My Clever Cat Earns Her Keep

Merricat knows how to open cabinets.

She’s quite good at it. She paws at the bottom corner, careful not to scratch the finish (she’s very considerate that way). As soon as the door opens just a bit, she sticks her paw in and pulls.

It’s marvelous really, how clever she is.

But her real talent – the one I’ve yet to capture on video – is how she opens kitchen drawers.

Now I confess, for the first few weeks we lived in this house I had no idea it was the cat opening the drawers. I thought it was Husband, who for some reason – looking for a screwdriver in the utensil drawer, perhaps? – would open two or three drawers in his quest and then leave. Not closing said drawers. Every day, multiple times a day.

I meant to ask him why. “What are you looking for?” I’d say. “Shall I show you how they close?”

Then one day I walked into the room and saw Merricat in action, exonerating Husband.

You see, what she does is stand or, depending on the height, leap up and land her front paws on the upper part of the drawer. At the same time she pushes her back paws against the cabinet below, creating a momentum that – along with the smooth working mechanism of the hardware – slides the drawer open. With Merricat swinging along.

Merricat on drawer

I marvel at my cat’s ingenuity. Truly, she is a marvel.

She is also a superior bug and vermin hunter. So when she began showing an inordinate amount of interest in one particular drawer, when she continually crawled behind it and made rustling, scratching sounds, I confess, my courage failed me. While I was curious as to what was happening in the deepest bowels of my kitchen cabinets, I decided I wasn’t curious enough.

Then our belongings finally caught up with us. I was laying Contact paper on the shelves and drawers; Merricat came to help, as she so often does. When I pulled out that drawer, she leaped in, crawled behind it, and turned to me with her big green eyes.

As if to say, “Trust me. You’ll want to see this.”

Gathering up my strength – and finding my flashlight – I pulled the drawer all the way out and looked where Merricat was sitting. On top of a pile of papers.
Old newspaper clippings, note cards, appliance manuals, an opened economy sized pack of batteries, and a cassette tape of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s greatest hits.

Recipes in cabinet

The expiration date on the batteries was 2005. Most of the newspaper clippings were earlier than that.

The part that thrilled me most? All of the newspaper clippings and note cards were recipes.

The previous owner collected recipes!

We’ve learned a few things about the owner while living here. Her son told us she’d been widowed for over 40 years, raised her three children by herself, and in her last few years, in declining health, spent nearly every day in her sun room.

From the number of built-in bookshelves, we can assume she enjoyed reading. Safe to say she was a fan of show tunes, possibly theater in general. She was organized enough to keep appliance manuals, but wasn’t always able to find them.

She had a habit of losing batteries. (I can see her now: “I know I bought batteries — where on earth could they be?”)

Also, she was a school secretary. (Those of you who have been following along know that was my previous job.)

It’s kismet!

And if all that wasn’t enough, we now learn she collected recipes and put them in this drawer. The drawer Merricat found so interesting.

Thank you, Merricat. The pooping incident has been forgiven.

Merricat and Freckles

I’m sure you’re wondering what sort of recipes they are, right? After careful study and reflection, I would say they all lean heavily toward “what-should-I-bring-to-this-week’s-potluck” fare.

Which shouldn’t surprise any of us, right?

Oddly enough — or perhaps not, given your understanding of Minnesota culture — there’s a potluck at my church this Sunday.

what to bring… what to bring…

Say, how about you help me decide? There are two here that look promising.

Two recipes

One is a Canned Corn Casserole, which normally I wouldn’t find interesting but it has an option of using fresh corn instead of canned. I’m not sure if the local farmer’s market will have corn yet, but it’s possible.

The other possibility is Rocky Road Cake. To its credit, it’s a chocolate cake with marshmallows, nuts and chocolate fudge sauce. The downside is that it uses a cake mix and normally I never buy those because I’m a food snob. And yet! The recipe has this intriguing notion of using coffee rather than water when blending it. Doesn’t that sound fascinating?

(I need to get out more.)

In any case, we have these two contenders for my first Minnesota potluck. Shall I make a side dish or a dessert?

Choose your selection carefully. My future as a Minnesotan may depend upon it.

Okay, not really. But please help me out anyway. I’m terribly indecisive about these things, and for some reason Merricat is showing little interest in the whole affair.

Merricat drawer

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?

Geoff

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.

*sigh*

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: