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.

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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:

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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?

Our Holiday Decor Isn’t Perfect, Or Is It?

Last weekend we put up our Christmas décor and finally trimmed our tree. It was a casual affair, pajama pants and sweatshirts, leftovers and soda straight from the can. The guest list included the who’s who of the Maine Windrams: Me, my husband, and all three cats (yes, we got all three to attend).

We began with the décor we bought a few years ago, a time when we were inspired by magazine layouts, catalog ads and Lexus commercials. It was fresh, matching and super sparkly. All the best Target and Hobby Lobby had to offer–we spare no expense at the Windram house.

Matching garland went up above our windows, stuffed Santa’s and Snowmen on tabletops, festive towels in the kitchen.

Then I unpacked the hobby horse. Logan made it when he was eleven or twelve. When I look at it I can’t help but picture him wearing a Guns N’ Roses T-shirt, almost sawing his finger off.

Hobby Horse

One look at this and I knew Logan was destined to be a woodworker.

This, along with some of the other older, non-matching décor used to be displayed in their “own” part of the house, so they didn’t mess with the vibe of the sparkly new items from the big box store. But in our new place, there’s no room for that–it would all have to be displayed together.

Next, I unraveled a wad of newspaper and found these. They belonged to Logan’s grandmother. At first I thought they were angels because of the rings around their heads, but now I think they might be choirboys. Regardless, they come out every year, and while at first I thought they were weird (and they didn’t go with our store bought décor so they were put in the other part of the house), I’ve grown to really like them.

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Don’t mind our macaroon shaped heads; baby, we were born this way.

After pausing to sit on the couch and eat half a deep-dish cookie, we trimmed the tree.

During our shopping frenzy a few years ago we also invested in boxes of matching ornaments, shiny new ones that gave our tree that designer, magazine look. Again, the best Target and Hobby Lobby had to offer.

Our older, non-matching, oddball (read lesser) ornaments were relegated to the smaller tree (yes, we have two trees, three actually), where they wouldn’t interfere with the perfection that was the big tree.

But this year, in an effort to keep our moving expenses low (Ha!), we only brought one tree with us. And in a moment of whimsy (I believe brought on by the deep-dish cookie) we decided to hang both the oddball and the perfect ornaments on the same tree.

And it was marvelous.

teddy bear ornament

A brown teddy bear ornament right next to a sparkly blue snowflake. The might even be touching–scandalous!

Moose ornament

A plush moose next to a blue and white, sparkly ornament. These two haven’t reached the touching phase of the relationship, but we’re working on it.

This “ornament” was made last year. I’d forgotten all about it until Logan hung it proudly on our tree.

Ornament fail

I might not be perfectly shaped, but I’m still made of styrofoam and yarn like the other wreaths.

It was supposed to look like this:

wreath ornament

And now as I sit here enjoying our festive décor, I’ve realized it’s the oddball, mismatched items that I like best. They make me smile, remember the past and get all nostalgic. And while our house no longer looks like it could be in a magazine, I think it looks better. And it comes with a partially eaten deep-dish cookie.

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!

Moving With Cats (or why has our whole world come crashing down around us?)

Today I’m going to use a few drawings to illustrate what it was like moving across the country with our three cats. Because my rendering of said cats will simultaneously make it appear that they all look the same, yet always a little different, I’ve gone ahead and given each cat its own identifier:

MoJo – He is the gray male cat. You will recognize him because he is wearing a top hat and his collar says, “Boy.”

Olive – She is the chubbier of the two female cats. You will be able to identify her by her round torso.

Lindie – She is the other female cat and is often considered my favorite. Shh. Don’t tell the others. She will have little hearts floating around her at all times to signify her status as the favorite.Cats

Okay, so now to the story. We began our preparation for the big move like any family would. For months we talked about all the things that needed to be done, created lists, and packing strategies. We then spent the final week essentially dumping the contents of all our drawers into boxes.

This was also the cats’ favorite part of the move. There were boxes to hide in. Human trinkets littered the floor and morphed into playthings to be batted under the couch.

Cats and boxes

Little did they know, all the trinkets would soon be in the boxes and they’d be left with a single blanket on the floor for them all to share.

empty house

They spent a lot of time fighting for the blanket and staring wide-eyed at the empty house.

At this point they thought they’d experienced the worst of it. But then their worst fears were realized: the rise of the carriers.

cats hate carriers

MoJo and Olive were placed side by side in the back seat. Lindie’s carrier was placed on top of Olive’s. Like this, but not really:

moving with cats

The one in the top hat wailed like a wounded child for about an hour and then they were silent. I assume this is because they were communicating telepathically.

traveling with cats

Once we arrived at the hotel, we let them explore their new world. See, kitties, it’s like an adventure. People travel to new and different places all the time. They actually do it for fun. Give it a try…

cats in hotel

cats in hotel

After two more days of driving, we arrived at our new abode. We set the kitties loose again, but this time the experience was much different.

cats in new home

And then a few months later…

cats in new home

was it just a dream

 

And a NaNoWriMo word count update: 21,586 words written so far! Not too bad for a lifelong procrastinator 🙂

It’s Not the Getting, It’s the Returning

I love to get things. I’ll happily go to the store and purchase a pair of fuzzy pajama bottoms or a new bathroom organizer that will do nothing but sit on the wall taunting me with its messy shelves and utter lack of organization.

The problem comes when something has to be returned. See. The getting is so easy, but the returning is soooo hard.

Overboard DVD

A DVD that was “borrowed” and never returned.

clothes

Clothes ordered online that didn’t quite fit right, but were never returned.

oil can

The oil can we borrowed from our landlord and have yet to return. She lives downstairs.

shower rod

The shower rod we bought for … I can’t remember why … and still haven’t returned.

Fault in Our Stars Book

The library book I’ve yet to return.

So what is it? Why am I so bad at returning things?

My best guess – The thrill of getting is way more powerful than my desire to sit on the couch. And there is no thrill in returning.

Cue the awkward segue: Is there anything else more powerful than my desire to sit on the couch?

Yes! NaNoWriMo.

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I’m joining the band of crazy people who have decided it’s a good idea to write a novel in a month. That’s 50,000 words in 30 days folks. At the end of November I’ll have 50,000 words added to my novel. It will be glorious. And you know what else is glorious? I can do it while sitting on the couch!

If anyone wants to be writing buddies, let me know 🙂

To Trap a Marmot

Imagine you’re walking along a path and you encounter an overpass. On one side of the sidewalk, there is a hillside covered with rocks and on the other side there is a small gravel area and then a creek. Like this:

marmot overpass

Sitting in the small gravel area, are two people in camping chairs, facing the rocky slope, eating and reading books.

marmot overpass

Would you think this was strange? Would you have the nerve to say something to these people? Or would you stare straight ahead, hoping they wouldn’t lure you over with a chocolate cupcake?

crazy cupcake lady

What if I told you there was a marmot in those rocks? And these people were trying to trap it, so it could be returned to the mountains where it belonged?

marmot overpass

That wouldn’t seem so crazy, would it?

You better be shaking your head no, because that’s exactly what we did about two years ago….

One day, on my regular walk during lunch (because I am very diligent about my exercise routine, as you all know), I noticed something out of the corner of my eye. There was this creature standing on one of the rocks, up on his hind legs, surveying the area.

yellow bellied marmot

Now, I’m no expert on the genus Marmota, but this was certainly a yellow-bellied marmot, and he was not supposed to be living this close to the Cherry Creek Mall. If he needed a new winter coat that badly, he could stop at the outlets in Silverthorne – much closer to his desired habitat of 6,500 feet or higher.

marmot mountains

I contacted the Division of Wildlife and was essentially told that if I trapped the marmot, they would take him back to the mountains. Um, okay. You’re the Division of Wildlife, and I’m a nurse who works in an office and have had zero training in setting traps, handling a wild animal, and preventing the spread of zoonotic disease, but sure, I’ll give it a go.

Instead of going right to the animal trap store, because that would be silly, I made a few more calls and was finally referred to Jack. Jack was a very busy man. You see it was raccoon season and he had a huge shipment of raccoon feed coming in for all the rescue raccoons residing in his backyard. But, he’d already had calls about this marmot. Yes, my marmot was famous. He’d been tracking the little guy as he made his way down the creek, from one neighborhood to the next.

I convinced my boss to let me go early, because, duh, there was a marmot that needed tending to at the creek, and this took precedence over people with complaints about their healthcare.

Jack set up his trap and we watched and waited, and watched and waited. An hour and half later, Jack had to go. There were more raccoon centric chores that had to be done and it was getting late.

That’s when my poor husband got involved. The next day we tried the trap that my dad let me borrow. We set up our chairs and intently watched our baited trip on the rocky hillside. Within minutes a bunny sniffed out the booty. I jumped up and shooed the saboteur away. A few minutes later he returned. And again, I shooed him away. As soon as I was about to panic, the marmot’s head appeared from within the rocks. He scampered over to the trap, triggered it and then ran right out. The trap was too small.

So the next day, we went to the ranch and home supply store and asked for the traps.

“What’re you trying to trap?” asked the man.

“A marmot,” I said.

He shrugged. “That’s a first.”

I shrugged back and sipped my iced soy latte with cinnamon.

“You’ll want the raccoon sized one,” he said.

I nodded like this was quite obvious.

We placed the trap and waited. Now it seemed like he’d never show himself again. More and more people started to pass. We got strange looks, curious looks, sideways looks and suspicous looks.

marmot overpass

A few people came right up to us and asked what we were doing. I began to keep a tally. Passerby’s fell into three categories: avoids eye contact, gives strange/distrusting looks, or says something. At the end of the day, most people fell into the ‘avoids eye contact’ category.

We spent almost the whole day there and yes, the marmot did show himself. He walked right up to the trap, gave a sniff and then grabbed onto it and shook it. When it didn’t trigger, he walked around to the to the back, stuck his hand through the bars and tried to reach the food. He couldn’t reach it, but he also didn’t go back in the trap. He’d figured out.

We tried again a few more times, but never caught him. Then one day I never saw him again. I tell myself he found a ride back to the mountains, and now he bores all his marmot friends with the story of how he outsmarted two humans and ran off with their apple.

The Other Side of Potluck Paranoia: Potluck Performance Anxiety

According to Wikipedia, people who are uncertain of food preparation methods, sanitation, and unknown ingredients may experience a case of the “potluck willies” or “potluck paranoia.”

People with potluck paranoia are grossed out by the batch of deviled eggs you prepared using a cross-contaminated spoon, while petting your cat, and with your long hair dangling over the mixing bowl.

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Sort of like this. See how my hair isn’t really pulled back and my fingers are cootiefying the batter.

I am not one of these people. I eat with abandon at potlucks.

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Probably because my husband acts like this around food.

No, I have my own kind of potluck paranoia. One that involves self-doubt and worry, not as the eater, but as the dish preparer.

It begins with receipt of the potluck invitation

“Why, yes,” I say. “I’d love to attend the potluck for the birthday/office/holiday party.” A small twinge of fear runs up my spine, but I can ignore it. After all, I have three weeks before the potluck.

Then, about three days before the event, things go haywire inside my brain:

What should I bring? Dip, yes dip is always good. No, everyone brings dip. What about a cheese or fruit platter? Ugh. Those rarely get eaten. I know – my homemade bouillabaisse that takes three hours to make. Perfect. Everyone loves bouillabaisse. Or do they? What if people are allergic to shellfish? Or onion? Or flour? Or food?

How about beer bread? That’s yummy. And easy to make. Is that good enough? Will they know I used Earth Balance and not real butter? Is one pan enough? Too much? What if someone spits out a cat hair? Can people get drunk from beer bread?

Perhaps I should just buy some potato salad and be done with it. I’m sure that will be fine. But what if the other potluck-goers look down on me because it’s store bought. They’ll sneer as they wonder if it has high-fructose corn syrup. They’ll be judging me. I’ll be voted off the island, deemed the weakest link.

What if I bring the same thing as three other people? Maybe I should diversify and bring a few different things: an appetizer, bread and dessert. They do say that diversification is good.

What if I just hide under a blanket and never leave the house again?

At the potluck

Where should I place my delicacies? Yes, the right location for my store bought pasta is paramount. I notice that someone else brought the exact same pasta salad. I nonchalantly place mine next its twin and look around to see if anyone has noticed. I drop off my dip, next to the other similar dips.

Now I watch as others drop off their dishes. I try not to judge them based on their offerings. I wonder if people know I brought the same pathetic salad as someone else. My eye twitches.

I load up my plate, taking a little bit of everything.

I watch my dishes out of the corner of my eye. Are people eating them? Has anyone even tried them? I better go take some of each. You know, to get the ball rolling. I better take a lot. Then people will think they’re good, because a lot is gone.

Now I start to feel bad for all the foods that no one is eating. I make another round and load up on more items.

I notice that the dip is almost gone. The pasta salad, however, is a flop. I make a mental note for next time.

After the potluck

I ponder what to bring next time. The crab dip was a success. I could just stick with that. But soon, they’ll come to expect it. I’ll be pigeonholed as the crab dip girl and that’s all I’ll ever be. I’ll never be able to show the world my range.

I look to my husband for support. He looks back at me like I’m nuts. He obviously doesn’t understand the social significance of selecting the proper potluck dish.

A week later and it’s time for another potluck. I decide to make something this time. Should I do an appetizer or main dish? Maybe something spicy. No, some people can’t handle spicy foods…

And cue the cycle again…