Posts Tagged ‘Bad Housewife’

Banana oatmeal cookies

I  don’t know why my banana oatmeal cookies don’t look like this.

I was watching a cooking show the other night.  The cookies all turned out exactly the same size.

Mine are as big as scones.

Drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls…

Okay, I never learned to bake.  My mother didn’t bake, except for Duncan Hines.  Those cakes were good.  Chocolate cake, white cake, German chocolate cake.

“They’re better than homemade,” she said.

I wouldn’t know, because I never ate homemade cake.

My grandmother didn’t bake cake, but she did bake cookies.  For some reason she did it in secret.  The kitchen had to be immaculate when we visited, with no traces of cooking or baking.  We would get a mysterious call:  the banana oatmeal cookies were just out of the oven.  Or she would roll over to our house in her big Chevrolet and deliver them in ice cream cone boxes.   Then she would drive to my cousins’ house to drop off their cookies in ice cream cone boxes.  There was no reason to have a cookie jar if you had ice cream cone boxes.

But it’s the craziest thing.  Why didn’t she teach us to bake?

When my mother was growing up on the farm, before they moved into town, my grandmother had to cook three square meals a day for my grandfather and the hired hands.  My mother thought it was a horrible life, and hated the country.  She would cook hamburgers, or fry some chicken, but beyond that, nothing.

“Mother doesn’t write down her recipes,” she would say with a sigh.

Surely she had to have made the occasional biscuit or something.  But she said no.

She clearly didn’t care about it, either.

Determined to learn to cook, sew, and  all those other things a girl was supposed to do, I made my first chocolate chip cookies from a refrigerated Pillsbury roll in home ec class.

Not really baking.

Then I progressed to homemade chocolate chip cookies.  They always tasted good, despite their irregular shape.  Tip:  forget creaming just the butter and sugar. Throw in the eggs and vanilla, too, and cream them all together.  Is that why my cookies turn out so odd?  Because I skip a step?

I recently found the easiest cookies of all:  a banana oatmeal cookie recipe that is very much like my grandmother’s.  They are the best cookies in the world.  But mine look hilarious.  Seriously, they look like this!!!!!!

My banana oatmeal cookies.

They are as big as scones.

The internet tells me I need a small ice cream scoop with a release mechanism to make my cookies the same size.  Perhaps I’ll go to one of the ___marts and get one.

Everyone will like these cookies, which last two days tops.   You can entertain your aunt who raises chickens, the folks from AA or your book group, the political door-to-door-ers, and even friends:  all will be happy to eat your banana oatmeal cookies.

Here is the recipe:

1 cup white sugar
1 cup margarine or butter
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. cinnamon
3 ripe bananas mashed
2 cups rolled oats
Optional:  1 cup chocolate chips (I don’t use these)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cream butter and sugar together until smooth.  Add the eggs and vanilla and mix.  Sift together flour, baking soda, cloves and cinnamon and stir into dough.  Then add the mashed bananas and oatmeal and mix until blended.

Drop dough by rounded spoonfuls onto cookie sheets.  Bake 10-12 minutes.


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Doris Day in “The Thrill of it All” becomes a spokesman for Happy Soap.

I have never been fond of housework.

It’s because my mother was a clean-a-holic.   Every day she vacuumed, scrubbed the kitchen floor on hands and knees, and ran around the living room with a dustrag while she watched As the World Turns.

It is a lot of pressure.

Thus a bad housewife is born.

Go to my siblings’ houses and you’ll see clutter.  Well, it’s really a mess.  It’s as though we can’t figure out how to pick up, put away clothes, or dust the ceiling fans.  (I recently gave a little advice on the latter.)

Over the years I have cleaned my house well only when I’m expecting company.

My father recently complimented me on my clean house.

Ha, ha, ha!  That’s because we cleaned before he came over.

Once a friend came to stay for the weekend, and while I finished a PR project (“God, will I ever get this done?”), she cleaned house for me.  I begged her not to clean.  “Please, I’m too tired to help. It looks great now.”

She laughed, because her family doesn’t think she cleans well enough.  (My God!)  And she said it had only taken a few hours.

That’s a few hours she could have been reading,

I admit, if you don’t clean regularly or enough, it gets uncomfortable.  An old toothbrush on the tiled walls in the bathroom has no effect on the mildew after weeks of neglect.  The kitchen floor gets dingier and dingier if you don’t wax it.  If you promiscuously accept free books from publishers, they pile up and you have no space for them.

I’ve glanced at a few books lately, hoping for answers on how to keep the damned house clean once it’s clean.

Recently I read Don Aslett’s Is There Life after Housework?  A Revolutionary Approach to Cutting Your Cleaning Time by 75%.  I learned that cleaning is not only about elbow grease, but products and equipment.

Vinegar and water won’t do the trick, says Aslett.

“Forget the witch potions and the glamorously packaged overpriced household cleaners you’ve been using.  Almost every telephone business directory in the country lists janitorial supply stores…. You can buy professional cleaning products wholesale or retail, and the price of either is better than the price of comparable supplies at the supermarket.”

Aslett says we need only four cleansers:

1.  neutral all-purpose cleaner

2.  disinfectant cleaner

3.  heavy-duty cleaner (for degreasing, etc.)

4.  glass cleaner

He suggests we go to a janitorial supply store and impersonate a janitorial service to get a discount, but I’m not doing that.

I invested in a couple of Super Cleansers at the big box store, despite his advice against it, and I discovered one with bleach that cleans everything in 30 seconds.

No elbow grease.  Spray and wipe.

The fumes are terrible.   I wouldn’t dare to use it too often.  Not all the ingredients are listed.  Very weird.

I’ve temporarily cleaned things up, though, and we’ll just hope I’m going to use Aslett’s tips, like bring in a load of firewood every time you come into the house.

Oh, yeah.

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We were down to old lettuce and cereal.

“Where are the raisins?”

It’s the usual harum-scarum problem that besets bad housewives.  We’ve been busy reading and blogging, reading and cleaning, and maybe reading while we walk and drink tea or coffee.

We really need one of those magnetic shopping list pads.

Usually I make a list on a piece of  paper torn out of my diary. “Please will somebody go to the store?”   I’m a non-driver, and sometimes stuff explodes inside my bike panniers, so if we need a LOT of big stuff, like laundry detergent and that super-size of cereal, I send someone else.  Someone who DRIVES.

When I show up at the urban grocery store to pick up a few things, the cashier sees my bike helmet and says, “Who knows if that ice cream will still be ice cream when you get it home?” He has no idea how fast I can ride when there’s ice cream.

Usually we shop urban, but we had some stuff to do in the suburbs, and decided to investigate the new trendy high-concept Hy-Vee in Urbandale.

Hy-Vee produce section.

Oh my God, it was overwhelming.  They give you a map.  The Asian cooks are stir-frying in front and giving out free samples.  There are incredibly green greens and beautiful fruit, including some I’ve never tried:  Plumcots (hybrids of plums and apricots), starfruit, and little melons.  Sorry, I didn’t take notes, and don’t know what the melons were.

Then there is the gelato bar, the Starbucks with a fireplace, the sushi bar, the Chinese food, the pizza cooked in a stone oven, a huge bakery, a sit-down restaurant, a butcher’s shop, a seafood shop, bulk foods, pet aisles, etc.

My husband wanted to find the oatmeal bar.  We couldn’t find it.

We decided we couldn’t possibly shop there without a list.  So we just bought birthday cupcakes.

Hy-Vee bakery.

I don’t actually see the cupcakes we bought (I downloaded the photo from the internet).  They were little chocolate and white cupcakes.  I didn’t feel up to one of those giant cupcakes.

Mmmmm.  The cupcakes were delicious.

Many have compared this new Hy-Vee to Trader Joe’s.  I’d love to shop at Trader Joe’s, but it is at the edge of the suburbs, and it would be difficult to get there on my bicycle.  It could be done, but it would be an unpleasant ride.

Although this new Hy-Vee is a lot of fun, we’ll stick to our regular Hy-Vee (which is also big).

I do love the Hy-Vee.  Founded in Iowa in 1930, it is now a big chain.  I grew up shopping in the little Hy-Vee store on Kirkwood Ave. in Iowa City with my mom.  We would buy groceries (“Could we have space food sticks?  Please.”) get dishes with Green Stamps (or they may have been brown:  I’m not sure), and pick up comic books and 59-cent editions of Little Women and the Trixie Belden books.

The Kirkwood Ave. store was closed long ago.

The Urbandale Hy-Vee is too far away (would eat gas), and is really too big to be efficient for us.  Unless we want a treat, we probably won’t shop there.

We housewives have to think of these things, especially when we’re sending others to the store.

And now here’s a recipe for white cupcakes.  I haven’t tested it because I’m a bad housewife.  Yup, I don’t need to bake them when I can buy them, but check out allrecipes.com

So where do you like to shop?  Big stores, small stores, organic stores…?  Let me know!

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Do you dust or vacuum?  I don’t care what gender you are.  That makes you a housewife.

This blog is for you.

In a recent digression from my usual book blogging, “Bad Housewife: Episode 1,”  I mused about dusting louvered doors (doors with slats).  After reading 14 pages in a book about housework and learning that I was polluting the air with allergens by not dusting every day, I finally gleaned that a small paint brush (as in a watercolors box) might reach the dust in the slats.  Somehow I’ve never been near an art store or a hardware store since then.  Hardware store?  Six blocks away.  Why didn’t I get on my bike…?  I just can’t tell you.

Instead, I did some interior decorating to distract myself.

This summer we pulled up a carpet that was, according to a carpet expert, the original carpet of the house from the 1930s.  Somebody in the 1930s wanted a really ugly carpet to cover the wooden floors.

Maybe it could look like this!  But this isn’t our house.

I had dreams of refinishing the floors.

And when we pulled up the carpet, there it was.  A wooden floor.

Excitedly I called a flooring store, only to learn that it would take six days of applying sheets of toxic chemicals to refinish the floor, and that we would have to go to a hotel because we wouldn’t be able to leap giant steps across the room to get to our bathroom.

Oh, dear, this didn’t exactly sound like us.  Moving the bookcases had taken it out of us, and we didn’t feel like staying at the local Holiday Inn.  So I threw some throw rugs down.  Only the wooden floor was in pretty bad shape.

So then we decided on a carpet.

So many choices. We browsed at a big DIY store, and discovered we could get (a) nylon carpet; (b) a carpet made from recycled bottles; (c) a carpet made from corn.

Don’t fool yourselves.  All those substances pollute.  To make the fabric from plastic bottles or corn, those factories are emitting chemicals.

But we went with the carpet made from recycled bottles.   I consulted an environmentalist, and that was his random answer.  He said the recycled bottles and corn emitted fewer chemicals than the nylon.

And do you know how much difference a new carpet makes?  I LOVE MY CARPET.  It’s all about the carpet now.  Everybody comes into the house and says, “This house looks so nice.”

Yeah, nobody looks at the louvered doors.

We even got a good pad, so it’s so comfortable to walk on.

It reminds me of my mother’s house.  Yes, I can walk in now and am in a lovely space.

I even got the color I wanted.  Not the neutral we usually go with.  But I won’t tell you the color.  I’ll just let you imagine whatever color you really like.

Pick a color!

Now the question is:  how do I keep it really clean?  I’m obsessed with vacuuming.  I am vacuuming every day.  I’m not going into corners, but I am vacuuming the main space.  Will this keep it clean? And does anybody know of a really good type of vacuum cleaner?  Because I think I need one.

Tell me how to keep my carpet clean.  Oh, I know you’re readers, not housewives.  If I weren’t a reader, maybe I’d know how to clean.

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