HOW TO SPEND A DAY NOT BUYING AN OVEN – Marilyn Armstrong

I spent most of yesterday not buying a new countertop oven. Probably 7 or 8 hours were consumed looking at and deciding to buy it, then deciding it was too expensive, too cheap, not big enough, too many options I would never use until my brain turned to mush and I gave up for the day and night.

About 6 years ago, I discovered the joy of the countertop convection oven. The first one I bought was an inexpensive medium-sized oven from Waring, reasonably priced at about $75. It lasted two years before the legs fell off, probably from heat exhaustion.

New kitchen faucet!

My electric bill had dropped by 50%. I  had not realized my range was so expensive to run. When the Waring died, I upgraded and got a Kitchen  Aide convection oven. I have used one or the other of these two countertop ovens for everything except for the few times I had company.

When COVID-19 intruded on our lives, I started to bake a bit. I always liked baking, but for a lot of years I was too busy working or too busy being sick. These days, though, I have some time. I need to make better use of it. Although I love taking pictures and writing posts, I also need to do things which get me off the keyboard.

When I baked gingerbread the other day, I had to use the big oven. Ditto for the salty soft warm pretzels. I was either going to invest in a new full-size range or a much bigger countertop oven.

They are making new countertop machines differently than they were six years ago … or even last  year. Many of them are a lot bigger and more powerful. Big enough to cook a 12 to 14 pound turkey.  Most of them can be used as a family oven, convection oven, and/or an air-fryer.

I owned an air-fryer but rarely used it. Recently, I gave it away. Owen has a big one downstairs. How many air fryers does a three-person household need? Even Owen’s doesn’t get used often.

Then, there’s the tale of the wandering Kitchen Aide electric beater. I owned one years ago, but after heart surgery, I couldn’t move it. It weighs almost as much as our Kirby Vacuum which, if you own one or ever owned one, weighs slightly less than a VW bug.

Owen moved back. By now, he had given my Kitchen Aide to Kaity and had gotten a newer one for himself. Meanwhile, I had a Sunbeam mixmaster which was good for most things, but caught on fire attempting to work through whole wheat bread dough. Smoke started pouring out of its motor. After that, I didn’t have an electric mixer and I didn’t bake much.

A couple of weeks ago, Owen gave me his new Kitchen Aide. What goes around, comes around. To create counter space for the mixer, I’ve had to do massive kitchen rearrangement. I threw away a lot of china canisters — even those with sentimental value. I bought stackable containers from small to huge for flour, yeast, spices, sugar, and everything else.

The kitchen looks bigger because finally, there are empty spaces on the counters. I got a big, heavy plastic board for rolling dough or chopping vegetables. I’d have gotten a marble one — they are supposed to be the best for rolling dough — but anything big enough was too heavy to wash in the sink. Besides, I would drop it on my toe. Which would hurt.

Today, I consulted with Owen on oven sizes and finally bought a really big one that is so new it has no ratings. The ratings were making me crazy. So many of them were written by people who blamed the machine for not doing what it wasn’t supposed to do. Or not having the right temperature because they assumed that they should never need to adjust cooking time based on their machine.

You need to know your oven, whatever you are using. One guy said that the package instructions always were wrong and it was the machine’s fault. It apparently never occurred to him to adjust the timing. Package cooking directions — including those in cookbooks — work if you are using the same equipment the cook was using. If you aren’t, then you adjust the temperature up or down until it comes out right.

One guy complained that the baking pan didn’t fit in the shelf slots. Someone had to tell him that he was supposed to put the pan ON the shelf, not on the heating tubes.

So many dummies complaining the oven got hot. Yes, ovens get hot. When they are hot, don’t touch the glass on the door. You will get burned. Very young children figure it out. Even my dogs can tell if something’s hot and keep their noses away from it.

Grown up people aren’t as smart as young children or dogs.

I hope this oven works out. I can finally use my baking pans again and with the air fryer gone, there’s room for a regular toaster again. No matter what anyone says, a countertop oven is not a great toaster.

TOO MUCH CUSTOMER SERVICE – MARILYN ARMSTRONG

Today is Saturday. The package Amazon said they delivered yesterday was not delivered and it wasn’t delivered today, either. I’m sure it went somewhere, but not here. Not a small package, this was a kind of tent for use as a place to store garden equipment. Lawnmowers. Hoses. Snowblowers. Shovels. Spades, hoes, clippers. The usual stuff.

The old shed

Our current shed is going to collapse and buying one like it is a lot more money now than this one was when we bought it maybe 18 years ago. Not sure, but it wasn’t long after we moved here, so maybe closer to 20. Finally, Owen settled on this tent which has a stainless steel structure and a heavy, waterproof covering.

We ordered it from Amazon and yesterday, we got a notice that it was delivered. Considering this is a 12X12 shed and costs more than $400, it was unlikely we missed it. This would be a very large package. So, since they’d already charged Owen for it, we wanted the shed or the money, but I wasn’t fooling around with whichever manager was in charge of big lost packages. And before you think I’m being funny, I’m not. They have a separate department for big packages.

Finally, long, long hold time later (I’m going to write lyrics for their “hold music” so I can sing along) and having heard how important our business is to them, I got one woman who said it was too expensive so it had to go to a supervisor. I got a supervisor, but he said this had to go the the “heavy object delivery supervisor.”

The music came back. I really need to consider writing lyrics.

It has been a full week of spending every afternoon on the phone with Amazon’s customer service. They have decided they can’t deliver to us unless the item is very small. I don’t mind most things showing up when they show up. I can wait a week or two for the bag of yeast or a rolling pin. But two weeks into a wait without so much as notification of when it might arrive? Or even seeing that the order has been processed? How about an email updating me … or alternatively saying you are unable to deliver it?

The thing is, we’ve been waiting for two weeks for them to process an order for a 3 cubic foot freezer which I finally canceled yesterday. They finally delivered the dehumidifier — without casters. We couldn’t get the castors without sending back the whole dehumidifier but offered us $5 to replace the casters.

Five whole dollars? After it got up to 20 following a loud discussion, I started to get pissed off. I went from online complaining to downright irritable. If they aren’t going to deliver something, they need to at least tell us and not just leave the order hanging in ether-land. And this order which they said was delivered, was even worse. As far as they are concerned, it’s delivered. Never mind that we didn’t actually GET the package.

I think I sort of blew up and said “Money or product, but you can’t have it both ways.”

“But the driver said it was delivered,” he said.

“I’m sure it WAS delivered, but not here.”

He refunded the money and said this was actually a large enough order that whoever kept it and didn’t order it — and it had to be one of our neighbors — is going to get sued because it’s a federal crime. I replied: “Go right ahead and nail the bastards.”

I feel like I have a new job. It’s holding while waiting for another person to explain how I should just wait and surely the package would show up. I definitely resented the whole concept, especially since we’d already paid and if I didn’t strongly urge them to deal with it today, we’d surely be waiting another month and then they’d tell us it was too late to solve the problem.

We found someone else to sell us a freezer and even deliver it by the end of the month. Woo-hoo! For now, unless there’s nowhere else to get it, I’m a bit “off” of Amazon. I understand that they are swamped, but if they can’t handle the business, at least say so.

BUYING YOUR HOUSE AGAIN – Marilyn Armstrong

After a lot of people suggested I get a UBS at least to deal with the router and modem, I went looking on Amazon and realized I don’t know anything about what I need. Nothing at all. I used to rely on APC, but their ratings have dropped precipitously. So now, I have no idea what would be a good buy.

Home

Owen says he has a friend who may have some answers, so I await information. The problem is that the UPS doesn’t give much power. Twenty to 30 minutes for things I can afford which would at least avoid the mini outages we get from our internet provider.

If we want to be really SAFE, we’d need a generator — and that’s big money. The generator isn’t expensive, but its installation is a major event and definitely not a DIY job. Something that would keep the water pump, refrigerators, lights, boiler, and maybe the TV running is a medium-home-sized unit, but by the time you get it installed, you are looking at thousands of dollars. Hospitals and other life-and-death places use huge generators.

Small, medium, or big, it is not happening. First, we need a boiler, a new deck, and a few replacement windows. And a big dehumidifier for the lower level to keep the mold away.

I feel as if we are buying the house a second time. I know it sounds stupid, but I somehow thought that once you fixed something, that was it. Done.

The new hot water system attached to the old boiler.

Who knew we’d still be living here when the roof we put in when we moved here started to deteriorate? Or when the 12-year-old boiler would suddenly (and startlingly) be a 31-year-old boiler 20 years later? Who imagined we’d still be living here 20 years later?

Who expected to need three hot water heaters, new pipes, three new well pumps — not to mention a new well. Life goes around, comes around. The problem is the money doesn’t necessarily show up at the same time.

ABOUT THAT TOILET PAPER – Marilyn Armstrong

I got really tired of the endless hunt for toilet paper, especially when you find some, they say you can have one roll. We have three toilets, so what do we do? Pass it around?

I managed to get the last known 24-roll package of Charmin on Amazon in March and it was finally delivered sometime in early April. Not only do we have three toilets, we also have three asses. Two guys and me. Owen and I took readily to the “point and shoot” hose type of bidet. Garry took a while longer, but eventually, he liked it too.

You actually feel clean. I have never found that kind of cleanliness with toilet paper. A few people went “EW. TMI!” This made me wonder why it should be more repulsive to hose your butt with clean, cold water rather than smearing the gunk around with paper — not to mention the paper clogs in the pipes.

Did you know that worldwide, the equivalent of almost 270,000 trees is either flushed or dumped in landfills 365 days a year? Roughly 10% of that total is attributable to toilet paper (according to the latest issue of World Watch Magazine). Toilet paper wipes out 27,000 trees a day. If for no better reason, we might consider that in every country around the world, trees are vanishing and we are using them to wipe our asses.

Unless you designed your bathroom to have a separate space for a bidet in its own place — which would require a rather bigger bathroom than most of us have –you can add an adjustable hose. It is very easy to install and I like the hose better. I like to aim it where I want it — and It has other uses, like cleaning the toilet. I’m told it’s marvelous for washing diapers now that cloth diapers have made a comeback. I was actually surprised at the popularity of paper diapers. I used cloth for my kid and paper only when we were traveling.

Hibbent Dual Function 2 Sprayer(Stream/Jet) Handheld Bidet Toilet Shattaf Cloth Diaper Sprayer Kit – Premium Hand Shower for Personal Hygiene Cleaning with No Leaking Attachment – Stainless Steel

That’s what I love about how we save the world. We go back to cloth diapers. Nice. Diapers have a lot of uses and make the best polishing cloths (if you are a polishing kind of person). BUT. We while we aren’t using paper diapers, we cut down 27,000 trees every single day because we think we need to use mounds of paper to smear our butts rather than hosing it down.

We have three of them, one for each potty. I’m not happy with mine, only because turning it on and off is awkward. I like Garry’s much better. It has an easy to use on/off valve and you don’t need to peer behind the toilet to find it.

It’s not that I never use toilet paper. I just use a lot less and I feel a lot cleaner too. I use paper to clean my eyeglasses, clean the sink drain, blow my nose (no tissues either). It’s less expensive, less environmentally damaging in an area with plenty of water, and makes us all feel so clean.

THE BIGGEST GLITCH – Marilyn Armstrong

Little things defeat me. An electrical blip — so brief as to go otherwise unnoticed — knocked out the time and date on the clocks and telephones in my house. It was so brief I didn’t realize it had happened until I went to bed and everything was blinking. Don’t you hate when that happens?

75-ModemAndRouter-37

All our computers are laptops, so we didn’t notice. They all just switched to batteries, so when the glitch ended, everything seemed fine.

Until I got to the bedroom and everything was blinking, each in its own color. Resetting the clock radio was easy, but then there was a telephone. They are all linked, so I only have to set one and all three should automatically reset. It should have been no big deal. But it was.

I was defeated by an AT&T multi-handset system I installed in our home a few years ago. Never had it lost its time, even during a much longer outage. This time, it lost everything including all its settings and sub-settings. All blown away.

75-GearNIK-CR-72

Every time something minuscule defeats me, I am reminded how helpless I am — we all are — in the face of our technology. Even those of us who are technologically savvy have limits. All of us have technical Waterloos. If anything goes awry with any major system in my house, not only am I helpless, so is everyone else who lives here. Three generations of people who use technology constantly and depend on it. If we were without power for 24 hours our world would collapse.

It’s the huge, soft, pink, underbelly of our modern world. The aliens will not have to defeat us in battle. They just have to knock out our communication satellites and blow up a few power plants. Human civilization goes down like a row of dominoes.

The only survivors will be those who don’t depend on technology. Or maybe the survivalists in their compounds. Their lives will go on as before. Not me, though. Probably not you either.

Given what’s been going on these past few months, I think a long power outage might finish me off. I’m already derailed, but one more hit and I’m over the cliff.

NO GLOWING REVIEWS – Marilyn Armstrong

I’m on the Whirlpool mailing list. This is probably because we have a whirlpool washer. We got it (recently) second-hand, but somehow, we also got on the mailing list. I’ve left it alone because, among the many things we need, one of them is a refrigerator with a larger freezer compartment.

Refrigerators have always been expensive, but I was actually shocked at how expensive they are today. They are more than double the price they were five years ago when we got our last refrigerator. Thousands of dollars and I’m not seeing improvements to justify the much higher prices. The reviews, with a few exceptions, were written by people who had either gotten the fridge for free or at a substantial discount in exchange for an “honest” review. I tend to not accept these offers (I think all bloggers get them) because where I read “honest” I am sure what they really mean “five-stars.”

These people got their fridges for a heavily discounted price and not one of them gave a strongly positive review. All of them said that the interiors of the fridge were poorly designed, left far too much useless space, and seemed cheap. Moreover, many had problems with denting and scratching, There were missing drawers, no place to put butter and cheese, and a big blank hole in the middle of the model. The only place you could put a half-gallon of milk or juice was on the door. There were quite a few dented and scratched units and plenty of complaints that dealers were very casual about fixing or replacing damaged units.

I can only imagine what people who paid the full price for these refrigerators are saying. I decided not to buy a Whirlpool. The really good quality fridges are even more expensive and I think we have to get the new boiler first.

Whirlpool isn’t the Whirlpool we grew up with. Neither is Maytag or Amana or any of them. I think they are all made in China. The only difference is which name they screw on the door. Maybe I’m being cynical but when we decided that saving money meant moving all our production facilities overseas, I knew we’d eventually pay a heavy price for it.

It’s not like I have money to buy a fridge anyway, but our freezer compartment is perfect if all you keep in it are flat things that you can pile up neatly. The door has always had issues staying firmly closed.

We tried using a side-by-side refrigerator maybe 15 years ago and discovered the freezer compartment was even smaller than the regular one and it’s an optical illusion that they are much bigger — and those ice makers cause more trouble than they solve. They are too narrow, so I bought a separate freezer. I should have kept the extra freezer even though I was rarely using it, but who knew we were going to have a plague and need to pack in a lot more food than we normally eat?

So it turns out that if your product really isn’t very good, no amount of discounting or giving it away free will solve the problem. People are touchy about things they depend on. If the refrigerator is poorly designed, they will tell you. And since pretty much all the reviewers were women, they got a taste of how American women feel about major kitchen utilities.

THROWING IN THE TOWEL – Marilyn Armstrong

There’s a lot of news right now and it’s more personal than usual. One of the things I’m trying to find out is how infectious Worcester County is, but I can’t find out. We have no testing program so nobody knows anything. Nonetheless, I try every day to find out something that I really won’t find out.

We are the place with snow and long commutes

I also want to know why we haven’t gotten checks yet. “Get My Payment” says we are getting checks and they even know our account number, but no money. Each day I hope to see a notice telling me when we are getting checks. I yearn and I wait.

Today I proved conclusively that I can’t manage to write, take pictures, process photographs and still have time to read something that isn’t someone else’s post. I went and deleted more than 200 posts that I was hoping to read and realized I never would because by morning there will be another 200. I swear there are more each day.

I keep hoping that I’ll be able to get it all done, but I can’t. No matter how hard I try, it just doesn’t make the day any longer. So here I am at 1:30 in the morning writing a post for tomorrow morning. You’d think with all this isolation we’d have more time, but we don’t. I have less time and I don’t know why. Apparently doing nothing takes more time than doing something.

Our working kitchen and the autumn outside

So if I don’t get to you, it’s not you. It’s me. I’m lost in a tidal wave of email and news and photographs waiting for processing.  And I have never in my life wanted less to clean my house. I do it anyway. I wasted at least an hour and a half by cleaning the toaster, the rice-maker, discovered the paper towel dispenser was glued to the counter by what I suspect was gravy. So I cleaned it and the counter.


And this on about 3 hours of sleep because Bonnie barked all night. We tried to keep her up all day so she’d be tired tonight and disinclined to furious barking. We discovered that you cannot keep a dog awake when he or she wants to sleep. Dogs don’t get insomnia.

CORONAVIRUS TRENDS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

Most of the United States, and much of the rest of the world, are ‘sheltering in place’ because of the Coronavirus pandemic that has swept across the globe. This means that vast numbers of people are cooped up at home, looking for ways to stay entertained, upbeat and sane. I’ve been curious to see what trends in behavior are discernible in this period of mass self quarantine.

I’ve read that online dance parties have been organized with Zoom and other Face-Time style technology. This is a creative and fun way to get exercise as well as a sense of community for people who miss being able to ‘party.’ Pilates and Yoga classes are also continuing on Zoom and other platforms. I have a friend in London who is a Pilates teacher and she says that she’s never been busier – all online! So this trend is not just an American phenomenon, it’s worldwide.

Holidays are inspiring family activities in large numbers. Families are having ‘costume days’, when everyone dresses up for Xmas or Halloween, etc. and they take family photos to send out to friends and family. Along these lines, many bored families are pulling out all the holiday decorations and festooning the house with Xmas lights and Halloween décor. Neighborhoods are organizing holiday ‘parties’ and people are driving around and admiring what their neighbors have done to liven up their homes. This is a great way to create fun, cheer and humor in depressing times.

Online tutors are seeing a surge in demand as are liquor delivery services. Weed stores in California have been deemed ‘essential’ businesses and have also seen an uptick in business. No surprise there!

Liquor deliveries are trending

One trend that brightens my heart is the increase in shelter pet fostering and adopting around the States. Many shelters had to close down their facilities during the pandemic so they put out emergency calls for foster parents to step up and take pets out of the shelters and into their homes on a temporary basis. Some animal shelters in New York City are running out of pets due to a huge surge in applications. One shelter in Bakersfield, CA, had 200 foster applications in 48 hours! They set up a drive-through service to adhere to social distancing rules. Matches between pets and fosters and adopters were made online and then the approved families drove up to the shelter and their dogs or cats were brought out to their cars. Drive through pet adoption! How cool!

Drive through dog fostering

Maybe it’s an increased sense of humanity and compassion today or that people are stuck at home and are bored and want something fun in their lives, like a new pet. Whichever it is, this is a wonderful trend and I hope it continues after people go back to their busy lives.

One way to tell what people are doing at home is to see what they’re buying in large quantities– like flour, yeast, and eggs. Shortages in all these items have been reported recently because there’s been a big boom in home baking and bread making. People can suddenly do time-consuming activities like proofing yeast, monitoring rising dough and meticulously navigating complex cake recipes. Baking is also something parents can do with kids and many families are turning daily baking into a family ritual. There is a therapeutic element to baking; the mindfulness required to bake is soothing and relaxing and stress baking is a healthy way to deal with today’s high level of anxiety. It supposedly gives people a sense of control in a time when we seem to have little control over anything in our lives.

People in large numbers are also turning to puzzles to occupy their time and puzzle makers suddenly can’t keep up with the surge in demand for puzzles. Their sales are more than tenfold what they were before and there is a backlog of orders. It’s beyond what they call ‘Christmas volume.

Another item that is flying off the shelves in record numbers is vegetable seed packets. Seed companies are being swamped by an onslaught of orders from backyard gardeners. People may suddenly see the value of growing their own food in times of potential shortages and in reaching some level of food independence. Or, like with baking, people are looking for productive activities to occupy their time and their children’s time.

This consumer frenzy is focused on vegetables high in nutrients, like kale, spinach, and other quick-growing, leafy greens. All kinds of beans are also big sellers because they’re healthy, easy to grow and versatile in cooking.

So people are getting very creative in the ways that they are choosing to occupy their enforced downtime. It’s encouraging to see some of these quarantine trends and I hope that when social distancing is in the distant past, people will continue to spend family time doing some of these emergency hobbies that popped into their lives in this odd time of crisis.

WORLD SHARING IN A TIME OF PLAGUE – Marilyn Armstrong

WORLD SHARING IN A TIME OF PLAGUE

Questions:

If we learn from our mistakes, why are we always so afraid to make them?

Just because we learn from our mistakes doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to avoid making mistakes. Trust me. You and me will make plenty of mistakes without working at making more or failing to worry about it.

How do we know that pleasure is good and pain is bad?

Pain hurts. Pleasure doesn’t.

What problem or situation did TV/movies make you think would be common, but when you grew up you found out it wasn’t?

I never thought I’d have to clean my own house. On television or the movies, houses are always perfectly clean. No dust bunnies. Everything is bright and shiny.

Don’t you just love the whole “housekeeping” outfit?

Eventually, reality banged me on the head. Not only was I going to clean, but I wasn’t going to do it while wearing high-heels and makeup.

If you drive, do you speed when no one is watching?   Have you ever run a red light late at night on purpose, particularly if it doesn’t seem to change very quickly?   If you don’t drive, what minor law may you have broken?

I used to speed. Now I don’t drive or at least, haven’t had to drive. I haven’t done anything illegal in years. I find that terribly depressing.

HISTORY OF TOILET PAPER, PART II – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I recently wrote a blog about the history of toilet paper and the response was so enthusiastic, I decided to look further into the subject.

Before toilet paper came into existence in 1857, people used leaves, moss, stones, corncobs or whatever was handy. The Romans used a sponge on a stick which doesn’t sound too bad. Except that Romans had communal lavatories and after using the sponge, they would dip it in a pail of water and then pass it onto the next guy. Ugh! Parts of the world today don’t even wipe, they use water from a jug or a bidet.

When cheap paper became easily available in the 19th century, people used newspapers and magazines as well as the giant Sears Roebuck Catalogue, which was a favorite in American bathrooms. In 1857, Joseph C. Gayetty started manufacturing “Paper for the water closet” and sold it in a package of sheets.

It wasn’t until 1871 when Seth Wheeler of Albany, NY, came up with the design that we are familiar with today. He invented the concept of perforating a roll of paper so it could be conveniently torn off in small squares. He then patented the cardboard tube at the center of the roll and a holder for this new contraption.

While we see this invention as brilliant and practical, it was apparently not easy to convince early 20th century Americans to buy this new, miraculous, disposable product. People wondered why they should pay for this fancy paper when they had so much paper available for free that could be put to the same use.

Well into the 1940s, toilet paper was a luxury because most Americans still used outhouses. These were basically a hole in the ground, so it didn’t matter what, or how much, you threw down that hole.

Outhouse

But another invention came to the rescue and made toilet paper a necessity in every American household – the flush toilet. Around this same time, many cities began building sewers and municipal water supplies which allowed more and more homes to acquire a hallmark of modern civilization, the indoor bathroom.

Flush toilets connect to sewers with an S-shaped trap to keep sewer gases from backing up into bathrooms. This piece of plumbing can get easily blocked up. Therefore, flush toilets are much more particular about what they can digest.

Newspapers and catalogs were no longer viable for modern bathroom duty.

Companies began to use modern advertising to compete with each other over the booming toilet paper market. Softer, “splinter-free,” and the multi-ply paper was touted as more comfortable and more absorbent. Colored toilet paper came out to match bathroom décor.

Toilet paper is now a 2.5 billion dollar industry and is considered to be enough of a daily necessity to cause the Coronavirus panic buying and resultant shortages in stores.

This is not the first time toilet paper shortages have made the headlines in recent history. In 1971, a July dock strike wiped out the toilet paper supply in Hawaii, which imports everything. That shortage lasted months and caused some interesting social phenomena. People stole toilet paper from the restrooms in bars, so some bar owners took control of the toilet paper supply and assigned a “poop manager” to ration out six squares to anyone who needed the restroom. To avoid similar pilfering, some hotels posted security guards in their restrooms.

Having toilet paper became a status symbol and a wealthy heiress received toilet paper rolls as a housewarming gift. When radio stations had contests, the winner got toilet paper – in one case the toilet paper was delivered in a Rolls Royce! In 1999 the threat of another strike caused another run on toilet paper in Hawaii.

After that, Hawaiians stockpiled supplies so they never had to panic about shortages again.

The good news today is that the current toilet paper shortage should be short-lived. Most of the paper industry is local and there are ample supplies of the raw materials used in its production: wood pulp and recycled paper. There are no overseas supply chains to get disrupted by Coronavirus so long term toilet paper shortages shouldn’t be something we need to worry about.

At least that’s what I read. We all know that sometimes what you read isn’t even worth the paper it’s printed on!

A BRIEF HISTORY OF TOILET PAPER – BY ELLIN CURLEY

The panic buying spurred by the Coronavirus has highlighted the products that Americans feel are most essential to their wellbeing. Apparently toilet paper leads the pack since most stores initially reported that they were completely out of toilet paper.

Toilet paper hoarding has become a national joke, with people buying carts full of the stuff in anticipation of long periods of ‘sheltering in place.’

I was surprised to discover that toilet paper has only been around since 1857, which means that humans spent centuries and centuries without this basic item of civilized life. So what did people do before this life-changing invention? Sailors used the frayed end of a rope dipped in saltwater. The Romans used a sponge on the end of a stick. Rural areas used corn cobs hung in outhouses.

Stones and moss were also used as were all kinds of printed paper, which were put to double use. People wiped indiscriminately with everything from newspapers and catalogs to almanacs and literature and even government proclamations.

Then around 1857, Joseph C. Gayetty invented the first commercial toilet paper called “Gayettey’s Medicated Paper.” It was made of hemp, had the inventor’s name watermarked on each sheet and claimed that its four medications combined with the paper pulp prevented and cured hemorrhoids. It was clearly a luxury item only for the rich because it sold for $30 in today’s money for 1000 sheets.

Gayettey’s product was sold only in sheets, as were the other brands that popped up, but it continued to be sold into the 1920s. It wasn’t until 1890 that Irvin and Clarence Scott of Philadelphia’s Scott Paper Company revolutionized the world of toilet paper by selling it on rolls. If you look at the original patent, you can see that the roll was designed to be placed with the sheets coming OVER the roll, NOT UNDER!

Original patent showing OVER was the intended way to position each roll

A later patent tried to address the problem of finding the ‘end’ sheet if it’s not hanging down. It was not successful, nor were the others that subsequently tried to tackle that pressing issue. Later improvements on the toilet paper roll addressed the problem of waste – too many sheets unraveled with each use. In 1891 a patent was granted for a roll of toilet paper with perforations to separate sheets so that only one sheet of paper came off the roll at a time.

Another welcome improvement in quality came in the early 1900s when a company boasted of its super-refined, “splinter-free” toilet paper. Ouch! Before this time, minute wood pulp splinters were a common residue from the papermaking process. By 1943, toilet paper was advertised as “soft and oh so gentle” for the first time!

Toilet paper has also been used as a political tool and numerous American politicians have appeared on rolls, including George Bush and Donald Trump. Prior to World War II, some British toilet paper was made with pictures of Adolph Hitler and other Nazi leaders printed on the sheets. One such roll from the 1930s was recently found in a barn in England. It was thin, war issue paper and was only twenty sheets, but it showed Hitler giving the Nazi salute. It sold for $240!

Are we going to face prices like that for Charmin in the near future? If it had pictures of Donald Trump on it, it might be worth it.

The toilet paper of my childhood came in colors and colorful patterns

I TOLD HIM HE DIDN’T HAVE TO GET UP, BUT HE GOT UP ANYWAY – Marilyn Armstrong

Even the dogs are sleeping late. They woke me briefly at 7:40 because Bonnie demands cookies in the morning. If Garry doesn’t give her cookies and while he is at it, clean out her eyes, she will keep barking. Forever.

One morning she barked continuously for more than three hours, but to be fair to me, she started earlier than usual. I thought four in the morning was too early to wake Garry. He can’t hear the barking because all his hearing equipment is off and the batteries are charging. If I want to make the barking go away, I have to wear headphones and listen to music.

I have headphones that block noise, but it’s really hard to roll over in bed with big, blocky headphones, even if Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony is playing.

After getting her cookies, she didn’t start barking again. I woke up around ten, which is on the early side these days. Garry woke up and I told him he didn’t have to get up. We had nothing to do. Well, we did, but nothing that was scheduled. I wanted to vacuum and change the furry covers on the sofa. I also had a plan to sweep the dead seeds off the deck and refill the feeders. Maybe take a few pictures. Write something.

Garry got up anyway and so did I.

I discovered 24 rolls of Charmin actually available on Amazon and bought it, even though it was 50% more expensive than before the plague hit America. I know it’s not like the Black Plague or even the Spanish Flu, but it’s bad enough. It may not kill quite as many people, but it’s doing pretty well and destroying the world’s economy.

It took a freaking plague to get people to forget how much they hate each other and begin to work together. And the moment the plague is over, they will all be at each others’ throats again — if not sooner. I’d like to think the peace could last a little bit longer, but somehow, I doubt it.

There will again be politics and primaries and elections. Everyone will hate everyone again and eventually, life will be normal. Whatever that means.

VICTORIAN HOUSES – Marilyn Armstrong

We all think we’d like to live in one of those mansions. I know several people who bought one and tried to restore it. They acquired them with the best of intentions. They saw in their minds glorious images of perfectly finished wood paneling and ceiling beams with miniature gargoyles and carved balustrades in the hallways.

Gleaming wood floors and a kitchen big enough to run a restaurant with a dining room to match.

Despite those dreams, everyone ultimately gave up. The reality was too expensive. Every piece of every part that needed repair was too expensive and many parts had to be bought from places that collect parts of fallen down buildings and sell them to would-be restorers. It was just too much house and in due time, they moved on.

One couple actually finished the job. The house was magnificent. Then, they went bankrupt.

These are wonderful homes. Big rooms with plenty of light from windows much taller than me. High, airy ceilings, hand carvings, and stunning hand-carved wood interior decorations. But with those beautiful parts came rooves that were incredibly expensive to repair and early 1900s wiring never designed for modern appliances. Plus primitive plumbing that needed to be completely redone.

Those gigantic rooms and 12-foot ceilings made the homes much more expensive to heat than a “normal” house. Everything that made the house beautiful also made it a problem for a modern homeowner. Most particularly,  the sheer size and lack of insulation in these houses as well as the lack of modern infrastructure.

Beacon Hill mansion

These homes were designed to house large families with lots of children and probably two or three generations from babies to great granddad. And maybe the odd aunt or cousin, too.

Did I mention that they don’t have closets? What they considered a closet, we would call a “tie rack.” Because most people had a set of fancy clothing, an outfit for Sunday church-going, and work clothing. They didn’t need the amount of storage we’re used to.

Classic Victorian “Painted Lady”

In the real world, as we get older we realize we don’t need a 3-story house with 8 bedrooms and only one bathroom. We’d be fine with a single-story house, two bedrooms with one and a half baths. And hefty closets.

Luxury? How about a small fireplace and a fenced yard for the dogs?

In my middle years, I yearned for large and open. With tall windows. Oh, those windows!

For a brief time, I owned a one-fifth of a Victorian. It was a one-bedroom flat on the first floor of a much bigger house. By the time I bought it, the house had been broken up into five apartments — four in the main house and an even bigger one on what would have been the attic level. My piece was not huge by square footage, but it felt bigger than it was

It was elegant with twelve-foot ceilings and polished elm flooring. It cost me almost a thousand dollars to have simple cotton curtains made for the windows. Not fancy drapes, mind you. Just enough to cover those 7-foot windows.

My apartment was on the first floor and was not in the country. You had to have window coverings. I lived there for less than a year and then Garry and I got married. The apartment only had one small bathroom with no room for another. Garry and I can share many things, but NOT one bathroom.

NO closets. Well, in theory, the bedroom had a shallow closet good for hanging a bathrobe, a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt.  Real Victorian houses in their time never stored much. Whatever they own was on display. The rooms were huge, but there was no room to move in them. They were unbelievably cluttered with lamps, vases, statuary, knick-knacks, pottery wildlife and often, many dogs. You had to be a ballet dancer to not knock over the breakables — and it was ALL breakable.

Pre-plastic, everything was fragile although often surprisingly ugly.

Victorian, but a farmhouse along the river

We tried to buy the other (empty) apartment across the hall, but the condo association got confused by the concept. I don’t know why because combining two condos is not such an unusual thing and wasn’t even 30 years ago, but they got all fluttery about it. We gave up and moved elsewhere. I rented it out for a couple of years, then I went bankrupt.

No one wanted the apartment. At that particular time, this area was unsaleable and had gone far downhill. The GE plant had left with its jobs and the drug dealers had moved in. The bank canceled the mortgage and but I kept the place. I gave it to my son who lived in it with his wife and my granddaughter until finally, he passed it along to an ailing friend who completely remodeled it. It’s gorgeous and looks just the way I’d have done it if I’d had the money.

Many of these glorious “painted ladies” have been broken into pieces for condos. It’s probably the only way to maintain them. At least that keeps them as one building because otherwise, they end up falling down to make room for more sensible housing.

These are houses to dream about and for which we yearn. If you are wealthy, you can fix them up and live there, but you need some pretty big money to make them livable and it takes years to bring them up to reasonably modern living standards. Not only hundreds of thousands of dollars but a lot of patience. It helps if you don’t have to live in them while they’re being remodeled — if you want to come out of your reconstruction sane.

Not a Victorian, a big farmhouse

At this point, I can’t imagine dealing with so much room. I can barely take care of this house which is less than half the size of one of those Victorians — not counting their basement and attic sections. For most of us, Victorian homes exist to admire. Otherwise, they are the highest maintenance houses ever built with far too many stairways and an awful lot of glass.

When my rare moments of yearning come to me, I watch “Meet Me In St. Louis.” That makes me feel better and I can sing along, too.

IF IT AIN’T BROKE … Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s February Expressions #3

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. You mean like our 31-year-old furnace that works but is guaranteed to give up the ghost any time now? Or the back deck that’s propped up in one corner because it was falling off the house?

Finishing the door

I think you could definitely say this about software because almost all their “upgrades” which supposedly fixes inevitably make the simple stuff more complicated and the complicated bits unusable.

On the other hand, when it comes to the things in your household? Replacement or repair before it blows up, burns down, or collapses leaving holes in ceilings and potentially causing life-threatening injuries to persons or pets? Maybe you really need to fix whatever it is sooner rather than later.

The room, well lit

Fixing that broken toilet for $900 was a lot cheaper than replacing the floor, ceiling, and burying whoever was sitting on it when the floor caved it!

So maybe this needs a minor wording change:


IF IT IS WORKING PROPERLY AND EVERYONE USES IT, LEAVE IT ALONE. IF IT’S HARDWARE AND IT IS ANCIENT, CREAKING, AND WILL FAIL LEAVING A TRAIL OF DISASTERS IN ITS WAKE? CALL A PROFESSIONAL AND CHECK HIS OR HER REFERENCES BEFORE YOU LAYOUT ANY MONEY!