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For The Love Of The Laundromat

Blame it on the king-sized comforter. And the cat. And the hairball the cat deposited on the king-sized comforter. I am in the laundromat today, because this comforter does not fit in my washing machine.

I have my quarters, my legal pad and pen (low-tech companionship that works everywhere) and my digital notepad (high-tech companionship that doesn’t), and have 90 minutes tlaundromat-reflections-washing-machines-1027534o be creative and thoughtful.

My local laundromat is as low-tech as my legal pad and pen: an off-white, square room, glass-front store in a strip shopping center. Washers to the left, dryers to the right, a narrow path crowded with folding tables and wheeled carts. Soda, snack, video and game machines crowd a corner near the blue plastic tables and chairs. Tan tiled floors in need of a little TLC. A booth up front for the tiny, rail-thin attendant, who never sits there. She’s darting from washer to dryer to folding table to supply shelf, texting or talking while sorting, folding, filling and emptying machines, tagging orders and stacking clean clothes, towels and sheets for those who cannot, will not or lack the ability or time to do this chore themselves. I notice the booth’s top two shelves are filled with rolled and trash-bagged comforters, done for clients who drive by, drop them off and get them back in exchange for no hassle and about $25.

My local laundromat lacks the cool vibe of some newer ones, tucked inside restaurants, bars and bowling alleys, where your duds suds while you sip a craft beer, down a gourmet burger or groan about your gutter balls. But it does have character, a long history of service (it has outlasted everything else in the shopping center) and it gives customers what they need: clean clothes to face the day.

Laundromats are necessary in a tidy America, even as their numbers decline, thanks to affordable home washer/dryer systems that fit in even the smallest apartments, rising real estate values, repair costs and laundry wash-and-delivery services.  It’s not the meeting place it once was, but if your pricey washer or dryer break down, or you have a hairballed king comforter, you’ll be glad to know one is still around.

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Filed under frugality, home improvement, Laundry

Weed Whacking In Winter

Those of your staring out your window at bare trees, a brown lawn and leaden sky…don’t read any further. The rest of you may carry on.

I got the bug to pull weeds today, after Small Business Saturday shopping ’til I dropped. But I wasn’t pulling just any weeds. It’s a three-foot by six-foot patch of oyster plant, an invasive species that’s still used as ornamental ground cover here, because it thrives where other plants don’t,

basket

Wishful thinking.

but has a tendency to grow Teflon©-tough roots and take out anything living in its path. This plant is considered a pest in Australia, and I wish we felt the same about it here. You pull out one plant, and find roots for a dozen more. I worked for an hour and removed about a third of the spread, filling three large trash bags. I will owe The Husband at least another box of those. Filling them was the easy part; I will pay for my foolishness next week, when I have to drag them to the end of the driveway for pickup.

Why was I removing this plant pest, when leaving it would be easier? I planted tomatoes (twice, since heavy rain pounded my first plant into sad submission), Brussels sprouts and broccoli. They are thriving, so I figure I have another green thumb to spare.   Not sure what will go there, since it is only partial sun and backs up to the fence line. My state planting guide lists a lot of possibilities, but it always boils down to what we’re willing to eat and how we protect the crop from critters. A trip to the garden center or farmer’s market plant dude is in my future, though living off our land certainly isn’t. What we grow would not feed us for two days, never mind a whole season. Round 2 of the whack-a-weed game is tomorrow. Stay tuned.

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Uh, Nice Place. Cozy, Eclectic, Historic…WTH?

English: Fixer Upper in Dorena

English: Fixer Upper in Dorena (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I know a number of folks in property transition at the moment. They are buying foreclosures to fix up for rent/resale, selling their home to downsize or looking to purchase a first home. They are fired up by reasonable mortgage race plus the overload of TV home improvement shows on everything from crashing a bath to the rocky realities of doing it yourself.

As a homeowner of many years, I know what a joy it is. I also know what a big, yawning, money-sucking pit it is. So a few friends and I came up with some helpful terminology – call it Realtor©-speak – to get them through the morass known as the home buying process. Hey, the American dream is to own your own place, your little patch of dirt with four walls, a roof and all the personal electronics you can stuff inside without causing a massive meltdown.

Here are some common phrases neophyte home buyers should know, and what they really mean:

  • Cozy:  Tiny, AKA Stupid Small.
  • Eclectic : !&$#!* up floor plan.
  • Whimsical:  Paint scheme chosen by someone on acid trip.
  • Needs TLC: It’s a dump.
  • Handyman Special: Should be condemned.
  • Historic: It’s a dump and huge and you can’t afford it.
  • Historic Neighborhood: In the hood.
  • Exclusive Neighborhood: Your neighbors are snobs.
  • HOA:  You can’t have a clothesline, a volleyball net or more than 1.75 cars in your driveway.
  • Beautiful gardens: You will spend your life weeding.
  • Perfect Starter Home: Previous owners lived here until the growing horde of children and pets made it uninhabitable.  That carpet wasn’t brown originally.
  • Established Neighborhood: All your neighbors have lived there for at least 50 years and will yell at your kids to stay off their lawns.
  • Close to shopping: There’s a 7-Eleven right next door.
  • Seasonal view: There’s a nudist colony next door.
  • Waterfront property: Septic tank overflows often.
  • Upgraded electric: Property previously used as a “grow house”.
  • Roof in good condition – Only half the tiles were taken out by the last hurricane.
  • Natural landscaping : The place hasn’t seen a weed whacker or a lawn mower since Moses parted the Red Sea.
  • Stylish bathrooms:  Pink tile, tub, toilet, and sink.
  • Great curb appeal: Inside trashed beyond belief.
  • Potential income property: Basement apartment has been rented out to tenant who cooked meth every night.
  • Separate In-Law Cottage:  Pop-up camper with flat tires.
  • Price is firm: Owner lives in a fantasy world and believes their home exists in a world not touched by the economic downturn.

I’m reminded of how important this list is, since the house next to mine is vacant and up for sale – again. Twice it’s been rented out by the owners, who are nice people. But landlords they are not. We’ve had some decidedly unsatisfactory renters, including the father-and-son duo who partied like no one else on the block had to go to work (because apparently, they didn’t) and had a little side business stealing from neighbors’ garages for cash resale. So while it’s good to know that the foundation is sound, the walls straight and the pipes well-sealed, you also need to know that the house next door has several rooms of seventies-era wood paneling, the last tenants were heavy smokers (we could smell cigarettes when they opened a door or window), and nearly every room has white carpeting.

Other than that, come and take a look. Might be a bit of a fixer-upper, but for the right buyer (with patience and a healthy renovation budget) it’s a honey that’s worth the money. No lie.

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Filed under consumer products, Current news, home improvement, thought

Gooey, Greasy, Cheesy, Good

Cheeseburger

Cheeseburger (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I made a cheeseburger salad tonight; it’s one of my favorite dinners.

It took everything I had not to lick the fry pan, with its layer of grease, butter and melted cheese. It’s the best part of the meal, really.

Basically, this dinner is everything you would put on a burger, minus the bun and fries: mixed greens, sliced tomatoes, grilled onions,  pickle relish, a dab of ketchup and mayo and the cheeseburger. I fix the 80/20 burger mixture early, with an egg, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, Cajun blackening spice and garlic. I’ve done a buffet version of this for my brother’s very picky kids, and they love it.

It’s that pan of leftover slick and bits that I hate to lose, though. I’ve wondered about keeping it in a jar in the fridge, and using it to season a variety of things, like scrambled eggs, fish, chicken, other beef dishes and even ice cream. What, cheeseburger ice cream doesn’t work for you? It’s perfectly OK to add bacon to everything nowadays, including more bacon. So why not cheeseburger?

Here’s my rationale for enjoying the occasional real-deal burger:

  • I work out every day, an hour minimum.
  • I eat carefully around the item I rationalize. The burger-and-salad combo tonight meant eating lightly all day long.
  • No dessert and no other snacking after dinner. I just cannot sleep on that much. Can’t lose weight on it, either.
  • Best reason of all: I’d hate to have people stand around and talk about me after I die, and say, “Gee, she was a good person, but she really should have eaten more fun food. She would have been much happier.”

I did scrape the drippings, melty cheese and all, into the trash and got some soap and water into the pan fast, lest The Husband catch me over the sink, my tongue working the rim of a ten-inch Calphalon saute pan like a Zamboni at halftime.

I just wandered out into the living room. Guess what? The Husband is snacking on crackers – and cheese.

Do you think it’s too late to dig through the trash?

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Wedding Shower Survived. Now Dive Into The Deep End Of the Crazy Pool

English: Bride and groom at the ruins of Sutro...

English: Bride and groom at the ruins of Sutro baths. California, USA. Français : Deux jeunes mariés dans les ruines de Sutro Baths, en Californie (États-Unis). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My friend “T” made it to her nephew’s wedding shower over the weekend. She said the food was good and the restaurant was nice. All went well, considering their party had no reservations. Then again, it was a barbecue joint that didn’t “do” reservations, but that’s another story for another blogpost.

No word on how her highly sensible gift card was received. Since it wasn’t something on the BtB’s wish list, one can only assume she looked at it thought “Hmmmmm…” Hopefully, she at least said “Thank you so much!” out loud.

The ride to the shower was apparently quite instructive, “T” tells me. The nephew (groom-to-be, GtB) is the son of “T’s” sister, and sis held back nothing in terms of how stressful it all has been:

  • The choice of restaurant for the rehearsal dinner is out of the GtB’s parents’ price range. GtB has now accused his folks of trying to ruin his wedding.
  • MooG (Mother of the Groom) wants to have a talk with BtB to explain why relatives just cannot afford items on her registry. But she’s still too much in shock about the invites going out without stamps on the RSVP envelopes or maps to the venue, and the fact that this still-in-college couple “must have” only the best to start out their new lives.
  • The serving of alcohol issue: GtB’s dad is a recovering alcoholic and won’t put in a penny towards booze for anyone.
  • The BtB’s sister and her infant are here visiting from a former Soviet bloc country and don’t speak a word of English. They are staying in the BtB/GtB’s apartment for either the next two or next three months, depending on who you ask.

Needless to say, it’s getting pretty emotionally crowded in that family. The wedding is a month away. I’m considering sending my friend a case of name-brand pain relievers.

“T” is doing her best to stay out of it, and just be a sympathetic ear for her sister. She has elderly parents to worry about; they will soon have to move to a location that is safer and easier for family members to watch them, but will likely remove what little is left of their independence. Been there, faced this, and while my mother passed away before a resolution was reached, the process of getting one’s parent(s) into a new environment is monumentally difficult from both a legal/paperwork process and an emotional one. It makes the selfishness of this particular BtB and GtB seem especially petty. I mean, $60 for a single pillow sham? People still use pillow shams? I thought those were only featured in high-end furniture catalogs, just for show.

Still to come: the rehearsal dinner, the bachelor party (without the GtB, since he could not agree on the date with his best buds) and of course, the big day.

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It’s Never Too Early To Start Herding Cats


Sometimes, planning a family event is a snooze. Other times…

My friend Caroline is a tad steamed about her family.

To use her words (cleaned up for presentation here): My family is insane! It’s like herding cats! They can’t plan anything!

The real object of her frustration is an upcoming party for her parents’ thirty-year wedding anniversary. Sweet, huh?

She figured if she started planning now, with the party set for next spring (yes, as in 2013), it would be plenty of time to get her family’s cooperation and assistance. Turns out, no amount of time other than a decade (or two) is going to help, it seems.

Part of the problem, as she amusingly puts it, is that her family is such a mix of backgrounds, “mostly farming types, with about one-quarter redneck and one-quarter Southern gentility, also known as stick-up-a-butt.”  Given this description, the idea of a gathering an actual group of furry felines into one place and willing them to remain there starts to sound like a simple task.  

The issues Caroline faces are probably no different from those anyone faces when trying to organize a major family event: work out the details of the event and make sure everyone is still on speaking terms before, during and after, if possible. After all, who has time to worry about catering, booking a DJ and digging a hole deep enough in the neighbor’s backyard to bury “dear” Aunt Mary when she staggers into the party, open bottle of Jack Daniels in (each) hand, and both of them bound to wet no one’s whistle except hers. 

So, if you are in a similar party-planning position as my friend, a few things to consider:

  • By all means, begin planning early. Just realize that you and your relatives may not be in the same brain ballpark when it comes to the idea of time sensitivity. One person’s absolute deadline is another person’s “Whatever; I’ll do it tomorrow.”
  • When it comes to assigning tasks and designating chores, be firm. Put it in writing for the slower folks, so they cannot come to you later and claim, “But you never said I needed to get that done!” Tough luck on them; you’ll have the hard copy goods.
  • If you have sour grape siblings, grandkids with grudges, or other relatives harboring resentments that go back to the time of the town crier calling the day’s news, tell them that from party planning time to one hour after the party officially ends, all feuds are frozen.
  • And most important: keep your eye on that final prize: the event itself. Keep telling yourself that it will all be worth it. You will make the guest(s) of honor very happy with your thoughtfulness, hard work and effort.

Oh, and that hole in the neighbor’s yard? If Aunt Mary does not make use of it, it’s always good for a pig roast.

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Filed under family, Uncategorized