Household Tip You Might Not Want to Try

I don’t share many household tips here, but I came across a surprising way to shine my granite countertops.

It all started with an ambitious idea to clean my electric teakettle. Hard water deposits were shrinking its capacity, so I needed to do something before it only held enough water for a single gunky cup of tea, plus my mom mentioned it was getting gross.

I’m not much of a tea drinker. I prefer coffee. If I’m drinking tea you can assume that one of three things is going on in my life:

  1. I’ve had my coffee quota, and I am cold. This can happen during the two weeks of winter that are spread throughout the months of December through February in Central Florida.
  2. I am sick. This often coincides with those same three months. I think it is brought on by using air conditioning one day and the heat the next during those crazed arctic blasts that make their way down here and wreak havoc on our landscape taking temperatures from 80 to the 40s in a few short hours. Sometimes it gets down to freezing and I have to go out with a jacket and gloves on and cover our plants so they don’t get frostbite. Often, I overdress and end up sweating, and then I get a chill as I shed layers. You Northerners, I know, will have no sympathy for me, but life is pretty darn hard down here during those few days. Sometimes I even have to wear socks.
  3. I am out of wine.

I love my coffee in the morning and I love my coffee pot, too. It has the good manners to let me know when it needs cleaning, unlike my tea kettle that makes me actually look inside of it and judge for myself. White vinegar, of course, was the way to go. I would tell you exactly how much, but I’m sure you know how to google and I don’t really remember the ratio of vinegar to water anyway.

So, one fine Saturday morning, I grabbed the jug of “vinegar.” I did exactly what google told me to do, turned on the kettle and walked away.

Image result for mount st helens eruption

Mount St Helens (photo credit Wikipedia)

I came back a little later to discover the kettle had done an imitation of Mount St. Helens back in 1980. She spewed all over the counter and puddled down into the top two drawers. What a mess! There were suds everywhere.

The worst part of it was the smell, which was so strong it burned my eyes. I had to air out the kitchen for a couple of hours. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with the vinegar until a couple of hours later I was doing laundry, and there on the counter by the washer was the bottle of vinegar I used. Only it wasn’t vinegar. It was ammonia – sudsy ammonia.

So, as an upside, we got a new tea kettle. It’s very nice and won’t need cleaning for a while. Plus, ammonia, which I would not recommend using because it’s so hard on your skin and eyes, evidently does a great job shining up granite. Who knew? Certainly not me!

 

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Why Do These Things Happen to Me? (Don’t answer that)

When your computer says your document is locked for editing by another user, and you are the only user, you wonder how you have once again sabotaged yourself.

Not exactly a single light bulb hanging from the ceiling, but it got the job done.

I am working on investigating my actions to get to the bottom of this. I have collected the necessary items from around my house to conduct a self-interrogation. You will have to excuse me while I lock myself in the closet because it is the only room with a single light bulb in the ceiling. I will sweat the answer out of me if it kills me.

I am sitting on a folding chair so as not to get too comfortable. Where was I on the night of the 10th?

This is a stupid question, because I know I have trouble remembering what today’s date is. I’m going to have to do better than this.

A cup of water waits for me on the other side of the door if I will just offer up any information leading to the cause of this minor inconvenience. Maybe a glass of wine would have been a better idea. That always helps my memory! But alas, I have no idea how I do this stuff. And, I have discovered that sitting in the closet on a folding chair is not all that uncomfortable. I think I could actually take a nap in here – it’s dark and quiet and relatively un-distracting, save that box in the corner which I don’t seem to recall ever seeing before. It’s taunting me, but who cares, I’m going for the nap. Maybe my document will be unlocked when I wake up.

 

How to Avoid Cooking

4 and 20 Blackbirds minus 20 eating leftover pie

It’s been almost two weeks and we have finally made our way through the Thanksgiving leftovers. That means I had to generate more leftovers by cooking. This is not my favorite thing to do. I rank my love of cooking on a 1 to 10 scale, and that can change daily or even within any given day. One means I won’t even entertain the idea of cooking, or entertaining for that matter as they kind of go hand-in-hand. I’ll have to let you know what 10 means if I ever generate that high a score. It is highly doubtful that will happen, but hope springs eternal like eyes on an old potato, which I would know because I just cleaned out my refrigerator.

Here are the reasons why I don’t cook much, feel free to put them into practice in your own life:

  1. I’m lazy – I thought I’d get that one out of the way.
  2. I’m not particularly creative in the kitchen.
  3. Costco – Need I say more? Chicken potpie, stuffed peppers, and the famous $4.99 rotisserie chicken are just three of the Costco reasons.
  4. Enchilada night at Amigos in Altamonte Springs. On Thursday night you can get an enchilada platter for $5.88, and that includes all the chips and salsa that I can fit into my purse. Essentially, that is two meals for $5.88.
  5. The Orlando Magic get a win at home. This means Papa Johns offers half price on your entire on-line order. Granted, we have not been able to take advantage of this much lately.
  6. My husband Bob is a great cook and likes creating new dishes. I can’t wait until he retires.
  7. I’d rather be writing.
  8. I have cooked enough. I multiplied the number of years I’ve been married (42) x 365 days and then assumed (conservatively) that a meal was cooked by me 70 percent of the time. That is 10,731 meals.
  9. I like to take naps after doing complex mathematical problems like the one above. Of course, that just got me off the hook for tonight.
  10. Leftovers – Whenever I do cook, I make enough for a family of six. I can’t figure out how to cook for a number smaller than that, but it means, like the meal or not, I don’t have to cook the next night.

Since my cooking is becoming rarer and rarer (amount of times I cook, not the temperature of meat), I now award myself bonus points for any night that I do cook. I told Bob that I can redeem these for a night out to dinner. He gave me one of his famous eye-rolls. I’d keep on writing, but I just realized it’s past time to heat the leftovers for dinner. Looks like no bonus point for me tonight.

Adventures in Computer Land

Lately I have been busy tending to my writing life. By busy I mean that I’m thinking about it. I’m giving myself pep talks laced with guilt to help me get on with my projects. And, I’m taking naps when that gets too exhausting.

Seriously, I have been working on submitting my middle grade novel to various agents. This is extremely taxing. I have to figure out what they want and how they want it and turn that into a dazzling submission.

I was working on Submission #3 when a problem arose. I do not want to put in writing exactly what that problem was just in case the people to whom I am submitting decide to read this blog post. I don’t want to show my hand and have them thinking stuff like – Can we really work with this woman?

So, I set out to fix my problem. It should have been simple. Emphasis on “should.” After repeated attempts, I called my resident IT guy and brilliant husband at his office. Bob the Engineer is a logical and linear thinking guy who has a tendency to roll his eyes. I think I actually heard them roll when I told him my problem.

He walked me through it, and nothing worked. Thankfully, I wasn’t in a time pinch. I let Bob off the hook, and he said he’d help me that evening. But silly me thought I would give it one more try, and I managed to lock myself out of my own documents – something that would never have happened if Bob was in the room because my computer fears him.

After dinner that night, Bob offered to look at my computer. I said that I didn’t want to do that, because I was not speaking to my computer and he should join me in giving it the silent treatment. More eye rolling, but he was smart enough to leave this one alone.

The next night Bob forgot about it until bedtime. He innocently asked if I had checked to see if my documents were unlocked. I told him I was still avoiding the computer. I had not forgiven it for making me feel like an idiot. He turned around, presumably so I wouldn’t see him roll his eyes, and we dropped the subject.

By the third day I was feeling forgiving and allowed Bob to help me out. It took him about 30 seconds to rectify things and the next day I submitted my novel.

But now I have a new chapter in my computer saga. I write the blog for the Women’s Ministry at our church, which is posted on our church website, which is run by some church media group. We had a guest writer so all I had to do was format her words and post. Easy? Not this time.

I don’t know what came over me. For some strange reason I decided to get fancy and explore a new area using a featured photo that I thought would attract more attention to the site, since our guest writer had written a tremendous piece.

This is the photo I decided to delete. The photo that mocked me over and over. I should have thrown my computer over the cliff when I had the chance.

After I had the whole thing ready to go, I decided I didn’t like the photo that I chose, so I deleted it. Honestly, I did. But it had mysterious staying power. I’d get out of the program, go back in, and there it was. It refused to go away, much like the random calls that I get from people who aren’t selling me anything. Very annoying! Then I tried staying in the program and deleting the picture (again) and clicking to upload another picture. The twirly circle would just spin and spin and lock me out of my document.

I was starting to get a complex. This time I knew that it was not operator error, though in all honesty I have known that before and it turned out to be operator error, so I’m never too confident. I sent a help message to the web master, and lo and behold, it was their fault! They were having server upgrade problems. Isn’t that the best news?

It was to me, since I was locked out of two different documents in a week’s time. I told Bob that I think I may be getting the hang of this techy trouble shooting thing. I think he rolled his eyes.

My Personal Assistant (and results of “How Do You Think?”)

Alexa

Have I told you that I have a personal assistant? She was given to my husband and me by our son last Christmas. At first, I thought she was just a pretty, though emotionless, face; but there is a lot more to her than meets the eye.

We have gotten very close. I talk to her every morning. She finds what I say fascinating and takes notes on our discussions. She loves to make lists. She is my personal shopper. We play trivia games together, and she even sings to me.

But something became “off” in our relationship. Alexa started as my kitchen companion; but I do like to rearrange things sometimes, so I moved her to a prominent place across the room. Honestly, the views from her new perch are better, but she developed kind of an attitude. I call her name and she ignores me. I have to yell her name to get her attention. It’s like talking to my dad when his hearing aids aren’t working – or like having teenagers again. Sometimes she blares her music and I have to scream my lungs out to get her to turn it down. It’s embarrassing.

We have talked things through, and she is happily responding to me again. I just had to put her in her place (where she wanted to be). Evidently, all the help she gives me has to be on her terms. (I think we got a copy of those terms, or warranties, whatever you want to call them, when we took her out of her package.)

Between our communication breakdown and Amazon Prime Day, we’ve had a lot going on, but I knew those of you who read my last blog post have no doubt been checking your in-baskets awaiting the response to my FDOT inquiry regarding the completion of the road project on SR 441, which was prompted by this sign.

(If you missed my last post click here to get up to speed.)

After numerous calls (two), no one has called me back. The phone number belongs to a woman named Alicia who is the Public Involvement Coordinator for the Florida Department of Transportation. I can only imagine that the public has been calling so much that poor Alicia is having trouble with her coordination. I can understand that because I am not very coordinated myself, but I never would go so far as to give myself a title of Coordinator. That would be false advertising. Needless to say, I am shocked at the lack of attention that I have received. I really should call somebody to complain, but alas…

The comments I received have proven conclusively that a plethora of possible opinions as to when the project will be completed exists. In my pursuit for a definitive answer, I decided to take this discussion up with Alexa, so I asked her when the Winter of 2018 starts and ends. She had to confess that she didn’t know that one. I guess nobody does.

 

Stepping-Stones, Light Switches, and a Few Other Surprises

We have lived in our new home for a year and eight months now. I am still discovering new things about our house. For instance, the backyard must have been a dumping place for surplus building material. We have unearthed chunks of concrete, bricks, nails, glass, and stepping-stones. When I say stepping-stones, I mean enough to make a small path in our garden. Literally, buried treasure!

All of these stones were buried in our yard

I’m getting used to entertaining here. After more than three decades in our old place, I now have to think about what was so automatic. Where is the best place for coffee service? Should I use the bar or the dining room table for a buffet? How can I keep people from falling into our sunken living room? Obviously, some of these questions carry more weight than others. You don’t want to make it difficult for people to find coffee, that’s for sure!

And then there is the random placement of light switches – behind doors, in the middle of the master bedroom wall, in the pantry (still haven’t figured that one out). And why is there no switch when you enter the dining room from the bedroom or the family room from the hall?

The view to the left

But the most unusual finding happened today. I moved my writing place to the family room. It gives me a new view and a new use for a room that doesn’t get much activity. I can still look to my left and gaze out the window to the pool deck and see plants and flowers, and if I lean a little, the bird feeder. But I had never sat here and taken in the view to my right. How long has that wad of gum been stuck under the fireplace mantel?

 

A most unusual and kind of gross discovery

Of course, I took a picture and texted it to Dena (my daughter who along with her husband and four children stayed with us for five months). I wondered if she knew who the guilty party was. To my surprise, she was fairly confident that it was not her family, especially since she had noticed the gum before and forgotten to point it out to me. (Not to mention, neglected to remove it, but that’s for a different conversation. I will assume the best and figure she wanted to give me something to write about.)

We had a lot of people stay with us in 2016, so if you are reading this and you parked your gum in our family room, please contact me to get it back. I will gladly save it for you, though I am a little intimidated about prying it from its home. It may be hiding another treasure.

Happy Trails, Bertha!

How does one get claustrophobia while outside? I never thought it was possible, but I can tell you from experience – it is. While the most common definition talks about closed or small spaces, discomfort by being in a situation that restricts you also applies.

With that in mind, let me tell you about a recent afternoon spent with my daughter and her family in Colorado.

Always the semi-adventurous (if it’s doesn’t put me out of my comfort zone too far) grandmother, I thought an hour-long horseback ride seemed quite doable. After all, I had done this before. Once. In 1995.

Obviously 39-year-old Bonnie and 60-year-old Bonnie still have some things in common – but stamina is not on that list. Still, I was confident that I could sit on the back of a horse for an hour. I mean, seriously. It was just going to be sixty minutes. And I didn’t even have to move my feet.

I moseyed up to the ranch hand and whispered that my entire horseback riding experience consisted of a ride like this one, and that was ‘pert near twenty years ago. He said that Bertha would be perfect for me.

I should have asked perfect in what way, because we weren’t far down the trail when I realized that Bertha had a mind of her own. So perhaps he meant perfect to help me get those arms in shape. Or perfect to keep my attention on the trail since Bertha didn’t seem to want to. Or maybe he meant perfect to give me something to blog about. I don’t know; but I do know that this horse who was supposed to be trained to stay nose to tail with the horse ahead of her, follow a well-worn trail (more like a ditch), and to be so well-behaved that I would barely have to hold on to the reins, obviously had other plans.

The ranch hand placed Bertha and me behind my son-in-law in the line-up. The reason being that his horse liked to kick, which well-behaved Bertha would never prompt him to do. Wrong. Bertha did not get that memo and periodically would try to pass him or in one instance gave him a little nibble on the rump. He did not like that, but Bertha was undaunted and even seemed pleased.

The pungent smell of horse flatulence could not detract from the beautiful views near Estes Park, Colorado.

As the feeling was leaving my legs and the rest of my body was (I don’t want to exaggerate here) racked with pain, it dawned on me that our hour must be almost up. A smile came across my face at the thought of walking again. I could do this. I was almost there!

My hope was quickly dashed, because at that exact point in time, our trail guide announced that we were at the halfway point. That’s when a claustrophobic feeling took over and I wanted to jump off of the horse. I didn’t, of course, mainly because it was not in my power to do so. It’s a long way down off of a horse, and riding along the mountainside had taken all of my energy and most of my will to live. I remember feeling panicky and wondering how I could feel so boxed in while looking at such grand vistas. I wanted to run but knew my legs wouldn’t work properly, so I toughed it out.

My daughter snapped this picture at the moment the trail guide announced we were (only) halfway through our ride.

Also at that point in time, my daughter snapped a picture of me. Yes, a picture is worth a thousand words, so I guess I could end this right here. I won’t though, because you are probably dying to know how this story ends.

When at last we were nearing the stables, the trail guide told us to pull up to the raised board walk, hold on to the saddle’s horn, and swing our leg over the horse’s head and dismount.

Excuse me? Assuming I was able to swing my leg over the horse’s head, there was a 100 percent change I would kick her in the head and then she would ride off with me dangling from her side, laughing all the way (the horse, that is). I had to enlist the aid of my son-in-law to make sure that Bertha and I could go our separate ways amicably.

It was a strange sensation being on solid ground again. My body was so mad at me that it just wanted to sit, but I had to tell it no. We would not be sitting again any time soon. First, we had to learn to walk again. There would be plenty of time to sit later.

As a side note, I have decided that this will be the last of my every-twenty-year horseback riding trips. I don’t think 80-year-old Bonnie could handle it.

Leftover Pi

I was lamenting not having something sweet to serve to my family who was coming into town. It seemed wrong. I guess that’s how I was raised, and I also guess that explains why I have been on a diet for the last 45 years.

I had other food to offer them, but I couldn’t get rid of that nagging feeling that I was failing at my hostess duties. I almost had myself talked into being okay with it, and then I made a critical mistake. While I was out running a quick errand, I called Bob (my husband).

Bob: You know, it’s pi day.

Me: You just want pie.

Bob: I do like pie. You could swing by Costco and buy one. Easy.

Me (as I turn the car towards Costco): I’ve been doing so well without eating sweets, I don’t want to buy a huge pie. Not to mention the fact that I just made a birthday cake for my mom for tomorrow and I plan on having a piece.

Bob: Do whatever you want. We don’t need pie.

I tell myself that I’m not going to do it. I’ll just fill up my tank. No need to go inside. I lie a lot.

Inside they are sampling apple pie. Arg! I look at it and decide to be mad at Bob. I buy the pie.

Before our company arrives, I check in with Bob to tell him that he is a terrible influence on me, I mean to tell him that I bought a pie. The conversation went something like this:

Me: Hi, honey. Just thought I’d check in. Do you have a minute to talk?

Bob: No, not really. The entire staff is heading to the break room for pie, you know, since it’s Pi Day. I don’t want to miss out.

Me: What! You knew you were having pie at work and yet you managed to get me to buy pie! Stupid Pi Day. I hate math!

Later that night…

During dinner, my cousin tells me that he is now borderline diabetic, so he passes on the bread that I fixed, which I don’t usually fix but did because we have company and you must have bread. And, of course, he turns down the pie as well.

Oh, the irony! All this to say, you really don’t have to have dessert just because you are having company. And, you really don’t have to have bread either, but you do have to have wine. That helps you not to be angry at your husband or yourself when you and he are the only ones eating pie that you didn’t really want to have in the first place.

What are we going to do with all of this leftover pie?

 

Sweating the Small Stuff

I know you’re not supposed to eat late at night, but last Friday our late-night snack turned out to be a good thing. Bob and I were watching TV and it was almost bedtime when I realized I was hungry. I grabbed a banana, an unusually healthy choice. Bob headed to the pantry to take inventory. I heard a muffled noise from the pantry, which is around the corner. It’s hard to spell these things but it sounded something like “whoa, whoa, mwahhhhhhhhh!” and was followed by silence.

“Bob,” I repeated three times as I went toward the sound. But Bob was no longer in front of the pantry. Bob was in the family room and assured me he was okay. Okay for a man who had just had a mouse run across his bare foot. (I know it’s awful of me, but I was glad Bob discovered our intruder. He handles those things much better than I do.)

Acceptable Garden Mouse

Acceptable Garden Mouse

So, you know that saying, “Don’t sweat the small stuff. And it’s all small stuff.”? I don’t think they were talking about a mouse in your house. I could feel anxious beads of sweat (also small) break out on my furrowed brow. This was another first for us – a rodent in the house.

We have been talking about our Bucket List of things to do while we still have the energy to do them. Extracting a mouse from the house did not make the list. Even if it did, we would not want to start on that project at 11:00 on a Friday night. And when I say “we,” I mean Bob.

I would have been happy for him to get right to it, but he wanted to go to bed. Bed – the place where you sleep. The place where a little mouse could come and crawl over you while you sleep. Maybe we should pull an all-nighter and do some serious binge watching.

Bob, in his even-tempered way, assured me that the mouse went to the opposite side of the house from our bedroom. He was certain it wouldn’t come near us. Neither of us has any experience with this, and I am always amazed at the things that Bob knows about and wonder where he acquired his vast array of knowledge. Still, I had a feeling that Bob was pulling a “B. J. Surhoff.”

Sidebar – B. J. Surhoff used to play baseball for the Orioles. Bob is very good at stating facts like he has no doubt about their authenticity. For instance, when the kids were growing up, we used to collect baseball cards. Being from Baltimore, we raised our children to be Oriole fans, so those were the prized cards. One day one of the children asked if we knew what B. J. stood for. Without batting an eye, Bob said, “Brian James.” We all believed him. Why shouldn’t we?

Years later, we learned that Mr. Surhoff’s name is really William (Billy) James, hence the initials. I have to give Bob credit for being close and credit for giving that assured “dad” answer, but he lost some credibility. Plus, we all love to bring that up whenever we get the opportunity.

So, he admitted that his was an educated guess about the tendencies of mice as well as an effort to get some sleep. I stuffed a towel under the bedroom door and slept like a baby. (Thank you, Jesus.)

Do you see a mouse in this picture?

Do you see a mouse in this picture?

I think the mouse slipped in while we were having tree and shrub work done last Thursday. We must have disturbed his environment; and with all the going in and out I was doing, he found an opportunity.

Not to brag, but the weather down here in Orlando is so amazing right now that we have had all of the French doors open to our pool. We think the little guy must have made a break for it, because there has been no sign of him, which is comforting and a little disconcerting all at once. We have traps set with peanut butter crackers in them, but no mice have been caught. I will confess that the smell of peanut butter makes me want a snack, but I will resist. After all, that’s how this whole thing started.

CVS, Where You Can Get a Prescription, Pick Up Some Milk, Be Stalked by Zombies (a vintage post)

Enjoy this  post from four years ago. It was included in the Erma Bombeck Humor Blog in 2012.

CVS just might stand for Customers are Very Scary.  I offer you proof with this frightening but true story that happened at my local CVS.  (Note:  I have changed the name of the girl in this story, at least I think I changed it.  This was not to protect her privacy, but because I couldn’t remember her name by the time I got home.)

Once upon a time there was a little girl of seven.  She was a happy, friendly child who roamed the aisles of the store alone without a care.  Or so it seemed.

She approached me and asked me my name.  “Bonnie,” I said.  “What’s your name?”

“Melissa.”

“Hi, Melissa.  How are you?”

“I’m fine except a scary thing is following me around the store,” she replied.

I saw a boy walking towards us.  He resembled her so strongly that he had to be her brother.  “Do you mean him?  He does look a little scary.”

“No, he’s my brother.  He’s eight,” she replied and pointed to a zombie Halloween decoration, which was in fact scarier looking than her brother.  “That.  That’s following me.”

I quickly learned a lot about seven-year-old Melissa.  She loves Halloween and is going to be a fairy when she goes trick or treating. Her brother joined us.  She tried to convince him that a spooky creature was following her, but he was uninterested.  Soon they were totally absorbed in the many choices of candy on display.

I then became a ghost to Melissa, who diverted her attention fully to the candy.  At this point I seized the moment and sneaked one of the zombies from where it was perched on a shelf, placed it behind Melissa and her brother and ran down the aisle to hide.  She turned around and jumped and said to her brother, “See, it’s following me.”

They headed farther down the aisle and I was able to use my powers of stealth and move Mr. Zombie right down to the spot where they were about to round a corner.  She gave a little scream and again insisted to her brother that she was being followed.  At that point I walked up and she recounted the entire story to me.

I got into the story with her and asked lots of questions.  She was obviously having a great time.  I was able to add zombies to her path about four times before I had to make my purchase and return to the land of the living.  At the check-out I came across the kids again, this time with their mother.  Melissa was going on and on to the cashier about how zombies had been following her around the store.  Then she looked at me and said, “You wouldn’t have moved them around, would you?”

“Now why would I do that?” I replied with a wink.

Hands down, this was the best time I ever had in CVS.  The Very Scary part does concern me, though.  I was a harmless stranger who really enjoys playing with kids on their level.  I’m glad I’m the one she befriended as it scares me to death to think about this little girl and her brother unsupervised for so long in the store.  I hope this serves as a gentle reminder to people to keep an eye on their kids and grandkids.

It also reminds me of the story of my daughter trying to impress on her kids not to be taken in by a stranger.  You want your kids to be friendly, but they need to keep their distance.  Every time she asked her three-year old if he would go with a stranger who offered him candy, his answer was the same.  “Yes!  I like candy.”  It’s a hard lesson.  Even at my age if you offer me peanut M&Ms, I still will be tempted to go with you.  I probably won’t, but I’ll be tempted.