Make Like a Tree and Leave

“Don’t you love fall foliage?” A friend of mine asked as we watched brilliant leaves of red, orange and gold waft down from the trees. “It’s such a beautiful time of year.”

I rolled my eyes. I had no patience for the leaf lovers, the autumn enthusiasts, the fall foliage fanatics. I had bigger fish to fry.

I was a woman with a house to clean.

Of course there was a time when I loved the change of seasons as much as anyone else. But now that I am a mother and a homemaker, I realize that the different seasons just mean different messes in the house. In the spring, the dog drags mud through the house. In the winter we have piles of slush. In the summer, everyone tracks in water from the pool. And now that fall is upon us, I can look forward to the melodic sound of leaves crunching under my feet in the family room.

I suppose I should be more understanding of this particular seasonal annoyance considering that it is a scientific anomaly. I have discovered that my house is uniquely situated in the center of the universe so that every time the back door opens, a giant wind tunnel is created which sucks all the leaves in from the deck and spits them into my house. It is such a rare occurrence in this part of the world, that scientists have actually named it the Beckerman Freak Foliage Phenomenon.

While we are pleased to have contributed to mankind’s understanding of the forces of nature, it is mostly just a big pain in the neck. If I don’t catch the leaves and sweep them up right away when they blow into the house, they get trampled and broken into millions of crunchy little leaf pieces that get into the rug and eventually all over the house until I crawl under the covers at night and find myself on a bed of shredded leaf. While this might be fun if you’re a hibernating bear, personally, I prefer my sheets to be cottony soft and decidedly leaf-free. 

Clearly, this would not be an issue if the door remained closed. However, my family seems to be somewhat door-challenged. They have no problem getting the door open: It’s the door closing they have trouble with. And when the door is left open and that wind tunnel thing happens, we get leaf piles in the house big enough to jump in. It can get so bad, I actually consider getting a rake and a leaf blower for inside the house to get it under control.

Finally one day, I hit my leaf breaking point.

“WHO LEFT THE DOOR OPEN???” I bellowed. The dog came running.

“No, not you.  You don’t have opposable thumbs.  You get a pass,”

Next my husband arrived.  I pointed to the fresh pile of leaves that had blown in from outside.

“Hey, why are there so many leaves in here?” he wondered.

I sighed. “Remember I said when you leave the door open, the leaves blow in?” He nodded blankly.

“Well, voila!” I exclaimed sweeping my arm around the room.

“Oh sorry,” he said while I went to grab the broom and vacuum cleaner. Ten minutes later I found the door open and a fresh pile of crunchy leaves in the family room.

“Congratulations,” I said to the guilty party, who was not, in fact the dog. “You get to clean up the leaves.” I handed him a broom and left the room. Moments later a voice rang out from the kitchen.

“Hey honey!”

I returned to the scene of the crime to find my husband, the broom, the dog, and three times as many leaves on the floor.

“What happened?” I asked incredulously.

“I went to sweep the leaves out, and when I opened the door, a big gust of wind blew all the leaves back in, plus a bunch more.”

I shook my head in disbelief. Then I took the broom and stuck it in the corner.

My husband stood perplexed. “What are you going to do?” he asked.


©2017, Beckerman. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Cleanliness is Next to Impossibleness, Husbands and other Aliens, This Old House

Killing it in the Kitchen

“Show me your spatula,” ordered my friend Hildie as she stood in my kitchen with her hands on her hips.

“I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.” I replied.

“Show me your spatula,” she repeated, ignoring me.

“I’m sorry, but I just don’t think I know you well enough to share something so personal,” I responded.

She reached behind my back where I was hiding my spatula.

“THIS IS YOUR SPATULA?” she gasped as she peered at the undersized plastic utensil she had grabbed from me.


“Where did you get it? An Easy Bake Oven set?”

I guffawed. “No!” I looked at the sad little excuse for a spatula. “I’m pretty sure it came with a Happy Meal.”

She shook her head at me. “I can see we have a lot of work to do.”

The work in question, was me, in my kitchen, cooking. Or rather, not-cooking, which was my problem. My friend Hildie was there to rescue me from myself, turn me into a world-class cook, or at least make sure I didn’t burn down the house. This is her business… helping moms with little time and few skills become moms who can whip up delicious, nutritious dinners that everyone in the house will eat. She is really, really good at this and has a wait list a mile long for desperate moms, like myself. But she decided to take pity on me and bump me to the top of the list after I undercooked something and gave my family food poisoning.

In my defense, the meat thermometer was broken and the food looked done. Or at least done-ish.

The first thing on her to-do list was a pantry and utensil assessment.

“If you want to be a good cook it helps to have good cooking tools,” she told me.

“I have two hammers, a wrench and a screwdriver,” I informed her.

“Not the right kind of tools,” she assured me.

We quickly discovered that, in addition to my sorry excuse for a spatula, I also had the wrong kind of whisk, lousy knives, and a twenty-year old blender that I also used as a juicer, a food processor, and a Play-doh mixer.

“You made PLAY-DOH in here?” she asked incredulously.

“No! Not made. Mixed. We only had blue and yellow and we needed some green, so we mixed it together in the blender. But that was at least 10 years ago so I’m sure it’s all cleaned out by now.”

She sighed. “Buy New Blender!” she said, adding it to my master kitchen purchasing list.

Next she opened my pantry and jumped back in fear.

“When was the last time you bought new spices?” she asked, holding up an ancient jar of cayenne pepper.

“What was the year that ‘Rock the Casbah’ was popular?” I asked. “I think I was listening to that on my walkman when I went shopping for spices.”

“Buy New Spices!” she said, adding it to my growing kitchen purchasing list.

She peered into the pantry again. “… And balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil and chicken stock,” she continued, looking at the expiration dates on those bottles, wincing, and throwing them in the trash.

“Good news, though!” she said to me dryly. “You have plenty of macaroni and cheese.” She pulled out four cartons of mac and cheese from the pantry. “Were you expecting an instant mac and cheese-loving crowd to drop in unexpectedly?

“Hey, that stuff is great,” I said proudly. “It doesn’t expire until 2045!”

“Yeah… I’m not sure I would want to eat any food that could outlive me,” she said.

Once we established that I had nothing in the house that was edible and nothing to prepare my non-edible food with, we rolled up our sleeves and got started cooking.

Fortunately, I had filled out a pre-questionaire so, knowing that I had some deficits in certain areas, Hildie had brought some supplies of her own.

“You take this simple grilled chicken and you add pesto and fresh mozerella and it is just YUM!!” she declared.

“Ooh. Ooh! I have some pesto mix in my pantry!” I shouted gleefully.

“Mix?” she said in horror. “No mix! We’re going to make it fresh!”

“I don’t have to raise my own chickens, do I?” I wondered.


“OK. Just checking.”

We pounded chickens, seasoned them, made up a batch of fresh pesto, sautéed some portobello mushrooms, layered it all up and added the mozerella on top.

By the time we were done I could make shrimp oreganata, chicken quesadillas, chicken pesto paninis, and turkey bbq meatloaf. I learned the difference between virgin olive oil and extra virgin olive oil (which shockingly, has nothing to do with virgins). I was instructed how to crush dried herbs in my palm to release the flavor, and scores of other cooking secrets that only Hildie and Wolfgang Puck knew. In three hours, I had become a cook.

And I didn’t even burn the house down.

But I did singe the dog’s tail a little.


©2017, Beckerman. All rights reserved.

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