Sunday, July 11, 2010

Any Idiot...

I can still see it in my mind’s eye, and hear his booming voice, “Watch this!” My dad proudly opened the microwave, placed two cups of cold coffee inside, closed the door and pressed some buttons. Sure enough, the turntable started to spin and we soon enjoyed two mugs of steaming coffee.

He was so proud of this accomplishment (learning how to run the microwave), and Mom was really glad, too, since before that, he’d fix the problem of cold coffee by running it through the drip machine a second time!

That memory was rolling around in my brain last week when we had a coffee catastrophe.  Pour yourself a big cuppa joe, and let me share about the day our good, old, reliable Delonghi died.

The previous night, it worked, but in the morning: nothing.

Now I don’t know about you, but here at the end of the road, coffee ranks right up there with wire stretchers and leather work gloves – but is needed way more often. I just can’t imagine life without it.

So, that fateful morning when Delonghi gave up the ghost, we had a critical conversation.

Me: We’ll just have to get it fixed. In the meanwhile, I have the Bodum coffee press that can make one cup at a time.

The Cowboy: I think we should just get a new one, Joey. Repairs often cost more than replacements.

Me (the cheap one on this place): Let me check into it first. Meanwhile, here’s your cup – now I’ll make another for me.

 Sure enough, the Cowboy was right (glad we didn’t bet on it!) The parts were no longer available for that old dinosaur, and replacement was the way to go. Next step: research coffee makers. The last one hung out for almost 10 years, so I was pretty sure they came with new features now.
Some recommended Tim Horton’s, but the Cowboy didn’t like the idea of water sitting in the machine. He thinks fresh water is crucial.

I came up with a few models that looked interesting and got good reviews, and by the time we were both very tired of the slow ‘cup-by-cup’ method, we made a quick trip to town for horse feed, a fuel filter, and a brand new coffee maker!

Sure enough – major changes had occurred in the world of java. Now, you can get milk steamers, instant frothers, and even ones that grind the beans. Woo hoo! Talk about fresh coffee.

The price was over the moon, but by then we were so caffeine deprived, we would have paid anything.

Home once again, the cowboy set it up on the counter, tossed the 3 inch thick manual aside, and proceeded to make coffee. When I questioned him about reading first, he just shook his head. Any idiot can run a drip coffee maker,” he assured me. And sure enough, in went the beans, on came the grinder, and soon the aroma of fresh coffee was wafting through the house. Oh man, life was good once again.

For the next few days, we enjoyed the great coffee that machine put out. Since the cowboy gets up before the chickens, he makes the coffee in the morning. I hadn’t yet learned how to run it when our new pastor and his wife came for supper.  But, I gave it a try. After all, any idiot can run a coffee maker. I guessed what the buttons meant and got it going, but when I poured the first cup, out came hot water. The cowboy came to the rescue, and got it going. By this time, I wasn’t sure where the manual was, so the next day he taught me how to run this wonderful contraption.

We tried several kinds of beans, and became somewhat persnickety about the whole experience.

We learned about beans from different climates,

 photo credit:

roasting techniques, strength, water source, and were about to become full-fledged coffee snobs, when it all came to a screeching stop. On the fourth day, the grinder quit.

Now, the cowboy can fix almost anything. He’s amazingly talented and quite mechanically inclined (unlike his bride, I might add). He’s also not one to give up easily. In his world, not only can any idiot run a coffee maker, but any idiot can fix one, as well.

Before he’d finally had enough, we had three large bath towels on the kitchen floor mopping up the water that had to come out of the reservoir before he could conduct a detailed examination. Twelve cups of water sure seems like a lot more when it’s all over your kitchen floor!

And because the grinder had to be emptied before he could get a good look at it, the beans were dumped out and were now rolling around in the puddle. At the cost of those crazy beans, I was down there trying to salvage them, while the Cowboy had the vacuflow out to suck up the last of the beans from the grinder. I was on my way for duct tape -- just in case...  (Did I mention that we’re just a little bit of a haywire outfit?) when the cowboy gave it one more try. He turned it on, and -- nothing, nada, zero. We heard only a feeble hum.

He shared his opinion on this *#@* machine, grabbed his fencing gloves and headed out the door sans travel mug.

“No, no, no,” I whined, “We can’t go through that all again!” I remembered the store clerk telling us that if we had trouble with the machine, we were NOT to return it, but rather we should call the number listed in the manual.

Now where was the blessed manual? Hmmm...where in the world did I put it when I tidied up for the good Rev. and his Missus?  After a good long search, I found it where all coffee maker manuals should be kept, don’tcha know – in the piano bench. I opened it up, dialed the 800 number, and was promptly connected with Bombay.

They started the usual routine of “press 1 for this and press 2 for that”, but I learned a long time ago that if you just keep pressing 0, you’ll eventually get a live person. (By the way, that strategy doesn’t work with Telus. It simply results in your paying your bill in the amount of “zero dollars and zero cents.” )

Back to Bombay:

After I explained my situation to Haamid, (I knew a live person would answer!) he kindly assured me that he would help me get that coffee maker going again.

“Have you cleaned the chute?” he questioned.

I explained that the drip part of the coffee machine worked, it was just the grinder that didn’t. This doesn’t have anything to do with a chute,” I assured him. “The motor for the grinder just quit – and we’ve only had it for 4 days!”

“Please don’t be confused, Miss Joey,” Haamid spoke softly. “Just open the chute and use the brush to push the grounds through, okay?

“The brush?

“Yes, the one that came with the machine.”

“Sorry, Haamid, I think my husband might have tossed it out – he would consider that ‘extra parts’.”

“Oh my, Miss Joey,” exclaimed Haamid, “Perhaps you should use your fingers, then.”

I found the chute (with great coaching by Haamid) and pushed about 3 cups of grounds that were packed like cement into a tiny little hole. No wonder the grinder couldn’t work.

At last, we got it going, and after the beans dried out, I loaded it up once again. I almost cried when I heard that grinder start.

This long, long story is just about over, can you hang in for just one more thing?

I poured a big cuppa Jamaican Blue Mountain and headed for my computer. I wanted to check once again how this machine was rated.

There it was in bold print:

Ease of Use: Any idiot can operate this machine.


I’m pretty sure I’ve got it figured out now. Come on over and I’ll make you a coffee. But before I do, I might have to announce like my dad, “Watch this!”

PS Just in case you’re wondering about the missing brush. I found it yesterday – where all coffee maker brushes should be kept, don’tcha know – with my cell phone charger, of course.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


Hate is a strong word. While I may have over-used that term when I was a child, I try not to use it now. I really don’t hate anyone or anything. There are some people and things I like more than others, but I certainly don’t hate.

The one exception to this might be mice. I really really, really hate mice.  I’ve been stranded on the side of the road waiting for ‘the cowboy’ to rescue me from the mouse that got in my car. And once, when a mouse got in my house, I raced out and had to call my brother-in-law to go in and get my baby!

We didn’t go home until the mouse was gone.

Most recently, my wonderful daughter-in-law has come to my rescue.  She helped me clean the varmint out of the garage and  she bravely entered the mouse-ridden grain bin for horse feed. 

I really, really, really hate mice.

I even have trouble walking down the aisle of the hardware store where the mouse traps are kept.  I mean, they have pictures of mice (not photographs, just drawings, but still...)

I really, really, really hate mice.

Since two cats came to live with us, I don’t see mice very often, and that’s just the way I like it.

Did I mention that I really, really, really hate mice?

Because they are such dirty, horrid, little creatures, I was surprised to find them so prevalent in children’s literature. I mean really – help me understand why any author would want to introduce innocent children to these horrible, no-good, very bad, awful beasts?
Here is the evidence:

1. Does a Mouse have a Mommy?

Well, yes…but I wish it weren’t so. My world would be a far better place if all female mice had their tubes tied.

2. Cottonwool Colin

is one of 10 baby mice. The others were big, but Colin is very small. His mother wraps him in wool to protect him. It works, until a boy thinks he’s a snowball and throws him in a river.”

Now that’s a HAPPY ENDING, if I’ve ever heard one!

But no, Colin “survives many dangers and skips home feeling ‘large’.

It would be a great story line if Colin wasn’t a mouse!

3. Mouse Tail Moon offers “18 ‘mouse’ poems.”

Does presenting these rodents in rhyme make them more appealing?

NO, NO, a thousand times NO!

4. Santa Mouse is described this way: “Kids will love reading about Santa Mouse, Santa's furry, faithful little helper.”

Sure that’s what all parents want for their kids – toys that mice have crawled on. Yuck!

5. Marguerite’s Fountain is about “adorable mice living in a cathedral yard. Marguerite dances in HER fountain.”

The one thing I know about mice is that they’re pretty easy to be rid of with a five gallon bucket of water. Once they get in, there’s no gettin’ out. The dance is over, Marguerite.

But perhaps the most disturbing book I saw was this one:

6.  Is There a Mouse in the Baby’s Room?

It “stars a baby who has funny encounters with a larger-than-life, mischievous rodent, while parents discuss whether or not there’s a mouse in baby’s room.”

Those parents should be reported, I say. Enough 'discussing' -- get in there and save your baby.

Yikes, what is the world coming to?

Remember the good old days when the characters in children's books were bears, wolves, and trolls?  I'd take them over mice any day!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Next time...Ask an Expert!

The very short growing season here at the end of the road sometimes results in the corn freezing about a week before harvest. So this year, we started the corn under grow lights in the garage. Then we moved it to the greenhouse where it enjoyed the sun’s warmth during the day, and was protected from freezing at night with a thermostatically controlled heater. We thought it would be ready to plant about the time the danger of frost was past. However…

It is now up to 12 inches tall and growing at a rate of 1 inch a day! I took it out of the hot greenhouse and put it on the verandah in an attempt to slow it down. Do I plant it in the garden now and take a chance on frost, or wait (while it continues to grow)? I guess we should have asked an expert…

Chocolate has always been my favourite ‘pick me up’. Things always look a little better after that sweet treat. So this week, when I felt a cold coming on, I opened up a can of chocolate macadamia nuts and polished them off in short order.

They were, as the can states, “irresistible”.

However, the result wasn’t what I expected. I felt worse. Yesterday, I got the ‘official’ doctor’s version: apparently if you eat anything sweet, your body's ability to fight a cold or flu is virtually shut down for 24 hours. I guess I should have asked an expert….

3. In an effort to keep the blue herons from eating the fish in the stocked pond, we got a blue heron decoy. The theory is that these birds are quite territorial and won’t land if another one of their kind is there.

However... the theory didn’t mention mating season...

I guess we should have asked an expert…

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


“To sit alone in the lamplight with a book spread out before you,
and hold intimate converse with men of unseen generations –
such is a pleasure beyond measure.”

Kenko Yoshida

I love books.
I love the look of the stack of good reading material on my nightstand.
I know that I have something ready if I have a few minutes to read.

I love the feel of a new hardcover book in my hands as I crack open the cover.

I love the smell of new paper, and the sound it makes as I turn each page.

I totally love the experience.
So much so,
that I’m sure to be the last person on the planet
 to have an iPad to read electronic books.
I don’t care that it will hold 10, 000 books.
I’d miss the ‘real’ book in my hands.

Awhile ago, I thought about books,
and reading,
and choosing to continue reading a book
when it doesn’t grab me quickly.

And I added yet another item to my ‘bucket list’:
Compile a list of ‘great first lines’ of books.
No doubt someone has already done this, but I’d like to do it anyway.

I have no time for any ‘extras’ these days,
but I thought I could start with my own little library.
Before you read further,
it’s important that you know I’m not recommending these books;
I just love their first lines.

1. Each person’s life is lived as a series of conversations.

2. We want life to be less arduous and more delightful.

3. Once it was a road of sorts.

4. The year began with lunch.

5. Quiet as it’s kept, there were no marigolds in the fall of 1941.

6. Most train robbers ain’t smart, which is a lucky thing for railroads…

7. The writer Goodman Ace once suggested that we create a thirteenth month
between December 31 and Jan 1,
and set it aside as a time
“of reflection to remember things you’ve forgotten that would tidy up your life.
The calendar would read:
‘October, November, December, Remember’.”

8. A little squatty chair with sturdy legs
a braided rug beside the kitchen door…

9. King Wheat!

10. I’m a window cleaner
and I get very attached to the windows I work on.

Just in case you are intrigued by the lines listed above,
I’ve included a coordinating list of titles/authors below:

1. You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation (Deborah Tannen)

2. a simpler way (Margaret J Wheatley and Myron Kellner-Rogers)

3. A Dance Called America (James Hunter)

4. A Year In Provence (Peter Mayle)

5. The Bluest Eye (Toni Morrison)

6. Streets of Laredo (Larry McMurtry)

7. Holidays and Celebrations (Betty Jane Wylie)

8. Aunt Hattie’s Place (Edna Jaques)

9. The Canadian 100 (H. Graham Rawlinson and J.L. Granatstein)

10. Simple Pleasures (Robert Taylor, Susannah Seton, and David Greer)

On this stormy, rainy, blowy, snowy, sleety day,
I yearn to sit by the wood stove and crack open a new book.
Which one should I choose?
Ah…so many books…so little time…

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Come Back, Sara, Come Back....

Every time I clean my fridge, I think about calling Sara
with an invitation.

Several months ago, she stopped by and ‘caught’ me
 in an unbelievable mess.
I’d been at my computer under a mountain of marking,
and had completely ignored my house for weeks.
The cowboy was gone, so I was eating a lot of Cheerios.
I was getting at lot of work done –
just not housework,
 or grocery shopping either, for that matter.

When Sara’s wee baby needed a snack,
I had nothing to give her.
Nothing in the pantry, and nothing in the cupboards.

But then I checked the fridge and found (yippee!)
a container of yogurt.

Alas, when I opened the lid,
 the odour almost knocked us over.
 It was waaaaay past its prime (even for yogurt).

The only other possibility
 was a jar in need of a new label.
The Cheese Whiz had become “Cheese Was”.

And I needed a new 'label' too.
“Mother Hubbard” was more like it.

I can’t remember what that little baby got to eat --
maybe I found some crystallized ice cream.

But I certainly do remember my embarrassment
at the state of my house, and the lack of food.

Sara hasn’t been back,
but I don’t think that’s the reason.
She’s busy with a big family,
and lives a distance away.

But whenever I clean my fridge,
or re-stock my pantry,
I think about inviting her back –
for a ‘kitchen inspection’ party –
just so she knows
it doesn’t always look the way she saw it
 those months ago.

Today, I post another type of invitation.
And this one is open to all.
So come on over!

I’ve been thinking for a long time,
that we don’t celebrate nearly enough.

The occasion?

Clean floors!

You can even wear your white socks!

And, in honour of this grand achievement,
I even have fresh muffins!

But you know it can’t last for long,
so this is a time-limited offer.

After a couple of days, you’ll still be welcome,
but not in your white socks.

Oh, and because fresh muffins
 are a rare treat around here,
they won’t last long.

Better grab a bag of Oreos on your way!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Winter Projects

Around this place, horses come and horses go…

Well, actually they don’t go (unless they die, that is). My cowboy collects them, I guess.

I totally get that. Collecting, I mean.
I collect fabric.
My stash is so full, for all the projects I’ve planned but haven’t yet started,
that I wonder if I’ll live long enough to use it all.

But, I digress…

This post is about horses:
Around here, they come, and they stay.

Except for this one.
He arrived in my garage in severe need of some TLC.
He is an old-timer, and has seen a lot of miles…

I started with a coat of paint…

…and then the cowboy got involved
and built a sturdy oak base, in case the new owner wants to ride hard…

And now, this horsey is ready to live with his new owner
a little cowgirl named Taylin.

I sure hope she likes him.

Stay tuned for our next project which also has seen a lot of miles. 
A hundred years ago it was a harvest wagon,
but when Grampy Cowboy is finished,
 it will be a playhouse for little GG.

It looks pretty good on the outside, but the inside will be a challenge….

It may take a while, but it’s going to be fun.

We’ll need a road trip to pick out flooring and fabric for curtains.

Ooops, what am I saying? I’ll check my ‘stash’ first.
Pretty sure there will be something there for curtains.

What projects are you working on this winter?
Leave a note, won’t you?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Great Lines

I'm on my own here at the "end of the road", and I’ve taken to talking to the cat. This happens routinely if the Cowboy is away any length of time. Sometimes we have pretty good conversations. Other times, like this morning, I’m less than pleased with the cat, and he hears, “You're Not Playing Auntie Beth, Now!”

This is the line at my house that indicates, “I’m serious. I mean business.”

It all started about 25 years ago. My (then 6-year-old) son was just starting to play checkers. And for a 6-year-old, he was pretty good. His grandpa loved a good game of checkers, and agreed to a match with the new player.

Being a most proud mama, I explained to grandpa, that the kid was pretty good. “In fact,” I stated proudly, “He even beat Auntie Beth!”

Grandpa responded, with a twinkle in his eye, “Well, he’s not playin’ Auntie Beth, now!”

Grandpa was not at all the type to purposely make bad moves, in an effort to encourage a new player. No, no, not by a longshot. He was all business, and soundly beat the boy in a very few swift moves.

Fast forward ‘til today. After cleaning up a ‘mess’ on the sofa, I really meant it when I told the cat, “You’ll become a barn cat, if this ever happens again. You’re not playin’ Auntie Beth, now!”

And I mean it!

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Apostrophe Just Wants to be Your Friend

Some of you might know that I am completely apostrophe-obsessed. These tiny marks serve a large purpose in our written language; reading English riddled with apostrophe errors (or worse yet, with no apostrophes) is very difficult and distracting.

Recently, I learned that Birmingham, England, does not share my view on apostrophes. In an act of war on the Queen’s English, this city banned the use of apostrophes on road signs.

Does this make any sense to you? Apparently, the city fathers (surely they weren't women!)grew tired of complaints about apostrophe errors, and rather than encourage sign makers to learn something as important (and, might I add EASY?) as apostrophe use, they voted to abandon the apostrophe altogether. What message does that send to our students? If something is too hard, (whiny voice) you can just change the rules so you won’t have to bother with it.
If my community follows Birmingham’s lead, I will be the last person defending the poor apostrophe and its correct usage. Please join me. If you need to brush up, click here to check your own skill with the darling little apostrophe. I know you'll become good friends.

Imagine a world without apostrophes. I begin to hyperventilate -- just thinking about it.

And while I'm at it, please encourage your circle of friends to stop with the 'u' in their text messages. Two more letters won't kill them.