Monday, September 29, 2008

Cleaning Up the Mess - The Peanut Butter Bailout

Daily Kos recently quoted Nancy Pelosi regarding the current job ahead of Congress, hashing out the plan to bail out the financial industry:
We sent a message to Wall Street - the party is over.

Kos' response:
Sure, the party is over. But we weren't invited to the party, yet we're the ones left cleaning up the mess and paying for the house they burned down.

Gosh, this really reminds me of something. I might even be able to make an analogy. You see, I have a huge mess in my life that needs cleaning up. I didn't make it... in fact, I have spoken repeatedly about the need for caution on the issue, yet this big mess happened. And apparently, if I want anything done, I will have to clean it up.

I should tell you first that we like our unhydrogenated peanut butter. It tastes great, but it takes more work because it doesn't have those hydrogenating agents in it. Therefor, the oil separates out and rises to the top of the container. When you first open a jar, you need to carefully and persistently mix in all of the the oil into the heavy, sticky butter, a potentially messy process. It is possible if not likely to get oil all down the sides of the jar and surrounding table if you are not extremely careful. Not a job for for the young, careless, or faint of heart.

My husband has a genetic inability to see how any minute amount of sticky or oily substance, if not attended to, will spread to other formerly pristine surfaces. I don't have a toddler, but I do have sticky fingerprints on the back on my chair. So given the potential for oily messes regarding the peanut butter, I have a taken to premixing the jars just so my husband doesn't have to. I avoid feeling resentful about this; it's just what I do for my own sanity, to avoid running into oily boobie traps. The same way I wash off oily jars. No guilt trips. It's just what I do.

So this latest jar, it's big, it's new. I bought it thinking it was a bigger, yet cheaper-brand jar, a possible substitute for the even more expensively organic peanut butter we've been indulging in. The jar was so big that it had nearly an inch of oil standing just under the lid. On this one occasion, I fell down on the job to to regulate the mixing in of the oil on this non-standard loan, I mean, purchase. (You can see where this is going.)

So late last week (yes, last week), Mr. Sweetie hit one of those days when he was trying to grab his breakfast while running late for work. His standard pb toast construction was slowed down because the current jar of pb was empty. He grabbed the bigger jar lurking in the cabinet. It was, of course, difficult to open. Without pause, he hugged it to his chest, wrenched it open, and then took it to the kitchen table (on the other side of the room) to spread on his toast. At some point, he took it back over to the cabinet. At some MUCH later time, he nearly slipped on the floor. (I have to presume this because it would be unusual for him to *see* something spilled on the floor.)

And then he realized that --oh shit-- he had spilled peanut butter oil on the floor. He cleaned up as best he could because -- remember -- he was late to work at this point. But he did spare a moment to come into the bedroom and warn me to be careful in the kitchen because - he was really, really sorry, but he had spilled peanut butter oil and it was really slippery.

I groaned and tried to go back to sleep. The oil wasn't going anywhere, so why ruin the rest of my perfectly good sleep cycle? I successfully slept through the alarm a a few more hours while ignoring this impending reality.

By the time I was ready to face the kitchen to see how bad it really was, armed with a roll of paper towels and some grease cleaner, I was still unprepared to see the sight of peanut butter oil spilled across *most* of the kitchen floor. I started laying down towels to soak up the remaining oil. Some there, some more there, and over there, and OMG I was standing in some! And over there... there were even traces in the hallway.

Yes, Mr Sweetie had unwittingly tracked it to the sink, to the table, past the fridge, back and forth across most of the linoleum, with grace notes down the hall and into the bedroom. There is about 50+ square feet of floor involved in the kitchen alone.

Shocked and discouraged, I practically papered the floor with towels and half-heartedly stepped on them to start the soaking process. Those would be the stop-gap measures.

And of course, we were supposed to leave to go out of town for the weekend within 4-6 hours. I barely had time to finish preparing and packing much less crouch at the floor for hours while pregnant... that was my rationale. I didn't have the heart to tackle this task while trying to get ready to leave, although it meant we'd have to deal with it when we got back.

So the towels would have to cover the floor all weekend... and there they remain. We got back home last night, looked at the kitchen, sighed, and put down a few more towels. See, we've been stepping on the towels because any floor uncovered is still shining with the oil slick.

And I'm *still* trying to face this huge cleanup.

I'm thinking I need to find my stool to sit on because squatting on the floor for periods of time while pregnant would be uncomfortable and potentially hazardous. (Don't fall into the oil!) I'm thinking I should use the cleaner before even attempting to mop. I shudder to even think of adding water to that mix. I'm thinking that I'm hungry already and don't have time to deal with this... as I tiptoe across the towels to get my direly needed waffles and orange juice to Feed Teh Baby.

It's daunting. Can you tell it's daunting? I am trying to steel myself to take care of it already, but OMG where to start??? It's huge.

I'm trying to not point fingers. Yes, Mr. Sweetie did it, but this is way beyond the normal careless "oops" situation; it was the perfect storm of bad circumstances, and I don't want to make him feel any worse about it than he already does. Really I don't. I have made my own huge mistakes, and he cleans up nasty messes for me all the time. Like the soup I forgot to throw away before we left for the weekend... *ahem*

But still, I am not entrusting the floor cleanup to my husband, the person who cannot see juice spilled on the floor, the person who in fact doubted the number of towels on the floor.

"Why are there towels over there? It's not over there is it?"

Oh, yes. Oh yes, it unfortunately is.

So it'll be me wiping and scrubbing. Maybe after breakfast...

Okay, so this is not really a perfect analogy to the Wall Street crisis. In our case, the person responsible for the peanut butter oil fiasco is not overseeing the bail out/cleanup. It's not the end of the world, really. It's not a permanent situation that will forever change our lives. Our kitchen won't collapse without a bailout from the local cleaning service, although the mess did bring a halt to food preparations. (Who can cook when our steps are squeaking? Eek! eek!) Meanwhile, I can postpone the reckoning by writing a post about my frustrations, analyzing how we got to this point. I guess that part would ring true, though, what with everyone on Wall Street and in Congress staggering around in shock trying to come to terms with the financial situation. Maybe there is more of an analogy but my pregnant brain has been distracted yet again.

So true, the oil spill in our kitchen is not really on the scale of a national disaster. I do think, though, that I will be implementing a few small changes. Such as sticking to hydrogenated peanut butter from here on out. Must regulate the ratio of oily food containers to potential scale of disaster. On this, I think we can agree.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Simple Woman's Daybook 092508

The Simple Woman's Daybook, a daily journal, aka a feature of The Simple Woman blog.

I ran across this very excellent idea from the blogger, High Desert Home, last month, and have been wanting to try it out for a while. Happy Thursday!

For Today...Thursday, September 25th, 2008

Outside my Window...cloudy skies and stirring, strong breezes.

Towards a daily rhythm...doing some light yoga to keep myself limber and strong and just plain *awake*!

I am thinking...about lesson plan ideas for my students.

I am thankful for...a warm house and sleeping cats and chatty emails from friends.

From the juice and melted cheese on multi-grain bread sounds good to me.

I am wearing...comfy grey maternity leggings and a dark, three-quarters length maternity top with a blue and lavender pinstripe. Chicer than some of my non-maternity wear!

I am reading...Brazelton's Touchpoints - Milestones in Your Child's Emotional and Behavioral Development and finishing When the Tide Rises, sci-fi from David Drake.

I am creating...yet more squares for a colorful bed quilt, and a lesson plan for next week.

I am hoping...that I can go for my Masters in a few years. And that the tent is not hopelessly ruined by being stored damp (after the last rainy dance weekend).

I am hearing...the far-off sounds of interstate traffic and the closer sounds of a tree rubbing against the gutter, little grey birds scolding each other, and my wind chimes dancing in the breeze.

I am going to breathe deeply...and appreciate the life growing inside me. Hi, baby!

Around the house...the kitchen is a mess.

Bring beauty to my sweeping the wood floors. Ahhh.

One of my favorite things...creating something with my hands, shaping a lesson plan.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week...I need to air out the tent and pack for a dance weekend, most likely in the rain! I need to write up a list of questions to ask the OB at my next appointment. I need to call around to local handymen for help with the new kitchen.

Here is a picture thought I am sharing with you...


Saturday, September 20, 2008


So, I'd heard about this place from my far-off internet friends. Camelot! I mean, Ikea!

Some dreamland of inexpensive, well-designed home decor, both heaven and bane of decorators on the cheap. Heaven, because you can find the best cool home stuff for modest cash outlay, and the bane because there are so many good things, it's hard to get away without more than you planned on. Ir-re-sist-able! LIke a Swedish Target with better furniture. Or something.

I heard people speak with glee and satisfaction of putting together that new orange couch or finding the perfect thingie to organize or round out the room. You'd think it was the holy grail of "the rug that pulls the whole room together."

This remained a curiosity, though, because there are no Ikea stores in my area. None, nada, zilch. We finally got a few Trader Joe's last year, and oh, happy day! But no Ikea. Okay, I can deal.

Flash forward to this Summer when we decided we had to replace/expand kitchen cabinets and countertops this year. (Must. Renovate. Before. Baby. Comes.)* And somehow in the last 5 or 6 years, the price for replacing kitchen cabinets has skyrocketed. I have an old cost estimate I worked up in the Dark Ages. $800 dollars, people. Today's prices? About $5000. *gak* Worse, I frankly hated the stuff I was now seeing at H0me Dep0t and L0wes.

*We currently have a mere 8 cabinets and 2 small countertop spaces. Renovation would at least double that.

The neighborhood listserv gave me all kinds of ideas. Many people suggested custom-built, which, as we know, is doable, but (probably) not in our better budget. But! A couple people raved about their Ikea experience. I thought, wait, you mean Ikea does kitchen cabinets too????? It took that many question marks because I had that big light bulb over my head. I lit up with the idea that Ikea was going to save us from over-priced bad design (or even over-priced good design).

I did a g0ogle search, and found that the nearest Ikea was either in DC or Atlanta, or maybe Cincinnati. Never fear, we could also order cabinets online. I poked about on the website and it was definitely worth looking into. However, we have this thing called We-need-to-see-it-in-person-to-satisfy-quality-standards-and-design-ideas. Conveniently enough, we were supposed to go to Virginia for a work/social event. What's another few hours to DC? We could do this thing AND visit the Ikea. My husband was on board with this plan, so that's what happened.

This happened to be the Hurricane Ike weekend wherein gas prices shot up way past $4/gallon, and the weather was all hot and icky, AND I was a little stressed about preparing for the work thing. But luckily, at the last minute, I found my old kitchen floor plan and notes buried in the office (under "current" house projects - ha!), and my husband drove the whole way.

Thus it was that we did our work thing Saturday, woke up Sunday morning, visited some more, then headed up I-95 to Woodbridge. Thanks to those online maps, I even knew which exit to use to get to the mall (which, by the way, appears to cover a solid two miles of acreage).

Me in my current condition, I also had to eat every couple of hours. Never fear, I told my husband, I heard they have a cafe too.

I have to admit, I felt a little shiver of excitement as we pulled into the parking garage. "Oo! oo! Ikea!" And again when we entered the store. "Look, honey! They have a loading dock!" We tried to not look like hicks visiting the big city for the first time, but it's hard to remain cool when faced with such an iconic giant.

We deliberately did not follow the crowd, pausing frequently to get our bearings. I had warned my husband that it was known as a place to get lost. But first, we had to eat. We followed the sound of clinking dinnerware past the kids' play area to the cafeteria. I was chagrined to notice they had few vegetarian options, and amused to notice that they had the desserts on display first thing in line. But we opted for penne pasta with marinara sauce and either salad or mixed vegetables, and that turned out to be the perfect lunch.

During lunch, we reviewed the paperwork I had brought with me: One kitchen floor plan to scale and some cabinet piece counts. We also reviewed strategy. There would be a lot to look at, but our priority was to hash out some ideas of kitchen design based on what they had, and still have time left to drive all the way home that night, 5+ hours.

So after lunch and a quick bathroom break (Oo, look! A mother's room!) , we started in on the cabinetry.

Right in the front of the kitchen area was the cutest little 3-D model kitchen. The walls of the doll-house, I mean, model, were gridded with measurements and the floor was littered with wooden scale models of cabinet and appliances that you would rearrange to your satisfaction. The wee wall cabinets even had magnets that would make them cling to the sides of the model. It was so darling, I immediately wanted to play with it, but we were quickly distracted by a walls worth of models of all the door finishes. But first, I had to pry my husband away from the appliances! Yes, they have dishwashers, too.

I had already narrowed down our preferences via the internet, and we zeroed in on our top two choices, asking questions and taking notes. Mr. Sweetie was in his element, looking things over with a sharp eye and analyzing data. He took their estimated price for a 10-ft kitchen space and extrapolated what our space would cost... coming up with something very doable! Okay, then!

We quickly decided that the white old-fashioned look was both more to our preference and more economical than the one wood version that would go with our existing paneling, and within minutes, reassured ourselves that this would make sense for both our stylistic ideals and our budget.

I was surprised to realize how much I liked the wooden counter tops. That might tie in to all that existing wood in the rest of the room, and they looked great with our fav cabinets. My husband then spent some time asking about the difference between Corian stone and marble countertops, even though we had soon figured out that the Corian would run 5 times as much as the wood or laminate. The prices looked similar until I noticed that the wood was priced by the piece lengths and the Corian was priced by square foot. Sneaky!

Then I was entranced by a display that had all the cabinet widths displayed in sequence: 12", 15", 18", 24", 30", 36"... So many combinations of shelves or pull out drawers, my head was spinning. What I really wanted, I declared, was a brochure that had all options and prices and pictures together, so that I wouldn't drive myself crazy trying to write down every single available option. I found one product list and started checking my cabinet dimensions against the catalogue while the Mister started browsing amongst the drawer inserts. (I really like the wooden one. Yes, honey, but we have one already.)

Then Mr. Sweetie wandered off himself and found the sample kitchen for our favorite cabinet... Oooo!

Tall Cabinet Area 72

This was bliss indeed. We wandered about that corner in a happy daze, absorbing the feel of the design, and gazing about as if we were living there. For a while, we ping-ponged around, opening cabinets and exploring, and saying, oo, I like that! How about *that* cabinet feature?
Hedra Knobs 72
I finally started to focus and correlate the display in front of us with the catalogue, and cross-checking against our floor plan. It was then we discovered that the display showed all of the mid-to-large widths.
Stove Area 72
They looked fantastic, but since our kitchen space is rather restricted, our options were also limited. No fancy glass doors for us, alas, because they were only available in widths that did not fit in our space! A big bummer to adjust to that reality. As a consolation, I started taking pictures of the info tags and pieces that *would* fit in our kitchen plan.
Corner Base Ext 72
It felt really important to be able to bring home the vision of what we wanted, so I was glad that nobody fussed at us for taking pictures. [insert pictures here] We also realized that we had enough ceiling height to put in the taller cabinets, making more use of the space we have, so at least that was a nice surprise.

After we had exhausted ourselves of all practical and feel-good activities, we realized we had been there almost two hours, and time well-spent indeed! We decided that we'd give ourselves only another 30-40 minutes to scan the *rest* of the store to see what was there was to see. There was actually a path with traffic flow arrows on it, but since the kitchen was near the end of the route, we were far from the starting point. We decided to continue in a clockwise direction, not realizing that we'd be walking against the rest of the customer traffic! D'oh! Call us nonconformists.

We walked through the rest of the kitchens and into bedrooms and into living rooms, offices, et al, skimming through the entire place.

Now, this was interesting. I did not expect my husband to be ultimately enamored of Ikea in the same way I heard my friends talk about it. But gradually, we both became really delighted with the place. Especially after trying out multiple chairs, we did find a living room reading chair/recliner that we both loved. This place was *so cool*, we agreed. We both noticed that the designs were not so overblown as to overpower our living space. Everything seemed sleek and modest rather than lavish and oversized. It must be a European thing, I concluded... and we like it! Living in a modest space, we were delighted to find furniture that would actually fit!

I was starting to get tired, but we rushed through the children's section long enough to note a few pieces of furniture for future reference. Not enough attention to really wander at that point. (Oo, look at that cute (and inexpensive) crib! And those darling little wall lamps! I want green kiddie chair!)

And then when we were leaving, Mr. Sweetie asked about getting the recliner. Um, can we get it into the car within half and hour, because I am fading fast... Can it even *fit* in our little car? No energy to contemplate, so we left the store tired but glowing, stopping only to eat some bento box sushi at one of the surrounding strip/clump malls. The food did us good, and we got back on the road by 5 p.m.

Of course, later, we were kicking ourselves for not attempting to get the box into the car, because the shipping charges would kill us. It really was a great recliner. It is. Maybe if we go up to haul the cabinets home, we can stuff the chair in the U-Haul as well.

And if we get the recliner, maybe we could get the matching chair and thereby have an even better excuse to get rid of the ugly 70s brown metal tubing chairs that I've had forever? Hmmm. And maybe a new couch someday? Oh, the possibilities!

Yup, it's official. We've been Ikeaified. And we *like* it.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Yay, posting!

Okay, so I have been very lax about writing in the last month. I write everything in my head... I think about posts, and maybe even type a few fragments... and then I sigh and try to think of what I should eat next. This pregnancy is shrinking my attention span to the size of a large gnat, it is. Even accomplishing small things during each day is an accomplishment. A load of laundry? Okay! Got dressed before noon? Yay! Took out the trash? Oo, I cooked something, even. So actually posting has been an uphill battle. I can barely bring myself to bother about things I'm supposed to worry about. Must be the endorphins? Whateverrr.

However, finslippy recently had an excellent post on writing and the creative process. Keeping the doing alive. Or something. Don't rely on me to tell you all about it. Anyway, it's been a nice kick-start, a bony finger prodding me in the butt, saying pisst! Hey! Don't you have things to write? Yeah, I do.

A small quote from Mizz Finslippy excerpted from that same post:

It's a miracle that I get anything done, I'm so busy giving myself a hard time.
But everyone does this. This is how the mind works to stop you from writing. Creating is scary, and your brain wants you to run from scary things. For some reason it forgets about the rewards that come from risk.

Go read it. There's more good stuff and I can't just quote the whole thing.

Here's to every small accomplishment and keeping "the doing" alive. Yay, posting!