Living without a dishwasher (and how to cope with dish-dirtying aversion)

What is wrong with this kitchen? Look closely. Remember I am very lazy and messy. Your first thought might be that the kitchen is actually clean. And yes, that is quite the anomaly. But the real problem is (dun, dun, dun) the lack of a dishwasher.

IMG_1559

I spent twenty minutes cleaning the kitchen just to take this picture … or maybe I just stuffed all the dishes in the oven … hmmmm… Perhaps one day the truth will be revealed.

 

Now I know many people don’t have dishwashers and they can be considered a luxury like fresh air and clean water. But I’ve pretty much had one my whole life and now I’m spoiled. And I’m already a messy person, so not having one just contributes to the ongoing messiness of the house.

See what I mean:

IMG_1548

Maybe I just need more counter space to stack the dishes?

Because of the trauma that comes with seeing so many stacks of glass, porcelain, stoneware and plastic, and the trauma of having to spend minutes upon minutes with my hands immersed in warm water, furiously scrubbing last night’s mashed potatoes from each plate, I’ve developed what is considered a dish-dirtying aversion––I’m afraid of dirtying dishes. Every mug of tea, every bowl of cereal, every slice of pizza that is set on a plate equals (gasp) more time in front of the sink.

At first I tried to think of ways to fix the problem.

1. Not eat. Ha.
2. Use paper plates. Sigh. That would be bad for the environment.
3. Tape a sponge to MoJo the cat’s paw and set him to task. While the thought of making the cats finally earn their keep was enticing, I knew in the end it wouldn’t work. Their arms are too short and their work ethic is poor.

So I’ve developed a few coping strategies to minimize the dish-dirtying, and I will share in hopes of helping others who also suffer from dish-dirtying aversion.

1. I give you the “paper towel plate”

Anything that is stiff and dry works well on a paper towel plate. Think toast, bagels, cookies, crackers. Be warned that the paper towel plate is flimsy compared to the traditional plate and if not handled carefully crumbs can easily spill from the towel to the countertop or floor, thus creating a whole new mess and a potential floor-dirtying aversion.

2. Another solution I’ve used is the “plate repeat”

You see the same plate can be used more than once, especially if the same food item is being eaten each time. For example, when I make my husband a bagel sandwich for breakfast, I just wait for him to finish and then I plop my sandwich on the same plate. Ta da. Two meals, one plate. Your ability to implement this solution will be affected by the timing of meals (do you both want to eat at the same time?), the gooeyness of the meal (sometimes reusing a plate is just icky. Sometimes.) and your tolerance for pet hair (I’m not sure how it happens, but every used plate has at least one cat hair glued to it).

3. This is one of my favorites: “the package is plate”

By definition, “the package is plate” means the packaging that said food product comes in acts as the plate. It works with a can of chili (just dip the spoon right in), an apple pie still in its tin (put the pie on your lap and go to it), and leftovers from last night (just peel back the foil and dig in).

4. And lastly you can create a “mouth burrito”

This is an advanced move and should only be attempted by those who REALLY don’t want to do dishes. First you set out all your ingredients. Then pull off a small piece of tortilla and put it in your mouth, add a pinch of cheese, a spoonful of beans, and a squirt of hot sauce and then chew. Repeat as many times as needed to equal the consumption of a full burrito.

And there you have it. Jennifer Windram’s strategies for living in a non-dishwasher house. Any questions?

The Time I Had Botulism, Sort Of … Okay, Not Really

So botulism is this super scary disease caused by Clostridium botulinum spores that create a toxin when exposed to a low oxygen environment. When eaten, the toxin can cause blurred vision, weakness and paralysis, which can affect the respiratory muscles and result in death. It also has been known, in at least one case (mine), to cause an unprecedented level of paranoia. Here are the facts of my case:

A 37 y.o. female was exposed to a puffy pouch of Friskies Gravy Sensations on 11/13/14 at approximately 8:25 a.m.

Cat food

I think the food was tainted when MoJo got into the cupboard and bit through some of the pouches. I thought I threw them all away, but obviously not.

 

She reports that the pouch seemed a little puffier than normal, but proceeded to open it anyway because she likes to live with one toe on the wild side. Upon opening it, she noted the meaty chunks of chicken (read: all the less desirable parts of the chicken, and maybe a few bits of mouse too) appeared to be a little off, meaning the chunks were a paler version of the chunks poured from the non-puffy pouch, and they exuded a malodorous, well, odor.

Being the slightly paranoid individual that she is, she was already aware of the dangers of eating food from puffy and leaking cans. Sadly, before opening this pouch, she had not applied what she knew about cans to pouches. Now, the pouch was open, with undeniable evidence that it had been tainted.

Half of the pouch’s contents had already been poured into one of the cat’s bowls, mixing with the normal, untainted chunks of food (read: still filled with the sketchy parts of the chicken and probably peppered with bits of mouse, but slightly less malodorous and the chunks were still dyed to appear like real pieces of meat).

Being the very caring cat owner that she is, she immediately dumped the contents in the trash and gave the bowl a quick wipe down. A new, non-puffy, pouch was pulled from the cupboard and the cats were fed their breakfast.

That’s when things went terribly wrong. The woman proceeded to situate herself in front of the computer, with the internet browser open and ready to locate any and all articles that would evoke the level of fear and paranoia, that only sites like WebMD can evoke.

Today’s culprit turned out not to be WebMD, but the CDC. Now we all have been quite aware of the recent Ebola outbreak and the corresponding push by the CDC and other government agencies to quell any fear or panic that might erupt in the general population. Interestingly, the CDC has chosen a different route when it comes to the handling of food potentially contaminated with Botulism.

As example:

On the Consumer Information and Resources page, the CDC says Foodborne botulism is a rare, but serious illness.

Okay, rare was good. The woman could handle rare. But then the CDC took it to the next level.

“Even taking a small taste of food containing this toxin can be deadly.”

Hmmm. That sounded worse. Even a small taste can cause infection. Well, the woman knew she hadn’t eaten any of the cat food. She just dumped it in the trash, ran the bowl under the faucet and dried it with a paper towel. That couldn’t be a big deal, right?

To dispose of potentially contaminated foods, the CDC recommends the following:

“Put on rubber or latex gloves before handling open containers of food that you think might be contaminated.”

What???? Gloves? The woman was now in a state of panic. She didn’t wear gloves!

“Avoid splashing the contaminated food on your skin.”

Her mind flashed back to her sloppiness when doling out the food. The “gravy” dripping down the spoon, onto her fingers and landing on the counter. Then a quick wipe with a paper towel to clean it up. She was certain she hadn’t even washed her hands. Impending doom consumed her soul.

The CDC then says to “place the food or can in a sealable bag. Wrap another plastic bag around the sealable bag. Tape the bags shut tightly … Wash your hands with soap and running water for at least 2 minutes after handling food or containers that may be contaminated.”

Um, does it sound like touching contaminated food is like coming in contact with nuclear waste?

The CDC also includes a very detailed process for cleaning potentially contaminated counter tops, which involves bleach, 5-10 paper towels, soap and water, and at least 15 minutes of processing time for the decontamination to be complete.

Holy cow, the woman thought. Gloves, bleach, double bagging, a full two minutes of hand washing! All for slightly off cat food chunks. Of course, the woman had done none of these things prior to opening, handling and discarding the pouch of certain death.

A cleansing spree ensued, and the woman bleached everything including her cat’s tongues (not really, but it was considered), the trash was removed from the house, and she scrubbed her hands and face for four minutes each just to be safe.

And then the countdown began: 18 – 36 hours for the symptoms to appear. 18 – 36 hours of utter paranoia. Every itch, twitch, weird swallow meant the beginning of the end, or at least a trip to the ICU for a little time on the ventilator. A vigil was held for the cats as well. Were they walking normally? Scratching the couch with full gusto? Did one of them puke on the floor and not directly in her shoe? A little more research on the internet showed that for the most part cats were pretty much immune to botulism.

Black cat in box

Celebrating her immunity by sitting in a box.

At midnight that night, the woman woke herself to ensure she was still alive. When morning came she tested her cranial nerves.

As the day progressed, the paranoia lessened. The woman even forgot about her impending doom long enough to write a few thousand words. The next day she only thought about her botulism infection 20 or 30 times. And now a full week later it seems the botulism only infected her brain, causing great anxiety and mental paralysis, but never fully resulting in any muscular paralysis. And sadly, none of it made it to her face, where her crow’s feet and forehead wrinkles could use a little smoothing out.


By the way, I “won” NaNoWriMo. Over 52,000 words in 30 days!

A new season, A new bird

When I was a kid, well, really until my late twenties, I knew a new season had arrived based on obvious clues:

CLUES FROM THE WEATHER

Spring: It’s going to stop snowing any day now. It has to. It can’t go from 78 and sunny one day, to 36 and dreary the next. Wait, yes it can (see fall weather).

spring snow

What spring looks like in Denver
(Image courtesy Warren Brown via Flickr)

Summer: Someone please find me a shade tree. STAT. I think my skin is melting off.

I thought an image of my skin melting would be too icky, so I used this pic instead.

I thought an image of my skin melting would be too icky, so I used this pic instead.
(Image courtesy Steve Hankin via Flickr)

Fall: Uh, oh. It’s gonna get cold. Any day now. And it will happen like this: Monday – 70 degrees, Tuesday – 64, Wednesday – 72. Maybe winter won’t come? Thursday – 74. Friday – 69. Saturday 28 degrees! HA! Take that beautiful fall weather!

Denver Snow

How I see fall and winter in Denver. (Like I’ve said before, I do exaggerate sometimes)

Winter: Did someone move Colorado to the North Pole when I wasn’t looking? *Reference same picture as above*

CLUES BASED ON THE SCHOOL YEAR

Fall: Crap school is starting. How many weeks until my next break?

back to school

Image courtesy USAG – Humphreys via Flickr

Winter: At least we have two weeks off for Christmas. And they won’t expect us to do any work the two weeks before either. It’s like a whole month off!

advent calendar

How a kid sees the month of December
(Courtesy Rene MT via Flickr)

Spring: A week-long break for what? I don’t know. Just to celebrate spring? I’ll take it.

spring break

Image via Daniel Ramirez via Flickr

Summer: Utter and complete, joyous freedom!

(Courtesy Craigfinlay via Flickr)

(Courtesy Craigfinlay via Flickr)

CLUES FROM TV COMMERICALS

Spring: In three months I’ll be able to ditch the mittens and go to the pool and have water gun fights just like the folks on TV. Until then it’s just cruel to show people having summer fun. Oh and don’t forget to do your Christmas shopping.

Pool

Image courtesy David Goehring via Flickr

Summer: Why are you already advertising notebooks and colored pencils? It’s July for crying out loud. I hate you Wal-Mart. And by the way, school supplies can make great Christmas presents too.

Colored pencils

Image courtesy Luxt Designs via Flickr

Fall: It’s Christmas time! Really? I thought it was the end of October. All right, put away the scarecrow and pumpkins. I didn’t really want to give thanks anyway.

Christmas in October

Image courtesy Jo Naylor via Flickr

Winter: Now that Christmas is over, there are still more things to buy. And they’ll be on sale. Really, you should just start shopping for Christmas now.

Christmas ad

Image courtesy e r j k p r u n c z y k via Flickr

Now that I’m a bit older, I notice more than the clues above. I notice the little things–small details that my self-absorbed, youthful self never noticed. It’s funny how once the world stops revolving around you, you notice more of the world around you.

In the spring, I never noticed the first shoots of green emerging from the earth, or the first ladybug babies snacking on aphids. My younger self only noticed the obvious. It was getting warmer and lighter.

In the summer, I never noticed how certain perennials thrived in the 100 degree heat, while others wilted and browned. My younger self noticed it was hot.

In the fall, I saw the leaves turn and knew it was getting colder.

But now I have a new way of knowing fall is here. In addition to the fact that it’s cold, sometimes snowy, and apparently already Christmas, I know summer is behind us because of a small migratory bird. A bird that I never noticed before. In all honesty, I didn’t notice many birds when I was young, and probably could have only identified five that lived in Colorado.

But as I grew older things such as birds started to interest me, so I studied up on all the little guys that frequented my feeder.  The one I’m talking about today is the Dark-eyed Junco.

Snow Junco

These little guys arrive in Denver every fall and hang out under our feeder or our shrubs happily eating millet or whatever else they scrounge up. And then, one day in  spring, they all take flight and head north or to the mountains for the summer.

Last Monday, the first teeny, tiny snowflakes fell in the city. It was the same day I noticed the first pair of Juncos in the backyard.

That night I asked my husband to guess who I saw in the backyard. With some prompting (they come every winter, I’m talking about a bird, with dark eyes and their name begins with J) he finally got it.

My younger self would have relied on the snowflakes to know fall was here and winter was coming. Today, I don’t need the flakes. The Juncos are fair warning.

What are your favorite clues the seasons are changing? Do you notice things you never used to? Are you finished with your Christmas shopping? Do you exaggerate how cold or hot it is? Are you secretly happy when the back to school commercials begin? Please, share your thoughts!