“Exeter Gothic”

After living with the Crankee Yankee for over 14 years, I’ve discovered that he really doesn’t care what people think—really. For example, he is, shall we say, expressive in his choice of attire.

When I know I am going outside, I am dressed in clean clothes, my makeup is on, my hair is styled, and I am usually wearing no less than 16 or 17 pieces of jewelry. Not so much for the Crankee Yankee. He pretty much pulls on whatever comes to hand and walks out the door.

Over the years my parents, the Crankee Yankee’s daughter and I have given the Crankee Yankee some perfectly nice “casual” clothes; L. L. Bean plaid shirts, chino slacks, denim shirts, etc. These are what I consider ‘going out and about’ outfits.

But as he is usually working on the house and/or garden all the time, he tends to live in what I call ‘rag bag duds.’ When he is mixing and pouring cement, working in the garden, digging trenches and so on, of course he wears old clothes.

His summer work attire is usually what we laughingly call ‘cabana boy’ shirts; regular t-shirts that he has rigged up for hot weather. He cuts off the collar and sleeves, and when he puts one on, it usually bares one shoulder. Old pants are cut off at the knee for shorts, and denim overalls are worn until they are in rags.

His current overalls have ripped knees and tattered hems, and he wears them unbuttoned at the sides so that the whole world can see his boxers. The fly on this sad outfit has fallen down so many times that he now safety-pins it. He tops off the whole look with ratty socks and works boots. Honestly, it’s like living with L’il Abner!

In fact, he went out to breakfast with his brother not long ago, dressed for work in his ripped t-shirt and ratty overalls. As they passed through the door, a couple was leaving. They gave the Crankee Yankee the once-over (and he of course stared right back at them), then walked away, muttering “Exeter Gothic.” That cracked him up. Me, I just sighed.

Since we are both retired, I suppose it doesn’t really matter what we wear, but I can’t break the habit of leaving the house looking my best. For the Crankee Yankee, retirement is another excuse to go around looking like a bum who just rolled out from under a bus.

For the times that we do go out together to do something fun or even run some errands, I have flat given up trying to dress him up. He is pretty much going to wear what he wants because he truly does not give the fuzzy crack of a rat’s rear end about what others think.

I tried telling him that old story about who you hang around with gives an impression. It goes like this: if you are a pretty and well-dressed girl walking arm-in-arm with two clowns, people are NOT going to exclaim, “will you look at that beautiful girl walking with two clowns!”

Nope. They are going to say, “will you look at those three clowns!” So that being the case, I guess when the Crankee Yankee and I are walking together, someone somewhere is going to say, “will you look at Mr. and Mrs. Exeter Gothic!”



The Mice Did Us a Favor

The other day I picked up my bag of redskin potatoes from the potato bin we have in the bottom cabinet in the kitchen. Behold and lo, there was a large hole in the bag, and two potatoes were nibbled halfway through!

“Yuck,” I said to the Crankee Yankee, “we have MICE! Now we’ve got to clean out the whole bottom cabinet!”

The bottom cabinet has an upper and lower level, and the spuds were on the low level. As soon as we pulled out the potato bin (onions also inhabit it as well), all the foils, wax paper, plastic wrap, etc., plus all the pots and pans, baking dishes, Vitamix, blender, grinder, bowls and our few bottles of booze, we soon saw the mice entrance way; the hole that the pipe came through had been gnawed to make it bigger.

We cleaned out everything, and I began washing every pot, pan, glass baking dishes, bowls, etc. that was in there. I’d like to think that the mice went back outside to do their business after feasting on our potatoes, or put on tiny pairs of Pampers so that they wouldn’t poop in the cabinet, but no. It wasn’t on the scale of Woodstock or anything, but there were enough of their minuscule droppings to make me want to boil everything—which I did.

Naturally, when we got up that morning, we didn’t plan on cleaning out the kitchen cabinets, but when these things happen, you have to get face the music and dance, so to speak. So the Crankee Yankee and I just made it a project. I read up on non-toxic ways to discourage the mice from coming into the house in the first place: 1) they hate mint, and 2) they hate steel wool.

The mint repels them; something about it triggers allergies or something. They don’t like steel wool as it is hard on their teeth and paws. Too bad for them.

So I mixed up a spray bottle of peppermint oil and water. The Crankee Yankee ran down to the hardware store and got some steel wool. He wrapped about a foot of it around the pipe, making sure that plenty of it was stuffed in tight. This sealed up the mouse entrance but good. Before he put it in, we sprayed it thoroughly with the peppermint oil. Once it was securely in place, we gave it another spritz. The Crankee Yankee kindly scrubbed each shelf and every surface in the cabinet while I washed all the contents.

Doing all this made us realize that we hadn’t really done the ‘do we really need this’ with some of the stuff in there. We found that we did not need the electric mixer with all its beaters and bowls (for me the hand mixer is plenty), the metal set of turkey/chicken/partridge roasters (these are those ‘as seen on TV’ deals where you stick the thing up the bird’s butt, and sit it up in a pan so that it roasts from the inside out–we used them exactly once), cake pans (I have made exactly two, count ’em, TWO cakes in my entire life), muffin pans (again, I have not made a whole lot of muffins or cupcakes), several plastic containers we never use, and another Cuisinart (we already have one downstairs). So all of these are going to go to our local donation center to clutter up someone else’s cabinets.

By the time everything was clean and dry and ready to put each and every clean item away, we were laughing about it all. We realized that the little buggers had actually done us a favor; evidently it was pure karma that they tunneled their way in to our potatoes. We now have spanking clean cabinets, everything in there is not only clean, but useful. Everything in there is something we use. Also, we found we actually had a pretty good time doing it all together.

So you could say that our tiny visitors actually did us a favor. But then again, it was probably just the Divine saying ‘clean up your act already!’


Back Porch, Front Porch, Deck, Breezeway, Landing—?

I’ll be the first to admit I know next to nothing about residential construction. Any “house-y” type things I need to know about, I ask the Crankee Yankee. He has been an excellent carpenter all his working life, and continues to use his considerable skills in repairing and renovating our circa 1953 home.

However, the terms often confuse me. The other day the Crankee Yankee announced that he had bought a couple of brackets for hanging flowers on the “deck.” I said that I thought we were going to put hanging flowers up on the front porch roof (when we have a roof, that is). He replied that, yes, that was the plan once he puts the roof on the front porch.

“So where exactly are these brackets going to go?” I asked.

“On the deck,” he replied. “Won’t that look good?”

“Hmmm….the deck; do you mean the part of the front of the house where you walk up the stairs to get into the breezeway?” I asked. (I told you–terms confuse me.)

“Yes, that would be the ‘deck,’ ” he replied patiently.

“Ok, so—the hanging plants will go on the deck then?” I asked. He nodded, hoping I finally got it.

“Yes, that would look pretty nice.”

Now we are speaking the same language.

This is just a sample of what we go through at least once a week. When he tells me he is going to clean up the back porch (which, by the way, he built himself a few years back and it looks great), I now know that he means that he is going to bring out all the shelves of seedlings he planted weeks ago and plant them in the gardens….not actually ‘clean up’ the back porch.

When he says that he is going to put a ceiling on the breezeway and sheetrock the walls, I now know what to expect and I plan accordingly. This means I either go to a movie (a LONG movie) while all the banging and sawing and hammering is going on, or I take a book down to the pond and read for hours. Or do something else to get me out of the house. I know he knows exactly what he’s doing, but he also understands that I can’t help him and that the noise will drive me nuts.

The Crankee Yankee also knows that I have absolutely no vision when he describes what he plans to do on this or that part of the house. Long ago when he told me he was going to put “dormers” on the second floor (this used to be two small bedrooms with a half bath in between.) Now it is one open space (still with the half bath) which will eventually become a small guestroom and a storage/crafts room. What I see from what he’s done is that there are now two cute little windows facing the back yard. Yup, those would be the “dormers.”

The Crankee Yankee also knows that my house repair knowledge is just a few degrees of understanding past your average caveman. When he explains in detail how he is going to do this or that and my eyes start glazing over, he just says, ‘trust me–you’ll like it.’ And I usually do.

The man is both handy and handsome (a line you will no doubt understand if you watch “*The Red Green Show”).

*The Red Green Show is a Canadian television comedy that aired on various channels in Canada, with its ultimate home at CBC Television, and on Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) stations in the United States, from 1991 until the series finale 7 April 2006, on CBC.

The Red Green Show is essentially a cross between a sitcom and a sketch comedy series, and is a parody of home improvement, do-it-yourself, fishing, and other outdoors shows (particularly The Red Fisher Show). Reruns currently air on CBC Television, The Comedy Network, and various PBS stations. It was produced by S&S Productions, which is owned by Steve and Morag Smith. Directors on the series include Steve Smith (who plays the main character, “Red Green”), Rick Green and William G. Elliott.

Red Green’s ending line of each show is “if you can’t be handsome, at least be handy.”

What a “Road Trip” Means to a Man and a Woman

The Crankee Yankee and I enjoy our road trips, and go on them at least a few times a month. Unless we are visiting my dad or my step-daughter and her family “up Maine,” we tend to take our time, go on back roads and enjoy the scenery and each other’s company.

However, even with that relaxed scenario and not much of an agenda, there is still that whole “man/woman perspective.” No matter how casual our jaunt is, there are still some unspoken assumptions and expectations. Mine are usually these:

  • That we will take the time to stop at a fun little restaurant or diner for lunch or an early dinner (NOT fast food)
  • That we may stop to check out an interesting shop.
  • That we will take bathroom breaks.
  • That when I say, “oooooh! Let’s stop here!” that we will stop there.
  • That we are some place we don’t always go, so let’s take our time.
  • *That I don’t necessarily have to hear ‘well, we’ve come through here before, don’t you remember?’

That said, the Crankee Yankee (and, I’m betting, most men) feels this way:

  • We are driving to <wherever> to do something, buy something, see something, and that’s IT
  • We may or may not stop for lunch; if we do, McDonald’s is cheap and perfectly fine
  • We are not here to wander around shops all day
  • That if we are going to stop to pee, make it in a place where we have to stop anyway
  • We need to get back before dark

For the Crankee Yankee, it’s all about the journey, not the destination. For me, it’s ALL about the destination. I do enjoy being a passenger and letting someone else worry about the details. So I don’t expect to have to answer an impromptu quiz about routes, back roads and railroad tracks. Sheesh.

Needless to say, there are some lively disputes about this…

*That’s my personal favorite. Here’s the bald truth: when I am a passenger, I pay no attention to route numbers, road signs, weather vanes, etc. I’m there for the ride and possibly a short nap. If I’m not driving, I’m not paying attention to how we go anywhere. So don’t ask me.

“Just Do It My Way and We’ll All Be Happy!”

Anyone who has ever lived with another person thinks this at least a dozen times a day: “just do things my way and we’ll all be happy!” You may love this person with all your heart and soul, but trust me–the day will come when you will snap and hear those words burst from your mouth like water from a fire hose.

This stems from the seldom-admitted fact that many of us truly feel that our way to do things is the only way to do things. (As I no longer work, I find I am more stubborn about this than I used to be…..oh, who am I kidding? I have ALWAYS been this way!)

Here are some examples of what I have either thought or said during certain situations with the Crankee Yankee:

  • When opening a box of cereal, don’t just rip open one corner; it makes the cereal spill everywhere. Cut it straight across the top–much neater and more efficient. (And don’t forget to put a clip on it so that bugs don’t get in it!)
  • When you are sitting at the desk and blow your nose with the tissues I so thoughtfully keep there, do NOT leave a wad of snotty used tissues on the desk. There is a wastebasket literally inches away. THROW THEM OUT!
  • After using every ladle and spatula in the house when you cook, could you please rinse them off and put them in the dishwasher instead of leaving them everywhere on the stove, dripping with goo (or worse–hardened goo), when the spoon rest (a big one, too) is RIGHT on the stove?
  • Your side of the desk is the right side. Mine is the left side. Keep your crap on your own side.
  • You may think that folding up a bunch of paper towels and stacking them on the table beside your recliner is “just as good” as a box of tissues, but it all looks like trash to me. Either stick the damn things in your pockets or throw them out.
  • Every fork, spoon, knife and kitchen utensil has its place. When I look for the can opener, I know it’s in the second drawer. So why can’t I find my measuring spoons, my nice little tiny spatula or my egg slicer? WHERE DID YOU PUT THEM? (Note: they have never been found. I don’t know what the hell he did with them.)
  • When you ask me where the butter is when you yourself have put away dozens of butter boxes in the second shelf of the refrigerator door–please know that I am going to give you a sarcastic answer such as, “Oh, the butter? It’s under the sink with the cleaning products.” Sheesh.

….and so on. I do realize that all this only points out my obsession with how things should be in the house. But dang it, someone has to establish a little law and order in the kitchen! And it may as well be me because, well–my way WORKS.



Finding Peace in the Middle of a Construction Zone

Yes, I am trying to find peace in the middle of a construction zone. And no, I am not talking about living through major building renovations in the middle of New York City, or rebuilding in the aftermath of a tornado. Well–it’s actually quite a bit like a tornado.

Let me explain. My husband of nearly 14 years, my beloved Crankee Yankee, calls our home (circa 1953) his hobby. He is a retired carpenter, and a good one, too. Between he and his younger brother, they can do just about everything from pouring a cement foundation to repairing a roof. We moved into the house in which the Crankee Yankee and his brother grew up  after my wonderful mother-in-law died in 2007. We had moved in to help care for her along with Hospice, and she was pleased that we were going to be moving into the house that she had loved so much.

So, fast forward to 2016. While I am filled with awe and admiration at the Crankee Yankee’s ability to renovate, restore, re-purpose and replace nearly everything in the house, we are nevertheless living in an on-going construction zone. I can honestly say that there is no part of the house, inside and out; that hasn’t been torn up, re-insulated, patched, painted, and so on. Ours is the only house in the neighborhood that looks like it’s recovering from a bomb blast.

While the house is my husband’s hobby, it is also our home. We have four cats, two indoor only and two indoor/outdoor ones. Although they have never told me directly, all this hammering, sawing and demolition work isn’t anything they are too thrilled about. Me, neither. I have never in my life lived like this, and even after 9 years it’s still hard to accept, never mind live in. It wouldn’t bother me so much if only each project could be completely finished, and then move on to the next. However, I do get that when you’re working on an old house, there are constant surprises, and you can’t always finish one part without having to deal with another part (or several parts) that affects the first part. That’s just the way it is.

Case in point: one of the first projects the Crankee Yankee tackled was the beautiful bay window in the living room. His dad, also an excellent carpenter, had built a three-sided bay window off the living room decades ago and there was definitely some upkeep needed. But when the Crankee Yankee started pulling some of the bottom boards out, guess what he found: the entire inside had been taken over by a gang of honeybees! The inside was full of some pretty old and nasty-looking sticky combs, also dozens of dead bees; all of which had to be removed. So cleaning out the “honeybee hideout” wasn’t part of the original plan of just replacing a few boards, but nevertheless it had to be dealt with.

And this is how things go; you can plan to do this, that and the other thing, but in an old house there are always going to be those things you didn’t plan on. The upside of this is that we pay for materials as we need them, so we aren’t in debt. The Crankee Yankee is doing all the work, and often with the most welcome help from his brother, who is also no slouch at renovating, and also does electrical work. So the labor is free. But it takes time and patience.

Why am I telling you this? I tell you this to remind myself why, even with all the mess and dust and aggravation, I am proud of the smart, resourceful, handy and savvy guy I married. I am also telling you this to remind myself not to smack him upside the head when things never seem to get done. I may never make peace with living in a construction zone, but at least I haven’t snapped completely.

At least, not yet.


The “One Bed” Solution

Anyone who has ever been in a relationship knows that, when you are angry with each other, it’s easy to storm out of the bedroom–IF you have another bed, or even a couch. Not so easy when you have neither. After sitting on a chair in the living room fuming about who did what to whom and how, your body will eventually get pretty tired of sitting and will want to lie down.

If pride is enough to keep you sitting in that chair, well, good for you. Sooner or later, you are going to weigh how important your disagreement was against how much you want to go back to bed–you know, the bed that has the offending partner in it. I can’t tell you how many times my anger/resentment/hurt/whatever has fizzled out to nothing because sitting in a chair when you want to lie down only makes you realize that you are being an idiot. It does however have the good effect of making you realize that whatever ticked you off in the first place just isn’t worth losing a night’s sleep.

Besides, nine times out of ten, you’ll wake up next to your significant other saying, ‘what the heck were we fighting about?’