Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Woes of Being Frugal

A lot of women I know lament the possibility that they are turning into their mothers.  I could do worse than turning into my mother. As a matter of fact, I believe I am doing worse. I recently realized that I’ve apparently skipped a generation. I think I’m morphing into a blend of both of my grandmothers.  

My paternal grandmother was born knowing the secrets of mise en place – it’s a French term, used primarily in cooking, that means everything in its place. She was highly frugal – but also a bit of a hoarder, a trait I can see looking back but it didn’t show at the time because of her genius for organization.  Enter my mother’s mother - also a highly frugal woman who wasn’t in the least bit organized but very inclined to save everything for some special occasion that never materialized. When she died, at 82, she had half a closet full of clothes with the tags still on them and drawers full of lingerie and linens that were still in their wrappers. 

What I got from both of them was the frugal part. Where most men will spend 2 dollars on an item only worth a buck because time is money, almost any woman will spend $1 on a $2 item she doesn’t need simply because it’s on sale.  Thanks to the frugality genes from both of my grandmothers, I will generally buy at least two of them to increase the savings.   

Earlier this year, I was sick enough to leave work and found myself home, alone, with a handful of daytime colds meds in one hand and the TV remote in the other. By some fantastic stroke of good fortune I found myself at one of the really popular broadcast shopping malls – in a kitchen themed show. I was mesmerized by the color coded, silicone sealed plastic containers that all came with a single sized lid.  I’ll take two sets of those, please, because I *know* that those containers are the only thing standing between me and the immaculate, mise en place, domestic paradise my kitchen was meant to be.  

Now, please consider, when I tell you what I did next, that the only way these amazing storage containers could fulfill their destiny is if we had LOTS of homemade food to fill them. So, you see, the purchase of the next item up – a stand mixer (in a to die for color) by a highly respected manufacturer of small and large kitchen appliances – was essential to my plan.  I’d like to add that it not only has “planetary action” it also has a rubber squeegee on the paddle beater that will scrape the bowl as it mixes my culinary creations with an astounding 450 watts of power!  That’s 125 watts of power more than the smaller version of the same mixer I purchased about 10 years ago.  I did NOT purchase two of these even though it was $120 less than it’s normal price and came with a card for an additional $30 rebate AND a subscription to a magazine favored by snobbish foodies.  

Upon delivery my husband, the kitchen neophyte, seemed unable to grasp the simplest of kitchen concepts.  He wanted to use mega-mixer immediately!  Uh – no, we need to save it. Why on earth did he think it was a good idea to begin using that shiny new mixer to make a boxed cake mix when there was a perfectly good mixer already sitting on the counter? I had to keep explaining it to him so long that it literally stretched my patience, to the max, trying to make him understand that when I got ready to make food for the new containers, it was essential that I knew where all the attachments were and the only way we could ensure that was to leave the damn thing in the box!  Jeeze - they are so *thick* sometimes!  And he calls ME difficult? 

When I opened the fridge door the next morning and saw three of my brand spanking new color-coded, silicone-sealed, storage containers randomly scattered across three shelves, I thought he was just toying with me. So I cheerfully scraped the contents out of the new containers and into three of the various shaped containers manufactured by sandwich bag makers, washed the new ones and lovingly put them back in their organized stack (did I mention that all the lids are the SAME size?) on the pantry shelf. I was less amused the next morning to find three more in the refrigerator. What is wrong with this man? I have to confess that, because my patience had not yet recovered from the beating it took over the mixer, my tone when I asked him that same question may have been just a tad sharp.  That does not excuse his rudeness when he took the containers out of my hands, took their lids off, turned them upside down on the kitchen island, and then tossed them into the sink. He scratched one for God’s sake!  Several days later, when we were both calmer I again explained basic kitchen concepts to him. It shouldn’t take a nuclear physicist to see the relationship between the mixer and the containers. If we aren’t going to use the mixer until I have the time to fill the containers why would anyone, with any common sense at all, think it was okay to use the containers for food not prepared with the new mixer?  Damn, man!  This is NOT rocket science! If I only have a few containers to fill up, why in the world would I need that big ass mixer?   

He still doesn’t get it.  With reasoning skills that lacking, I know that trying to explain the purchase of 8 dozen quart size canning jars, the 21 quart pressure canner, and the new vacuum sealer in advance preparation for the garden I want to plant next year is really going to be a challenge. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Siri-usly Wondering

Unless you’re Amish my guess is that by now you’ve seen the commercials promising a happier, more informed life – led by Siri. A life where

  • Morons can enter Death Valley with an almost empty gas tank and then query their iPhone to find the closest fueling station

  • Women looking for an excuse to avoid romantic moments with their gorgeous male escort can feign an interest in locating constellations by asking Siri to reveal one (if they had any real interest in astronomy, they would know without asking Siri)

  • Couples who have been instructed by their marriage counselors to spend more time together can use Siri to schedule their spontaneous moments

My oldest son, who is not usually a fan of Apple – for reasons that are fodder for another blog, told me earlier this week that he is actually considering getting an iPhone, because of Siri. If there was a 12 step program for gadget junkies, he would be the organization’s poster child – always on the prowl for some new toy but jaded by the sheer volume of technological marvels that are now so plentiful and so cheap. Siri has captured his attention and he’s moving toward her, like a sailor lured by a siren – full speed ahead and to hell with the boulders! When he speaks about Siri, his tone holds the kind of awe and wonder that should be reserved for discussions about the wife that has given him six children. He can recount one Siri-spoken marvel after another, the way a bookie can tell you the odds on every horse in a major race.

One such recounting was about a gentleman who had, since childhood, made a game of contemplating the destinations of jets passing overhead. Siri can, upon request, provide that information. The gentleman reports that he can now stand in his own front yard, look up, and say something specific that roughly translates to “Siri, give me the destinations of planes overhead.” Siri processes his GPS location, taps into some governmental flight tracking database, and delivers the answer faster than the man can draw another breath. Many of us grew up having to rely on our parents to get us to the library, according to a pre-set plan, so that we could do the research we needed for school reports that were coming due. If you know what I’m talking about – those days where we measured wait time in days or weeks rather than nano or pico seconds - that kind of information delivered as an instantaneous response to a voiced question is magical indeed. And yet, when my son was recounting the anecdote to me, the phrase beating a repetitive refrain in my head was “just because we can doesn’t mean we should”.

I hope his new found ability to get an answer and get it so rapidly serves that gentleman well because it was purchased with the magic of gazing into the sky and simply wondering or imagining where those jets might be taking their passengers. Is that REALLY a better life?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A Blog About Nothing

If you’re one of the 8 or 10 people that read this blog, you may have noticed that I took a bit of a hiatus. Very shortly after I posted the last blog, a series of events occurred where I rediscovered that perception is NOT reality and that I really needed to start paying more attention to my BS-ometer.

My BS-ometer is legendary in my family. My oldest son has long been in awe of my ability to detect BS almost immediately upon hearing it. He now stands in awe of the person who managed to escape it for such an extended period of time. What can I say? I’m getting older – something had to slip first. The good thing about what happened is that I discovered, in the person that was able to fool so many for such an incredible length of time, a true talent for storytelling. I’m talking about the kind of talent that could garner serious literary awards if it is properly nurtured and explored. Of course, that takes work and committment so we'll just have to see if that person is willing to make the effort. The downside is that it will be DECADES – if ever – before I automatically assume that what issues from the mouth of this person, from comments about the weather to current state of life, is the truth and not some fantasy fabricated to relieve boredom and combat self-esteem issues. My BS-ometer may be permanently broken since the mere presence of this person makes the lights flash and the alarms ring.

Anyway, during the time I spent NOT blogging, I’ve been on several journeys of self discovery, trying to figure out what I want to do when I grow up. The blog was on the back burner while I was trying to figure all of that out because it was my plan to turn this into a themed blog – I just needed to find my theme. I only have time (and barely that) to maintain ONE blog so I needed to pick a single theme. What I’ve discovered is that the problem with doing a themed blog is that when I do too much of any one thing, I get really bored with it. The only two activities I’ve found that do not seem to be susceptible to waves of boredom are breathing and eating – not necessarily in that order.

So, this is going to be a blog like Seinfeld’s TV show. It will be a blog about nothing. Nothing other than what’s going through my mind at any particular moment in time. And that’s often nothing. On the days that it’s actually about something – I might even post some pictures to go with it.