Maid perfect

Canister vacuum cleaner for home use.

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Mondays are floor days in the Tracer household.  If my family is home on a Monday, they always look surprised when I announce this, as if to say, why Monday?  Why not Tuesday?  Or Wednesday or any day when we’re not here?  I’ve often wondered why the floors have their own day but not the walls, so I have decided to designate Wednesday as Wall Day. 

The last time I asked my husband Skip what day he does the floors, he didn’t have an answer.   That’s because Skip never mops the floors.  That’s all right–I don’t think I really want to add anything more to the long list of things he has to get done.  I tackle the floors on Monday and work on the rest of the house on other days. 

I’m not going for maid perfect.  If you live in a house and have a dog or two, the floor actually does need to be swept and mopped occasionally and the carpets do need to be vaccuumed.  I suspect that Skip and Tad don’t like it when I clean because

  • I pick things up
  • they don’t like to see me working while they’re sitting playing computer games
  • I insist that everything has a place
  • the vacuum cleaners makes noise
  • they don’t like wet floors
  • it is inconvenient for them not to be able to walk wherever they want, when they want because they have to worry about wet floors. 

If they were to actually pitched in and do some of the work, this part of the day would go that much faster and we could all move onto other fun activities.  I haven’t had any takers so far, so here I am, maid perfect.

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Today the frig!

It’s morning here in Seattle and I had hoped to go running first thing, but, judging from the rain, I think that will have to wait until this afternoon.

I had one of those awkward moments yesterday.  I went to get my hair cut.  I love scissors.  Nothing makes me happier than having a pair of scissors in my hands.  Warning: do not let me cut your hair.  Do not ask me to cut your hair.  You will regret it.  I have been cutting my own hair since I could hold a pair of scissors, including since my last visit in July with the result that my hair now looks like a lopsided haystack and that’s putting it mildly.  Sometimes when I think about calling my stylist for an appointment, the scissors leap into my hands and there I am, shorn again.

One of the difficulties is that parking is too expensive and way too crowded near where my stylist works and her prices are moderate.  Fifteen bucks is too much to pay–it’s half the cost of the haircut ($30 + 15 + 6 = $41 and you can see why the scissors seem so attractive)  In Seattle, residents are expected to give up their cars and take the bus, which would then involve a two-hour commute for a twenty-minute haircut.   Two hours and at least $3.50.  Oh, sign me up for that.  I’d ride my bike but although parking is rarely an issue where I go, sometimes it’s simply too cold and wet to be a comfortable alternative.

I had a meeting in the area shortly afterward (it’s really nice to have an occasional meeting when you’re unemployed, it gets you out there, mixing with people, and away from obsessing at the computer all day).  Anyway, I had to be creative and use an alternate way of getting there, which for me was running 2 1/2 miles one way.  How convenient is that?  To get my workout and in the process (in Seattle, we are all about process) save almost enough money to buy a latte ($3.52) to get me through the meeting.   I carried three things: 1) $20 for coffee, lunch or an emergency bus ride, 2) my drivers license for identification to get into the building where the meeting was held and 3) my Visa card.

To get to what was awkward–I didn’t know that my stylist no longer takes Visa.  She pays a certain percentage to the company for each transaction as well as a transaction charge and also what sounded like a yearly charge.  With the downturn in the economy, client visits are down , so she felt like she couldn’t let people use their Visa cards anymore.  This economy is hard on small business owners.  I can’t blame her, except there I was without enough money to pay.

I’ve known her long enough that we were able to work it out.  In about half an hour, I will head to her bank and deposit the money into her account.  Let’s hope that works.

In the meantime, today is Refrigerator Day in the Tracer household.  I am going to clean out the refrigerator for the first time in who knows how long.  If I don’t know, no one else around here does.  The first thing to go will be those well-aged apricots in light syrup on the top shelf.  Seattle allows us to put food scraps in with yard waste.  If only I could wheel the big green container into the kitchen, I could save a step or two.

So, what are the steps?

  1. put inspiring music on, for example, Hotel California, Fountains of Wayne, Abba (Mamma Mia)–anything that will help me get the job done.
  2. find a waste container
  3. open refrigerator door
  4. scream or groan (“ah! who put this moldy food in here?”)
  5. remove ancient and moldy food shelf by shelf (note: include shelves in the door as well as drawer)
  6. go for a log reduction (10% instead of 100%)–remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect
  7. immediately take the food out to the yard waste container 
  8. wipe all surfaces down with a dilute solution of soapy water rather than an ammonia based spray unless you want your vegetables to taste like ammonia
  9. repeat in one month–actually sometime around December 19th–and then monthly after that

Wish me luck!

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Thanksgiving dinner

Half of a homemade pecan pie in a glass baking...

Image via Wikipedia

I do occasionally make festive meals but I don’t go for what most people would call a traditional menu.  We are not in Seattle for Thanksgiving and I am in charge of dinner today.  Here is what is on the menu for the Tracer family today:

Duckling a l’orange–I checked the epicurious site and I am using the 1943 version, adapted, of course.  For example, I am using plain white vinegar and about 1/4 cup of white wine instead of white wine vinegar.

Wild rice, steamed.  If you’re interested in knowing more about authentic Indian wild rice, visit my hub

Brussels sprouts, steamed

Yam, steamed

Cranberries, jellied, from a can

Lettuce salad (mixed baby lettuce) with grated carrots, sliced cucumbers and for Skip, red bell peppers.  Vinaigrette on the side.

And for dessert, pecan pie, chess style, no corn syrup, just good old butter and sugar.  Check out this recipe from :,1637,151174-245202,00.html

I think the recipe contains a mistake–it calls for 1/2 stick of butter, but I think the writer got confused by the quantity 1/2 cup of butter vs. 1 stick of butter, which is why it is probably best to stick to standard units like 1/2 cup or weight units.  I used 1/2 cup of butter or 1 stick of butter and the recipe turned out perfect.

This really deviates from the traditional meal involving turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, candied yams, olives, salad, rolls, and at least two kinds of pie.  We used to eat pumpkin pie and mincemeat, which really wasn’t meat, but chopped apples and raisins.

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Cooking circle

Last night I received a cryptic email from a complete stranger (we haven’t met yet, have we? if this is the way you’re going about it, I think we might never meet) asking me to log on to a website (oh like I need another website username and password to forget) to sign up to cook meals for Desdemona, a neighbor (one block east, one block north). 

Hold the horses.  I had only heard that Des had been in hospital a couple of days ago.  Weren’t we rushing things a bit?  I am The Woman Who is Out of the Loop and For Good Reason (also known as a very bad carpooler).  I guess I would liked to know that Des had been ill, before strangers started trying to sign me up to cook dinner, that is to say, how about making me a member of the ‘let’s pipe over to hospital to visit Des and cheer her up’ brigade for at least ten minutes before tapping me to join the ‘tuna noodle casserole’ brigade. 

Unfortunately, I don’t know Des all that well, at least I don’t know her well enough to be included in the circle of people who knew that she was hospitalized.  Couldn’t the same technology that is being used to ask me to sign up to cook (oh, twist my arm, please)  also have been used to let me know that there was a problem to begin with?    I have the creeping feeling that I’m good for the business part, but not for the cheering up and commiserating part of things.

I’m afraid I don’t get it.  Sometimes the world seems like a big fraternal order where I don’t know the secret handshake.  I like Des.  She’s a nice person and her children, Cordelia and Will, never fail to completely ignore me when I run or drive past their house.  A lot of teenagers are that way, so it’s nothing personal, but it doesn’t make me want to rush over with a tub of frozen lasagna and some salad in a box.  By the way, I don’t think I would recognize her husband, Chris, but that’s what happens when you’ve never met someone, isn’t it?  You don’t recognize them.  Just the same, I’m sure Chris is also a nice person. 

One thought baffles me–what have the Marlows been doing for meals since Des was hospitalized?

I also find myself wondering if this is a gender-based list?  Big mistake.  The real cooks in this house are Skip and Tad.  Not me.  Too bad they didn’t ask Skip to cook for the Marlows.  He is really a much better cook than I am, because he cares.  These dark winter nights, my idea of dinner is Boars Head brats, applesauce, French bread, Dijon mustard and a green salad.  All of which the Marlows could do perfectly fine themselves without me waving a packet of overpriced brats at them and calling it dinner.

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Office archaeology

I am looking for a needle in a haystack.  I am working on a long term project–a book with several other collaborators–and I misplaced my notes from a meeting I traveled to last summer.  If the notes still exist, and I am hopeful that they do, then successive waves of cleaning have buried them in the office and there is only one way to fix that: debulk the office.  I spent a couple of hours filing and sorting last night without any luck.

I used to use the toss method of looking for things–that is, toss anything that isn’t what you want to one side.  Now I am more careful, more methodical, like an archaelogist uncovering a dig site.  My first thought is, what is all this paper and who are these people and why did they leave it here?  It’s our paper and I just brought it downstairs so it wouldn’t clutter up the living room. 

My next step is to to decide whether or not I want to keep any one piece of paper.  If I do, I either file it or put the piece of paper in a stack on the floor designated by letter.  The current box is only up to the Gs.  Actually, what I really want is one of those alphabetical sorters…I’ll have to look for one.

Next, I decide if the paper is: a) reusable; b) recyclable; c) needs to be shredded.  For example, old bills with identifying data get shredded, and in Seattle, the shreddings can be put in the yard waste container.  Reusable paper has printing only on one side.  It gets taken upstairs and put into the one and only stack of reusable paper right near the phone.  Recyclable paper has no personal identifiers and gets popped whole into the recycling bin.

The house is reasonably clean.  I am planning to have a couple of neighbors over to take a peek at the house.  They are curious.  I don’t think the previous resident entertained much.  They may as well get a look between us and the next residents.  If the house gets sold, the new owners will gut it.

It is a beautiful morning in Seattle.

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The List

The List: I have taken to making a list of things to do every day.  Or almost every day.  Sometimes I’ll just go with the flow and make it all the way to the evening and then think, oh! I should have written all this down, I got so much done today!  Which is funny, because it doesn’t really matter how much I get done one day, I get up the next morning and there is a whole new list.  It’s the old moving target.

The Paper: I have a stack of paper in my kitchen that I use for lists, paper that comes from unsolicited mail like credit card offers.  I used to have a notebook but my friends teased me about carrying it around and losing.  So now I just settle for an ephemereal daily list, which I also lose sometimes, and have to either make a new list or spend time looking for it. 

The Daily List: The list, like my life, lasts only a day.  The next morning, if I remember,  I’ll look at it to see if I need to carryover anything from day to day, and then I’ll shred it.  Sometimes I forget this last step and will come across old lists in all sorts of places.  For example, I came across this list for the day that I had a job interview a couple of weeks ago.  I was Superwoman, flying through the day, leaping tall buildings, and half of the things I did that day never made it to the list–Tad was sick, so I called the doctors office, called the school, called the school again because they didn’t listen to their attendance voicemail, took Tad into the doctors office (he just had a bad cold), left home early for the interview to beat the traffic on I-5, drove around a parking lot looking for a spot, found one–thank goodness I can walk so far–and waited in a hot car for half an hour, which wasn’t so bad, since I did remember to bring a good book.  

The only other thing I do with the list is sometimes break tasks into smaller steps to help me understand what I am doing and why it takes me so long to do something.  I have to pick up before I can sweep, move chairs and sweep before I mop.  Housework isn’t that hard technically–it’s just being organized and having a routine that helps.

I am trying to limit my time on the computer, since once I turn on, I tune out, and suddenly it’s three pm and Tad is coming home from school and I haven’t gotten anything done.  It’s all right to have days that are less efficient than others, but I hope my overall progress is forward.

Time to hibernate the computer and go for a run.  It’s on the list!

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Early bird

I spent part of the morning grocery shopping.  Has anyone noticed how expensive some items are getting?  Couscous and oat bran–they used to be relatively inexpensive,  nutritional ways to pad out the old diet.  Prices seem to be gradually climbing for these and other favorite items.  Why would Bob’s couscous reach $5.49 for a 24 ounces?  Is price the only reason to buy?  Oh well, we like Bob’s couscous and he’s an ethical guy so I’ll probably buy into the positive hype and keep it on the table.  As for the oat bran…well, it turns out it is much cheaper than what we commonly call “cold cereal” although it’s not really cold, is it, it’s the milk that’s cold.  Anyway, oat bran has the added virtue of a reasonable glycemic index, which means my glucose doesn’t crash mid-morning and I like to pretend it is scouring the lipids from my arteries.  Better than a statin, I hope.

Anyway, I always think that shopping should take an hour (getting to the store, making my selections, going home and putting everything away) but unfortunately, it takes more like a couple of hours to do everything.  Shopping first thing in the morning is great.  I’m a little worried about the impending grocery workers’ strike and what that will mean for the workers and consumers like me.

All right.  What else did I do today?  Went running in the rain.  Took Tad to the orthodontist.  Paid some bills.  Donated money to the Seattle Public Library Foundation.  The Seattle Public Library has been very good to me.  If I had to buy the books…I would be substantially poorer.  So I gave them $100 to help match the offer made by a donor.  I love the library.  I also made dinner.  Did dishes.  Put dishes away.  Weeded out the newspapers.  Yeah, we have a subscription to the Seattle Times.  There’s nothing like holding newsprint in your hot little hands first thing in the morning.  The early bird gets the worm in this house.  First person up in the morning gets the front page.

I finally sent my chapter off to the working group and I am eagerly awaiting their comments.

Another busy day in the rainy city.

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