Shiny Happy Oven; Forty-Three Weeks In

I know that it has been a crazy week but I have a very important update:

Let us all admire my gleaming, shiny oven!

Cleaning the oven led to one of those If You Give A Mouse A Cookie cleaning scenarios: I soaked the racks in the downstairs bathtub, which led to the scrubbing of said bathtub, which somehow led to the mopping of the downstairs tile, and then, since I had the mop and bucket out anyway, washing the floor of the back entry. Then, for no reason at all, I decided to move all the living room furniture to sweep under it, and, in conclusion, I am very happy my teaching schedule is picking up this week.

Every time I clean my oven I think, that wasn’t so bad, if I did it more often it would be so easy and then I make a resolution to clean it quarterly or at least every four months. Inevitably, years pass, and this same scenario repeats itself. I do have a self-clean function, but I do not use it. I used it once, naively, during the winter and I a) spent the entire time terrified that the oven would catch on fire and burn the house down, and b) the house smelled terrible for days. Never again! I vowed to use only elbow grease and some kind of crazy fume-free spray from that time forward.

Note: my mother-in-law got a new oven and it has a steam-clean function; the oven itself heats up to about 250 degrees with a pan of water inside, and it somehow cleans perfectly. I want that for my next oven, which, hopefully, is years away. My mom told me yesterday that the average age of appliances before they die is seven years, and we bought this oven in 2012, so hopefully I didn’t just jinx myself.

Another note about my mother-in-law: she still has the chest freezer from when she got married in 1962 AND IT STILL WORKS. I mean, it probably sucks up vast amounts of energy resources but IT STILL WORKS. I find that remarkable.

One more note about my mother-in-law: as all of us canners know, it is impossible to buy lids right now. They are…just not available. Who knows when they will be? The last time I saw my mother-in-law, who is an avid canner, she told me that she had recently learned that lids can be reused. As long as they are not damaged in any way, they will still seal. When I expressed extreme skepticism about this, she took me to her pantry and showed me rows of preserves and tomatoes, all with perfectly sealed lids. “Wow,” I said, “I’ve thrown out a lot of lids.” She looked at me and said “I’ve been canning for sixty years, imagine how much money I’ve spent on lids that I’ve thrown in the garbage.” We both silently stared at her jars, contemplating this.

After that visit, I made jam with old lids and voila:

Perfectly sealed! I admit I was a bit worried but I thought that a) jam is a pretty low-risk item, and if they didn’t seal I would just refrigerate them, and b) I like to live dangerously.

As my friend Tora (HI TORA) said back in April, if we can take away one positive from this pandemic, it’s that we are learning new things and saving money.

Part of my New Year’s Mindfulness Resolution is to shop more mindfully, something that absolutely went out the window in 2020 as we all lost our minds in the grocery stores. I think my husband will leave me and my mother will disown me if I attempt another one year shopping challenge but this year, I am going to really try to be mindful about my clothes. I mean, you guys. I have so many clothes. I really do. My closet is literally bursting, but particularly with yoga clothes, sweaters, and boots. Those three items are ALWAYS the items I am attracted to when shopping and I really (probably) (maybe) don’t need more. This year I am going to really try to be mindful when shopping and, when tempted, before hitting “purchase” (because who is actually shopping in person these days, or ever?) I am going to “shop my closet.”

This is not to say that I won’t buy new things, because let’s face it, we all need some source of joy. But maybe, just MAYBE, I don’t need another pair of knee-high black boots. Maybe.

On that note, I introduce…

Outfit of the Week

I will not bore you all with an Outfit of the DAY, who has time for that, but I am going to choose my favourite outfit each week. I love clothes, and I think it’s important – even in a pandemic – to find joy in getting dressed every day, even if that day only involves working on that 1000-piece puzzle my mom gave me for Christmas. That puzzle, incidentally, has taken over our lives. It is our new master. We sit down to look for Just One Piece and then, hours later, look up from The Puzzle, bleary-eyed and completely disoriented.

This is a Friday outfit; underneath that super-cozy sweater is a yoga tank and long-sleeved tee, as I teach on Fridays. Yoga leggings are so comfortable but not quite warm enough on their own for January, so I have also added legwarmers, like the 80s girl I am.

Barkley approves.

Pandemic Reading

Do you want to read about a 54 year old unemployed copy editor who goes to Cuba and instantly falls in love with a 31 year old Cuban woman? Do you want to read about a 54 year old man getting drunk on rum and having sex with his 20 something colleague in the ladies room at a bar? Do you want to hear this self-described unattractive man speak disparagingly about those women’s appearances, including the term “puppy fat” and details about moles and moustaches? Then this is the book for you. There was a small interesting twist but not much of one. I eye rolled through much of this book. Pass.

Oh, this was good! A complex and wonderful book about women and choices, consequences and fresh starts. A woman in Jaipur, who left an abusive marriage at 17, is enjoying a life of renown as a henna artist and herbal healer. Things get complicated when her husband shows up with a sister she didn’t know she had! Includes a few recipes, a history of the caste system, and even a glossary of terms. Highly recommend, unless you’re a person who doesn’t believe that women have autonomy over their own bodies and should have the ability to make choices for themselves.

My friend Julie (HI JULIE) told me about this book; it’s a really incredible book about finding meaning in life, written by a man who survived four different concentration camps and all manner of horrible tortures. Choosing our own response and attitude to the situation we find ourselves in is the last of the freedoms, it is something that can never be taken away. Amazing book.

I ran my library stack right down to zero because my husband has been urging me to read this book for quite some time. It is a very incredible story of survival, but I am not an adventure story type of person, so I cannot say I enjoyed it. The whole time I was reading it, my Mom Voice kept popping up in my head: What are you DOING? GET DOWN FROM THERE RIGHT NOW. Which is, of course, the point of the book.

The boys are back to in-class school this week; fingers crossed all goes well. Have a beautiful week, everyone! xo


  1. That jigsaw looks fiendish. It makes me want to get out my jigsaw board – I can’t even remember which puzzle is currently in there, but it is 80% likely to contain multiple cats, because, well, I only own 5 jigsaws and 4 of them are cat-themed. The other one is bears. Hundreds and hundreds of bears.

  2. Beth and Noah usually do a puzzle on vacations. I think having a deadline helps them get through it. I can’t do puzzles. I just stare at the pieces and see nothing.

  3. Laughing at your mom voice popping up during that book. So funny. I love your outfit, but I couldn’t take my eyes off of the painting over the fireplace. Beautiful. I have a similar relationship with clothes. Oh, how I love to shop (for deals) and I like my clothes. . . but I have more clothes than I need. I have really steered clear of buying myself new clothes . . . shoes, though – well, no body’s perfect. I read your post about not buying new clothes for so long. I don’t think I could do that. I will stick to scaling back. My oven is a few years old and I NEED to clean it. I’m not sure I could go the elbow grease route when self-cleaning is an option. You’re right though – the smell. Ack. I’ll give it a try in the spring when I can open windows.

  4. I got a book shout-out! That’s all 🙂

  5. I literally JUST PUT Man’s Search for Meaning on my list TODAY after seeing it on yet another Best Books of All Time list, which make me roll my eyes and take notes all at the same time.
    The oven we just replaced was twenty years old, so ignore your MIL. I used the cleaning function all the time, and it was fine and only smelled bad while it was going. My new oven has that and the steam clean thing – I haven’t had to use either yet, but I’ll let you know how it goes.
    I definitely have to do the mindful shopping thing too. I was in a really bad shopping-for-dopamine rut in the fall and November, and right now I have no desire to buy anything, but I know it will return.

  6. Wait a second. SEVEN YEARS?!?!?!?! I refuse — REFUSE — to accept this. My appliances are all now a decade old (well, except the microwave, purchased very recently, and the washer/dryer, purchased within the past 3-5 years who really knows time etc.) (oh and I guess the dishwasher is also new in that same 3-5 year timeframe?) (perhaps I should have just said our fridge and oven are nearly a decade old it would have taken FAR FEWER WORDS) and they ALL have issues but NO. I am NOT READY to BUY NEW APPLIANCES.

    Your review of Sweetness in the Lime made me giggle.

  7. I get it regarding the oven cleaning – both the terror of using the self-clean cycle and the ease of the fume free option. I think I’ve cleaned mine twice since *waves hands* all of this started in March. It’s not a FUN job but it’s not a HARD job.

    2020 found me buying exactly one shirt and two pairs of sandals. It also found me not wearing a great majority of my “work” clothes. I’m currently itching to do a closet clear out but recognize that I might need those work clothes again…one day.

  8. Your oven (and you) look amazing! I do the ‘self clean’ mode, but hate the smell and also worry about the amount of heat it puts off.
    I thought canning lids were always to be reused? No?
    I can’t believe her freezer is still working. THAT IS AMAZING.
    Your outfit is so cute and I started a new puzzle last week. I get the ‘just one more piece’ and then hours have passed.

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