Sunday, April 24, 2011

Is the light still on?

Do you think appliances talk to each other?

Is it possible that one might somehow communicate to another: "Hey, she's not treating us very good so let's teach her a lesson and stop working two hours before 20 people arrive for Easter brunch"?

This might explain why the vacuum cleaner wasn't cleaning, the dishwasher seemed to be smoking, and a heating element was disintegrating shortly after we put the ham in the oven today.

The holiday appliance breakdown was so massive, coming on top of a last-minute realization that we did not have enough matching plates or chairs for the imminent onslaught, that all I could do was laugh (hysterically) in between frequent inquiries to Husband No. 1 in the nature of: "Is the preheating light still on or is the $#@^& thing finally hot?"

I wasn't too worried about the vacuum problem because I figured the house would be so crowded no one could see the floor anyway and if they did, the smoking dishwasher might distract them. (OK, I'm exaggerating a little because the smoke was only steam, but you get the point.)

However, an oven working at 50% capacity was a real challenge. The casserole dishes were too large for the microwave and it's pretty difficult to cook a quiche in a skillet.

So when the preheating light went off, we cheered. When it lit back up seconds later, our optimism faded just as fast. To make a long story short, I can report that some brunch foods don't taste quite as good at a few degrees above frigid BUT it is possible to glaze a ham in a microwave oven!

The Easter breakdown reminded me of a Thanksgiving years ago when we discovered 15 minutes before the arrival of another large crowd that the oven had apparently quit working mid-turkey. Let's just say a lot of wine was served that year and we learned a traditional green bean casserole (yes, the kind with Durkee onion things on top) made in a saucepan is not a pretty sight.

Ironically (or perhaps suspiciously), a guest from the first disaster was here for this one, as well as another infamous Thanksgiving where I forgot to remove the plastic bag inside the turkey. This year, Diane brought the ingredients for Mimosas. Do you think she was expecting another holiday disaster? Or maybe she's the catastrophe connection...

Husband No. 1 had another explanation: "God said, 'No, you don't have to come to church today because you'll be too busy dealing with all the curses I'm putting upon you.'"

I prefer to believe in a more Earth-bound and electronics-based conspiracy of revenge. I acknowledge that I am NOT kind to appliances, but really -- having an appliance revolution on an Easter Sunday with a sizable crowd expected is a bit of overkill, don't you think?

I will admit that I am so rough with vacuum cleaners that it's easier to buy the cheapest one possible and consider it a "disposable" because the life expectancy with me is less than two years whether I spend a lot -- or a little. I once had a repairman ask if I employed a housekeeper and when I replied in the negative, he said my vacuum cleaner was so banged up he figured it couldn't possibly have been damaged that way by the person who paid for it. Walmart gets my business now instead of him.

I suppose I shouldn't be upset about the heating element of a 25-year-old oven quitting either, although I am a little perturbed about the timing. Fortunately, the dishwasher is working again.

Maybe the appliances will forgive me. But just in case I'm wrong, does anyone know if it's possible to cook a quiche in a dishwasher?

If you've ever had a holiday catastrophe, I hope you'll share. And maybe it will help me figure out a way to teach my appliances a lesson.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Lighting Up a Room

Although I've always wanted a smile that lights up a room and teeth that sparkle, I didn't mean literally.

But that's what I'm getting for at least the next eight months, thanks to some very expensive metal installed on my teeth last week. And while I cannot adequately describe the way light reflects so brilliantly off my braces, I can tell you I'm beginning to wonder if there exists a purse large enough for all the equipment I'm now carrying in the name of vanity.

My last experience with pain and suffering connected to a similar pursuit involved
getting contacts, which requires me to now travel with eyeglasses, saline solution and a contact lens holder in case there's a contacts disaster, of which I have had more than a few.

But they pale in comparison to my latest adventure, which was prompted by a lifetime of loathing for my less-than-perfect teeth and trying to hide them in photos like this one.

When I recently learned about a local orthodontist with many adult patients, I signed up for a free consultation. And when he told me I possessed a youthful smile that could be improved without extractions and in less than a year, I was sold. He also says the change in the shape of my mouth will make me look younger. "Will I get Angelina Jolie lips, too?" I asked hopefully. He looked appalled. "Those aren't even attractive," he said, although I think he's the only man in America who believes that.

Our next discussion involved whether to choose full metal, partial metal with white ceramic brackets or clear Invisalign braces. Invisalign takes longer and they must be removed for each sip of coffee, so they were out. Full metal jacket seemed the antithesis of the vanity that got me to this point. That left ceramic brackets with a piece of silver metal threaded through them. But then I learned the plastic ties necessary to move the teeth can stain easily. Suffering may be necessary for beauty, but giving up coffee and red wine would be excruciating. I opted for metal ties. As a result, I don't think my mouth will ever make it through another metal detector.

I was advised after installation that I might be slightly "uncomfortable." I don't want to accuse anyone of lying, but I'm not sure "uncomfortable" accurately describes having the edges of your teeth hurt so much that you can't eat or the feeling of metal cutting into your mouth. There's a reason they say to always carry wax to use as a protective barrier. However, it's also pretty painful to see those ugly globs of white stuff on the ugly metal you're wearing to fix your ugly teeth.

"You're not smiling the way you used to," Husband No. 1 observed. "Why aren't you showing teeth when you smile?"

"Do you have any idea what it feels like to scrape your lips over a mouthful of metal?" I snapped, although it probably sounded more like a mumble. "Get used to it."

He looked a little frightened, but he did offer to go buy me some baby food. I declined, but I do believe food is going to be a major issue in my pursuit of the perfect smile. Not only does it hurt to eat, I'm still trying to find a food that won't get stuck in my braces. I'll spare you the details, but I'm giving up blueberries and spinach.

I'm supposed to brush my teeth immediately after eating. This means I have to carry a toothbrush and toothpaste along with Alleve, wax, and a pocket mirror to check for stray food. These items, combined with the contacts paraphernalia, are severely straining the space limits of my purse.

I believe the pocket mirror is going to be an especially important tool, especially with all my metal attracting so much light and so many curious stares. I'll need it to make sure people are gawking at my braces, not debris hanging from them.

Yesterday I thought I also might need to carry a first-aid kit to treat bleeding gums. Turned out the bright red was only a piece of lobster. This means my purse still has room for any equipment necessary for future pursuits in the name of vanity!

Sunday, April 3, 2011


As I was leafing today through one of those freebie please-use-our-hospital newsletters sent out under the guise of genuine interest in my health, I noticed the headline "Eco-exercise."

Say what??

According to the article, eco-exercise means that with your physical activity, "you also collect litter you find along the way." Apparently you only need your usual workout clothes, environmental awareness, motivation and "a trash bag (perhaps a biodegradable one)."

Huh? They want me to exercise with a trash bag? Are you kidding me? I don't even exercise with an i-Pod.

And won't I also need plastic gloves and one of those litter pick-up pole things if I'm retrieving garbage covered with disgusting substances and germs?

However, in the interest of saving the planet, I thought I ought to give the "eco-exercise" concept promoted by Eco-Runner Sam Huber more thought. After all, I do take pride in my environmental awareness, occasionally I can muster some motivation and I do own workout clothes.

But I still find the idea of exercising with a trash bag a little troubling, especially since much of the physical activity in my household involves walking the dog. Visualize this -- Husband No. 1 takes Buddy out for a walk and fills a trash bag with litter along the route. Don't you think people would talk? I imagine someone would say: "What the heck are they feeding that dog? That's an awfully big poop bag for an 18-pound animal."

Husband No. 1 and I also exercise frequently at our local Planet Fitness. I am NOT going to pick up litter while I'm on the treadmill, elliptical machine or the recumbent bike because, well, they pay people to do that and give them those cute Planet Fitness shirts, too.

I also do Zumba (think Latin aerobics) for exercise, but there's no trash in the dance studio and even if there were, I wouldn't want to risk clocking one of my classmates with a half-filled trash bag during our Zumba moves.

Although the article specifically cited eco-runners, that won't work for me because my 2010 goal of running a 5K quickly dissipated when I discovered I HATE running. However, I have a difficult time imagining my friend Janet-the-runner scooping up trash while training for a marathon. While white goes with everything, I don't think a woman who looks fashionable even after she's run 26 miles would be seen carrying a tacky white trash bag. Also, I'm betting that stopping for debris would add considerably to her training time. Not going to happen. Plus, look at the guy in the photo. Does he look like he's having fun?

I have been considering kayaking to my exercise repertoire but if I have to pick up sodden litter and debris from the waterways, would that be enough extra weight to sink the kayak? Also, experience indicates I'll need both hands and every bit of concentration to keep from tipping over. And if I fail, you better believe that retrieving a trash bag isn't going to be my highest priority (unless it could double as a life preserver).

When it comes to my exercise activities, that leaves only mountain hiking -- an activity that we flirted with last year and I'm still not sure I really enjoyed. But again, if I have to use every bit of concentration to keep from slipping down a mountain trail or being murdered by a wild animal or psycho killer, I doubt I'll have much time to be on the lookout for litter.

On the other hand, maybe a partially filled plastic trash bag would make a good weapon to protect myself. Or better yet, it might make a great cushion the next time my butt kisses a mountain. So even if my bottom and dignity take a hit, I still can be proud of my contribution to the environment.