Junk drawer…

In every house I’ve ever lived in from the time I was old enough to have memories until now, there has been one drawer in the kitchen that was simply “the junk drawer.” It’s one of those facts of life that is so certain, I’ve never questioned it and, in fact, assumed it was a universal feature of all kitchens everywhere. 

Need a needle and thread? Junk drawer. A pen and note pad? Junk drawer. Any type of battery every devised by the mind of man? Junk drawer. Playing cards? Junk drawer. I just go with the assumption that the junk drawer is simply some kind of quantum space that exists outside the boundaries of the natural laws of the universe. How much junk can fit in the drawer has no relationship to the apparent physical space the drawer itself occupies. 

After more than seven years here, I finally grew impatient with the process of digging through every object I’ve ever owned in order to find an AA battery. The resulting clean out revealed, among many other things, a total of 10 pairs of eyeglasses, five flashlights, four decks of playing cards, and literal handfuls of bits and pieces whose original source or function I couldn’t identify.

The net result was a third of a trash bag to throw away, a few items that someone, somewhere might possibly use tossed in my “to donate” box, and a drawer that still seemed mostly full after I’d returned the array of things that live there permanently. Keeping a firm grip on the amount of accumulated stuff was fairly easy when I moved house every two or three years. Now that I’ve more or less homesteaded, it doesn’t just accumulate, it multiplies.

Reaching the bottom of the junk drawer feels like an accomplishment, but that’s only because I studiously avert my eyes every time I walk through the garage. For now, I’ll just keep telling myself that’s a “cool weather” project better suited for the fall. Once the weather turns, I’ll let you know the next lie I’ll tell myself to keep putting it off. 

The plastic doohickey…

I inherited all the major appliances here when I bought the house. They’re all 20 years old and serviceable, so I haven’t been in a wild rush to replace anything. That said, though, I’ve hated the refrigerator from the day I moved in. The damned thing looks huge, but interior space is cut up and awkward. There have always been drawers that never seemed to sit level, shelves that were supposed to slide but didn’t, and an inexplicable missing piece of glass shelving that I replaced early on with a thick piece of plexiglass (because I’m too cheap to pay Maytag prices for a panel of tempered glass). 

The whole contraption went to pieces last week. The crisper drawers wouldn’t push in all the way, two shelves were wildly askew, and you could forget about anything sitting level. It was at some point during the great unpacking of the fridge that I discovered there was very clearly a missing piece somewhere in the middle of the mess. Whatever this missing bit was, it was obviously the lynchpin on which all of the slides and drawers depended to operate correctly.

The manuals for all these appliances are long gone, but thanks to the power of the interwebs, I was able to pull up some schematics and identify the missing bit through the process of elimination. So, after ordering up a $26 plastic doohickey, a couple of days shipping time, and once again pulling 75% of my refrigerated items out of the refrigerator, it’s all now working the way it should have done from the beginning. Reaching in for George’s spring mix is no longer an exercise in playing early morning Jenga, so that’s a thing I’ve got going for me now.

Mostly, the saga of the refrigerator leaves me wondering how the geriatrics I bought the house from lost both the oversized glass shelf and this particular bit of plastic in the first place. Alas, that will remain an unsolved mystery unless the ghost of the previous lady of the house starts leaving me spectral clues as to what tragedy befell them here.

Comfort over style…

I’m old enough now that even the name of the process you go through to train a puppy not to piss all over the house has changed to something kinder and gentler. What we use to call housebreaking has transitioned to house training. I’m not sure the process is any different, but I suppose we’re all supposed to go along with the semantic shift where “breaking” is too fraught with negative overtones… or at least that’s how it seems on the internet.

In any case, the last week and a half has been all about housebreaking. Even though Jorah is six months old and rapidly headed towards seven, he’s effectively a brand new puppy when it comes to knowing the finer points of living in a home. That’s fine. We can deal with that. At least he’s got a six month old bladder and doesn’t need to go out every 30 minutes.

The biggest issue has been that we’re all effectively reduced to living in the kitchen – surrounded by easy to clean and sanitize hard surfaces to mitigate the inevitable accidents. It’s a fine arrangement if you’re a dog and have beds, food, water, and everything you might need. It’s less fine if you’re me and might want to sit down on something other than a hard wooden chair. 

Friday evening, in a fit of comfort over style, I moved my spare recliner into the kitchen. And yes, I just unabashedly admitted that I do, indeed, have a spare recliner. It’s not quite as comfortable as the one in the living room, but in comparison to sitting at the kitchen table it’s a blessed relief. 

It took me a few hours sitting in the kitchen on Friday night to realize the room I’m now complaining about being stuck in is easily twice the size of my entire first “adult” apartment in southern Maryland. Its two rooms and three quarters bath maybe accounted for something like 250 square feet. That’s probably a generous estimate through the rose-colored remembrance of times long passed.

Look, I’d still like to get to the point where I can safely use the living room again, but I appreciate the little bit of perspective reminding me that I’ve had it far worse, for much less payback.  

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Outlook has exceeded its storage capacity. I got an email from Outlook this morning at the office, roundly chastising me for vastly exceeding my network storage limit and effectively forcing me to dump easily tens (and possibly hundreds) of thousands of emails from the neat and orderly file structure I’ve had since the dawn of time into giant “pots” of email segregated by year. Sure, yes I know there are automatic ways to find all sorts of files, but nothing makes me (professionally) happier than seeing a neatly organized rhyme and reason for how my files and documents are arranged. I want to know how to get to things without needing to ask the machine to find it for me. It’s a personality quirk. Still, at a time in history when electronic storage is cheap and easy, running out of network storage is just stupid, bad, and wrong. Google might be mining my every message for content, but at least those pricks have never imposed a unilateral ex post facto storage cap on me. After all, you just never know when that email thread from February 2007 is going to suddenly become important. Based on my observation, the future largely a rehash of something we tried five or ten years ago… and when it comes around again, I like to be able to reference the documentation showing why it’s as bad an idea now as it was then. Forewarned is forearmed.

2. Pay walls. I’m a reasonably informed person. I try to draw my information from a variety of sources both national and international and representing multiple ends of the political spectrum. I think it’s important not to rely too much on any one news outlet, although I clearly have a few favorites. Regardless of whether you’re a favorite or not, I’m not going to pay for access to news content online. Not. Going. To. Happen. With a million other competing news sites and blogs, I don’t have any reason to pay for the news – for the same reason I wouldn’t pay for a newspaper when I was an undergrad. Aside from not wanting to pay just to read the one article a month I might be interested in, the same or similar content is available somewhere. In college it meant stopping by the local coffee shop or McDonald’s that always had plenty of copies of the paper laying around. Online it means clicking over to a news aggregator or running a quick key word search. It’s cute that news providers are desperate to hang on to the 19th century subscription model of distribution, but I’m not convinced it has a place in the 21st century. There are plenty of other, likely more lucrative, ways to get at the consumer’s wallet… if you’re just a little bit innovative in the approach.

3. George Foreman. A George Foreman grill was one of the first kitchen appliances I received after graduating college and striking out on my own. That original grill is long gone, but I’ve always had one stashed in a cabinet and used it at least once a week if not more often. Then I moved a month ago. The only thing I lost as part of the move was the Foreman’s drip tray. One single, solitary piece of plastic gone while moving the entire house. I have no idea how something like that would get lost in transit, but it did. I’ve been using assorted substitutes for the last few weeks. None of them have been particularly good at filling the role. I assumed jumping on Amazon and ordering a replacement would be cheap and easy. As generally happens when I assume, I was dead wrong. Not only where they not cheap, but they weren’t in stock. Anywhere… unless you wanted to order one “used, but clean” from eBay. Uhhh… no. Thanks. That’s ok for books, but not something that’s going to live in my food prep area. So instead of a $.37 piece of plastic, Amazon is sending me a new $49.99 grill tomorrow. It feels a little like swatting flies with a cruise missile.


If there’s anything I can say about this house, it’s that when the previous owner built the place they were bound and determined to never want for lighting. At least in the kitchen. With 12 recessed light pots, two pendant lights, a hanging 4-bulb light 8 feet away in the “breakfast nook”, and a few recently discovered battery powered lights under the upper cabinets, kitchen lighting feels like it might have been something of an obsession.

The obsession isn’t quite as bad elsewhere in the house, but by my last count I currently need to stock up to 8 different styles and wattages of bulb. Not including anything on the outside. I managed with no more the four different types of bulb (including the outside) in Memphis and knocked that down to three types in the rental. Currently one pantry shelf is pulling permanent duty as my own personal lighting warehouse. That feels vaguely excessive.

Eventually everything is going to get swapped out with LEDs so I can screw stuff in and then forget about it for about a decade, but in the meantime I’ll spend half my time at home swapping out dead bulbs for live ones – and never having the style or size I need.

It’s just one more item on the list of micro-fixes this place needs to fully carry my personalized stamp of approval. If I’ve learned anything during my various trials of home ownership, that list never actually gets any shorter as there’s always “just one more thing” that needs doing.

Sunday is for soup…

Some people are domestic by nature. They seem to have a knack for cooking, cleaning, and general homemaking. And I’m not talking just about the chicks, either. Me, on the other hand, I’m domestic by necessity; because I like to eat, wear clean clothes, and not have three inches of dust covering every flat surface in the house. That last part might be more a symptom of OCD that domesticity, but that’s not my point.

A few days ago I was informed that I had a lot of “kitchen stuff”… for a guy. I’m still not exactly sure how to take that, so I’ve decided that I’ll just take it as a compliment and move on. The fact is, I like good food and that has ment that I had to learn to cook. I suspect eating out every night only has a certain charm for people that haven’t had the experience of doing it. By the time a guy has reached tentatively into his mid 30s, I don’t think it should be surprising that he has a vegetable peeler and a couple of oven mits, right? Regardless, I decided it was better for the time being to keep the food processor, vast collection of spices, and collection of cook books and recipes to myself for the time being.

If I’m in a confessional mood, I’ll tell you that I actually enjoy cooking when I have time to really do it. Savory items are really my speciality. Comfort food, if you will. It’s rarely fancy, but more often than not it turns out to be somewhere between edible and pretty tasty. With enough effort over the weekend, I can usually make it all the way to Wednesday just on leftovers. So unlike many of my Y-chromosomed brethren this morning, I’m not preparing for an afternoon of football. I’m prepping to tend to a large stockpot of soup. The perk of soup is that it’s hard to ruin and easy to fix if you do screw it up… and it gets better after sitting for a day or two. So if you’ll excuse me, I have to go give some of my abundant “kitchen stuff” a workout… and then stash it back in the dark recesses of the kitchen cabinets before all my secrets are revealed.

Home improvement…

There is something unquestionably satisfying about working with your hands. Given the long weekend and the distinct lack of classes at the moment, I was able to take on a bit project I’ve wanted to do for the last few months. For my first attempt at doing tile work, it turned out much better than I expected… and only involved four trips to Lowe’s in the last three days.