Tag Archives: kitchen

Not the Day I Expected…Part 3

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Wednesday, I’d gone to town for coffee, banking and garbage drop-off. I arrived back home just before noon, and was pleased to see that the power was back on. I reset the clocks, made a pot of coffee, and started in on the kitchen.

The next three hours was a flurry of dusting and scrubbing, moving and arranging. Some things were almost done, and just needed finishing touches; others were jobs that had to be started at the very beginning. Files were moved to the dining room. Kitchen shelves were reconfigured and every dust-free book, basket and jar was replaced nicely on them.

The refrigerator was completely cleared: magnets, posters and photos from the metal doors; baskets, bins and boxes from the top; foodstuffs, shelves and bins from inside. I scoured it, then, outside and in. I washed each shelf and all three bins. I stood them on the rug, leaned against the cupboards to drip dry.

I poured a cup of coffee, sat down at the computer and turned it on. A warning window popped up on the screen; the controls didn’t work. “Your computer has been compromised,” the message said, “Call Microsoft for assistance in repairing this problem.” A toll-free number followed. “Damn it! I should have paid attention to all those other messages telling me to upgrade my system,” I thought, as I dialed the number.

What followed was a lengthy interaction between me and a technician. He had me open an internet sharing window that allowed him access. He showed me lines and lines of the many harmful things that were in my system. “It’s pretty serious,” he told me. he asked about the age of the computer, what virus protection it has, and whether the warranty was still valid. He quoted a price ($299.99), then explained that there would be an additional charge of $99.99 because my warranty was no longer good.

I wailed; I whined; I told him I was just starting to make progress on getting my credit cards paid down. He said, “Look, lady, you called me!” Finally, I agreed to the amount, and gave him my credit card information. He told me to leave my computer on, that the other technician would be working on it for about an hour, to remove the viruses, scrub the system and set up protection. I would get a call when they were finished.

I went back to my housekeeping while waiting for the call, grumbling about how impossible it is to get ahead. The second call came in; I sat back down at the computer. The technician – a young woman, this time – used lines and arrows to show me the security features she had added. She showed me the location of their toll-free number, should I need further assistance. She said, “Your credit card will be charged four hundred dollars.”

“No way,” I said, and seem to recall that caused her to gasp, “what I agreed to was two charges that would total three hundred ninety-nine dollars and ninety-eight cents.”

“Of course, you’re right,” she said, “I was just rounding up.”

I was feeling pretty bleak…and considerably poorer…though still proud of myself for catching that two-cent error…by the time I got back to the kitchen. The phone rang again. This time, it was a woman from the electric company. I thought, at first, that she was calling to apologize for the recent electrical outage. No, she was collecting data for a survey. She didn’t ask if I had time, or would care to participate, but just started firing off questions. I was balancing the telephone between my ear and my shoulder, while trying to reassemble the refrigerator. Juggling shelves and bins while trying to keep the phone from sliding away, my answers were peppered with curses and protests.

“How much longer??” I demanded at one point. “If you quit complaining and just answer the questions, about two minutes,” was her sharp rebuke. Such was my state of mind that day, that I meekly followed orders: I quit complaining, and answered the questions.

Hours later, discouraged, dejected and depressed…but with a sparkling clean kitchen…I sat down to dinner. The telephone rang. I almost didn’t answer it. I didn’t feel like talking to anyone; the phone had not been my friend that day. I picked it up, just before the answering machine kicked in.

My friend Linda! A friendly voice, at the end of a rough day. I started to tell her about the rotten day I’d had, from the power outage and lack of coffee to the old man’s toenail clippings to the awful telephone calls. When I got to the part about the pop-up warning with the number to call and the high cost of repair, she immediately said, “Oh, Cindy, that’s a scam!”

As soon as she said it, I knew that she was right. How would Microsoft know I had a virus? Why would I consider paying nearly four hundred dollars to fix it, when I could practically get a whole new computer for that price? How very stupid I had been! Then, I started thinking about the consequences: they had my credit card numbers! What had they been doing in my computer…and what did they actually download onto it?

“I gotta go,” I said, near tears, “I’ve got to figure this out.”

In the days since that happened, I’ve had several conversations with my credit card company. I’ve cut up my card, and will be issued a new one. I’ve been struggling to remove everything that was added to my system that day, and have been very cautious about using the computer at all. I’ve changed passwords and security measures. I have cried in utter humiliation. I have chastised myself constantly for my foolishness.

Today is my Dad’s birthday. Because of that, I’ve spent some time imagining how this whole episode would have gone over with him, if he were still alive. Dad was often unpredictable in his response. It’s hard to guess if he would be angry for me…or angry at me. I can guarantee, there would be a lot of “goddamn”s involved.

I can picture Dad going on a rant about the “goddamn scammers” who would take advantage of my ignorance. He might rail on about the “goddamn computers” which have made such things possible, and completely changed the world as he knew it. He might have even gone after the “goddamn telephone,” which he never was comfortable with.

I like to think, though – because Dad could be light-hearted, too – that he’d be impressed with my ability to tell the story, and that he’d see a bit of humor along with the tragedy of it. I can picture him wagging his head from side to side, with a look of both sympathy and understanding. I can clearly see his mischievous grin as he speaks: “Cindy…how the hell did you get to be so goddamned STUPID??”

Continuing…

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Cindy and Brenda, Christmas morning, in front of the partition to the unfinished new kitchen.

My father had built a sweet little house, which his ever-growing family had outgrown in no time.

Before I was three years old, Dad had started the first addition, which was a large, flat-roofed kitchen, off the left side of the house. I remember being allowed in there when he working. As long as we behaved, Brenda and I could slide across the big expanse of floor, smell the fresh-cut wood, stand ready to hand tools or nails to Dad when he needed them.

Eventually, it was finished. A wide archway led from the living room to the kitchen, where the dining space presented itself first. A picture window in the front gave a perfect view of Lake Nepessing on the other side of the road, and created an ideal spot to show off our Christmas tree at holiday time. Windows on the far side offered a view of the garden and field beside our house, the black shed, two little cottages (one of which my mother was born in), the parking lot and – across from that – the Lake Inn, with its sign in cursive pink neon letters.

The refrigerator was framed in, with enough space on top to house Mom’s radio, on the far wall just past the side windows. Cabinets went all the way to the ceiling. The counters were all downsized to suit my mother’s “four foot, seven and a half inch” height. The sink – very modern looking in stainless steel with chrome faucets – was placed on the diagonal, with windows on either wall meeting in the corner, creating a little nook where Mom kept plants and religious statues. Around the corner on the back wall, a shiny electric range top had a strong fan above it to pull out smoke and kitchen odors. Cupboards underneath held stacks of pans. More drawers below and cupboards above continued across the back. Finally, a built in oven with a giant drawer below it and a huge cupboard above finished off the kitchen space.

Every cupboard and drawer were made by hand, painted palest gray, set off by shiny red trim, and finished with bright chrome handles. The counter top was deep red linoleum. The floor was a checkered pattern in red, black and white. The light fixtures were modern circular fluorescent bulbs. There was a slight pause, before the light came on. When we flipped the switch, we’d look with bright eyes at each other and say, “wait for it…” just as our mother had when she first showed them to us.

A doorway led to what was the old kitchen. Now, it was a hallway to the back door, a utility room with the furnace and many shelves for canned goods, and a stairway leading up. The bedrooms, though, will have to wait…

Glimpses

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I looked up, in a dream last night, and was looking directly into my little kitchen at Charbridge Arbor.

And – in that dream – I was suddenly changed: the eyes I was looking through and the mind that was racing were those of my younger self, when I lived in that place.

There was the divided counter with the entrance between, separating the kitchen from the dining area. A simple corridor kitchen with a window on the far wall that looked out to the parking lot. The sink was in the left bank of cabinets, the harvest gold appliances on the right. From my position, I faced the window. I had used heavy cotton twine and a pattern for a rectangular filet crochet doily to make a window covering. It was stretched between two tension rods, softening the view with the floral pattern.

I moved into Charbridge Arbor just about forty years ago, weeks before my youngest daughter was born.

Out of the “Lake House” where the floors tilted and the curtains moved with the wind outside…where the mice ran rampant up the pipes from the Michigan basement and into the metal cabinets of that small kitchen…where the only truly warm spot was right on top op the floor grate that brought the heat up from the furnace. I moved out of the “Lake House” that we’d had such ambitious plans and high hopes for, but never quite enough time or money to accomplish them.

I moved out of the “Lake House” with my husband and my toddler, and in to a townhouse in the brand new Charbridge Arbor complex. New gold carpet matched the appliances. A basement had hook-ups for washer and dryer. Two bedrooms (so large! with real closets!) and a bathroom were upstairs. Every single thing worked, from light switches to windows and doors! The complex was unfinished, so our view out the sliding glass doors in the living room led to a little patio with a sweet little woods beyond. It seemed like the answer to a dream!

It was into this home that I brought my second daughter home, making our little family complete.

It was from this home that I taught myself how to cook Chinese food, started taking college classes and began painting.

I’d walk my daughters to the park – so often in warm weather that they thought it was their own – and to visit friends and relatives nearby.

My sisters visited me here, and – surprisingly – even my Mom and Dad, who were not prone to visiting, stopped by.

When my older daughter started kindergarten, we walked to her school together.

This seemed in many ways like the ideal place for us.

It was only Beaver Island, with all of the memories and hopes and dreams wrapped up in that place, that pulled us away.

I left Charbridge Arbor in 1978, and didn’t look back.

Until last night.

The Continuing Kitchen Shelf Saga

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I was going to title this “The Never Ending Kitchen Shelf Saga,” but I’m feeling optimistic today.

I have to say, I like the way the shelves look.

It’s nice to have all of my cookbooks and garden books together, easily accessible and sorted by category. I’ve gotten my jars of beans and grains off the counter and onto the shelves, too. Some baskets hold small books and pamphlets; others keep medicines, vitamins, sunscreen and insect repellants close at hand. A few plants and a couple candles soften the edges.

If I have a superpower, it is the knack for arranging shelves.

If I have a “green Kryptonite”-like weakness, it is the absolute inability to sort. Every aspect of it stymies me…from deciding on categories for dozens of disparate objects to not being able to discount anything as “useless”…which is one reason this project, at times, seems like it will never end.

Fifty years ago, when my sister Brenda and I were – every couple weeks or so – forced to clean our room, this short-coming became evident.

Brenda’s tactic was to sweep everything into one (huge) mound in the middle of the floor. The next step was to yank all of the dirty clothes out of that pile and put them in the baskets downstairs. Next, pick out all the Barbie dolls, their clothing and accessories…put them away. Next, game pieces, puzzle pieces and cards. Continue, until all that was left got swept into the dustpan  and thrown away. She had a plan, and it worked!

I don’t know why it was so disagreeable to me…or why I was so disagreeable about the method.

I remember feeling absolutely appalled at the idea of sweeping everything together, where all of our belongings would mix and mingle. It seemed like we were making an even greater mess. I couldn’t stand it…no matter how many times she proved to me that it worked.

My method, contrarily, was to pick up one random object, look at it, think about it, adjust it if necessary (perhaps the doll should be wearing the blue dress instead of the green?) and finally put it in its place. Which, if the “place”  was not in order, would then lead to another distraction, and another…forever.

I still use the same tactics!

I have four kitchen drawers to clean out and put into use. They have spent the last two or three years lazily picking up bits of flotsam and jetsam that didn’t have a specific place. Now, since I have taken the large 32-drawer cabinet out of the kitchen, I really need that drawer space. Those four drawers have to go back to work!

So, I’ve been emptying and sorting.

I have a pile of dog collars: two that no longer fit Rosa Parks, one that fits her but that she only wears when I walk her on a leash and one that belonged to my old dog, Maggie, who left this world more than three years ago.

I have two mounds of art-related objects. One contains a roll of mounting tape, a package of glazier’s points, a couple screw eyes, a few oil pastels, a handful of paintbrushes and other miscellaneous objects that actually have places in the studio. The other contains bits of foil and papers that I found or saved, to use in collage someday.

Christmas related items: one hand-made ornament that needs to be glued back together, ornament hooks, ribbon and four little packages of tiny replacement bulbs for Christmas lights (though I haven’t decorated for Christmas in years!).

I have quite an accumulation of hooks, from large decorative ones – for coats or robes – to the tiniest cup hooks.

I have an extensive collection of batteries, it seems, plus two flashlights, an alarm clock and a disposable camera.

I have an inordinate amount of pest-related products: simple mouse traps and plug in devises to discourage rodents, several battery-powered devises to keep mosquitoes away and three small bottles of ant killer.

Now, I have four empty drawers, cleaned and paper-lined, ready to be put back into use.

I have all of my collections laid out on the counter, waiting for decisions to be made. What gets moved to a new location? What can be given away? What gets tossed?

I just needed a break, before I got into all of that!

Mom’s Old TypeWriter

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I don’t know when Mom got the old Royal Typewriter. It was new – or nearly new – in my earliest memories of it. Perhaps it had belonged to her mother, and came into our home around the time Grandma Thelma died. Maybe Mom invested in it – as she did the large set of encyclopedias – to enhance the scholastic ability of her children. I don’t think Mom knew how to type, but I guess I don’t know that for sure, either. I think it originally had a hard case that fit over the top and fastened on the bottom, to protect the keys and keep it dust-free. The typewriter was an important, revered object in our house.

As I think about it, very few objects in our chaotic household were treated as important. Mom raised nine children of her own, and always had many more around. She fully expected that “kids will be kids.” That meant, to her, that dishes will get broken, toys will be destroyed, clothes will get stained and furniture will take a beating. Expect it, and learn to live with it. Except for those things that Mom set aside as precious, that were to be handled more cautiously, and treated with love.

Mom’s list was not long: the cedar chest that she’d received from her parents at the occasion of her high school graduation…along with the treasures and memories she kept inside it; books in general, and especially the encyclopedias, which had to be handled carefully, dusted regularly, and always kept in alphabetical order; the good china, which was never used, and the frosted iced tea glasses that had belonged to her mother; the nativity set that was put out at Christmastime and handled so carefully that the straw was still intact on top of the stable and the music box still worked for her great-grandchildren to hear; and the typewriter.

When we came home from school with a “really big research assignment”, we could use the typewriter for the final draft. If we had an important letter to write, the typewriter could be brought to the desk. If we had absolutely run out of options for keeping small children entertained, we could sometimes pull out the typewriter to show them the “magic” of their names appearing on the paper, the sound of the bell alerting them that it was time for their job: using the silver arm to push the carriage back over to the left. Always, the typewriter eraser was close at hand. By the time we got to high school and actually took typing classes, the biggest problem was forgetting the “hunt and peck” method of typing we’d grown so familiar with.

My mother gave me the typewriter when I was a graduate student at Michigan State University. By that time – the late ’80’s – her children were all adults, and the machine sat idle. Though a manual typewriter seemed pretty archaic, it was a godsend to me! The only word processor available  for my use – for the multitude of papers that had to be typed – was at the library, a mile from our apartment, with – often – a long list of students in line to use it. I was a single mother with a full load of classes, and no car. Having the typewriter allowed me to be at home with my daughters in the evenings. Many nights they fell asleep to the sound of me pounding on the typewriter keys, cursing as I reached for the White-Out. I still have several papers written during that time, with the characteristic shading from many corrections.

I made cookbooks for my daughters one Christmas many years ago. The opening page says “so that Jenny and Katey can have the food they grew up with, even when ‘Home’ is far from their Mom’s kitchen”. My methods were ancient by today’s standards. I gathered photographs and had them enlarged and/or cropped as needed. I used rub on Chartpak letters to make the chapter pages. I typed all the recipes on Mom’s old Royal Typewriter. A dozen hours over the course of several days and a couple hundred dollars at Kinko’s,and I was done. That was the last big job for the typewriter.

The machine sat unused after that. Over the years, I moved it from the shelf to the attic to the storage unit. I almost forgot about it. Then things changed:

First, my mother died. Which caused me to reassess everything. Caused me to look with new eyes at everyone and everything she loved. Caused me to cherish everything she had cared about, and everything she had given me.

Next, I saw a lovely room in an art magazine where a typewriter was used for making gift tags, and had a place of honor on the desk.Then I saw a piece on a news program about a typewriter repair person who is enjoying a resurgence of interest in the old machines. Last, I reorganized shelves and books to accommodate a new drawer unit, and ended up with one empty shelf.

Now, Mom’s old typewriter sits with dignity on my kitchen shelf.

32 Drawers!

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My boss was clearing out a room last week as part of a major renovation of his veterinary clinic, and wondered – aloud – what to do with a large chest of drawers that had to be moved out. I responded – with, I must say, too much enthusiasm combined with too little forethought – “I’ll take it!!!”

That’s what I’ve been doing. That day, I filled every bit of empty space in my car with more than a dozen wooden drawers.  The next day, I did it again. And yet again yesterday. Thirty-two wooden drawers are now stacked in my laundry room, blocking the doors to two closets and narrowing the passageway to less than 18 inches. I have not yet brought the heavy wooden bureau that holds these drawers home. For one thing, it won’t fit in my car. For another, I need help moving it. Last and most important (and the stuff my nightmares are made of!), it won’t fit in my house!

My best calculations tell me this piece of furniture, fully assembled, is approximately sixty-five inches wide, forty-eight inches high and twenty-five inches deep. It is solid wood. It is heavy. Massive. Too big for my house. It is wonderful!

Every drawer is solid wood, with channels on the sides that fit precisely over lattice strips,  to slide open and closed without the wobble, tilt or lean that many lesser drawers are known for. Four columns of eight drawers each; the bottom row of drawers are nearly nine inches deep, the other all just under five inches deep. The bureau is painted – at this time a mild beige, though I’m thinking bright watermelon red or fire engine red or a very subtle, earthy gray…or black chalkboard paint, that would allow me to make pictures in colored chalks to suit my mood or to  welcome guests or to write the menu or just notes to myself (note the enthusiasm, in the midst of this horror story!) – but the drawers are simply stained. Two drawers have chipped corners; one has a slight water stain in the bottom. Otherwise it is flawless, though huge.

This piece, of course, belongs in the kitchen. Where every salt cellar, cloth napkin and emergency candle will have a home. Where dog food and dog toys can be out of sight but easily accessible. Where crayons and art supplies can wait for my grand-children to visit. Where puzzles and games can be easily found when company comes. Where baskets for correspondence and baskets for bills can be pulled out, dealt with, and tucked back away. Where every single day I will rejoice at having so much drawer-space.

In order to fit it in my small kitchen, however, I have to dismantle my little square, tile topped table and, for now, store it in the attic. I will have to move out two lower cabinets, the counter-top,  two rows of bookshelves that hang above them and two framed photographs and a clock hanging on the wall. Which involves finding – on short notice – new locations for everything that is now housed inside the cabinets (mixing bowls, food processor, measuring cups, colanders…),on the counter-top (at this time, 16 various-sized glass jars with flours, grains and dried beans in them, a cookie jar filled with dog biscuits, a cast-iron piggy bank and a framed photo of my grand-daughter)and on the shelves.

My mind races. Do I re-think the Living Room, now, in order to pull one of those bookshelves out and put in into the kitchen to hold the books and canisters? Should I make this just slightly more complicated than it already is and take this time to re-locate one cabinet and the refrigerator? And how about the new flooring, as long as I’ve got everything torn up?

This may be one of the dumbest things I’ve ever done…or one of the smartest. I’ll let you know.