Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Art of Smelling Like a Prairie Dog

It has been a month since the last post.  Prairie Eydie is wallowing in the demands of teaching, and I have been shamelessly playing my September away.  I have slept late, read books, watched a Roosevelt documentary in four-hour stints, watched a lot of House Hunters (please don't ask me to explain), soaked up September sun on my deck, gone out to lunch with a few friends. Lovely!

I have spent too much time on my iPad.  I have watched puppy and kitten videos ( through recipes, and researched truly obscure bits of information.  Did you know that milk was only prescribed as a medicine in Ancient Greece? 

Something came across my Facebook feed several days ago that got me to hit the Googlesphere.  It was a blurb on the dangers of hyper-hygiene--aka too much bathing and showering.

Now, I am a person who loves her bath/shower time.  This goes way back to my childhood.  I was a rather anxious child, and I would come home from school ready to snap after a day of intense people-pleasing. Sensing a major meltdown,  my mother would direct me to the bathroom and a tub of warm water.  30-45 minutes later, I would emerge with wrinkled fingers and toes, but calmed. Crisis averted. With this history, I have often found solace among the towels and Ivory Soap--sometimes showering/bathing twice a day if the mood or stress hits me.

Back to the Facebook blurb.  Here I was pummeled with descriptions of the many dangers my squeaky-clean body posed for me.  I had stripped myself of essential oils.  Good bacterial flora had swirled down the drain.  My PH levels were whacked. And then there was my endangered sebum... Lord, I didn't know I had one, let alone the fact that I was regularly loofahing it off.

Is that oil extra virgin???
Further googling uncovering the bathing rituals of the Ancient Romans, which involved dousing themselves with olive oil and scraping their skin clean. The article stated that perhaps that we, too, should rely less on chemicals and water and more on emollients ands gentle exfoliation.  

Research continued. Did you know that there is an anti-shampoo movement--allowing hair to return to its natural state without the use of shampoo--ever? Many models will leave their hair unwashed for up to a week before a big shoot, swearing that the natural oils produced by the scalp make their hair more luxurious and manageable.

I am beautiful and my hair smells like a locker room.

All of this information left me feeling like I had wronged my body for too many years.  Maybe these wrinkles were self-induced. If I had given up the bar of soap in my 20's, would I still have the facial skin of a baby's bottom?  That antiperspirant that I slathered on each morning--was I just clogging pores and allowing toxins to ravage below the epidermis? What would happen when those pores would most assuredly blow?

One article promised me if I ate a healthy diet, there would be no body odor.  Well, I can say that my overall diet is quite good.  I eat lots of organic fruits and veggies, happy meat occasionally, and a good number of protein-packed nuts.  I've cut out many empty calories and developed a taste for hummus. I even chew on a sprig of parsley now and then, which is suppose to freshen the breath and improve your aura (I made up that last part.).  At least in this corner of my life, I feel vindicated. Perhaps I was needlessly covering up and trying to prevent odor that didn't exist?

Yesterday, I woke up with a firm resolution.  No bathing, shampooing, or deodorant.  I had showered the night before. Surely, I had freshness to spare.  I held my own until 10 AM. I realized that we were out of healthy vegetables and fruits, and I need to venture to the grocery.  It was a warm morning.  I was a bit sticky. Evidently I didn't get quite all of my makeup off the night before.  I had raccoon eyes.

I decided that a quick step into a tepid shower with no soap or shampoo could be allowed.  I looked askance at the bottles and tubes of enticing bubbles and scents. Just water.  No lather or abrasives. Two minutes under the water was all I allowed myself, and I gently patted my skin dry to protect what little sebum I had left.  I came close to opening the antiperspirant tube, but then I remembered the suggestion of a pat of baking soda under the arms for a more natural freshness. Usually I will load my hair with product and blow it dry, but this didn't seem to be in keeping with my new lifestyle, so I tossed my head in the breeze while standing on my deck.

Peace and love...peace and love.
Feeling refreshed, PH balanced, and alive with robust and positive bacterial flora, I put on my favorite hippy skirt (one made from recycled t-shirts), a shirt, and feet-breathing flip flops.  I had several hours of errands to run, and was in and out of the car as the September temps rose to the mid 80's.  I came home and folded some laundry.  I had even let my sheets dry on the deck railing.  A natural body needs naturally-dried bedding.

As I dumped said sheets on my bed, I happened to look in the mirror.  My wind-tossed tresses were looking a bit flat and dull. No matter.  One article explained that it often takes several days for the body to adjust to the natural state, and initially the scalp may produce additional oil to make up for what has been unceremoniously removed for years. I push a limp lock back into place with the knowledge that a better hair day was in the future.

I headed outside to water some flowers when my au naturale foot stepped into a bit of of au naturale poop one of my dogs had left in the grass.  I hopped inside and stuck the offending foot in the bathroom sink.  As I reached for the soap, I hesitated.  There is a fine line between good bacteria and bad bacteria.  But as the stench hit my nostrils, I decided that good or bad, this bacteria had to go, and I used a liberal squirt of hand soap.

By this time, I was ready for the nightly news with a glass of wine, and I took myself to the family room where the dogs joined me on the one piece of furniture where they are allowed.  We lounged and relaxed.  I reached over to scratch the older pooch on the back when I noticed a bit of an acrid odor.  I smelled the top of the dog's head thinking that he had rolled in some decaying mushrooms. This is a activity that delights him, but sends the rest of us running.  No, he smelled like newly mowed grass with and undercurrent of fall leaves.   I sniffed the second dog.  No, just a lingering scent of the mint plant that resides near the steps.  The dog sniffed back and sneezed.

I settled back into the news and then stretched my arms over my head to relieve a kink in my neck. There it was again--the stank of stiff socks.  I turned my head and gave an armpit a quick check. The baking soda had caked into the creases and was also adorning the underarm of my t shirt.  The smell was there, sure and strong. This what not the smell of some helpful little organism. This was the fetor (I love this word!) of the unwashed.

With some pride, I will say I didn't run right to the shower.  That happened after dinner and the smog of stir-fried garlic chicken that clung to my hair, my clothes, my arms, my legs.  I stood under the hot water and lathered up my greasy locks, rubbed in facial cleanser, and created a bubble jumpsuit with my peppermint body wash.  The water ran for 20 minutes.

I would have made a terrible Roman.  

Prairie Sherry


Thursday, September 4, 2014

A Prairie Summer With A Little Carl Sandburg Thrown In

Hog Butcher for the World,
     Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
     Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight Handler;
     Stormy, husky, brawling,
     City of the Big Shoulders:

Carl Sanberg

My family truly had a prairie summer.  We didn't hitch up the covered wagon and gallivant cross country to national parks. There were no steam engine rides to other climes.  No ships rounding the tip of South American either going to or coming from the West Coast.  No planes because...well, in keeping with the 1880's prairie theme, I am just going to ignore the existence of planes.
"Powerball or Mega Millions?"

Our prairie summer included lots of good, old-fashioned labor. Me?  I was working at the general store (Hy-Vee Supermarket) jawing with the locals--dispensing sage advice on lotto picks and serving as postmaster for my little corner of Madison, Wisconsin.  Jo worked for the organic farm we have been associated with for the past four years.  She peddled produce at local markets and probably came the closest to the prairie dream.  Maia?  Well, I am struggling a bit trying to make a connection with employment as a Starbucks barista and life in a claim shanty, but I suppose you could say that she worked at the local cafe, or was the Miss Kitty of caffeine at the local saloon.  All three of us put in many hours and successfully juggled the use of the family's two horse and buggy rigs with a minimum of squabbling.
My neighbor's lawnboy, Sven.
There were lots of family chores--canning, scything the lawn, tending the herb pots, cleaning and airing the shanty.  The dogs needed to be herded out to pasture several times a day.  And of course there was the usual mending of the harnesses, the snowblower, and such. On the prairie there is little time for idleness--the Devil's Playground. 

Three Prairie Pioneers on their
faithful steeds.

The girls and I did make one trip into the Big City in early August. We took ourselves to Chicago for a Great Adventure.  If living on the sometimes savage prairie isn't dangerous enough, we decided to tour the city on semi-new-fangled Segways.  

At this point, let me just say that these horseless carriages operated by noodle-headed novices are just a whole series of lawsuits waiting to happen.  Prairie lawyers start lining up and wait for the circuit judge to ride into town.
Look at those toned Prairie Grlz!  Lots
of water hauling and pig slopping.

Whittled from a birch
At speeds topping that of a draft horse, we zipped around the parks and streets of The Loop, causing pedestrians to scatter and dive for the underbrush. But Prairie Pioneers revel in living on the edge, and we were exhilarated by the experience. We came close to taking out a few pigeons, but no humans were permanently harmed.

Now the youngest is back at the old school house, and middle daughter is packing her satchels to head back to college.  Me? This was my first day of school picture.  Enough said.

In my jammies at 9 AM!

“After the sunset on the prairie, there are only the stars”

Carl Sanburg

Prairie Sherry

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Prairie Bro Chimes In With An Historically Accurate Account

From the keyboard of Prairie Sherry's brother, Paul--aka Prairie Bro:

As of late I, a faithful reader of my sister’s epistles, have noticed a tapering off of the frequency of said entries into the Blogosphere.  As a result, I feel it incumbent upon myself to relate some history that some of you are aware of, and many are not, regarding Prairie Sherry.

As some of you know, Prairie Sherry was reared within the heart of the prairie among the ring-necked pheasants and meadow larks.  Eastern South Dakota, in a home that was more adobe than sod, but still nestled among the clover and bromegrass, was where her ma and pa had settled.  It was here that the future educator of your children, Prairie Sherry, and her cousin, Prairie Sandy, a future Iowa  congresswoman, became the founding mothers of an elite and exclusive organization.

This organization, The Mighty Mouse Club, was based on a very popular (at least to Prairie Sherry and Cousin Sandy) cartoon that aired on Saturday mornings. It was also a medium through which Prairie Sherry could exert her longing for power, as she instantly became the president of this esteemed collection of two members (who will henceforth be referred to as “ Good Mice”). This organization, too, I believe, foretold of her inclination to aid the down trodden and weak (all the other mice).

The organization, did not go unopposed, however. There were significant attempts to thwart the advancements of the MMC through the untiring efforts of Prairie Bro and little Prairie Kay. These two will go down in history referred to as the “Bad Mice." Their attempts at sabotage and skullduggery were always parried by the copious amounts of paperwork, sincerity, and, yes, sometimes tears of the MMC Administration.

In conclusion, I feel that you all should be slightly in awe of the two “Good Mice” that made the prairie a little more habitable and safe through the encouragement of their icon of goodness, MIGHTY MOUSE. 

I am guessing, but I feel that even now, during times of crisis, secret meetings are being held to uphold justice and the American way.

Prairie Bro

Prairie Sherry and Prairie Paul one year
after the birth of the Mighty Mouse Club.
And as the little sister of Prairie Bro, it is my turn to chime in.  It is true, we did spend 7 years of our lives on the true prairie, less than 30 miles from the Ingall's claim near DeSmett, South Dakota.

My cousin Sandy and I did start The Mighty Mouse Club in 1960. Although the youngest of the two, in true Frank Underwood style (House of Cards), I wrested power from my more compliant cousin and became President-For-Life and Despotic Overlord.

We did refer to ourselves as the "Good Mice" in an attempt to distance ourselves from the shenanigans of my then 11 year-old brother and his 4 year-old sidekick, Cousin Kay.  Yes, tears were shed, much to the delight of my brother.

I would like to report that now the four of us have reached our late 50's and 60's, a detente of sorts has been achieved.  My brother and my younger cousin have given up their devious ways and have turned to the side of goodness and truth.  Sandy and I fought the good fight and won.

I have wondered why Sandy, indeed an esteemed member of the Iowa Legislature, has not capitalized on her lifetime membership in the Mighty Mouse Club as she campaigns across northern Iowa, but she may be saving that bit of information if she turns her sights toward Washington in the future.  

Good mice all in a 1979 photo.  Left to right,
Prairie Sherry, Prairie Sandy, and Prairie Kay.
Yes, this was an unfortunate hair style for moi.

Prairie Sherry

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

What? In-Service?????

I didn't mark this day on the calendar, so when I was reminded about it last evening, I was truly taken aback.  I had totally forgotten. I had always imagined I would have grandiose plans for this day, but I don't, and so it is passing like so much of this summer. 

Today my former colleagues went back to school for teacher in-service.

A friend had invited me over for wine and nibbles last night, and as we sat on her deck enjoying a beautiful August evening, she remarked that she had been in her classroom all day because teacher in-service started today.  

Whoa!  If it hadn't been for a rather rapid and unexpected decision last spring, I, too, would have spent yesterday in a musty, humid classroom arranging desks and making copies.  Today, I would have sat through three or four meeting where I would be told that we would be making major changes, and that they would start on September 2nd, and we would not be receiving time to plan or any additional training.  

So on this official first day of retirement, what did I do?

  • I woke up at 8:30 rather than 4:30.  
  • I picked up our aging 2002 Mercury Sable wagon from the mechanic's.  Before that, I went to a gold and silver dealer and sold some silver jewelry that I wore ages ago while teaching.  The pieces were terribly dated, and the cash they produced help to pay for gaskets and plug wires.  I have no idea what those are, but they sure are expensive. Betty Blue Destiny is running again, and my two youngest are/should be very grateful that their means of transport took another gasp of air and began breathing on her own once again. My jewel selection is narrowed, but less for my children to laugh over in coming years.  "She wore that?"
  • I averted a disaster when my youngest, now a senior, discovered that the AP English novel she was suppose to have read much earlier this summer is no longer available in any of our local bookstores.  A paper on said book is due at the end of the week.  Lordy, thank all heavenly powers for the Kindle Store and the fact that I could even find my old Kindle.  The charger cord was found under the youngest daughter's bed (ooooo, the dust bunnies) after a two-hour search.  Much vivid language was used.  Said daughter slipped out and bought me a frothly iced-coffee drink and gave me a big hug before heading out for three hours of volleyball practice.  At least she knows she done wrong!
  • I hung a curtain rod that was suppose to have been put up during spring break back in April.  I hate putting up curtain rods, especially when it causes sweat to trickle down in places that are usually not seen by humanity.  I felt like I need to accomplish something positive today, and I wasn't sure that I was going to get this post done.
  • I poured myself a glass of wine at 3 PM.  No, I am not planning on making this a habit, but I thought a little blogging and a little wine was a good way to recognize the day.

It is 4 PM.  My former colleagues are just coming home from their long, meeting-filled day.  Each is stripping off the ugly "community-building t-shirt" he/she was "asked" to wear--always uni-sexed and always made of bulky cotton knit.  Usually the smalls and mediums go first, so imagine all of those XXL's flopping around.  Prairie Eydie texted me that she cinched hers with a decorative belt trying to evoke the style muse.  I hope she took pictures.  Oops, just checked my phone!  She did!!

Tomorrow and Thursday they will go back for the same.  No time will be given for room prep, so that will be done in early mornings, late evenings, and during Labor (how appropriate) Day. 

As for me?  I miss my teaching buddies.  I miss my cozy classroom.  I miss the idea of meeting those new 8th grade faces.

On the other hand, I am looking forward to those golden days of September.  I am looking forward to heading to South Carolina in mid October to visit my sister-friends, Mari and Mary. I am looking forward to making it to every single one of my daughter's home volleyball games.

Overused but true--Life is good!

Prairie Sherry

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Art of Saying "Yes"

At 4:00 every afternoon, I tuned in to see if Oprah was going to have an "A-Ha" moment!

I was a faithful watcher of "The Oprah Winfrey" show.  I gasped at all the startling makeovers.  (After one such show, I rushed out and got fitted for a decent bra.  Start with the foundation, ladies!)  I cried when she introduced us to a mother who had terminal cancer.   This beautiful mother filmed hundreds of hours of videos for her daughter to watch as she would eventually journey on without her mother.  (I am grateful my mother, Prairie Ma, still has my back.)  I learned from Dr. Phil, before he had his own show, "there are two sides to a pancake."  (My children HATE it when I tell them that - which makes me repeat it even more.)

I also learned how to say no from the Oprah Winfrey Show .  For those of you who don't know Oprah; she is a people pleaser.  At one point in her life, she said yes to everything and ended up running herself ragged.  So, as Oprah learned how to say no, she taught her viewers to do the same.  (Apparently the "disease to please" runs rampant in women.  Women were saying yes to every bake sale, book club, and car pooling gig.)

Naturally I assumed I also had the "disease to please" and started saying no to everything.  I said "No!" to school potlucks.  "No!" to birthday parties.  "No!" to Fourth of July fireworks.  "No!" to meeting new people and seeing old friends.  I was  awesome at saying no. It came so easily to me!   

A couple years ago I realized I had misidentified myself as a people pleaser.  Unlike Oprah, I wasn't trying to please anyone, I was just a grumpy woman who said no to everything.

I have been practicing the art of saying yes for a couple of years. I say "Yes!" to potlucks and get to eat yummy food with fun people.  (Though I steer clear of  mayo based salads and bread baskets.   Oprah has wisely taught me to fill up on veggies and lemon water.)  I get to laugh with old friends and start journeys with new friends.  Prairie Sherry is queen of getting me to say yes to things I normally wouldn't try.  With her by my side, I have said yes to blogging, starting a business, supporting a darling girl in Ecuador, canning, and risking arrest by singing at the Wisconsin State Capitol.

I challenge you, Prairie Friends, to say "Yes!" to something you normally would say no to (unless you truly have the disease to please - then you should probably consult archived episodes of the Oprah Winfrey Show.)

Prairie Eydie

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Confessions of a Canner

My version of crack cocaine. 
It is August 12th, and during the past month I have cleared out 87 empty jars from the dark depths of my basement. They were caked with dust and spider webs.  My dishwasher worked overtime on the sterilize cycle.  Those 87 jars--18 quarts, 28 pints, and 41 half pints are now sitting on my breakfast bar ready to make their journey back down the stairs to the same dusty shelves that have been their home since we moved into this house three years ago.

I am addicted to canning.

No, those are not forceps to the left.
Canning is not some integral part of our family's plan for subsistence living. Canning is not necessarily economical.  In fact, it "can" be a damn expensive hobby. Over the years I have the gathered the basic paraphernalia--the blue enamel canner that barely fits on my stove top, the magnetic lid retriever, the jar tongs that saves my fingers from 3rd degree burns, the canning funnel that my grandchildren used as a bathtub toy several years ago, and the jars--oh the many, many dozens of  jars.  

Those who are not canners themselves may not know that those jars are used over and over again.  If a canner presents you with a homemade gift-in-a-jar, you always return the jar and jar ring.  If you do, you will probably be richly gifted again.  If not, next year you will receive something purchased from a big box store aisle.

Alas, many do not return those jars, and they have to be replaced along with the rings.  The jar lids?  You can always toss those out. The canner has no use for them the second time around.  They are a one-time deal. Buying those lidsb (wide and small mouth) in June is always the gamble a true canner takes.  You are putting cold hard cash down in the hope of a good growing season--hope that the berries will ripen, the tomatoes will escape bottom rot, and the beans will be plentiful.  This year Lady Luck was with me.  I have used every lid in my possession and have only two, lonely, empty quart jars that will return to the shelves to gather dust and webs.

And what do I can?  Far less than many who are much more proficient, self-sufficient, and wise.  This year my shelves will hold strawberry, blueberry, and apricot jam.  I pickled and dillied the beans. Tomatoes have been canned plain and also made into spaghetti sauce.  The last thing on my list is bubbling on the stove right now. It is a sweet and spicy concoction called tomato jam.  You chop up tomatoes (skins and all) and mix them with fresh ginger, lime juice, salt, cinnamon, ground cloves, and red chili flakes.  It bubbles away on the stove for 2 to 3 hours and becomes this lovely jammy mess that is divine on a burger (beef, turkey, chicken, or bean), or a grilled cheese, or on a spoon right from the jar. 
This tomato jam is about 30 minutes from the jar.
If you could smell it, you would know Nirvana.

The fruits and veggies that go into those jars come from my own garden and an organic farm 30 miles north of us.  No, I do not have to buy, although many canners do.  They are a part of my daughter's pay.  She works for the farm, and often comes home with flats, baskets, and bags of goodies.

Once those filled jars are back in the basement, I often wonder if we will possibly use the contents before starting over next summer. It never ends up being a problem.  Many are given as gifts.  Some are for friends who, because of busy work schedules, do not have the time to fill their own jars. Someday, I know, if I need them, they will can for me.  Canners always protect their own.

Canning is a passion that needs to be shared with and passed on to others.  My mother taught me, as her mother taught her. I have swapped recipes with my sister and my aunt.  Last year I introduced Prairie Eydie to the art, and she is now hooked.  My friend Kathy and I bonded and became sisters over a simmering canning kettle two years ago when her arm was broken and she couldn't lift the heavy jars on her own. 

"A mere 95 degrees out?  Let's
fire up the stove and clean
our our pores over a boiling
 canner of jars."
Today, as she watched me throw the tomato jam ingredients in a pot, my daughter said, "I think this is something you need to teach me." Any time, dear Jo, but I warn you that canning is as addictive as nicotine. You, too, will find yourself turning over hard-earned cash for packages of lids.  You will scour farmers' markets looking for quarts of perfect strawberries. You will hoard tomatoes until you have enough to put up a mere half dozen pints. You will sweat over a canning pot when temperatures say you should be looking for a cool pool. You will stay up until 2 am just waiting for that last lid to seal with the satisfying "pop."  

That is one of the fond memories I have of my mother.  It was 2 am in August, and we had spent the evening wrestling cukes into jars.  It was still 80 degrees, and our bare feet were sticking to the floor where our pickling brine had splashed.  The last lid popped, and my mother said, "Isn't that one of the most satisfying sounds in the world?"  

I was 20 at the time, and I often didn't "get" many of the things my mother tried to tell me, but I got that.  A dozen pops, a dozen jars of garlicky dills, and I was hooked.  

Imagine the street value.
Prairie Sherry


Not all of my canning has been successful.  I did not delve into The Great Brussels Sprout Pickle Disaster of 2013.  For those who received them, I am deeply sorry.  If you haven't opened your jar of those ghoulish grey-green orbs, toss them in the garbage-- jar, lid, ring, and all.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Prairie Pa: The Art of Giving Advice

Popular guest blogger, Prairie Pa, is back.  He has learned, through years of experience, that no one really wants to hear his advice. 

What?  Does that mean I shouldn't call him with advice about his crowded hosta garden and how he could better utilize his free time?   Hmmmm.  Maybe I could just give him my opinion. 

Prairie Eydie
 The Art of Giving Advice

I love to give advice. I am compelled to give advice. I must correct all your poor choices and solve all your problems. Deep in the dark caverns of my soul, I know just what you need. For this reason, I am going to give you this excellent advice: Do not give advice!

Advice contains the word vice for a reason. Giving advice is a vice. Just as smoking, watching Fox News, and listening to Rachel Maddow are vices.

Parents, like myself, especially like to give our adult children advice. Be honest! Why would they listen to your advice after watching you stumble through life?  Now that they are adults and out of the nest, let them make their own decisions. They are much closer to the facts and are smart, successful adults. They have a constitutional right to screw up their own lives.

I have found the best way to give advice to your children is to find out what they want and then advise them to do it.” Harry S. Truman

Bookstore’s self-help sections are huge. We read these books and completely ignore the advice. No one ever lost money publishing a book on dieting. If we are following dieting advice, why is half the country obese? And how about books on managing our money? If we are following that advice, why is 90% of the country in hock?

My pastor gives me great advice every Sunday. Unfortunately, it is sucked out of my brain by the church doors as I walk out. I go home and ask my wife the pastor's three main points. Neither of us have any idea.

I cannot remember a time when I took anyone’s advice. Heck, I don't even listen to my doctor and I am paying him to give me advice.

A word to the wise ain't necessary - it's the stupid ones that need the advice.” Bill Cosby
Lets face it. We all know the right thing to do. It is implanted in our minds and called a conscience. We do not need someone else yacking in our ears telling us what we should do. We already know that and have decided to ignore it.

No one wants advice - only corroboration.John Steinbeck

Here is some more, unsolicited, sage advice. If once or twice during your lifetime, someone comes to you and actually asks for advice, tell them you do not give advice. But tell them you will give them your opinion. Then check and see if they follow your opinion. If not, don’t waste time offering any more opinions. They are just “funnin” you.

Prairie Pa 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

50 Shades of Prairie Sherry's Dirty Little Secret

I have a dirty little secret.

People who know me well are fully aware of my OCD tendencies when it comes to housekeeping.  I love a tidy house.  Hate me, but I have my children trained to help me clean.  (I do hate you for this, Prairie Sherry.  I find it easier to do things myself.  Of course, no one will want to marry any of my children, but I am okay with that.)  One day out of every week, you will find us scampering about with mops and dusters. The end result sparkles.  We tidy as we go during the rest of the week. If you pop in unexpectedly, you won't find dishes in the sink.  The magazines will be fanned out attractively on the coffee table. (Yes, yes, yes.  Sadly, this is all very true. At my house you will find pots soaking in the sink and magazines scattered everywhere.)

That is not my dirty little secret, but this is:

This door leads to my cleaning nemesis...the oven.  (Really?  This is your dirty little secret?  Geez.  I thought it would be a little juicier.  Something like buying non-organic bacon.)

The outside of my range looks incredibly respectable.  The burner pans are scrubbed weekly.  Grease spots are dealt with immediately.  There is no trace of fingerprints on the glass-front door.  

Visitors are surprised that I actually cook on the thing, since it looks like it just arrived from Sears 20 minutes before.  

If if I am so anal about its outward appearance of this appliance, why do I allow the inside to become a grease-encrusted tomb? There are several reasons:  1) The oven is not self-cleaning,  2) The oven does not have a light, and 3) I love the oxymoronic quality of the phrase, "Sharon's dirty oven." 

Evidently the former owners of my house put in this new range shortly before selling, and decided upon the stripped-down model. Absolutely no bells and whistles--four functioning burners and a standard 1960's style oven.  No convection fans, no preset timers, no oven window, and no light.  The absence of that little incandescent bulb has triggered a deep-seated desire in me not to care.

I use the broiler to char some burgers.  The door is then shut, and I don't care.  The peach pie boils over.  The smoke clears, and I don't care.  A glop of mozzarella slides off the pizza and fuses to the rack, and I don't care.

Actually, it was the peach pie that moved me to action.  The boil over last Monday eventually stopped smoking by Friday, but the sugary stench clung to everything.  We gathered flies when we left the house.  The dogs were attacked by sweet ants.

As I was making coffee this morning, I noticed a seepage of black sugary goo on my pristine white tile floor right under the oven door.  This finally spurred me to action.

I went to the grocery with $20, and I came out with a variety of caustic chemicals, scrubbies, and looooooooong rubber gloves. Kinky, huh? The haze of fumes in the kitchen was horrendous. The dogs bolted for the backyard.  My daughter's friend went home early.  Noon came and went, and no one came in asking to make a sandwich.

One of my daughters slipped in long enough to snap this picture.  I think she may have been checking to see if I was attempting to do myself in, but we do have electric, not gas.

I think the fumes may have affected me a bit.  My face still looks like this.

After two and a half hours and a number of second-degree chemical burns later, this is the result.

We're eating out for the rest of the week.

Prairie Sherry (& a little bit of Prairie Eydie)

Monday, July 28, 2014

Prairie Eydie Stays Calm and Continues to Enjoy Summer

I would like to fly over to Prairie Eydie's house, but she is too cheap.
I was at Target yesterday and all the "Back to School" displays were out.  My cart came to a complete stop and I felt nauseous. I quickly pushed my cart towards the tea aisle, escaping the Crayola, backpack, locker mirror vortex. 

I don't mind  Christmas displays going up in October or Valentine's Day goodies appearing in January.  (Truth be told, I will scuttle over to those displays to scope out the "Hello Kitty" ornaments and outdoor decorations.  For years I have wanted the festive pig with wings.  I am put off by the 39.99 price tag.  The pig never makes it to the after Christmas sale.) But I most certainly DO mind seeing school supplies in July.

As a teacher, this happens every year.  Reminders that directionless days will soon become full of students, clanging bells, and demands (many of them petty).  This year I am going to try a new approach.  I am going to calmly ignore all signs of the upcoming school year and continue enjoying summer. 

Here are ways I will avoid thoughts of school until after Labor Day:

I am not going to buy my children fresh, Back-To-School clothes.  They can continue wearing their stretched Minoqua t-shirts and shorts.  It is a win/win situation.  They are comfortable and I save money.

I will not open any fliers I get in the mail until after September.  I don't need to know about deals on Goldfish crackers and tennis shoes. 

Instead of using the most direct route to the freeway, which passes my school with the "Welcome Back Students" marquis, I will plot an alternate route that snakes through neighborhoods and Ace Hardware parking lots.  This way I can avoid seeing not only the marquis, but also the parked cars of industrious teachers who are already in their classrooms working. 

I will only shop in the front areas of Target. 

And that, dear Prairie Readers, is how I will keep my head in the sand.  Now.  I am off to bask in sunshine and flowers on my deck. 

Prairie Eydie



Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Art of Laziness

The latest quote on my
kitchen blackboard.
My goal this summer is to really work on my sense of urgency.

The month of June usually starts out with a sheet of lined notebook paper with the title "Must Do"--a list that is on my refrigerator door and plagues me every time I look for the butter, and being a Wisconsin gal, I look for the butter a lot. 

I am and always have been an urgent person.  Things must get done, they must get done now, and they must get done right, or else the world will stop spinning.  Life as we know it will end.  

Yes, I am also a bit of a drama queen.

Some people would label this sense of urgency as anxiety.  I was the child how never fell asleep at night.  My mother would tuck me in at a proper 8 PM, and I would still be dealing with my mental monsters long after the older household fell asleep.  As an adult, I would awaken at 2 AM, and then replay every event of the day and every possible scenario of the future--usually ending up on the dark side

It wasn't until I was in my early 50's and in a particularly desperate point in my short marriage that a kind therapist let me know that this really wasn't the way that life had to be, and that Lexapro could be my friend.

I have embraced that friendship over the past five years, and the sharp edges of my anxiety have worn a bit.  I can now sleep through the night, sit in a room with a basket of laundry without imagining deepening wrinkles and creases that need to be smoothed and folded, and actually not make my bed if the whim hits me.
"Prairie Sherry, file us away.  We are multiplying."

Still, summer has continued to be  a time when I have felt pushed into my anxious corner. I don't feel a sense of relaxation and peace that others describe.  For those brief three months I feel that I must tease every aspect of my life into order so that I can face the new school year, and the total chaos and unpredictability it brings, with a sense that I have done everything on my part to make my at-home life neat, tidy, and manageable. No amount of meds and deep breathing have been able to overcome that.

Well, there really isn't a corner this summer because of the retirement.  The kitchen cupboards that I would really like to refinish will best be done in September when the garage is cooler, and I am not mixing my sweat with the polyurethane.  The boxes that I have pulled out of the utility area of my basement don't have to be sorted today when the temps are 70 degrees and I am sitting on my deck typing this.  I can wait until the temps and humidity of August are in the 90's and the basement will be a cool haven.  Yes, the boxes are littering a portion of the family room, but I don't need to look at them if I face the opposite direction.
"Turn around, Sharon.  Take a deep breath.
This doesn't need to be done today."

My Labor Day deadline is a moot point, and I am working on appreciating its mootness.  I am really trying to be lazy.  I took the alarm clock out of my room two weeks ago.  Yesterday, I let my youngest paint purple polka dots on my professional pedicure as I chatted with her and her older sister.  I took three days off of my part time job to enjoy the company of my sister, brother-in-law, and great niece.  Those three days included a day trip to Iowa to see much neglected cousins whom I adore.  

Today, I work at 4, but until then, I am writing this, waiting for a call from my best friend, and then going out to lunch with the middle child.  The only real housework that will be accomplished is moving the sprinkler a couple of times. And for that matter, does it really need to be moved?

The relaxation of that sense of urgency also includes this blog.  I was suppose to write this post last week.  The photos were taken, and the idea had sorted itself in my mind, but I just wasn't called to the keyboard.  I am hoping that our dear Prairie Readers will bear with my new-found and very intentional laziness.  In fact, take a deep breath with me, drop what you're doing, and just sit for a moment.  I am listening to my bird neighbors, contemplating a second cup of coffee, and resting my eyes for just a bit...

Prairie Sherry