Cooking with Ignorance, Incompetence, and a Little T&A

Saturday morning, while seeking a recipe for salt-free scrambled eggs, I found myself caught in the eternal autoplay loop of YouTube, over which I had no control whatsoever. To my knowledge it may be playing still. I’ll check later.

(Yes, I know there’s a cancel button, but for reasons that shall soon be made clear, I was not in full possession of my faculties to hit said cancel button.)

Here’s an interesting fact I learned last Saturday: There are many, many cooking videos on YouTube, most done by people with absolutely no idea how to cook.

Now please don’t get me wrong; it is not my intent to shame them. I mean, hey, if they’re willing to make a video for all to see, more power to them. Were I not so camera shy, I might join them. But for now at least, I’ll leave them to it.

Dr. Sylvia something-or-other shall not be challenged by me.

This was the first video I watched, and I must say, I was intrigued. For Dr. Sylvia — just what she’s doctor of, I know not — claimed she would show me how to make zero salt, zero fat, and zero calorie eggs. Sounds tricky, right? Especially as I’m fairly certain eggs contain calories. But the beauty of Dr. Sylvia’s video is that she doesn’t give a damn.

The first thing Dr. Sylvia tells us to do is to melt butter in the pan. As in actual butter.

After that’s good and melted, she instructs us to add two thick slices of cheese.

Zero calorie eggs

There were other things she added, but I think at this point I blacked out.

You know how it is when you’re reading an essay on grammar and the first sentence has a grammatical error? You keep staring at it and staring at it until you’re weeping softly and questioning your will to live?

Before I knew it, autoplay brought me to Geoff from Canada. I had high hopes for Geoff. First of all, his name is Geoff. And second, he’s from Vancouver.

I mean, if you can’t trust a man from Vancouver, who can you trust?

On the other hand, one would think if you’re making a cooking video, you might tidy up your kitchen a bit. Or at least tuck in your shirt?


But maybe that’s just me. In any case, my faith in Geoff did not falter. I was certain he would lead me to scrambled egg nirvana.

Then he dropped the bombshell: “I feel I should warn you I haven’t made scrambled eggs for several years.”

What the hell?

Again, maybe it’s just me, but If you haven’t made scrambled eggs for several years, shouldn’t you practice a few times before hitting the record button? Seems reasonable.

Nevertheless, if my YouTube selections are any indication, practice rounds are not the norm. I saw more burned eggs and fishing eggshells out of bowls than any one woman should have to see.

After awhile, YouTube sensed my interest in scrambled eggs was waning and led me to other breakfast options. It was here that I was treated to the culinary skills of one Alexis Ren.

Do you know who Alexis Ren is? Neither did I.

Turns out she is what is known as an “internet celebrity.” She has 11.8 million followers on Instagram and 393,000 subscribers on YouTube.

(Just between you and me, she didn’t get these followers based on her culinary skills.)

First thing Alexis does is get a mixing bowl out of the cupboard. 

Again, this seems pretty basic. If you’re making a cooking video, shouldn’t you have the items you need in front of you? I mean, my gosh, even slovenly Geoff from Vancouver managed that!

Ah, but had Alexis Ren gotten the bowl out of the cupboard ahead of time, we would have missed this:

Alexis Ren makes pancakes!

And now we know why she has 11.8 million followers on Instagram.

(Her pancakes looked positively awful, by the way. But I got the feeling no one cared.)

Her video brought to mind another one I saw about a year ago. A couple of young, very fit looking women were making butternut squash soup in their Vitamix. Or at least I think it was butternut squash soup. Honestly, I’m not real sure because… well, the fact is they were wearing bikinis. They call themselves Blender Babes.

You know, it’s an interesting thing. I like men. Always have. Yet even for me, boring ol’ hereo that I am, sitting there watching those bikini-clad chicks? I could have cared less what they were putting in that damn blender.

All this leads me to believe that what my blog has been lacking is a little T&A.

Now the T, well, I can’t do anything about that. I’m of the mind you deal with what you were given and I wasn’t given much. But the A — ah, the A, my friends! I’ll have you know that in my younger days, I heard comments about my A fairly often. Mostly from construction workers who felt moved to inform me that it was a “fine piece” of A.

I have been led to believe that among a certain class of male individuals, this is considered a compliment. No doubt it is the sort of compliment to which Alexis Ren and the Blender Babes aspire, and I dearly hope they find happiness in their quest.

As for me, if I should cast off my camera-shy tendencies and seek “internet celebrity” status, is my A “fine” enough for cooking videos?

Alas, I fear two children, time, and an ardent love of pie have taken their toll.

Shame, that.

But I long to help others who seek YouTube glory. Therefore, I’m thinking of sending a few tips to Geoff in Vancouver: Tidy the kitchen and ditch the shirt. 

That should help him out big time, don’t you think?

Bet My Kitchen Floor is Cleaner Than Your Kitchen Floor

Mine’s so clean you can eat off it!
But please, don’t eat off it, okay? I just mopped. (Use a table why don’t you?)

The other day a coworker and I were discussing kitchen floors, as you do, and I told her something I’ve never told anyone before. That being, my method for cleaning said kitchen floor:

  • As I move out chairs and sweep the floor in preparation for mopping, water is boiled. Actually boiled (five minutes in microwave)
  • Big heavy duty gloves are donned (as though I’m refinishing furniture)
  • I grab my special microfiber cloth (Professional quality for everyday cleaning!)
  • I take in hand a spray bottle of cleaning solution (scented with lemongrass and ginger)
  • Hands and knees, people, hands and knees! (Better to get all the corners)
  • Finally, although my kitchen is small, I change the water midway through (Because who cleans their floor with dirty water? Not this gal!)

The entire operation takes slightly more than 10 minutes. I know this because of my five minute boiling sessions, you see?

The reason I’ve kept my method quiet for so long is that I knew it was a bit neurotic. Bordering on nutzo. But here’s the thing: this coworker of mine, this coworker whom I love, she looked at me with admiration. I believe she took notes.

She even agreed with me when I told her my theory. That being, if my husband were to mop the floor and see the dirty water that resulteth, he would think to himself, “Huh. Guess the floor was dirty. Good thing I cleaned it.”

While as I look at the dirty water and think, “Oh gawwwd! How did I let the floor get so dirty?! I’m a terrible housekeeper! *sob*

I’ve given some thought as to what causes this difference between the sexes and I think I know the answer: I blame the commercials.

There are certain ads from my childhood I can visualize perfectly. There’s the mom standing in her kitchen. A young boy races in, the family dog bounds in behind him, the muddy prints on the floor.

Mom shakes her head with a slight scowl on her face. In a flash the mop is out — because what else would she be doing with her life? — and in one swoosh the floor sparkles. Literally.

The mom smiles, joy fills her heart.

Or how about that Pinesol commercial where the young mom is worried what the neighbors will think if her house isn’t clean enough?

The message being: Your neighbors and friends will judge you. The women you have lunch with, the mothers of your children’s playmates, they see your filth and they judge.

I saw commercials like this over and over again.

Speaking of Pinesol, does anyone else remember the commercial where the Pinesol lady (or was it Lysol?) enters a home saying, “This house looks clean, but it doesn’t smell clean!”

What kind of woman goes into another woman’s house and says that? Why was she not stabbed in the first commercial? Her bloodied corpse carefully bagged and disposed of in the woods… the floor cleaned until it sparkled… the woman of the house smiling.


That was the highlight of every cleaning commercial — the payoff. It came at the end when the woman stood in her now glimmering  kitchen or bath, her hand stroking the shiny surface, the look on her face — ah yes, the look. No orgasm can produce that look, my friends. This was all joy and peace and everlasting fulfillment. “My floor is clean,” the look said. “My life is complete.”

This is what was being sold to us and we bought it. Well, most of us bought it. Some missed the memo.

My daughter, for instance. Daughter missed the memo.

It’s probably my fault; I believe I misplaced her memo. Probably when I limited her daytime television viewing to one half-hour noncommercial show.

In spite of this, somehow, life goes on. Her place is a mess, but somehow life goes on.

But for those of you who share my cleaning neuroses, I want to leave you with three thoughts:

One: While a clean home is nice, it is not a measure of who you are. You are more than your kitchen floor. Remember that.

Two: When you meet a woman with a messy house or apartment, don’t judge. You don’t know her story, you don’t know her abilities, you don’t know her priorities. Contrary to what you may have heard, cleanliness is NOT next to godliness. Especially if it makes you smug.

Three: There are downsides to neurotic cleaning. For one, it limits your time for more creative pursuits. For another… well, I’ll let Carol Burnett explain:

A Letter Home to Norway, circa 1848

I was sorting through a cabinet I don’t normally sort (or look at for that matter), when I came across something I didn’t know I had. It’s a copy of the book, “Pioneer Memoirs and Stories of the Jacobson Immigration and Pioneer Life.”

You say you never heard of it? Well, that’s probably because it was something my family in South Dakota put together and published themselves. Using a copier, I think.

I leafed through the book and I must say, after the Norwegians totally crushed it at the Winter Olympics, leaving everyone wondering, “but whyyyy?!” and most people crediting their wealth, healthy lungs, and the fact their babies are born wearing skis, I found this publication interesting. It’s the story of my dad’s side of the family, how his great-grandparents left Norway to make a better life for themselves in “Amerika.” It even includes a picture of their place in Norway (please pardon the poor quality):

Norway homeSafe to say my family was not a wealthy one, but who knows? Had they stuck it out in Norway, maybe our lot would have improved and years later I would storm the winter Olympics and cross-countried my way to a gold medal or two.

I mean, that mountain right behind the shack? Looks like mighty fine training ground, don’t you think?

In any case, included in this “Pioneer Memoirs” is a letter my great-great-grandfather wrote to his family back home. A footnote says the original was typed out by someone in Norway, who sent it back to family in America and in 1974, my dad’s aunt Charlotte (aunt Lottie) translated it to English.

There are several items to make note of: 1) his listing of prices and wages show a clear head for business, 2) the gender wage gap; ah yes, we’ve come so far, but we’ve still a ways to go, 3) the formal way he addresses his family (no nicknames for this bunch) and, 4) as much as he praises “Amerika” he clearly misses his family very much.

Muskego in Wisconsin
the 27th August 1848

Dear father,

The 29th of May we left Norway; five weeks and three days over the ocean to New York and from there to Milwaukee two weeks. I went to Hans Thorgrimson Thveden who is doing well and is in good health. We were all well and healthy during the entire trip, both on the ocean and on the inland sea (Great Lakes).

I am sure I will never regret having made the trip here as we have not talked to anyone who has such regrets. We are all happy that we came. Here there is no lack of provisions for living, and there are good wages for both men and women. A man can earn one or two dollars a day, a girl five to six dollars a month. Pay for a man is from 17 to 25 dollars a month. A blacksmith like Niels Jermunsen Egerude could earn 30 or 40 dollars a month.

Living is cheaper than in Norway. A bushel of wheat costs 2 to 2½ dollars, rye 1 dollar a bushel, a pound of butter 1 dollar, and a pound of pork ½ dollar. A cow costs 14 or 15 dollars and usually a calf comes with it. I believe that if my brother Halvor Abrahamsen Krokanne could come over you could live better than you do in Norway.

My wife Gro Jermunsdatter is well, and we are happy that we have come over here. If my brothers could come they would live better than in Norway. Jakob Thorgrimson Biorktuft and your brother Niels would I think live much better here than they do in Norway and their brother Ole Thorgrimson also. There are good wages for tailors. A suit costs 3 dollars and so on for all tailoring.

I see that I have praised Amerika too much. I suppose things are about as usual in Norway. To Jermun Torjusen Stens… try to come to Amerika rather than to stay in Norway. Here there are good wages and living is cheaper. I ask that you will be so kind as to greet my brother Thomas Abrahamsen. Tell him that I am well, and happy that I came to Amerika. I wouldn’t wish myself back in Norway even if I could get the Norder Hadeland gaard (farm). I am sure I will live better in Amerika without a farm than I would in Norway with one of the largest farms. The 6 dollars I lent Mattis Helleksen Krokan at Milan I have been repaid by Kittil Thorsen.

I close my letter this time with warm greetings to you my old father and mother, to brothers, friends, relatives and all acquaintances. Also from my wife Gro warm greetings to everyone.

Jakob Abrahamsen Stenbøle

Jakob was 37 years old when he came to Amerika, his wife Gro (Lord, how I love that name) was 46, his oldest son, Abraham (Dad’s grandfather), was 12. After a short stint in Wisconsin, they settled on a farm near Decorah, Iowa. A good sized farm, larger than he could have gotten in Norway according to “Pioneer Memoirs.”

Decorah farm
I don’t know who took the photo, but I’m awfully glad they included the horses.

So although my Olympic chances were shot all to hell when they got on the boat, it looks like my family did okay coming to Amerika.

And let’s see, it’s now 3:00 pm on this 28th day of February and my outside temperature is… 65°F.

Current temperature in Oslo: 9°.

Great-Great-Grandpa: you win this round. No regrets.

A Belated Birthday Celebration Involving Second-Hand Clothes, a Stoned Clerk Named Ryan, and Several Doggies

Celebrating your birthday after the fact can be glorious for the simple fact that it usually involves mother’s guilt. And mother’s guilt is a powerful force to behold.

So it was that after my week-long convalescence – a week where no celebration, nay, no smiles, were deemed possible – Daughter was treated to a Belated Birthday Celebration which included a trip to our favorite consignment shop, stopping at our favorite coffee/sandwich shop where our clerk may or may not have been stoned, eating lunch with five pooches, one of whom wore a tutu, and arriving back home at that perfect moment when you know — when there is no doubt — that magic is real.

The day was a beautiful one. Before we left, Daughter held up two CDs for review. She always lets me choose our travel music. I’ve yet to come across a CD of hers I don’t like, as her music leans toward alternative and quirky, and that suits me. I point at one: “Tallahassee” by The Mountain Goats.

“Good choice,” she says. Three songs later, we’re at the consignment shop, A Second Look.

I love this place. Just about everything you can think of is at this store: clothing, jewelry, housewares, home furnishings, electronics… I once bought a pink-checkered chicken at this place. I didn’t know I needed a pink-checkered chicken until I found it there. That’s how great this store is.

Pink checkered chicken

Another great thing: the longer items are there, the deeper their discount. Big signs throughout the store give you the day’s sale:

Items Dated before 1/28: 25% off
Items Dated before 1/4: 50% off
Items Dated before 12/21: 75% off

Sometimes you get lucky and find several “must-haves” at a deep discount. Other times you find squat. But it’s the thrill of the hunt, that what matters. That’s why you go.

For this trip, Daughter only found one item she could not live without, but oh what a find: a metallic snakeskin print scarf!

As for me, I found two cropped pants that fit me perfectly, even though they were mislabeled as “6” when I’m clearly still a “4” (*yesIamsoshutup*). I also found two lovely comfy shirts, perfect for lounging around the house in the evening sans bra. You can never have too many of those.

Our purchases competed, it was time for lunch. Fortunately we didn’t have far to go, because our favorite lunch spot is right in front of A Second Look. It’s called 32nd Shea, because it’s on the corner of 32nd Street & Shea. Clever, right?

And get this: it’s in a remodeled Fotomat. Remember those old drive-thru spots where they’d develop your pictures? That’s where this place is.

32nd Shea

You place your order at the register, a huge chalkboard above displays the menu. Ryan takes our order. He’s leaning on the counter at an angle, typing everything we say onto the screen. With each item he says, “You got it.”

“We’re gonna split the Veggie-Tarian sandwich.”
“You got it.”
Daughter adds, “I’ll have a tall iced coffee with rosemary syrup honey.”
“You got it.”
I say, “And I’ll have a large tropical iced green tea.”
“You got it. Do you want soup or chips with the sandwich?”
“Um…” We look at each other, Daughter shrugs, I say, “Chips.”
“You got it. Do you wanna eat outside or in?”
“You got it. Remind me of your name again?”
“Christi. You got it.”

We find a table on the patio and take our seats. Daughter comments on Ryan. “I love him,” she says. “He was so tired he could barely stand up straight.”

“I thought he was stoned,” I say.

“Even better,” she decides. “And I love how he says, ‘remind me of your name.’ I bet he says that to every customer. Remind me of your name? We’ve never met, good sir!”

She decides to write a short skit for her play-writing class featuring Ryan, the stoned sandwich shop clerk. As she makes notes on her phone, I survey the other customers on the patio. It’s a full house, people and pooches alike.

Forgot to mention: 32nd Shea is dog-friendly.

We dined with no less than five pooches: a German Shepherd behind me, a Golden Retriever to my left, a Mixed Breed with a worried expression, a Shih Tzu in a Tutu, and on my right was one of those dogs with the long ass name. The King Charles Cavalier Bowling on the Green Spaniel (or something like that).

Behind Daughter, the group with Worried Mutt was involved in some sort of project. They took up two tables: a tall long table where they sat, as well as a short round one where they piled all their magazines. For they had heaps and heaps of magazines.

Patio at 32nd Shea

There were about four or five women at the long table. Really I’m not sure how many because people were wandering to and fro with abandon. In amongst their cups of coffee and lunch orders were glue sticks, poster board, construction paper, and other arts and crafts paraphernalia. I’ve no idea what they were doing, but it seemed to be causing great stress for their Worried Mutt.

Do you suppose they were doing it wrong? Or maybe they were going about it too slowly, and Worried Mutt feared they’d be late for their afternoon crochet lesson? Honestly, it was so hard to tell, and sadly, I did not get a chance to interview the dog and find out.

And while it could have been my imagination, the Golden Retriever seemed concerned on Worried Mutt’s behalf too. Though that’s just the way of Goldens. They are a caring breed, taking the whole world on their shoulders, trying so hard to alleviate our burden. I happen to know our current political divisions trouble Goldens excessively. They are doing all they can to help, wagging their tails so energetically, but look deep into their caring eyes and you’ll see. They are troubled.

One breed you will never find troubled, not one iota troubled, is the King Charles of Upper Bucklebury and Bob’s Your Uncle Spaniel. I swear, the pooch who was dining on my right could barely make the effort to raise his head, much less worry over our sad political state. And why should he? His companion, a woman who exuded wealth from every pore, kept him on her lap the entire time and only stopped patting him long enough to offer him a morsel from her BLT. I’m telling ya, that dog’s got it good.

Meanwhile, the Shih Tzu in the Tutu made its way through the lunch crowd, visiting table after table, acting with great certainty that all would be charmed by their presence. For indeed, we were.

Its person, an older woman wearing a fanny pack (Daughter says all owners of Shih Tzus are old; it’s like a law) referred to the dog in the third person: “Do we want to say hello to the people? Let’s say hello!”

So they did. They said hello.

Dog wearing tutu

I said hello back. It was the polite thing to do.

The only one who seemed displeased by the Shih Tzu in the Tutu was the German Shepherd. It was… how shall I put it?… it was as though he considered it a personal affront that there should even be a Shih Tzu in a Tutu. He maintained his dignity, of course. Was careful not to show the slightest amount of agitation. But even so. You could tell.

Our sandwich was wonderful, by the way, as were the drinks. We lingered as long as we could. Honestly, I was hoping an unveiling of the arts and crafts project was imminent, but alas, it was not to be. On our way home we made two stops, one to pick up the necessary ingredients for strawberry shortcake, and the other to pick up dry cleaning (hey, it was just one block over, okay?).

And now we come to the most special event of the day — in point of fact, it is the entire purpose of my writing — when we pulled into the driveway and I shut off the car.

You know how it is when the song you’re listening to ends at the exact moment your ride is over? You put the car in park and… duuummmm… the song ends? It feels like you’ve attained perfection. As though everything came into place and magic is in the air. Well, that’s the way it was for us, only it was the last note of the last song on the whole CD!

Total MAGIC!

It exists people, it really exists! All you have to do is look around and view the world with fresh eyes.

And maybe look into the eyes of a Golden Retriever while you’re at it. Lord knows it can’t hurt.

Screen Shot 2018-02-20 at 3.25.34 PM.pngNote: No Goldens were troubled in the making of this blog post.

Timeline of a Near Fatal Illness, AKA Bronchitis, *CoughCough*

Note: Every other blogger might be blogging about Love and Valentine’s Day and chocolates and warm and fuzzy and smootchy stuff like that there. I’m not, cause I’m sick. Your pity is appreciated.

Day One – Friday

Unlike most weekends, I actually have plans for this one. Saturday morning is the VNSA book sale. All year this charitable organization receives donations of used books, cds, movies – scads of stuff – enough to fill to abundance the exhibit building at the Arizona Fairgrounds. It’s every bit as much fun as you can imagine.


Also happening, Husband returns home from a five-day visit with his family.

Friday afternoon, approximately 12:27 pm, Mountain Standard Time, I cough.

It is the first of many coughs.

Day Two – Saturday

My sleep was fitful, full of strange dreams involving angry people, lost pets, and Gene Wilder on the beach with a metal detector. In the morning I take my temperature: 100.4.

I stare at it. The thermometer is an old one. Have we ever changed the batteries? Damn thing is broken.

I think all this while coughing.

This is a terrible time to be sick. Which begs the question, is there a good time to be sick?

“Oh, I see I’ve nothing planned for the second week of June. Say Universe, how ‘bout we reschedule for then, yeah?”

I do not go to the book sale. I go back to bed, wake up at 4:30 pm, Husband is home.

“You don’t look good,” he says.

“Nice to see you, too,” I say.

Day Three – Sunday

Morning temp: 101.2.

Husband says we have a transportation issue, so it works out well I’m sick and won’t need the car.

So glad this is working out for everyone.

Why is there illness in the world? Why is there suffering? I should write about this. A deep, profound piece. People will be enthralled. I’ll bring comfort to millions

Reminds me of a Bible class we had a few years back, the woman leading it looked like she walked off the pages of a Coldwater Creek catalog. There was a visitor to our church, a Southern Baptist from Georgia. She was an old college friend of one of our members.

We were studying the book of Job, and I said how I had a class on it (it was a month-long course at a Lutheran school). The professor said if you take the first part of Job and the last part and put them together, you’ll notice they’re the same style and sound like a parable. Most scholars believe that’s what it was, a story people told about being faithful in bad times and God rewarding them because of it. But something about it must have bothered the writer of Job, so he split it into two parts and added his poetry in the middle, with Job’s friends voicing the conventional “wisdom” and Job questioning it, pointing out flaws in their arguments. And isn’t it great, I added, that we have something like this in the Bible? It’s like saying, hey, it’s okay to have doubts. It’s okay to get angry and question things. God can take it.

The woman from Georgia… well, you would have thought I had horns sprouting from my head. “What the Bible says is exactly what it means and if it says there was a man named Job, then that’s good enough for me! Everything happened just as it says! I don’t know what you teach around here, but at MY church, we speak the truth!”

After the class was over, I heard her ask her friend, “Who is that woman?”

“Oh her? She’s our minister’s wife.”

Am I rambling? I feel like I’m rambling.

Day Four – Monday

Morning temp: 101.5

The earliest the doctor can see me is 1:15. I soldier on, brave in the face of this treacherous, vile malady. Patiently awaiting my time, hoping hospitalization does not prove necessary.

He’s new to the practice: a Dr. Berkowitz, a lean man with salt-and-pepper hair.

Isn’t that always the case? When you look your worst, you get the best looking doctor?

He gives my scourge a name: Bronchitis.

How terribly common. I was hoping for something with a little more heft. Scarlet fever, perhaps. Malaria. Bubonic plague.

On the office wall is a drawing of the respiratory system. A picture of healthy bronchial tubes and ones like mine.

Bronchial tubes

How lovely.

He writes a prescription for antibiotics, Husband drives me to Costco. I must look worse than I thought. As the woman at the pharmacy counter writes down my information, she looks at me and says, “I’ll put urgent on this.”

Dear me.

Day Five – Tuesday

Morning temp: 99.6

Daughter’s birthday. You know your kids are getting older when one of the items they request is bedsheets. We also gave her good quality markers for her drawings, and a small voice recorder for when she’s working over something she’s writing while pacing outside (a common occurrence at our house). She loves the recorder and plans on calling it Diane. (Daughter is a Twin Peaks fan.)

We have no cake for her, no plans on going out, no special meal. What sort of mother gets sick on her daughter’s birthday? A terrible one.

Due to incessant coughing, my stomach now feels like I’ve done several hundred sit-ups. Wouldn’t be so bad if I actually got a flat tummy out of it. Not likely, as the only thing that sounds good right now is pancakes. As I eat my so-so pancakes, I listen to the latest podcast from This American Life.

Bad move. It’s on Real-life Rom-Coms. I’m not what you’d call an overly sentimental gal, but… well, give me a fever and tell me a story of a guy screaming into his cell-phone, “ILOVEYOUILOVEYOUILOVEYOU” and running like a madman down Ludlow Street in New York?… soon I’m a blubbering idiot, sobbing away, teardrops falling into the maple syrup.

Day Six – Wednesday

Morning temp: 99.0

Valentine’s Day.

Aw, crap. Not only am I sick on Valentine’s Day (albeit improving), I wrote a post about being sick on Valentine’s Day. Probably looking like crap while I did it.

What kind of blogger posts about her illness on Valentine’s Day?

A sick one.


Tell ya what, do you want something lovey dovey sweet to listen to? Try this American Life podcast.

Only don’t do it while eating pancakes.


Laptops, Ads, & Being Controlled by Two Dudes With a Podcast

I didn’t post last Wednesday. Did you notice?

Okay, tell the truth. Do you even know I post on Wednesdays?

Yeah. That’s what I thought.

Well, I do. Usually. This time I didn’t on account of computer problems. Don’t get me wrong, I have access to working computers.

My problems were… okay, here’s the thing: We have two desktops in our home office. They’re old, but they work. The problem is our home office. It’s a mess. And the thing is, it’s not my mess. If I clean it, I hear things like, “Hey! Where’s that vitally important document I need?! It’s supposed to be right here in this pile of dirty dishes!”

Which brings me to my next problem: they eat while they’re on the computers. Sometimes the mouse is sticky.

I don’t do sticky.

So our desktops are out, but I could have used a laptop. Every member of the family (except me) owns one. I’m certain that had I asked someone would have loaned me theirs, but I never asked. To me, laptops and cellphones are personal items. I’m not comfortable borrowing one.

Plus, you know, sticky.

And while I know I can post from my cell phone, and have done so, I’d just as soon not. That leaves my work laptop and up until this last week, it served me fine.

But then it happened, my friends. Darkness descended upon the workplace. Terror seized our hearts. It was IT!

The social misfits also known as “tech support” arrived on campus. They seized our MacBooks, threatened to erase all files if we didn’t upload them to the mysterious “cloud.” And then… and then… They re-imaged every one of them!

What did this mean, this re-imaging? None of us knew. Not truly.

What I do know is that when my laptop was returned and I logged on to my work email, this was the message it gave me:

You are signing in with a managed account and giving its administrator control over your google Chrome profile. Your Chrome data, such as your apps, bookmarks, history, passwords, and other settings will become permanently tied to (my work email address). You will be able to delete this data via the Google Accounts Dashboard, but you will not be able to associate this data with another account.

It was the “managed” and “control” parts that made me uneasy. I felt like I worked for the government!

Oh wait… I do.

It wasn’t that I had anything to hide, and I rather doubt our district office is too concerned about a secretary blogging from her home. Writing about a trip to Target, going to the theater, or showing pictures of her cat.


Even if her cat is better than their cat.

And yet: “a managed account” … “administrator control” …

I’d been saving up for a laptop. This seemed like a good excuse to buy one. Trouble was, I had my eyes on this baby:


Was it what I needed? It was way more than I needed. It was also waaaaay more than I wanted to spend.

But just look at it! Ain’t it gorgeous?!

As I was discussing my computer woes with Husband, Daughter walked into the room. “You mean the family member who knows the least about technology is talking about technology?”

(Daughter has a snarky side. I have no idea where she gets it.)

She added,  “All Mom needs is a laptop that’s pretty and has a nice keyboard.”

I should have been insulted. But, um, yeah. She gets me.

After a lot of searching, Husband found a laptop in my price range at Costco. It had a full-sized keyboard and… oh! It comes in blue!

I ordered it online and had it within two days. For the more tech-savvy among you, I’ll include the specs:

Not gold trimmed like the other, but for almost 1,000 bucks less? I’ll take it.

You may have noticed that both laptops are HPs. There’s a reason for that. Apparently, I’m a sucker for ads made by dudes with a podcast.

The podcast to which I refer is Reply All, with hosts PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman. It’s funny, it’s informative, it’s highly entertaining. It also has one or two ads placed midway through, also done by PJ and Alex, also funny and informative. You find yourself listening just to hear what goofy things they’re going to say.

I first started listening to Reply All about a year or so ago, and I spent a lot of time listening to past episodes as I refinished our kitchen cabinets. Meaning I listened to a lot of ads about HP products, over and over again. All while inhaling toxic fumes. And when the time came to buy a laptop, HP was the only brand I wanted.

This is difficult for me to admit, I want you to know that. I’ve always thought of myself as someone who’s impervious to advertising. I’m far too smart to be snookered into buying something I don’t want or need. And from what I hear, most everyone thinks they’re immune to ads.

(Kinda makes you wonder why they bother spending so much money on them, doesn’t it?)

To some extent we are immune to ads, at least the first time we’re exposed to them. It’s seeing them repeatedly over a period of time that makes them stick. Especially when they’re for products we know little about, or feel intimidated buying. Or when the ads use people we know, or at least feel like we know. We trust them. We trust what they tell us. And we do it without thinking.

Or at least, most of the time we do it without thinking. This time, I thought about it.

When Husband was doing his laptop search, he showed me many different brands – Asus, Dell, Lenovo. All ones he owned at one time or another, all ones he liked.

“But aren’t HPs better?”

He shrugged. “Depends on what you want. Why are you so stuck on HP?”


I couldn’t exactly tell him it was on account of these two guys:

PJ and Alex
PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman, hosts of Reply All and HP pushers.

Admitting you can be manipulated by ads is a hard pill to swallow. A bit of an ego buster. But no worries, I can rationalize it! The ads I heard were smart, informative and amusing. The ads did not, repeat, did NOT prey upon my emotions or feelings of inadequacy in any way. No way, no how. I am soooo above that sort of thing.

Or am I?

It’s my work laptop that is being managed and controlled. Not me.


The lesson I want to leave with you is this: Stay aware! Know what ads are selling and how they are influencing you. You are not immune to them, any more than I am. (Otherwise, why would it be a 70 billion dollar industry?)

Oh, and one more thing: After a full week of using this laptop, I can report that it is all I hoped for, needed, and is super sweeeet!

That’s the main thing. The fact that HP owners are smarter than everyone else? That’s just bonus.

To My Recent Subscriber, Alex: Your Comments Have Been Noted

For those of us residing in WordPress Land, an exciting new development has been afoot. That being, the sudden increase in email followers subscribing to our sites, all using highly suspicious addresses. Addresses such as, or, whyisitsodifficulttowriteacoherentemail@outlook, etc.

The discussion on said topic has been riveting.

Full disclosure: I myself was pleased when I first received the email notifications and found nothing to be concerned about. I figured I’d finally found my tribe and was proving quite popular among Microsoft users who choose highly complicated email addresses.

It’s a narrow audience to be sure, but an audience nonetheless.

Then Ray over at Mitigating Chaos wrote about his outlook followers and I thought, alas, they’re not that into me.

Back of woman with head down

But then… but then folks, one of these mysterious Outlookers took the time to comment on my last post, the one on money. Not once, not twice, but THREE times!

Here’s the first comment my new friend Alex felt compelled to share:

I am now not certain where you are getting your info, but great topic. I must spend a while finding out much more or figuring out more. Thanks for great information I used to be in search of this information for my mission.

You’ll see that he opened with a bit of constructive criticism, pointing out that the source of my info was not clear. I found this odd as my very first sentence begins: “I was at Costco…” so, you know, Costco. But then I realized I didn’t give the address of Costco.

So there you go. Helpful.

Also, did you notice how Alex has a mission? I ask you, how many of you have a mission? Hmm?

I have to confess I did not respond to Alex’s comment in a timely manner, beings how the email was labeled “Please moderate” and it was the weekend. (The Feeding on Folly Comment Moderation Committee meets on Tuesdays.)

Did this stop Alex from commenting again? No! Using a different (though just as baffling) email address, three hours later, unable to contain himself, Alex wrote:

Wow, amazing blog structure! How lengthy have you been blogging for? you made blogging glance easy. The whole glance of your site is magnificent, let alone the content material!

My heart soared. His admiration for my blog, yea, the very glance of my blog, cannot be denied.

That’s when it occurred to me. This is what I’ve been lacking!

Tell me, faithful readers, those of you who have been following this blog and reading my posts and commenting here and there and — dare I say it? — beginning to take Feeding on Folly for granted? Tell me this: When have you ever commented on my structure? Or ever once thought to ask how lengthy I’ve been blogging for?

Honestly. I’m beginning to wonder if you care.

And as I mused on your neglectful ways, Alex commented again! From yet another Outlook email!

You actually make it appear so easy with your presentation however I find this matter to be actually something that I feel I might never understand. It sort of feels too complex and extremely vast for me. I’m having a look forward for your subsequent post, I will attempt to get the grasp of it!

Oh dear! Alex is confused! My post on money was too complex and he’s expecting me to write more on the subject. Poor Alex!

To rectify this situation, until the Moderation Committee convenes (last I heard Francine wasn’t sure she’d make it and she was in charge of bringing the donuts), I decided to showcase Alex’s comments and address him directly.

ALEX: What follows is a simplified explanation of my previous post.

Save More, Spend Less

I truly hope that takes care of things for you, my dearest Alex.

But what’s this?! Another comment has landed in our moderation queue, this time from Yvette:

I simply couldn’t go away your web site before suggesting that I extremely enjoyed the usual info a person supply on your visitors? Is going to be again steadily in order to inspect new posts

Oh… um… gosh. I see you’ve got a question in there, Yvette. I’d like to help you out, but I’ll need some time to figure out what it is you’re… um… asking?

Tell you what. As soon as I’m done here, I’ll start diagramming your sentences. I should have an answer for you in about a month or so.

As for the rest of you, you know what you need to do. Look over this presentation, comment on my structure, admire the glance of my blog. Show a gal a little support now and then, okay?

Also, write yourself up a mission. You could use one.


FYI to Fellow Bloggers: From one of  our WordPress “Happiness Engineers” regarding these strange followers (taken from the forum linked at the top):

There is no way these spam followers can put your site, your content, or your private account data in any danger. (…) You can remove the spam followers under My Site ->People, but that won’t prevent new follows from coming in. You might also consider temporarily disabling email notifications of new followers in your account settings until we manage to get these blocked. (…) Please don’t email these addresses back – another potential reason for this is that someone is fishing for emails which they can then use to try and spam directly, and emailing them back will only provide them with your personal email address – something they cannot get hold of by merely following your site.

Cash, Credit, or… Does Anyone Still Write Checks?

The other day I was in Costco buying dog food.

Heck of a deal, 24 cans for $19.99. That’s less than a dollar a can — 83¢ to be exact — for good quality dog food. This is smart shopping in action, folks.

Since it was just the one item, I didn’t bother with a cart. Lines move fast at Costco.

Or at least, they usually move fast. When you’re holding a case of dog food, a case growing heavier by the second, it slows to a grinding halt.

I look ahead to see what the issue is: a woman writing a check. (Seriously? Who writes checks anymore?!)

I stare at her in disbelief. Surprised Costco even takes the things. (Several places don’t.) Also, I’m willing to bet the woman’s handwriting is immaculate. She takes such inordinate care with it.

I shift the now 300-pound crate in my arms. Finally she’s done. Her check noted in her register and the subtraction completed (good Lord!). The woman ahead of me checks out quickly. She uses her debit card. Zip, zip, she’s done.

My turn.

The clerk thanks me for my patience. I ask her how often she gets checks.

“Not often. Maybe two or three a month.”

She scans the case, tells me the total. I hand her a couple bills. “Oh, I might have change.”

She waits as I search for coins.

Only later did it occur to me how I slowed down the line nearly as much as the check woman.

It was about 17 years ago, almost to the day, that Husband and I switched to using cash for almost all of our daily transactions. We had recently moved to Phoenix, a local radio station played the Dave Ramsey show — maybe you’ve heard of it? — we decided to give his envelope system a try and was surprised how well it worked for us. We’ve been doing it ever since.


However — lest you fear this is turning into a Dave Ramsey infomercial — I’m not saying it’s for everyone or even that it’s the smartest way to handle your money. I’ve heard many with different opinions.

Ryan, my cashier at Target, said he never uses cash. Not even for a candy bar. He said this after I declined his offer for a Target Red Card (5% off all purchases!).

“I never have to worry about cash getting stolen, ya know?” he said, as he took my money. “If you don’t carry it, they can’t take it.”

I could have pointed out that if someone takes my cash, they only have my cash. If someone takes his credit or debit card, theoretically, they could empty his account or at least make his life hellish for a little while.

Even so, Ryan the Target Cashier is not the only advocate for a cash-free society. There are many saying we’re headed there, it’s only a matter of time. Some countries, most notably Sweden, are nearly cashless now. Safety is the biggest advantage cited, as well as convenience and, yes, speed. But not everyone is convinced it’s the way to go, and since Americans do love their privacy, it’s unlikely I’ll have to switch to digital currency terribly soon.

Though there is that Bitcoin thing. (Does anyone understand how that works? Truly?)

The thing is, I like cash. I like putting all the bills in my wallet, in order, heads up of course. I like adding up purchases in my head as I’m shopping and taking a guess at the total before the clerk hits the button — I love it when I’m super close, like within a few cents, and am already handing the amount to the cashier.

Oh, the power of Math.

Even so, I will say that while using cash has been instrumental in helping us stick to a budget, for increasing our savings nothing has worked better than depositing everything into a savings account first, and moving only what we need for monthly expenses into a checking account. Also, money is moved automatically into a long-term savings account. All deposits and transfers done electronically, most without us doing a thing. Works like a charm.

So I understand people’s love of digital transactions. I expect they might feel a little less tied to their money, maybe a little more secure with their purchases. And if Ryan the Target Cashier thinks he does a fine job staying on budget, who am I to say otherwise? Nevertheless, for groceries and what-have-you, I’m sticking to cash only, please.

I will say this however: From here on out, I’ll knock it off with making exact change. That is my pledge to you, impatient Costco customer behind me.

Photo of billfold by Allef Vinicius on Unsplash
Featured photo my own (Yes, that’s my money)
(No, you can’t have it)

A Thank You Gift From Larry: A True Story of Honest Work, Grateful Emails, and Tea

In the festive month of December, when holiday cheer filled the air, the high school office workers chatted happily and spoke of their plans for the coming break: a flight to Chicago, another to California, still another to Oregon.

But one worker, the quiet one in the corner, what plans did she tell? Nary a one, for she was on the phone.

It was a parent, a father, seeking information on a program Quiet One knew little about.

Did that stop her from helping? Of course not. Transferring the call would return her to office chatter.

Quiet One listened. He was out of the country, he said. Frustrated, lost, bereft. No communication given. Could she help?

She made notes, spoke with student’s counselor.

What’s this? Father’s name is not in database? He is not an approved contact? Calls are made, mother is reached.

But he’s in London, mother said. Why list him?

If his name is not listed, they told her, we cannot talk to him. He remains frustrated, lost, bereft. No communication given.

His name is added.

Father is called. Quiet one explains, he is grateful. He tells her what he seeks, she sends it.

He has a hotmail account.

She tries not to judge.

Me, email 1He is appreciative.

first thank youA week goes by, it is the day before winter break. Cookies in the break room, someone says.



Quiet One opens her email.

emailShe frowns. Help a person once, help them always. That’s how it goes.

Quiet One contemplates. Respond thoroughly, she decides. Consider every angle. Anticipate every problem.

FinalHe sends his gratitude.

heart attackQuiet one is pleased. She has done well. Her work is now complete.

Another email arrives.From him , email 4Not necessary, she tells him. Just doing her job.

He insists.From him, email 5He must be joking, she thinks. He’s in London. What can he do?

She plays along. Response, email 5Quiet One turns off computer. Coworkers leave. Good wishes for a nice winter break.

Merry Christmas to one and all.

Two weeks pass. The workers return. The mail is sorted. Quiet One received a card.

A card from Larry.

She opens the envelope. Tea bags fall to the desk.

TeaHer first cup of the day, Countess Grey from Fortnum & Mason.

A twist on the traditional bergamot-infused blend, Countess Grey is based on well-twisted orange pekoe teas, lifted by classic bergamot and a light orange flavour. Its light and delicate character makes it ideal for morning or afternoon drinking, when the spirits require a little reviving.

Quiet One is revived. She emails her thanks to Larry.

He responds.Final emailTo a man in London, she is his dearest.

A job well done.

Happy New Year. ☕️