up and down a ladder, multiple screw drivers, and a wide range of screw sizes. No, following the instructions at a home ideas site was harder than it looked. I should have realized that this was not going to be a simple 10-minute operation, after which I could confront the next "simple" household maintenance chore. It became a 30-minute exercise in endurance followed by panting, and a crying need to do something frivolous for at least 30 minutes.

Life would be so much simpler if the only traverse rods that fit that window were anything but quirky custom things made in the 70's. There are too few hook hangers, AKA traverse rod carriers. Finding hook hangers to slip in is Mission Impossible, even though the online info says Ace carries them at nearly the price of an entire new rod. Stealing hook hangers from newer traverse rods is somewhat difficult because the hook hangers tend to want to snap as you pry them from the rod. And, of course, they are a good half inch shorter than the existing hook hangers.

Oh, it's just a simple matter of counting the existing hangers and spacing my top pleats to match them. I know the formula, but I cannot make (2 +1+2+5) x7  equal (2+1+2+5) x6. Especially when the correct number of hangers should be 9 per side. I am mightily tempted to buy large paper clips and large safety pins and contrive. As long as it can be done on the floor.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Dishwasher Myths


1. Dishwashers kill germs
2. Dishwashers use used less water than washing by hand
3. Dishwashers are timesavers when there are a lot of dishes to be washed.

Do today's dishwashers really kill germs or do they just provide new and different ways for germs to multiply? They grind food particles exceedingly small and recycle the water constantly, so the same tiny particles slosh over dishes frequently, just as they would in a pan of hot soapy water. Saves water over conventional dishwasher methods, but is it safe? And is the final rinse water really fresh? Can a machine that uses fewer than 3 gallons get that many dishes really clean?

There is no drying cycle. Water pools on flat surfaces. Having to dry all the glassware by hand is an annoyance. Sometimes I toss incompletely dry flatware into the flatware drawer. I put away dishes that are not completely dry. How is this better than the old days, when we either covered the counter with drying items or roped a family member into drying and putting away? The real reason counter tops of the 1950s had no clutter is that we needed a place to put wet things while we washed the rest of the dishes.

I've noticed tiny dark dots on all my glassware and vintage Tupperware containers. Those new disposable food savers never look clean after a trip through the dishwasher. I always end up washing them by hand. Having to wash them by hand points up how very flimsy they are, and makes me long for the old plastic stuff. Glass is better for food quality, but  it's heavy. 

I run the dishwasher on empty, with vinegar, every month to clean it, just as I did for its predecessor, which dried dishes and did not endlessly recycle the same water.  Contrary to the instructions from the manufacturer, I do rinse dishes before putting them into the dishwasher. I take reasonable precautions to ensure that items that go into the dishwasher come out cleaner, or at least not needing to be washed again.

Yet each time the dishwasher is opened dark spots make fresh-from-the-dishwasher items look dirty. I have dark spots on flatware. If I do nothing, this leads to pitting. I have dark spots on my Corelle, which leads me to wash the dishes again, heat water to boiling, and pour it over the dishes, which I then let air dry. I scrub glasses with abrasive cleaners and pour boiling water over them. I'm rewashing just about everything I put into the dishwasher, the energy-saving, water conserving, convenient, healthy dishwasher.

It's not all that convenient. Dark spots imply it isn't healthy.

I'm beginning to think that my so called dishwasher would be of more use if I used it only as a dish drying rack. That's the ticket. What I really need is a roll out multi-tier rack stationed over a drain.  Low tech. Almost no tech. 

Bosch 500 Series 24-in Built-In Dishwasher (Stainless) ENERGY STAR
This is the latest incarnation of the dishwasher I do battle with daily.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Yard Sign



"Who doesn't love a free yard sign?" the email wanted to know.  

I don't love yard signs. It never occurred to me that yard signs were lovable.  If the yard sign is for a yard sale, I'm interested, but hardly in love. 

When I grew up, the only yard signs I saw were crosses burned into lawns, and those are fairly unlovable symbols of hate. Where I grew up, near the alphabet agencies, people didn't advertise their affiliations for fear of losing employment opportunities. We handed over cash rather than write checks to political parties, we quietly marched off and voted on the appropriate days, and rarely discussed national politics in groups of more than three. "Who doesn't love a free yard sign" tells me more about the age of the writer than it does about the candidate they want me to volunteer to help.

Some yards are veritable thickets of names, supporting every candidate from president to city council. Some yards sport a new biblical quotation each week. Some advertise niche festivals, love for a specific breed of dog, the fact that a child has graduated from high school, joined the Marines or has a birthday. Every contractor who works on a house, from roofing to installing vinyl flooring, wants to put out a yard sign. Houses for sale have additional yard signs proclaiming open houses on Sundays. What this really means is that traffic will be very slow because cars will line both sides of the street, which is not really able to accommodate 3 lanes.

Yard signs are like Facebook. People can't take time for personal interaction, so they put up yard signs, some of which are 6 feet tall and have guy wires on each side.  They're like small scale billboards, and they stay up for MONTHS. You know the ones, they're printed in red on screaming yellow plastic and they have streamers at first, until ripped of by the wind or children.

The wire frame from the yard sign has its uses. Several of them support chicken wire to protect a garden from grabby pests. A single one supports bloom-heavy flowering plants. When imagination fails, the frames can go in the recycling bin.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Monday Morning Grumbles


Last Monday night I took a friend to the emergency room, from which we were released 3 1/2 hours later. The friend is healing well with only bruises. She appears more shaken by the knowledge that she cannot, at 70-something, simply keep forging ahead  full tilt until the job is done. She has to take breaks; she has to learn to stop when tired.

This is something I learned at 40.  Last week's  lesson is harder. I cannot go near emergency rooms. I've spent parts of  the past week flat on my back, feverish, depressed, lacking energy, foggy-brained. I cough up green phlegm. 90 minutes in the garden wipes me out. The cats said  a walk around the block was out of the question and herded me back to my own yard. When I'm tired, I'm waspish and judgmental and spend too much time reading Facebook.

Which is how I discovered that Facebook had been hiding posts even from folks designated Close Friends, and substituting posts from companies I had indicated I liked. When Trending Articles appeared in my feed, it was too much. I don't want to see anything from the Huffington Post. Did FB assume that because I occasionally followed links to articles from the NYTimes and the Manchester Guardian, I wanted predigested pap delivered in a smug, sly, confiding tone? To get Trending Articles removed from my feed I had to click Hide on 3 articles before I was offered the choice of removing Huff Post from my feed. Stupid.

I spent time indicating companies that I do like in order to get FB to stop feeding me ads from singles companies and death merchants. Now I get ads from bead and craft suppliers, furniture stores, and targeted clothing ads. This is an improvement, but I do not want their merchandise updates in my FB feed, and especially do not want them taking the place of random thoughts by friends. Usually, the Hide option offers permanent removal.

Some ads are offensive. I do not believe that wearing a charm bracelet and tucking my hand in my back pocket will make my rear end any smaller, and I do not care for companies that routinely refer to lady parts as boobs and butts. It feels like a slap in the face. I know that using certain words decreases their shock value, but I don't want those words in my vocabulary. Bottom, behind, rump, posterior, backside -- those are all acceptable. I prefer the term breasts to all other slang and nonslang terms. I prefer to be treated with courtesy by companies I don't know. A "hey girlfriend" followed by terms I find nasty? I don't care what is being sold. Perhaps the target audience is 14-year-olds with disposable income and foul mouths. I'm over 15, living on the edge, and while I may be familiar with slang and curse words, they are not the first things out of my mouth.

While I'm complaining, why is it that I develop an urgent need for sponges and scouring pads at the end of the month, when I'd prefer not to spend any money?

Monday, August 20, 2012

She Really Liked It

PHOTO BY MARTHA HARDCASTLE GUTHRIE
I've been the strange one for so long that when someone DOES share my taste, it's a shock. I figured I'd have this flower brooch around forever, as a mascot at shows. It was a little bit of home to  look at when  I felt swamped by tides of humanity. I was floored when a woman picked it up, didn't read the price sticker, and insisted she had to have it no matter what. I gave her a "flattery will get you somewhere" discount.

The multi-flower pin is sort of bead embroidery, stiffened felt with spikes of seed beads occasionally topped by pressed glass flowers. There's a tiny circle of cardboard topped by another bit of felt with the pinback. I had read about metal mesh circle brooch bases, had no way to get one, and  was consumed with a desire to  bead. The two brooches at the bottom are on mesh bases. The bracelet is freeform peyote, part of my attempts to blast myself out of drab colors. Yes, it IS rather small, but so are my wrists.

PHOTO BY MARTHA HARDCASTLE GUTHRIE
I'll be doing more freeform bracelets and pins because I like them. If people should want to buy them, I guess I'll let them. As long as I get to enjoy the colors, the slick silk touch of glass beads, and a visible result, I'm relatively happy. Really, it's a good thing I'm not trying to sell these because my words are so humdrum.

As I was performing small repairs on merchandise, I felt the cyclops eye of a inhuman thing on me. I looked up to see a young photographer happily focusing. She was quite taken aback by my growl that yes, I DO mind if she takes my photo. There are people who have no photo graciousness in them, and I am one.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Testing, Testing


Newsprint necklaces
I've been sorting and consolidating my jewelry supplies, taking short breaks to test  things to see if I should keep them or toss them.

 
A Creativity for Kids paper bead rolling kit was a keep, if only for the nifty little bead rolling tool. It is so much easier than rolling the paper around a toothpick. OTOH, my hand cut strips from the newspaper made better beads than the kit's machine cut scrapbooking paper. We won't even talk about the plastic beads that came with the kit, okay? I had to substitute beads from my toss pile. It also had stretchy gel beading thread, which needs no needle. A boon.  
Creativity for Kids necklaces

The internet is full of  projects using resin or Dimensional Magic from Mod Podge on paper stuck to wooden forms. You get a lovely high gloss item with Dimensional Magic. I put images on wooden nickels and stuck pin forms to the back. I'm less than thrilled with the images I had to use, but Dimensional Magic stays.

A stash of soutache braid will be very useful when I attempt a soutache braid and bead creation real soon now. I've used bead tips and soutache as necklaces to hold small charms.

By Annetta Valious, mylovelybeads.com
My entire collection of felt fits in a copy paper box, but there's oodles of red. For awhile, I bought it up whenever I saw it at Goodwill. When life gives you red felt, make felt flowers. I've got a Pinterest board full of different flowers to try.

Most of my beads are in one place, but there are escapees in every room of the house. There are bead findings in the thread box. There are beads in the box that contains my MIL's worn copy of The Settlement Cookbook. There's a matchbox of bead findings from jewelry that fell apart 20 years ago, tucked into a box of buttons. Many years ago, I rescued vintage beads from a cashmere sweater that moths riddled, and tucked the bag of vintage beads into a box of sewing supplies. I also bought necklaces from thrift stores, just to deconstruct. I could never find the box when I wanted it, so I bought findings and beads.

It will be such a delight to go to one place for jump rings and jewelry findings rather than pawing through 6 boxes. I recognized each tiny bag as it appeared. Nothing sneaked in while I wasn't looking. It's not that I blithely bought huge quantities. It's that I would bead madly for awhile, put things away, then not be able to find what I wanted during the next beading spurt. First all the jewelry findings got put in one place, then types of things separated out. Seeing the variety of my findings makes me feel wealthy. 

Speaking of wealth, I modified a quilted bag from Goodwill, giving it features Vera Bradley puts in her quilted bags. There are two pockets inside the purse, a pocket on the outside, and a strap for the housekey. I put vintage red rickrack on it, too.