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Posts Tagged ‘housewifery’

I am about to recommend a product to you that I now find indispensable. But I want to include a couple of caveats before I do so.

The first is this post’s unfortunate proximity to Mother’s Day. I can (sigh) imagine some people (not you, but I bet you can think of the type of someone I mean) reading this post and leaping up and shrieking, “That’s it! That’s the perfect gift for A Mother!” And while yes, I love it because it is extremely useful, and while I do in fact use it during the execution of tasks that are often left exclusively to mothers, I would argue vehemently that products which make it easier/simpler/more efficient/better for a mother to execute her duties should NOT be given at Mother’s Day gifts, but instead should be considered legitimate business expenses, and items required to do the work of a household, and should be categorized with things like cleansers and mops rather than lumped into the gift category. Just as an office would not consider an ergonomic chair or a wireless mouse to be GIFTS for the person using them, an air fryer or a new washing machine or a new zooper should be considered tools that make it easier or more efficient for a homemaker to complete the work of running a household. Not. Gifts.

I know – I KNOW – that sometimes a big extravagant purchase like a washing machine can put a strain on a household budget. And yet I would still argue that it should not be re-categorized as a gift. Unless and only if the washing machine is also counted as a gift for Father’s Day as well. 

So I am not recommending this as a gift. Maybe – maybe – I could see it as a stocking stuffer, IF multiple people of multiple sexes and familial roles received it all at the same time.

Okay. So that is the main caveat. 

The second caveat is that this is a single-use item. At least in my household. I see that the product manufacturers/marketers have tried valiantly to come up with alternate uses, but please note my Raised Eyebrow of Skepticism and Uh-Huh, Sure. I don’t usually like single-use products, but I like this one. It is so effective at its one job (and so small and easy to slip into a drawer) that when I somehow lost mine, I immediately ordered ten more. (To be fair, I ordered ten more only because it comes in a pack of ten.) 

Anyway. All caveats aside: the product is a pan scraper. It is made of a stiff plastic and it is about the size of a credit card. I use it to scrape the egg off of a pan when I have made scrambled eggs.

(image from amazon.com) I don’t know that I ever really noticed the different shaped corners? But sure, whatever.

I do not particularly LIKE eggs, but I eat them a lot. And the egg never fails to form a thin veneer across the top of the supposedly non-stick coating of my pan. A veneer that is so adhesive, it’s a wonder that the folks at Elmer’s haven’t patented it. 

I use a stiff-bristled scrubber to clean my dishes. But my scrubber does not work well on the egg veneer. Sometimes, after several soakings and applying lots of elbow grease, it will come off. But then the egg transfers to the bristles of the scrub brush and refuses to come off. REFUSES. It pains me to admit that I have thrown away more than one scrubber due to stubborn egg scraps.

Even the miracle that is Dawn Powerwash has little effect on the egg veneer. 

But the scraper clears the egg in a few seconds! It is magic! You just… scrape the egg off, rinse the pan, and you’re done. No soaking necessary. Because I like to hand wash things as infrequently as possible, I drop the scraper itself into the dishwasher and I am done. MAGIC. 

As I said before, this scraper is small enough that I tuck it inside the front face of my kitchen tool drawer. It is very unobtrusive and waits patiently until the next time I make eggs. 

(image from amazon.com) The pan scraper marketing team is really scraping the bottom of the barrel here for alternate uses. See what I did there?

The scrapers come in a pack of ten, and they are ten for $9.99 right now. NINETY-NINE CENTS FOR A RELIABLE AND USEFUL TOOL IS SUCH A DEAL. I have already gotten far more than my money’s worth out of this little product, and I measure that by number of stiff-bristled scrubbers I have NOT had to throw away, which are apparently $7.99 apiece, and also in minutes of grumpy scrubbing.

The first scraper I got was from a friend. I went over to her house to pick up Carla from a playdate, and she said, “Here, I have a pan scraper for you.” I was skeptical, and yet it has been one of the most useful products in my kitchen. I use it way more than I use my Instant Pot, that’s for sure. If you bought a ten pack, think of how you could casually hand a few out to friends, and BLOW THEIR MINDS with this tiny unassuming powerhouse?!

Okay, and now I want to know if YOU have any little heroes in your house that I have been overlooking.

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I am sitting in a dark house, staring out at a brooding sky and wind-tossed trees. It is deliciously quiet right now. Thanks to your powerful not-Covid thoughts, Carla is Covid negative and back at school. Hooray!

We were very productive yesterday: in addition to going to the doctor, I did four loads of laundry – INCLUDING folding – and have a last load waiting for me to put it in the washer (I have been trying to see a load through from hamper to folding before I start a new load; reduces the pile up). We also cleaned out Carla’s desk, which had an entire trash bag’s worth of junk in it, and we listened to Project Hail Mary (which I listened to based on Jaida’s excellent recommendation and loved so much that I explained it to Carla, and my enthusiasm made her want to listen to it also), and we watched a very long video of someone who gives makeovers to OMG dolls. Carla subsequently added “liquid latex” and “heat gun” to her list of must-have crafting items. It was nice to have a little extra time with my kid, but she has another day off coming up and I am very glad she is back at school.

After I dropped Carla off, I went to the grocery store and spent all our savings on food. I have not been noticing a huge number of shortages… things seem to have leveled off, a bit. (Although at Costco this weekend, there was no Kirkland-brand toilet paper, and both toilet paper and paper towels were one-per-customer.) Plenty of staples – beans, pasta, flour, sugar, pepperoni. Even Lunchables are available again. A thing that I do find concerning is that Target now has “only X left” on pretty much anything I try to order online. This is true whether I choose “pick-up” or “shipping” as my delivery option. It could simply be marketers playing to the scarcity strategy, but whatever it is, it definitely cues my panic response.

You know a thing that I find unnecessarily anxiety-provoking? When someone can’t hear what you’re saying. The checker at the grocery store had a hard time hearing me, and was really frustrated-acting about it. Which I get! It must be frustrating, to not hear someone! And I am sure that she has to deal with this same situation multiple times per day, what with people wearing masks, and her being stuck behind a plexiglass shield and all. But she did that thing where she shook her head and closed her eyes in an “I am counting to ten” kind of way, and, her tone said “this is entirely YOUR fault” and I felt helpless and defensive and equally frustrated that I couldn’t make myself heard and ugh. I just hate that. Makes me feel shaky and tearful when it should be a simple exchange of, “Oh, sorry! I will speak up!” and “Thank you! That’s better!” instead of disgusted dismissive shrugging like I am purposefully being a jerk.

She also seemed mad at me that I asked her to re-scan my apples. I bought Jonagold apples because a) I can’t remember the last time I ate a Jonagold apple, and cannot remember how they taste and b) because they looked so beautiful and shiny and red. I purposely avoided the Honeycrisp apples because a) they were $0.50 per pound more expensive and b) also looked pale and bloated. So I pointed out that they had rung up as the wrong apple – which she had me repeat twice – and then she said in an angry way, “Well, they come up as Honeycrisp when I type in the number on the tag.” Which. Okay. Either some Honeycrisp apples migrated into the Jonagold section or the tag was incorrect or the computer was reading them incorrectly or she typed the number into the computer incorrectly or I blacked out in the apple section and got Honeycrisp instead of Jonagold… I don’t know, but it didn’t seem to me that I had been BLAMING her for doing something WRONG when that is clearly how it came across. She is never as friendly as some of the checkers, but she sure drank some curdled milk this morning or something.

A package of M&Ms classic mix (M&Ms, peanut M&Ms, and peanut butter M&Ms all in a single bag) caught my eye at the checkout, but I neglected to act on my impulse and buy it. I wavered because I don’t really like plain M&Ms. But I am regretting my inaction now.

We got the bill for the exterminator, and it was MUCH higher than indicated in our previous infuriating and elliptical conversation. And I can’t decide whether I need to simply pay it and find a new exterminator service or if I should email him back and request an explanation. And I KNOW that prices are rising and costs are increasing, so there could be a reasonable explanation for the discrepancy. But I want to KNOW. I don’t want to just pay whatever he says the price is, willy nilly. We got a nice letter from our snowplow service saying – in advance – that they had a lot of increased costs and so our bill would go up, and I really appreciate that kind of up-front transparency. We will gladly pay the increase. Part of me wants to email the exterminator, just to see what he says. Although I am afraid he will then call me.

My root canal takes place next week. My husband took the day off from work and will drive me to and from the appointment and presumably ensure I don’t die afterward. I am not looking forward to it. But it will be nice to no longer have severe pain in my jaw. (Although I have heard plenty of stories about root canals not “taking” and needing to be repeated. Arrrrggghhhhh.)

This past Sunday, because Carla wasn’t going to school the following day, the three of us watched Cruella, with Emmas Stone and Thompson. There were some men in it, too, but the Emmas were the real stars. It was a decent movie, although it made Cruella a little too sympathetic, and I still am not quite sure I can make the narrative jump to her wanting to skin and wear a bunch of a Dalmatians as a coat. Also, the whole nature-vs-nurture theme of the movie could have done with a little more thinking through, but I suppose what do you want from a children’s storybook villain origin story. Carla was quite taken with her and has resumed speaking with a semi-British accent.

This is a bit of a delicate topic, maybe. But… do you shave your face? I had not done any sort of facial hair removal until a couple of months ago, aside from an occasional plucking of a stray eyebrow hair, or pulling out the hair that insists on sprouting witchily from the mole on my chin. But now I am completely obsessed with these Tinkle razors. I think I have used these enough times now to be able to recommend them with confidence. A little back story: an acquaintance mentioned these to me over the summer, and said she’d gotten a couple extra and she would give them to me. Note that she did not ask if I wanted them. Then the next couple of times we ran into each other, she’d slap her thigh and say, “Oh darn, I forgot to bring them for you!” As you might imagine, after each of these exchanges, I would spend long minutes with my face pressed up against the mirror, trying to determine whether my peach fuzz had graduated into full on facial shrubbery. Surely, my furry outer layer was so evident that this person felt COMPELLED to get me to take action. So when she finally pressed a couple into my hands, I was ready to give them a try. I had never tried any sort of facial hair removal options before because my mother had always given me stern and strenuous warnings about how the hair would grow back thicker and darker than before. A mother’s admonitions are a hard thing to get past, even when one is in her fifth decade of life. So far, I have not noticed this to be the case with the Tinkle razors. There is a period during which the face feels a teeny bit rougher than normal, but then the hair goes back to its normal downy state, and I haven’t noticed any change in color whatsoever. Anyway, these are very easy to use and I LOVE THEM and I am not going back and if you are looking for a facial hair solution I recommend you give these a go.

What are we supposed to be watching on TV these days? My husband and I watched Midnight Mass (interesting and thoughtful concept; Hamish Linklater; too many long-winded monologues) and Squid Game (VERY stressful but impossible to stop once we started) and are of course watching the latest season of Great British Baking Show. But we need something new. I want to watch that murder comedy with Selena Gomez (Only Murders in the Building) and my husband wants to watch Succession and neither of us is particularly excited about the other’s choice. What have you watched recently and loved?

I looked up the person who does the OMG doll makeovers and she apparently makes somewhere around $14,000 a month.

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My mother-in-law is doing great: her recovery from surgery has gone well, and there is no chemotherapy required, and maybe not even radiation – we are SO thankful – and so my in-laws have returned to their home state (temporarily).

I spent the weekend recovering. This involved washing all the linens and towels, and cleaning the bathrooms, and vacuuming the floors which assemble a LOT more debris when two extra people live here, especially because they are In-Home Shoe Wearers in their own home, and sometimes forget that we are a Shoeless Household.

I taught Carla how to clean a bathroom, and she was surprisingly enthusiastic about the whole process. We’ll see if she can do it herself next time. I don’t remember how old I was when I learned how to clean a bathroom, but it is definitely a skill that has come in handy over the years. And it’s so satisfying, to begin with a (small) dirty room and end with something pristine and sparkling. 

My energy seems to have ended there, with bathroom cleaning; I still have two loads of laundry to do and I need to put Carla’s duvet cover back on her duvet, which is always a bit like wrestling a recalcitrant caterpillar back into its cocoon. I got the duvet cover back on the guest bed duvet, so the bed is all ready for my in-laws when they return. (Although there is some talk of them staying in a hotel next time? We’ll see.) 

They were lovely, so gracious and grateful and helpful, and I could tell that they were making an extra effort to not be any trouble. I appreciate the effort SO MUCH and also feel bad that they weren’t able to simply focus on my mother-in-law’s recovery. In any case, it was the pleasantest three weeks of houseguests I could have imagined. 

But I am still an introvert’s introvert. I work from home, by myself, and am used to long stretches of time with just me here. So having people around – even people who were trying very hard to be invisible – was a real strain on my Human Interaction abilities. And there is just inevitably so much more housework when you have added two extra humans to a house. Plus, I would say that my husband and daughter are also very introverted and so they were crankier than normal (perhaps I, too, was crankier than normal) and I think we all did the best we could but it’s nice to have our normal, quiet just-the-three-of-us routine restored. 

It makes me think a little about The Future, and whether we’ll have more times like this – parents requiring medical care who need to stay with us. One set of parents has A Plan, and that involves a retirement community with assisted living as they need it; the other set doesn’t seem to have that sort of plan at all. And I’m aware that in many cultures, elderly parents simply become part of their children’s household when they can no longer live alone, and I would want to be a home for any of our parents should they need it.

It does also solidify my desire for a dedicated mother-in-law suite, though. A privileged way of looking at life, to be sure, but also I am newly aware of the precious value of having One’s Own Space. 

The last thing I will say about no longer having houseguests is that I feel like I have my husband back. His parents are night owls, so we really never got any time together while they were here. I would say goodnight around ten, and all three of them would still be up watching TV or chatting. There were maybe two occasions when my in-laws went out with friends, but I think on those nights, we were both so relieved to be free of entertaining duties that we retired to our separate corners to be completely alone. It’s been so nice, this weekend, to just hang out with him. We finished the first season of Sacred Games and worked on a jigsaw puzzle together and watched football together. It’s been so nice to enjoy time with just him (or just him and Carla) again. 

Anyway, I am stalling because my family needs to eat and yet I am Tapped Out on food ideas. Literally the only thing I can think of to make this week is Crockpot Tortilla Soup. That should get us through two nights and possibly some lunches. I feel kind of tacoed out – we had the Crockpot Chicken Tacos last week, and I doubled the amount of chicken so we ate that for DAYS, and then one night we had burritos, and then another night we ordered takeout and I turned THAT into tacos for a couple of meals, too. So I think I will save tacos for another week.

Embarrassingly, I STILL have not made two of the menu items I shopped for a couple of weeks ago. So I suppose I will put them back on the menu, and hope that the cauliflower and herbs haven’t gone bad while I’ve been ignoring them. 

Dinners for the Week of September 20-26

  • Crockpot Tortilla SoupYum.
  • Lebanese Chicken with Charred Cauliflower: Hopefully the cauliflower is still edible but it’s been in the downstairs crisper since I bought it two weeks ago, so there’s always the possibility that it has grown legs and wings.
  • Follow Up: The salad was delicious – fresh and bright and just so so good. But paired with the chicken, which was fine, the whole meal was VERY lemony and got to be too much. I would pair the salad with something else entirely.
  • Steak and Potato Skewers with Rosemary Chimichurri: This really does sound yummy to me, I don’t know why I keep avoiding it.
  • Some Sort of Grilled Chicken with a Side Salad: I don’t feel like going to the grocery store today, so I will have to figure something out with what we have on hand.

How long does it take you to recover from houseguests? Am I the only one who feels like my insides have been scooped out and run through the washing machine?

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I am in a mood to write, but can’t think of anything particularly worthwhile to write about. So I am taking a page out of Stephany’s book and doing five bullets for this sunny Friday.

1. Our housecleaner came back! I am so delighted. But man alive was I ever awkward about the whole thing. I kept finding myself cleaning in the days leading up to her arrival. I didn’t want her to think that our house had devolved into TOTAL disarray in her absence. I am can be a decent housecleaner when I want to (i.e. when guests are imminent), and I did a pretty good job of keeping the house neat and tidy, for the most part, for the past year and change. But then I’d say to myself, maybe that will make her feel GOOD and NEEDED, to see a layer of dust on the bookshelves and a layer of soap scum on the shower door. And then I would feel ridiculous because perhaps she has no thoughts at all about the state of my house beyond, “Wow, this is really dirty and will require more time” or “Okay, this doesn’t need much attention today.” So I finally talked myself into simply tidying things – moving piles and encouraging Carla to pick up her toys and crafting spreads. It was SO NICE to have her back, but I was super awkward in person – we never hugged in the past, so I wasn’t going to hug her NOW, especially because of a pandemic. And I was really sweaty for some reason (perimenopause, or some sort of pre-housecleaner-return panic attack) so I was uncomfortable and my mask was sticking to my face. And I didn’t want to be TOO gushy about having her back because, after all, this is WORK for her. But I did want to be appropriately gushy because I missed her, both as a housecleaner and as a person. We exchanged a little bit of small talk and then she got right to work and I flapped about the house, not really knowing where to be or what to do. I kept remembering things to tell her – let me know if we are out of some cleaning supply you need; make sure you take as many mask breaks as you need; open the windows if you feel more comfortable – and then I went outside and sat on the porch and failed to concentrate on anything because Someone Was In My House.

2. Carla’s birthday is coming up. We are contemplating an Actual Party this time (outdoors), which makes me pre-exhausted. I don’t want to find a venue or buy decorations or come up with an activity or figure out how to do everything in a way that provides everyone with the least exposure to Covid. I want someone to plan her party FOR ME. Is there someone I can call and pay to do this? Why yes, Suzanne, this is called a Party Planner and they exist and cost way more than what you want to spend on an eight-year-old’s birthday bash, get it together.

3. We, once again, had too many overripe bananas in the house. Not a SINGLE ONE of my many cookbooks had a recipe for chocolate banana snack cake. Only the America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook even had any banana snack cake recipes at all. It’s like Martha Stewart and Maida Heatter have never even HEARD of bananas, although I think their books had entries for how to store overripe bananas. But then what to DO with them, Martha and Maida????? Anyway, I found this Betty Crocker recipe online – chosen primarily because I didn’t have to soften any butter, and secondarily because it didn’t call for buttermilk, and tertiarily because I could mix the entire thing in the baking pan itself – and it turned out very well. EVEN THOUGH I didn’t have the right pan size and therefore had to increase the recipe by 50%, which required a LOT of math. My husband had three pieces last night alone, so I know it was a hit. (If you recall, I do not eat bananas.)

4. My skin has pretty much returned to normal, after its prolonged temper tantrum the other week. I have no idea what to do with the FIVE BOTTLES of skincare product I used literally once or twice. My husband suggested that I try them out, one at a time, to see which one is the culprit… but a) if I were a betting man, I would guess all three of the products with retinol were responsible and b) they were meant to be used together, not separately, and c) I don’t wanna.

5. I have absolutely no plans this weekend. Normally, this would be fine – especially seeing as one of the days would be designated Cleaning Day, and dusting, floor scrubbing, and vacuuming would take up a good portion of the day. But now that I have my beloved housecleaner to take over the heavy lifting, I have an entire day back! Obviously, I could curl up in a chair and read all weekend, which is always delightful. But I’m in an activity kind of mood (subject to change). Let’s see. I still have no desire to go to a restaurant. But it would be nice to Do Something this weekend. Perhaps the zoo? The botanical garden? Maybe we could scope out a few potential birthday party venues? Gah. What are YOU doing this weekend, that I could potentially copy?

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The original subject line of this post was simply “Chores,” but adding “Chat” really takes it from drudgey to cheerful doesn’t it? No? Just me?

It is a dreary, chilly morning, which feels like a betrayal after the sunny warmth of the past few days. I was awake off and on during the night due to horrible nightmares involving my loved ones. I have to go renew my driver’s license, which is on the Top Five list of Things I Enjoy Only Slightly More Than Dental Work. Plus, I have postponed Bathroom Cleaning Monday for no reason at all beyond my absolute gut-twisting hatred of cleaning the shower, and it can be postponed no more.

When we are feeling so dreary, what better topic to tip us right over the edge cheer us is housecleaning?

I scrubbed the floors yesterday, which is a very satisfying chore. My back hurts a bit, though, and I think I once again have chemical burns on my fingers from the bleach, will I ever learn, which is both painful and also somehow apt. “Satisfying” is, of course, a far cry from “enjoyable.” I am trying to think about whether there are any chores I ENJOY. (Are there any chores YOU enjoy?) I suppose I enjoy the results when I clean the kitchen: The gleaming expanse of freshly-scrubbed counters. The shiny reflective surfaces of the stainless steel appliances. Everything ready and waiting for another meal to be made. Which will inevitably upend everything into disaster once again.

My mother was telling me recently about her own mother’s cleaning schedule. Every month they would deep clean the kitchen, which involved emptying out all the cupboards and drawers and scouring them with Murphy’s Oil Soap. EVERY MONTH. I do this… quarterly, maybe, on a good year? Is that horrifying? How often do you do EMPTY your cabinets and wipe them down, inside and out? While we’re at it, how often do you empty your refrigerator and scrub the inside of THAT? I do it far less frequently than I should, even though I have no idea what the Ideal Refrigerator Cleaning Frequency even is. There is possibly some sort of checklist available online, that would tell me exactly what to do when, but I don’t care to be bossed. I will instead remain fretful and slovenly, thank you very much.

Everything I know about cleaning, I learned from my mother. Well, that’s not entirely fair: I learned about dish washing from my father. And about scouring the sink with Soft Scrub. But everything else was my mother’s domain. She was much better about sticking to a strict housecleaning schedule than I am; see above RE: the bathroom cleansing delay. We cleaned the whole house every Saturday. I remember being awakened by the sound of the vacuum. My job was a) cleaning my room and b) dusting. (I also did most of the dishes on the daily, and did my own laundry and ironing. I REFUSE to iron as an adult, but as a middle schooler I ironed my Z-Cavaricci jeans. The heart wants what it wants.)

At some point, I did learn how to scrub a bathroom as well, so I’m sure I helped with that on Cleaning Saturdays. I don’t mind cleaning a toilet, really. And there’s nothing difficult or daunting about wiping down a counter (for me, I recognize and support those for whom it is either or both). By the way, my very best (only?) cleaning tip is to keep a toilet scrubber in EVERY BATHROOM. And if your bathrooms have cabinets, keep a container of toilet cleaner, 409, and a roll of paper towels in each bathroom as well. That way, even if your cleaning supplies are all the way in the laundry room, or you aren’t in the mood to do a Full Cleaning, you can do a quick spot clean and still feel accomplished and virtuous. Hot tips like this keep you coming back, I just know it.

My mother used Endust on a rag to do her dusting, so I also use Endust on a rag to do my own dusting. Swiffer dusters were not available back then, and, frankly, are hugely wasteful although I do still use them on occasion.  I have a Swiffer-style sweeper with reusable pads for the floors. We had hardwood floors in the kitchen, so my mother never scrubbed the grout (no grout to be had). But she did use some sort of Pledge-type liquid to mop the floors until they shone. I use Mr. Clean on my hardwood floors because a housekeeper requested it specifically, and then I kept buying it whenever it was on sale, and now we have more Mr. Clean than any one person should. Bleach is my best friend in the bathrooms, and when it comes to cleaning the grout. I like vinegar and baking soda – or baking soda and Dawn – when it comes to cleaning my sinks. I love 409 for counter tops. Who knew adulthood would mean amassing so many Preferred Cleaning Items?

I suppose How to Properly Clean a House is an important life lesson for a child, and sometimes I fret (because I will literally fret about anything) about whether I am On Track in teaching Carla how to keep a house. What kinds of cleaning chores do your kids do? Or, if you don’t have kids, what were your housecleaning responsibilities as a child? 

Carla’s main jobs are tidying: She must make her bed every morning. She must clean her room once a week. She must pick up any toys she leaves out, although this is a moving target; right now, for instance, there is a bunch of play-doh and various play-doh tools out on the kitchen table, which shows you both how good I am at enforcing her tidying responsibilities and how often we eat together at the table. 

I also have Carla zoop the floors on occasion. Most of the kitchen debris comes from her (at what age do children stop shedding crumbs?), so it seems only fair that she help dispose of it. She also has to clear, rinse, and place her breakfast and dinner dishes. And, if we eat together, she clears, rinses, and places ALL the dishes. This is a very pleasing improvement in her Skills and Abilities, now that she is seven. She is responsible for putting away her folded laundry. Sometimes, if she is in The Right Mood, she will help me dust. I especially appreciate her dusting skills when it comes to wiping down the banister and stairwell baseboards.

When I was a kid, I also had to clean out the barn. Surprisingly, I really enjoyed that chore. I would crank up the country radio station and get out a big, stiff-bristled broom, a shovel, and a wheelbarrow, and remove all the manure from the barn to the shelter belt. Talk about a satisfying chore. You had the pleasure of not only seeing something go from filthy to clean, but also the satisfaction of pleasingly sore muscles. And it was nice to be out in the fresh air and sunshine. The horses did not enjoy it as much, sometimes nudging over the wheelbarrow in defiance or pushing past me to dirty the newly cleaned floor with an abundance of scorn. 

My husband does most of the vacuuming, and he takes care of the bathroom floors. (He can vacuum the entire house and clean all the bathroom floors before I finish cleaning the kitchen.) (I suspect that he does not move the furniture to vacuum under it, but one can only ask for so much.) (He will vacuum under the couch cushions if I remind him.) He also does the VAST MAJORITY of the laundry folding, for which I am deeply grateful. I excel at washing clothes, and sometimes even putting them in the dryer, and sometimes even moving the clean, dry clothes up to the laundry room guest room. But unless I am VIGILANT about folding the clothes immediately, I grow overwhelmed and dizzy and choose to shut the door on the ever-growing pile until it threatens to take over the house or my daughter runs out of underwear, whichever comes first. My husband, on the other hand, is never daunted by a mountainous tangle of clothes. He LIKES to fold, and listens to music while doing so, and it takes him SUCH a short time I think he is a magician every time he does it. He is also very good at the mechanics of folding: his shirts are always creased just so and identical in size, a feat I have never been able to master. 

Folding laundry is one thing. But my most hated chore, by far, is cleaning the shower. It requires scrubbing, which is physically draining. Plus, since it’s a small shower with a sliding glass door, it requires some bodily contortions that I don’t love. Plus, rinsing the shower always results in my shirt and socks becoming completely sodden. Plus, it is impossible to get every single bit of either the doors or the track on which they slide fully clean. PLUS I cannot handle hair in a drain. I JUST CANNOT HANDLE IT. Hair on a head, fine. Hair anywhere else, I will pass out or throw up or both.

Well, I had hoped that talking about chores would get me all fired up to go do some cleaning. It has not had that effect. Perhaps you will share what your favorite/most hated chores are, and/or what the breakdown of chores is in your househould, and/or your Hot Tips for cleaning. In the meantime, I am going to trudge up to the bathroom anyway and see if I can clean the shower without getting totally soaked.

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Well, we are somehow in the middle of a Call Week again. (They don’t normally happen so close together – it’s just the way the schedule worked out. Womp womp.)

I hate Call Weeks. Carla and I miss her dad/my husband (why did I never choose a Blog Name for my husband? It would really cut down on the awkward sentence constructions around here) and he is exhausted and stressed out when he IS home and everything – EVERYTHING – falls to me, which is FINE, but still tiring. I know, I know – there are so many people who Have It Worse: single parents and people whose spouses are deployed or are on out-of-town business trips, parents who have more than just the one child, parents who have more than just the one child AND are single parents/have MIA spouses. Yes, I know. I know. I am counting my blessings and I have many, truly. But Call Weeks are still stressful.

One of the very dumb things I dislike about them – which is very small in the Grand Scheme – is that my husband doesn’t unload the dishwasher on the weekends. (Because he is at the hospital.) We typically run the dishes every night, so I unload the dishwasher every weekday morning, and having my husband unload the dishwasher for me is seriously the only thing that differentiates my week from my weekends, and is seriously the only break I get from my day-to-day job of parenting Carla/running the household, and so I get very grim about doing this very small, very menial, literally takes FIVE MINUTES EACH DAY task all by myself for two extra days during Call Weeks. Very grim.

All this grousing about dishes does remind me of something cheering, which is that I have taught Carla – now seven – how to wash the dishes and put them in the dishwasher. Previously, she would clear the dishes but just put them next to the sink. But NOW, now she is tall enough to reach the kitchen faucet and so I have slapped her with Dinner Dish Duty. Well, and she is also responsible for washing her own breakfast and lunch dishes. This helps immensely with the Cleaning Dishes portion of my Sisyphean housewifely duties. Sure, it is a work in progress – we have had to discuss, many times, that my preference is for a dish to be visibly clean before it goes into the dishwasher. (Yes, I know that dishwashers can technically perform this task for me.) We have had to discuss, many times, that when I say, “Please clear the table” that means, also, rinse the dishes and put them in the dishwasher, a duty that does not change from day to day, despite my phrasing. (She is debilitatingly literal, a gift she gets from her father.) (Okay, maybe it’s not debilitating, per se.) And I think I need to have another chat with her about the garbage disposal, and how food can be scraped from plates into only one side of the sink. Overall, though, it’s pretty great. And she sings while she washes dishes, or pretends that the faucet is a princess or an evil queen and the bits of food are various other characters while she’s scrubbing the dishes, which is delightful. Having her wash the dishes is not FAST, by any means, and sometimes there is a perplexing and disturbing amount of water on the floor afterward, but it’s helpful. And it has the added benefit of me feeling smug about teaching her Life Skills when really I am just sitting on the couch.

Okay! For dinners this week, I am focusing on comfort foods. And also on using up the fresh veggies I got at the grocery store.

Dinners for the Week of August 17-23

I am also going to make the Lazy Genius Collective’s Chickpea Bowl for lunches this week. I am going to make a new batch of the ginger garlic sauce and freeze a bunch of it in icecube trays for easy recipe usage later.

Cocktail of the Week

  • Blackberry Champagne Mule (I got some beautiful blackberries on sale at the grocery store and may sample this recipe tonight because it sounds AWESOME. If I wait for the weekend, the blackberries will be bad, so making it tonight is really the RESPONSIBLE thing to do.)

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I have a very unromantic recommendation for you today. But it is something that I have had for YEARS and for which I have been extremely grateful these past few pandemic months.

It is a zooper – otherwise known as a handheld vacuum. We always called it a zooper when I was growing up; I don’t know why. Maybe because of the noise it makes? And “zoop” is a verb – you go zoop something up with the zooper. Sometimes we called it a Dustbuster, but I think that’s a proprietary eponym, like Kleenex is for facial tissue or Band-Aid is for sticking plaster.

Anyway, in pre-pandemic times, I would use the zooper approximately once a day. Carla has an uncanny ability to produce crumbs, so I would mainly do a little tour under her seat at the counter, but then I’d give a quick once-over to the kitchen and the entryway.

During These Unprecedented Times, when Carla and I are here all day every day and have nothing better to do than produce endless messes, I am using the zooper twice a day, at least.

Carla is still a crumb generator. Plus, it’s summer, so we are in and out and constantly tracking in playground mulch and grass strands and pieces of dirt. Plus, Carla’s new-since-the-pandemic fascination has been making clothing for her Barbies and stuffed animals, so there are bits of paper and tape and fabric and dried-up fabric glue and yarn and string and beads everywhere constantly. To stay on top of things, I make a daily round with the zooper each morning after breakfast and each evening before bed, with an occasional mid-day zooping if we’ve been particularly prodigious with fashion production or going outside and back in thirty times.

Zooper

photo from amazon.com

My zooper – the Black and Decker cordless handheld vacuum – is excellent. It’s lasted for at least three years – probably longer; I can’t remember when we got it – and it’s still going strong. And it’s helping to keep me sane.

Things I like about it:

  • It has a small charging base that’s easy to fit in an unobtrusive corner. I suppose you could wall-mount it, if you wanted to, but I haven’t checked.
  • It maintains its charge very well. Previous handheld vacuums have gradually lost power over the years, until they have the stamina and sucking power of an aging tortoise. Actually, now that I think of it, I know very little about the stamina or sucking power of a tortoise of any age. Hmm. Well, onward. I shall say, instead, that I’ve had this zooper for years and have never had a single problem with it losing power or suction.
  • It has a nice long neck, which allows you to get into things like the tracks of sliding doors and the space underneath the oven. (The helpful diagram on the product page refers to the neck as a “nozzle” which is a delightful word.)
  • It is VERY easy to clean. You pop out the little plastic container, dump your household detritus in the trash. Pop out the filter, dump it out. You can wipe everything clean with a damp cloth. And then everything pops back together easy peasy lemon squeezy.
  • It’s lightweight (just 2.6 pounds) and easy to hold. My only problem with excessive zooping is that my back starts to ache from all the bending. I am not meant to wander back and forth the length of my house whilst stooped over. But it’s just my back; my arm never gets tired.

Things I don’t like or about which I am neutral:

  • It’s kind of pricey. Amazon is selling it for $72.99 right now, which seems like A LOT to shell out for a handheld vacuum.
  • The neck has a flip-up brush tool that I have literally never used. The brush isn’t bothersome, though; it lives folded down against the neck of the zooper, like a coarse little goatee.

I feel kind of lame, recommending something so utilitarian. But my admiration for its utility has grown so much over these past few months – I really lean on it to help me keep my house from feeling like a hovel in between Big Cleanings.

This is what being An Adult means, I guess. Feeling evangelical about a household item.

 

What silly household things are making your life easier these days?

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Hair

Are you doing your hair as you normally do? I have STOPPED. There is absolutely no point in spending 30 minutes drying my hair and straightening it. Well. I could see how it MIGHT have a point, at some time in the future – if I need to feel Normal, somehow. Or if I have a super-important Zoom meeting (unlikely). This is a time for the least possible exertion, hairwise. My hair is not cooperating, though – instead of settling into beautifully air-dried curls it is still doing what it did in The Time Before, which is drying into drab frizzes that are vaguely curl-adjacent on the right side of my head and straightish on the left side. Very disappointing, hair. We should all be Stepping Up in These Unprecedented Times.

What I have been doing is braiding my hair after I get out of the shower. Usually, I part my hair to the left, but when I separated it into two braids, I parted it down the middle. And immediately remembered that I part my hair left for a reason. Hoo boy do I already have a LOT of grey. Well. It can’t be helped and it isn’t so extreme that I am ready to try an at-home coloring process.

I also remembered why I normally do my hair very simply – braiding is probably one of the easiest hair styles on the planet and yet I can barely do it. I am not talking about French braiding or fishtail braiding or anything fancy. Just a simple three-strand braid. It does not look good, folks.

Clothes

I am not nor have I ever been one of those people who gets fully dressed to work from home. No. Comfort is king. But at least when I had to pick up Carla from school and go to Actual Places like the grocery or Target or Carla’s ballet studio, I would get dressed in real clothes every day. Now… Well, my wardrobe is divided into three primary sections: pajamas (leggings and one of my husband’s old t-shirts), exercise clothes (leggings, a sports bra, and a tank top), and inside clothes, for after I’ve showered (leggings and a sweatshirt or long-sleeved T-shirt). Yes, I have different leggings for each category, and, even though they are all black, I can tell them apart. (The pajama leggings are the softest and loosest.) There’s a seldom-worn forth category: outside clothes (jeans and a shirt which immediately go into the laundry upon returning home). I found A HOLE in one pair of leggings recently, so I may need to expand my attire options at some point. But not now.

Homeschooling

We are on Day 4 of homeschooling – or whatever it is when you are trying to cajole your child into following the lesson plans her teachers have given you – and I am already having to step away and take deep breaths every few minutes. HOW are people doing this with multiple children? And while WORKING? I am ready to walk into the sea.

Shopping

After stalking the online ordering app for four days, I was finally able to get a timeslot for curbside grocery pickup. I haven’t tried this before, and I am expecting that only part of my order will be fulfilled, but I am kind of anxious about it. Will something essential, like milk or taco sauce, be missing? If so, I’ll have to go to the store which I am obviously trying to avoid. Of course, ordering wine is not an option so I will have to go to a store EVENTUALLY anyway.

Passover

In an effort to keep Carla’s Jewish heritage alive and part of her life, I want to observe Passover. But… I feel so out of my element. I am NOT Jewish and a lot of the books we have don’t really explain things in depth. Plus, I don’t really know anything about how to hold a proper Seder and certainly don’t have the right food on hand. Well. I still have a couple of days left to figure things out.

Easter

I found an art supplies kit and a leftover rainbow leopardfrom Carla’s sixth birthday in the gift closet. Plus I have a very small amount of Easter candy I picked up from the grocery store. So I think I can make up a decent Easter basket for Carla. (We have actual baskets, fake grass, and plastic eggs in the basement, because I reuse them year to year.) But I am still FRETTINGabout it. Sure, I could explain that the Easter Bunny is practicing social distancing and so asked me to round up what I could… but on the other hand, I want Easter to be Extra Special because so little is special these days. I have filled my virtual Target cart with candy and books and toys that I can pick up curbside… but I am hesitating. Partly because my husband thinks we have plenty of Easter-y stuff. And partly because I feel really guilty about shopping for non-essentials.

Housecleaning

I think I have come up with a rough housecleaning schedule.

  • Daily: Making beds, unloading/loading the dishwasher, wiping off tables and counters, disinfecting high-tough areas, using the dustbuster to eradicate crumbs, tidying up main living spaces.
  • Near daily: Laundry
  • Monday: Toilets and counters
  • Tuesday: Showers and tubs
  • Wednesday: Break
  • Thursday: Windows and baseboards
  • Friday: Dusting
  • Saturday: Bedding
  • Sunday: Floors

Last week, I taught Carla how to clean the toilets. Yesterday, my husband vacuumed all our carpeted surfaces while I scrubbed the kitchen and bathroom floors. I hate cleaning but it does make me FEEL better. It also makes me feel better to think about my housekeeper returning someday.

Books

I finished all three books I mentioned in this postand have moved on to Jessica Simpson’s memoir. I wish my library had more Agatha Christie books available via ebook – they have a good number, but not all, and so many are already checked out. I want to read them in order and that is nearly impossible to do. I put MANY of your suggestions on hold through my library website, but none of them have come through yet.

Socializing

I have been very pleased by the amount of socializing I’ve been able to do even while quarantined. Two high school friends and I had a happy hour via Zoom the other day that was really enjoyable. And then my husband and I had a FaceTime date with family friends who were supposed to come over for dinner. I was surprised by how satisfying it was to chat with them – it was nearly as good as being with them in person. Not as enjoyable was the family meetup we did with my husband’s family that lasted for WELL OVER AN HOUR. That is too long.

Exercise

Getting “proper” exercise has been a real challenge. My preferred method is walking on the treadmill for an hour, but when I do that, our internet goes out. So no one in the house can do anything requiring an internet connection, which means I can’t even walk on the treadmill while Carla is “at school” because so many of her “assignments” require her to be connected to Google classroom. (This is completely ignoring the fact that, so far, I have to be IN THE ROOM with Carla the entire “school day” or she wanders completely off track ARRRRGGGHHHHHH.) I have done a few Barre3 videos via YouTube, but it’s not the sameas being in the studio with my favorite instructor. I suppose I should resume using exercise videos, but I am resisting for some reason. Carla’s daily schedule has two hour-long blocks set aside for exercise, which mainly consists of us walking over to a nearby school parking lot so she can ride her bike. I walk back and forth a million times across the parking lot, occasionally sprinting. It’s not FUN but it does a mediocre job.

Food

A lot of people seem to be making new and interesting things during this pandemic, especially bread. My own mother has made two types of bread in the past week and my father made a lemon cake. I have made… my typical rotation of dinners. Carla and I are going to make cupcakes for Easter – she wants chocolate cakewith these bunny decorations. We did a Sprinkle Inventory and do not have pink sprinkles – but we do have purple and gold, so I think we’ll be okay. I have flour and yeast, so I COULD make bread. But I am kind of waiting until we NEED to make bread, you know? Right now, we have a loaf of bread in the freezer and I ordered a loaf of bread to be picked up later this week. Maybe if bread doesn’t make it into my actual shopping bags, I will make some. I have been kind of waiting for an opportunity to make focaccia… maybe this is my chance.

Mood

Friday was pretty rough. Saturday, I wanted to drive my family into the woods and leave them there. And I have been waking up at 4:00 or 5:00 every morning, which is unpleasant. However, I had a pretty decent day yesterday, slept without waking all night last night, and am feeling fairly balanced today. I will take the good days as they come.

 

There you have it. Now give me the updates on how YOU are doing.

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When it comes to a big, multi-room tidy, I have a strategy, which I will pass on to you in hopes that it works just as well on your children (I have not tried it on my spouse, so no promises there). My strategy is setting up a Cleaning Challenge. Carla LOVES a challenge, especially if there’s the potential of besting me. And it makes cleaning into a game, and games are fun.

What I do is I get out a big colorful sheet of construction paper. At the top I write Cleaning Challenge! in big cheerful letters. Beneath, on one side, I write out a list of things I need Carla to do (make her bed, pick up stuffed animals, tidy the living room, put her socks and underpants away, etc.) and put little boxes for checkmarks next to them… and on the other side, I write out a list of things I need to do (unload dishwasher, clean toilets, vacuum stairs, etc.) and put boxes with checkmarks next to them. I have found that it helps if my list is longer than Carla’s, because she likes to have an obvious advantage. (To her, it is not obvious that “washing the floor” is much, much more time consuming than “picking up the crayons scattered all over the counter.”) Then I masking tape the Challenge to the kitchen wall, masking tape a marker to the wall as well, and set a one-hour timer. Then we RACE to complete as many of our tasks as possible in the allotted time, checking off each task as we complete it. This is Carla’s favorite part, I think – making a checkmark on the page, while loudly proclaiming, “Checking off another one!” – and taping the marker to the wall makes it extra fun for her for some reason.

Anyway, I haven’t tried a Cleaning Challenge! lately, but I will do so today because it desperately needs doing. (It’s my normal Day Before the Cleaner Arrives technique, and it’s worked well for many months.) (By the way, being surrounded by mess has been making me feel incredibly extra wistful and thankful for our housecleaner, and I am writing her “paid leave” checks with gratitude and hope that one day she will be able to clean for us again because I miss her SO VERY MUCH OMG.)

The Cleaning Challenge! is a good strategy for the type of clutter that accumulates over time, between housecleaning appointments for instance. But I am struggling more, lately, with the HUGE VOLUME of day-to-day messiness. Everything is so much more messy than it was prior to self-isolation. Don’t get me wrong — the tendency of a child to start one project, abandon it, and begin another project while the first is strewn about a different room is, shall we say, a familiar concept. As is the concept of piles gradually accruing on every possible surface. But it turns out that my little whirlwind can make SO MANY MORE messes when she is at home for an additional 35 hours a week. Plus, I am guessing I do a lot more of-the-moment tidying when I am not staring despondently at the news 400 hours a day.

I think the utter relentlessness of the mess is what has begun wearing on me. It was simple enough at the beginning, to breezily say things along the lines of, “Of course it’s going to be messier than usual around here! You have double the people at home all day and one of them is a tornado, so mess is inevitable! But you can live with a little mess!” And this is true. I never claimed to be The World’s Tidiest Person, not by a long shot. But it turns out that a little messiness, while endurable for the short term, over time begins to feel like NOTHING IS EVER CLEAN. And, after a few days of enduing “a little mess,” the mess balloons into a LOT of messiness and then it begins feeling like I am living in squalor and there is no point in anything anymore because we are drowning in a sea of clutter. I am already walking around in a constant state of irritation/distress/anxiety and the added mess is NOT HELPING.

So I am starting to lose it, messwise. I need a new system. Otherwise I may as well lie down on the living room floor and be layered over with magnatiles and board games and construction paper and stuffed animals and remnants of pillow forts and Barbie shoes.

I had to have The Talk with my husband last night that I need more help with the housework… But man, I feel guilty about that. He is working all day, and putting his health at risk to help other people, and he is exhausted and anxious all the time, so I WANT to be able to take the pressure off at home. But also I am here ALL DAY EVERY DAY, doing nearly all the childcare and housework and meal planning/preparation, with maybe five minutes to myself at a time and… it sucks.

For those of you who have multiple children in your care all day every day… for those of you who have multiple children AND spouses who are now ALL at home with you nonstop… for those of you who are working from home WHILE your children and/or spouses are at home with you… well, you have my deepest, most sincere sympathy and compassion. My one cheering thought is that we are ALL dealing with this right now, with our own varying levels of tolerance and manageability. Additional people in our spaces, additional maneuvering required, new levels of irritation and stress, new strategizing and planning and letting things go.

I asked a fellow parent what she was doing to keep the mess down, and she said she was trying to clean a bit every day. Well. Yes. As am I. This is a tried-and-true strategy. Every single day, I do the dishes and wipe the counters and straighten and try to get Carla to move things off Obvious Surfaces. Every single day, I try to do at least one Other Thing — a load of laundry, moving all the collected water glasses from my husband’s bedside table to the sink, moving a bundle of precious artwork from the overcrowded craft cupboard to the trash. But it’s NOT ENOUGH. The mess is a rising tide and our house is a leaky boat.

If you, too, are just trying to clean a bit every day, what does that MEAN? Do you have a checklist? Do you have a rotation of Big Items? How are you enlisting the other members of your household? If you have young children, how are you helping them get into the habit of cleaning up after themselves? I am TRYING, believe me, but a) I don’t have the energy/patience to supervise all the cleaning that needs to be done and b) it feels like just one more source of potential tension between me and Carla when we are already getting on each other’s nerves and c) sometimes the ONLY WAY I can get a few minutes to myself is to ignore what is certainly a HUGE mess in the making.

So. What are YOU doing to Keep the Clutter at Bay?

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We went on a little vacation over the long Independence Day weekend. And my in-laws are in town. And I’ve been dealing with Assorted Birthday Stuff. So the days kind of melt into one another and I am not really sure where I am or what I’m supposed to be doing. I think, it being Tuesday, I should be setting up a Dinners This Week post. But I haven’t even planned my meals this week, yet. (We are going out to dinner tonight, so I can delay that chore another day.) Plus, I have other things on my mind.

Did I tell you that we have new neighbors?

Deer 1

These are the Cute Neighbors.

Deer 2

They are very cute indeed. They do lots of frolicking. And they seem to see in Carla a kindred spirit because whenever she is in the living room, looking out at them from the sliding glass doors, they take great interest in her and often come up quite close to the glass.

Many new neighbors.

Skunk

Still very cute, but more worrisome. Especially because she has at least THREE babies in her condo under that step. Yes. The step that is directly adjacent to our living room.

Unrelated — surprisingly — to skunks: today, I am also preoccupied with The Smell. My husband woke me up with a loving kiss, as he does every morning, and, instead of saying, “Good morning, my darling,” he whispered, “I think I smell something bad.” Just the kind of affectionate phrasing I most enjoy in the wee hours, let me tell you.

I couldn’t smell it; couldn’t smell anything, really, because my nose has been, of late, CLOGGED TO THE MAX. I’m pretty sure I have a sinus infection; my forehead is tender, as are the circles under my eyes; my head is in a constant state of achey-ness; my nose, as mentioned just a second ago, is thick with YUCK.

But Carla leaped out of bed – she wakes up the instant anyone else is awake, unless she wakes up first; in summers, she has been “sleeping in” until six thirty or so, which is lovely – and chimed in from her room, “I think I smell it!”

I don’t know if it was the power of suggestion, but I thought – after copious nose-blowing – that maybe I, too, could smell the underpinnings of something foul.

My husband and I tossed around the idea that maybe it was the aftereffects of some roasted broccoli we had last night. Broccoli, delicious as it is, has a bad habit of releasing a pungent fart perfume that lingers in its absence. Carla wondered if the flowers we have in vases throughout our downstairs might be causing the stink, but they all look relatively fresh and the vase water is clear, and passed The Sniff Test, so…

So I did what anyone might do when confronted with Something Smelly: I cleared out all the garbage cans, sprayed the insides of the cans with bleach, cleaned the toilets for good measure, ran a load of laundry (although none of the laundry baskets had a noticeable smell), ran the garbage disposal, wiped down the counters. I questioned Carla closely about whether she’s taken any food upstairs (this is verboten in our house, and I don’t know that she’s ever done it before… but you never know). (She looked at me with wide-eyed shock that I would even ASK her such a thing. Dost she protest too much? Hmmmm….) (I smelled each corner of her room carefully, but we have already established that we cannot trust my nose.) Then I took Carla to camp and went for my usual four-mile walk.

The Smell greeted me when I returned.

Sigh.

It’s steamy outside, but I have dutifully opened all the windows and doors, in hopes of coaxing The Smell to leave. I dumped baking soda in each of the kitchen sink drains, filled one side of the sink with a mixture of hot water and vinegar, and ran the disposal as I let it drain; that’s the best way I know to really CLEAN the disposal. I’ve refreshed the flower water, just in case that’s the culprit. I am running the dishwasher, in case I didn’t rinse last night’s dishes thoroughly enough. I’m not really sure what to do next. Toss the week-old Gerber daisies, I suppose. They still look fine, but maybe they’re not.

Now I need to shower, because I don’t want to add my own Eau de Post-Workout to the scents inside the house.

The abiding worry, of course, is that some animal has crawled in between our walls and died there, memorializing its life in a legacy of odor. I wouldn’t even know where to BEGIN dealing with that, should that be the case. But let’s try everything else, first.

What else have I overlooked? What are the likely stink culprits in your home, when you’ve eliminated “trash smell” and “bathroom smells” from the list?

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