Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Do You Know Reddy Kilowatt?

One Girl Scout field trip was to the electric utility company's Home Ec demonstration kitchen with electric stoves, which we had never seen, and we practiced cooking on them, back when they WANTED people to use up electrical energy.

The electric company 's mascot was a figure made of lighting bolts with a bulbous head, a light-bulb nose and electric-socket ears, named Reddy Kilowatt, and it gave out Reddy-themed potholders and lapel pins, and electric bills had his picture on them, but after the energy shortage of 1973-74 -- the winter that, to save energy, we walked to school in the mornings with the stars still overhead -- saw him rarely, and now Reddy Kilowatt items are collectible. My sister and bro-in-law in Wisconsin collected two nostalgic Reddy potholders for me. Flummoxed because they had no tabs to hang them, I left them in a drawer for years before realizing they contained magnets for sticking them on the fridge. I now use them frequently. Here they are assisting me, saying "Be modern, cook electrically," on the propane stove with a pan of lavender shortbread.

Although Reddy looks to me now as if he suffers from terrible arthritis, I am fond of him. He was designed in the 1920s, to be consumer-friendly when farmers hemmed and hawed about buying electricity because they'd gotten along for 10,000 years without it. As I moved around the country I met people who had never heard of Reddy Kilowatt, and at times felt very alone, the way you feel when no one around you shares your archaic memories.

Then one day I had at the Divine Cabin a guest, born in Missouri in 1947. He saw my potholders and said, "Oh, Reddy Kilowatt," and I almost threw myself at his feet and begged him to marry me.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Animals Know What's Best

All animals know and go for the best part of anything: Here's a daddy long legs enthroned and lounging in the most elegant and fragrant of palaces, the crown of my basil plant, not caring if the plant is not native and scrawny because, I think, I transplanted the young plant into too big a pot, hoping for a big lush green bushy grant of basil. But I love it anyway and am glad a creature has found and appreciates it and feels safe there; there are not enough leaves on the plant for the spider to worry about the risk of becoming pesto.

A young cedar plant, being invasive, picks the choicest spot for its growth an inch in front of a healthy deciduous tree, such as an oak, with the goal of overshadowing it and appropriating all its nutrients, not caring that it's being rude and the other tree was there first; it's just nature.

I was taught to expect or take second-best and leave the absolute best for somebody else -- let them have the best bedroom, best part of the chicken, or shower first and get the hot water, etc. So glad I live where wild animals are teaching me the proper attitude, and there's no pressure to compromise.

Happy Labor Day!

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The Gall

Here's my new bae Andricus quercusstrobilanus, Mom. He's a fake pine cone that is in fact a gall, the space station of a gall wasp parasitical on oak trees. Fairly rare to see them so fresh and orange; usually they're seen and photographed in the dryish brown stage. I was just lucky, I guess. It was my moment. Their months are July and August and they seem to like wet, steamy weather. Is that more than you wanted to know, Mom?

Mom, did you ever imagine that your kid (nay, the fruit of your womb) would be curious about, like, strange growths like fungi, galls and slimes? Kind of be a geek about them? Wondering what the heck this planet has in this walk-in closet called reality? Remember spanking me with a hairbrush?

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

That Is Our Choices!

Above: from the town's official newsletter
Pardon that I'm breathless, weak in the knees, I am so relieved. I fixed the dishwasher. It has taken all month. Please understand that the Divine kitchen sink -- a single sink -- is an inch too narrow to hold a nine-inch dinner plate. I'm not exaggerating. There is no space for a rack or drainboard. The dishwasher solves this. Otherwise I do dishes by washing and immediately rinsing, drying, and storing each piece before I can wash another; or do them outside.

After installing first a new latch and then a new motherboard and the dishwasher still wouldn't start, I put off and put off installing the third new part after it arrived. I couldn't face failure, nor $125 for an appliance-repairman housecall (that doesn't include labor and parts) after the $207 already spent on new parts; or a sickening $750 for a new dishwasher. Buying a used model would need a truck and friends to haul the used one in and haul the fritzed one away -- to where?

Fed up with being responsible for everything, absolutely everything, with yet more snakes wriggling out of my fireplace (!), I cried while unboxing the third new part and facing the screws and wires and pressure of high-stakes better-do-it-right -- without knowing how! Why not just call a repair place?! I almost did.

Yet if I installed the part and the machine didn't work, I'd be no worse off than I was. I gave it one last shot. It worked. The stress in my body released all at once. Shaking, I carefully placed a single dish inside, and sat next to it reading a book for two hours as it cycled, in case it flooded (flooded the new kitchen flooring and all the related, detailed wood-filler, paint and caulking?! I would die!) or exploded, etc. Works great.

I had promised myself ice cream if I repaired it. Actually, I promised myself fine pearl earrings but that money went for replacement parts. I was, and remain, too spent to go get ice cream. And so ends the month of Clean It Up, Fix It Up, Paint It Up -- the City of Pacific's motto. That is our choices!

Monday, August 27, 2018

Good Lord!

I have seen the 25-year plan for Pacific. In 25 years there will be no Pacific; it will be at the bottom of a man-made recreational lake ringed with McMansions, and somebody will make big money. Historic flooding in 2015, then worse in 2017, twice drowned half the town's housing and businesses; in 2017, the water topped the railroad tracks for the first time. The town was now floodplain and there was no two ways about it. Some residents FEMA'd and some didn't. When we're weary some developer will propose a glamorous lake in place of the sleepy little town and grease some pockets and make it so. But my mind was elsewhere when today I saw the little white country church lifted on pallets way up in the air, and thought, "Good Lord!"

I know buildings get raised and moved, a task I can't even begin to comprehend, and here I could watch it happen by hopping out of my car and telling a worker how amazed I was, and could I take a photo.

"Is the church being raised because of the flooding?" I asked, above the roar of the Bobcat. (Here, "bobcat" is both noun and verb.)

"Just like we raised the other houses around here," he said, and for the first time I looked around and saw that more than half the houses on the street, formerly ground-level bungalows, were now poised on new, high, solid concrete foundations -- ten feet high? twelve feet? More? The doors in front and back were now accessed with handsome new wooden staircases that one could tie a rowboat to. Those folks were staying put, flood or no. And my heart was glad.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Raisin Rye

Hankering for Raisin Rye bread I went from bakery to bakery inquiring. The bakers, sounding puzzled, said "Raisin rye?" "No, we never made that," as if they never heard of it. In Hermann, MO, where the German bakeries are, I again asked for raisin rye. None. Strange; I used to have it all the time (good with tuna salad, or for breakfast) -- or so it seemed. Friends hadn't heard of it. Did the world run out of it? Had I dreamt it? I googled it and it was not a dream.

I probably never bought raisin rye bread in St. Louis. It's not a German bread. Some say it has French origins but my hometown 400 miles from here is full of  Swedes and Danes, and they bake and are known for rye breads (as are the Finns) because in Scandinavia wheat won't grow but rye will. Dried grapes from warmer places on the continent came to Scandinavian port cities, and somebody put them in rye bread where they are very tasty. It's a food from my childhood. Thus my instinctual and inexplicable craving for it.

This fragrant home-baked loaf is probably a travesty because I added density and bite with a tablespoon of pumpernickel in with the wheat and rye flours. Recipes include shortening, molasses, cocoa, sourdough, coffee, cardamom, pecans or walnuts, fennel, orange zest, the water you plump the raisins in, grated Vitamin C, cinnamon, icing, buttermilk and starter, to name a few; such an array that raisin rye seems like an edible canvas bakers paint with their favorite flavors. Lots of bakers won't work with rye; it has no gluten so it doesn't assume the same lordly shapes of classic wheat breads.

Friday, August 24, 2018

DIYing is an Art, Like Everything Else

I lowered the Maytag's top onto an exercise mat, sliced into the dishwasher's bottom which is mere cardboard covered with foil, and used my voltage meter seeking weak electrical links. Taped it up when I found nothing wrong. Then it remained to lift the dishwasher upright. Tried and couldn't. (100 pounds? 150 pounds?) I wondered who I might call and what I should pay them, and imagined the gossip they would spread. Disheartened, I left it this way for four days.

The fifth day, after morning coffee, like Popeye on spinach I righted the dishwasher on the first try, a miracle. Then with a star-nosed screwdriver I removed the inside of its door, exposing wires both live and dead. Online forums and YouTube videos recommended a new latch, $12, as a first step toward repair. This didn't fix it, and God arranged a minor electrical shock to further humble me. Second-tier solution: a new $125 motherboard. While waiting for its delivery I dismantled and cleaned the machine's interior, down to its motor. Reassembly left me with two extra screws. I knew this was not right. Cue up the circus music, because I had installed a part upside down. Five or six days passed before I summoned the heart to undo and fix it.

A 1990s course called "How to Build a Computer" taught me it is insanely easy and no parts inside electronics are fragile, so replacing a motherboard does not scare me, plus YouTube demonstrations showed repairs on machines similar to mine. Installed the new motherboard. Now all the wires were hot. Still the dishwasher wouldn't start.

Online fix-it forums revealed arcane knowledge about secret codes for resetting dishwasher programming. Tried all of these codes. Glory be, three of the green LED lights lit up. Much heartened, I pressed the dishwasher's Start button but in vain. YouTube sages indicated a possibly malfunctioning touchpad. Paid $72 and the new touchpad is on its way.

Wouldn't it be nice if that fixed it? A new dishwasher is $750. I have learned a lot. A lot.