Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Counter-Mousing meets Minnesota Nice


Maybe you've never heard that term. Probably you haven't. The Clan coined it years ago to refer to the strange and gradual disappearing act that unfailingly overcomes any food left uncovered on our counters.

Mice eat it.

Or kids. Or something else that nibbles. Whatever causes it, food (especially cookies, cake, and other desserts) tend to slowly but steadily vanish the longer they stay out. All it takes is a slice off the side here, a wedge missing there, and so on. In a couple hours, an ordinary slice of brownie can be reduced to a fraction of it's former size.

Counter-mousing happens in a couple of ways. Sometimes it's just a pinch here and there. If a pan of apple crisp should happen to be left on the stove/table/wherever to cool, the oat/brown sugar crumble on the stop starts to look a little dented.

(Pro tip: If you can pick the top off an apple crisp without burning your fingers or leaving obvious holes in the crust, you're well on your way to becoming an expert.)

Other times, especially with something that's already been cut into serving-size pieces, you'll see it gradually shrink. Cakes and brownies commonly fall victim to this. Whole chunks mysteriously vanish. If this goes on for too long, your piece of cake could end up being half it's original size...or less.

You would think that with all the counter-mousing going around, we'd go through cake and those kinds of things in no time flat. I mean, how many times can you shave a sliver off a piece of cake before it's totally gone?

But here's the thing. We counter-mouse, yes. Ruthlessly, too. But we also happen to be Minnesotan's.

If you're lucky enough to live in Minnesota, or at least know some Minnesota people, you'll probably be familiar with the term "Minnesota Nice."

This is the bizarre phenomenon which inflicts Minnesotans everywhere. We just can't bear to take the last of something—usually a food item.

Say there's a plate of cookies. Everyone takes one, and maybe there's a few left. Well, some people want another—honestly, who doesn't? But Minnesota Nice dictates that you must leave some for others. So cookies get broken in half. Or in thirds or quarters. However it's managed, there will still be a cookie (or part of one) left on the plate when the meal is over.

That's how Minnesota Nice works. We want everyone to have some. Even if it's a really pathetic amount.

You wouldn't think that the Clan, who never do what everybody else does, would exhibit Minnesota Nice behavior. But we do, at least as far as counter-mousing is concerned. Cookies may end up more like large crumbs rather than whole cookies, and a piece of cake could experience exponential shrinking. But they won't entirely disappear.

Maybe this is a bizarre attempt to conceal the fact that anything is missing? A "maybe they'll think it was always this size" way of thinking? I can't really say, but I do know that this is accepted counter-mousing protocol. You can spirit away as much as you can get away with, as long as there's still some left.

Only under extreme conditions can this rule be broken. For instance, I can recall a case a few weeks ago when we had a pan of brownies for desert. Only one was left over, and whoever was in charge of putting away the leftovers (which I'm pretty sure was not me) left it out on the stove. Over the next few hours, the brownie began to shrink.
This is all that was left by nine o'clock.
Skinny and I happened to be in the vicinity of the stove around this time, and he remarked, "You know, someone should just eat that."

So I did. Strangely, Skinny didn't appreciate my selfless act of community service. But sometimes there's just no point in being Minnesota Nice.

In fact, a lot of the time it just gets in the way. That's why you only see Minnesota Nice behavior in the Clan when we're trying (and generally failing) to be sneaky. Around here, food is pretty much up for grabs. As a general rule, you can bet that if you don't eat it, sooner or later someone else will.

One disclaimer before you go.

"All parties mentioned in this post may or may not have been involved in past episodes of counter-mousing. However, this should not be interpreted as an admission of guilt, or even a declaration that guilt exists. As far as can be determined, the food has been disappearing spontaneously from this and other kitchens over the past twenty years, with no connection whatsoever to the activities of the Clan.
"Just sayin'."

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Life Without Washing Machines

Disasters come in all shapes and sizes. At my house, the worst kinds of disasters are:
  • Not having anything for supper
  • Washing dishes
  • A broken washing machine
Of these three, the broken washing machine is definitely the most serious. I bet you can imagine why. On an average day, we wash between five and six loads of laundry. If the washing machine stops working for even one day, things literally start piling up.

All over the laundry room. Filling the laundry baskets. Spilling onto the floor. That kind of thing.
We fill two of these mongo laundry baskets every day.
Our washing machine has been replaced 3 times in the past ten years. It gets used so much that they just wear out faster than they're supposed to. Apparently normal people only fold laundry every few days or so, instead of twice a day.


After the machine stops working, there's always a waiting period while we wait for the repair guy to come in and look it over. Usually there's just a part replacement or simple repair that he can take care of, and within a day or two we're back in business. With the washer running nonstop for the next couple of hours, we can get caught up on laundry again. Before long, we'll forget the machine ever stopped working and life will return to normal. But sometimes a quick fix won't do the trick, and then we have to wait a week or more for a replacement washer to be installed.

This makes life very interesting. In a few days we start running out of the necessities. Clean rags and towels. Pants for little boys. Shirts. The things we can't function without. When that happens our day will be completely interrupted by a trip to the laundromat. The house is scoured for dirty laundry. We load the van with every basket and milk crate we can find and run into town to wash about six loads as fast as possible. Then we spend the rest of the day keeping our dryer hopping so none of that wet laundry sits out overnight.

It makes for a long, crazy day.

Depending on how long it takes to get a new washing machine ordered and installed, we might have to repeat that process two or three times. It's no one's favorite thing to do. (Because seriously, who likes going to the laundromat?) 

Our washing machine died two weeks ago, which is why I thought to write this post. After going through life without a washing machine for over a week, I've been reminded of just how miserable it can be. I may not be fond of washing laundry, but I'm a lot less fond of the inconvenience of not having any clean laundry in the house.

But there's a brand new washing machine in our laundry room now, and laundry is back to normal again—we had to run it nonstop for a whole day to catch up, though. I've pretty much mastered how to use the new washing machine, too. The only thing about it that I don't like is the end-of-cycle signal. Our old machine would beep when it was done with a load. This one plays a tune.

No kidding. Every time you push a button a different tune plays. I've got to push three or four to get it to run a normal cycle, and the machine sings to me the whole time. Very annoying. It sounds like we got a model meant for Snow White or some other princess-y type.

My question is: What genius decided to get rid of the good, old-fashioned end-of-cycle beep and replace it with singing? Personally, I find it very irritating. I'm fine with being summoned by a beeping washing machine at the end of a cycle. Being sung to, on the other hand, just isn't my style.

But since a singing washing machine is better than none at all, I'll keep my complaints (mostly) to myself.