Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Out of the frying pan...

NEWS BULLETIN: Our very own Susan Elia Macneal's HIS MAJESTY'S HOPE has been nominated for a 2014 ITW Thriller Award. Congratulations, Susan!!!

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming...
 
HIS MAJESTY’S HOPE
HIS MAJESTY’S HOPE
HIS MAJESTY’S HOPE

HALLIE EPHRON: This Christmas my dear husband bought me a 12-inch cast-iron frying pan (pre-seasoned!) I've wanted one for years.

I cannot explain why I  never bought myself one until now (our 45th year of marriage). Lets just say I gave up on him finding me one at a yard sale.

Here it is with my old frying pan nested inside it. See how much roomier it is? Good thing it's got two handles because it takes two hands to heft it.

I love it. It goes in the oven and makes a perfect pineapple upside down cake with a nice chewy, caramelized crust. (Witness sparse leftovers.)

And I can easily fry a dinner's worth of chicken in a single batch...theoretically, that is. Because in practice it's a challenge because I have to keep moving the pieces around so they all get cooked through. That's because my stove's burners are only ten inches in diameter.

So now, having waited decades to get myself a big honking frying pan, I discover that to properly use it I need a new stove.
I know. This is ridiculous. It feels like the time I brought home a $3 packet of green tea and then had to buy a $35 Bodum glass teapot to brew it in. A proper pedicure required the purchase of peep toe shoes. I once bought a dress (on sale - $35!) for my niece's wedding and then had to get shoes and a "statement" necklace and a shawl and a purse to complete the outfit.

Green tea. Teapot.
Pedicure. New shoes.
Dress on sale. Accessorized outfit.
Cast iron frying pan. Stove.

I've almost got my husband convinced of the logic of this. But my fantasy that when I go to buy a new stove, I'll discover that none of the basic models fit in the space where my current stove lives and I'll have to remodel the kitchen.

There must be a term to explain this phenomenon. Some version of the domino theory or the law of unintended consequences?

Have you had this experience -- scratch one little itch and before you know it you're remodeling the house?

42 comments:

Edith Maxwell said...

Get the new stove and the new kitchen, Hallie!

Old home remodeling is like that. In our previous antique house, tearing out a wall to insulate it ultimately led to replacing the entire rotted out 290-year-old sill beam. Which involved supporting the whole house. Which included adding steel support beams in the basement. And finding an authentic new beam at a lumber yard in western Mass and nearly ruining the shocks on Hugh's old truck transporting it to Ipswich. And he and I figuring out the physics of installing it without maiming ourselves. And so on.

Ellen Kozak said...

Hallie, I didn't consider that this phenomenon might have a name, but it is the reason that my house has been in a state of semi-remodel since I acquired it. It seems there is always something remedial that has to be done before I can tackle the project at hand.

For example, my house has no door into the back yard. Having a side door onto the driveway means I have to put the dog on a leash and lead him around to the (now, at last!) fenced yard. NOT fun in winter or rain.

But it turned out that I couldn't remove a rear window to put in a back door because the baseboard hot water heat ran under that window. The heating system was barely functional anyway, so I converted the house back to forced air heat, which required the re-installation of ductwork. That required taking out the basement's dropped ceiling; replacing it required moving all the electrical conduits, which led to the discovery that the service to the house was only 60 amp (behind a 100-amp panel), so I had to upgrade that. And I can't put in a new ceiling until one last section of the gas pipe can be moved up to within the floor joists.

That has required removing a partial wall in the basement, among other things. And the beat goes on.

The remedial effect also applies to a new dress-- not for its accessories, but for the appropriate underwear, the kind that won't show, or will strategically lift something that the new dress requires.

And before one can put in a new flower bed, one has to remove the sod that is there (or it will manage to come back and infringe on the flowers). When you dig it out to turn it over, you find tree roots from a tree that hasn't been there for decades.

Is there a corollary here to writing? Every time you want a character to do something simple (like take the bus), you have to find out if the bus traveled that route in the year you've set your story, and if it required a token or exact change. I still have a New York subway token from the mid Sixties, smaller than a dime; they later were much larger. When did they change? Could that make a difference in your story?

I think the remedial phenomenon is called "Nothing is ever simple." I'm not sure what the new-accessories-for-a-new-dress phenomenon might be called.

Terri Herman-Ponce said...

Fabulous logic, Hallie. I can learn from you and work on my husband. As in haircut = new diamond earrings?

Deb Romano said...

First, Congratulations to Susan!

Last July I had to buy a new refrigerator. I live in a condo with a slightly-larger-than-galley kitchen. The units were built with an alcove for the refrigerators. None of today's fridges that are comparable to my old one fit in that space, so I had to go with a smaller one. The part of the floor that was covered by the old fridge is a mess. The old one was 39 years old and left its mark on the floor! When the time comes to replace the stove, I'll probably want to have the linoleum replaced. If I had the money, I'd have the cabinets and counters totally redone, and have the other appliances replaced at the same time.

I can dream!

Kristopher said...

A group of us play this game called Carcassonne. It's a game that involves using tiles to build cities, roads and farms, each of which score you different points based on the "followers" you have instilled on those features.

Anyway, the basic game is about 72 tiles and takes less that 45 mins to play. But there are all of these additional modules that you can add to the main set that change the nature of the game (including a dragon that might eat your "followers").

Once we started having bi-weekly game nights, it because clear that we needed to buy the other modules. (NEED being relative here).

So, now we have something like 400 tiles and a single game takes up to 3-4 hours to play. A bit extreme, but still a blast.

Susan Elia MacNeal said...

Thanks, Reds and Deb!

Hallie, I would call your issue an IF YOU GIVE A MOUSE A COOKIE situation.... (Great kids' book where, if you give a mouse a cookie, he will ask for a lot of other things, and get into a number of scrapes.

Maybe get it for your husband?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/If_You_Give_a_Mouse_a_Cookie

Edith Maxwell said...

Love that book, Susan. And congratulations on your nomination!

Tammy said...

We call it "tugging the thread on the sweater," and it's a lot less fun when it's to do with rental property and opening up walls to do a minor repair. Oh, the number of times that's resulted in a full remodel.... Sad.

But I can't complain when it yields new shoes or something else fun. For instance, I changed my hair color (think merlot and hot pink) ... and now the colors I was wearing don't quite do the trick. New wardrobe?!?!

Tammy said...

And congratulations to Susan! Love your books!

Hallie Ephron said...

I am cracking up! So glad to kow I'm mot alone in my insanity.

I like Ellen's term: the remedial effect.

And good luck with those earrings, Terri!

Hallie Ephron said...

Tammy - love the analogy to tugging on a sweater thread.

And dieting will do this to you, too...

Hallie Ephron said...

And YES, Ellen, there is a corollary to writing! Especially as you get deeper into the novel, a simple decision often necessitates going back and laying the groundwork. (As in, when you decide who really DID IT, it helps to go back and make it believable.)

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

This is "give a mouse a cookie"--do you know that book?

Ellen, you are SO right!

But Hallie: BEWARE. We just got a new oven--our was literally 30 years old,maybe 40, and finally just gave out. SO--it was a built in, and there was only one oven made that would fit without a major major overhaul.

It was/is a fine, high-quality oven, so no problem. (Except our old one was red, and I really miss that, the new one is black, sigh.)

BUT--it doesn't work the same way! I am having to learn to cook again, seriously, it's AMAZING, I even called the stove repair guy because I said--this cannot be working properly! It's NOT HOT ENOUGH. (Isn't an oven just an oven? Apparently not.)

He tested, and it was just exactly what it was supposed to be. I guess our old one wasn't. SO now, every meal is an experiment.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Oh, Susan, you said that. Okay! AND HURRAY!!!!

Lucy Burdette aka Roberta Isleib said...

So funny Hallie--love the post. This time get a propane gas oven--you will love it and I will be over for fried chicken!

Karen in OH said...

Egads, Ellen. What a nightmare.

We added on to our house in 1998, increasing the size of the once-tiny kitchen by about 150%. While we were at it, we decided to also add a screened porch and an arrached garage where the carport used to be. So glad we did, but it was quite the project, and we still don't have a door on the garage. Sigh.

All new appliances were installed when we redid the kitchen, except for our existing fridge. The cabinets were built around it. Then it died, and the new refrigerators are taller, with the hinges on the top, instead of incorporated into the door. So now we have useless cabinets above the fridge. When the built-in microwave died I was able to find one similar, but it is nowhere as useful as the old one.

Now I'm seriously wondering how I can talk Steve into remodeling again. Wish me luck.

Patricia Winton said...

Hallie, if you do get a new stove, consider gas burners! They really give you so much more control--and even your 12-inch cast iron skillet will heat through to the edge on a 10-inch burner. If I had my druthers, it would be a gas top with an electric oven. But I'd opt for the top over the oven with gas any day.

Mary Sutton said...

First, congratulations Susan!

Oh yes. "I need a new dress. This is perfect! But I don't have any shoes that go with it. And I need a wrap, because it might get chilly at night. Oh, and the necklace I planned to wear totally doesn't work with this neckline, so I need a new one - and new earrings to go with it."

I was thrilled when I inherited one of those 12" cast iron frying pans from my in-laws. As with you, Hallie, the stove was too small. But since my kitchen is of limited space, a new stove was out of the question - unless it came with a $50,000 kitchen/house remodel.

Yeah, couldn't talk the husband into that one. =)

Denise Ann said...

I would think that larger burners would require a wider stove which might not fit -- but the new book is probably a best-seller, so a new kitchen will be no problem!!

Hallie Ephron said...

Lucy: PROPANE gas? And I've just been reading about this winter's propane gas shortage and price spike... is it better than the natural gas that fuels my clothes dryer?

Hallie Ephron said...

Thanks, Denise Anne - Wouldn't that be nice. But I'm a bird in the hand girl when it comes to spending money.

Deborah Crombie said...

Hallie, all this cracks me up. You don't even want to get me started on twenty years worth of my own personal "This Old House." But one of the most fun things was deciding we were going to remodel the kitchen, tearing half of it out, then discovering that the entire foundation of the house had to be replaced. It was January. It rained all that winter, which made the foundation work go VERY slowly. And nothing could be done in the kitchen until the foundation was finished, so we went close to five months with no kitchen... I could go on, but I'll spare you.

But I adore my gas stove with gas oven!!! :-)

And that reminds me, I bought a couple of really pretty inexpensive scarves in Monterey (Rhys got one, too) and discovered that I don't have a thing to wear with either. So you all know what THAT means...

Karen in OH said...

My next cooktop will most definitely be an induction type. They can bring water to a boil instantly, yet are cool to the touch one you remove the pot. They do require flat-bottomed, magnetic pans, but you can also use a converter disk with glass and other pans that would not otherwise work.

They have been around a long time, but are just now starting to enjoy widespread use. Much safer than gas, faster and more easily regulated than other types of electric, and they use less energy.

Kaye Barley said...

Huge Congratulations to our Susan!!! Well done.

Hallie, I knew you'd fall in love with your new skillet. Have you checked out the Lodge webpage? I highly recommend their cookbook - http://www.lodgemfg.com/

And yes, "Give a Mouse a Cookie" is the perfect way to describe all this. Too funny, but oh too true.

Susan Elia MacNeal said...

Thanks, you guys!

Ramona said...

My home appliances are possessed, so I am afraid to disturb them too much.

I love my 12-inch cast iron skillet. I start many meals in it and transfer to larger pots. You cannot make a good roux in anything other than a cast iron skillet. I learned that at my grandmother's knee, and she was right.

IF YOU GIVE A MOUSE A COOKIE is also a very fun play.

Hallie Ephron said...

Possessed? Really, Ramona??

My refrigerator occasionally moos. Does that count?

Kathy Reel said...

Hallie, what a hilarious post! I actually have the perfect name for this phenomenon, borrowed from a friend, and it is called the SNOWBALL EFFECT. Fits, right?

Congratulations, Susan! How thrilling it must be for an author to have her writing recognized by such a nomination.

Barb Ross said...

I am the champion of this. Over the years, Bill and I have lived with all kinds of mess because of the --if we do this, we have to do that syndrome.

I once let my drivers license expire because I convinced myself I had to have my eyes checked first and to do that I had to figure out what my insurance would cover and to do that...

Bill is the cook in the family and when we finally remodeled our kitchen in the old house in Newton, we were standing in Yale Electric when I told him, "You can not pay that much for a stove unless we can drive it out of here."

Queen of Overthinking

Karen in OH said...

A mooing refrigerator? Awesome.

My in-laws' coffeemaker used to snore. Very amusing during dinner parties.

Ramona said...

Hallie, at one point not long ago, my oven wouldn't light, my dryer would never click off, the water heater died, the hot water knob came off in my husband's hand while he was showering, and my laptop went berserk. We do not live in a falling down house, but these things happened all at the same time. Finally, I called a repairman for the oven, and before he came, it miraculously lit all on its own. My husband repaired my laptop and replaced the hot water knob, but we did have to shell out for a new water heater. The dryer...I'm waiting for it to decide what to do.

Demonic possession seemed like the only reasonable explanation.

Ellen Kozak said...

A mooing fridge? A snoring coffeepot? My furnace sometimes groans (that scares me, but I have too many piles of junk that were just moved over from storage for a repairman to be able to get to it).

I LOVE the mouse cookie book-- my sister, who was on the Newberry and Caldicott committees in various years keeps me updated on good kids' books, and introduced me to that one.

I am so glad to know I am not alone in all this. And yes, if I had my druthers, I would have a gas stovetop and an electric oven. But if I had my druthers, the economy would be a lot better than it is.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Yup. Ramona, demonic possession. Which is the ONLY explanation for why appliances fix themselves. Yes, they do.

YES, gas stove. I cannot even image in electric. Funny--it's all about hat we get used to.

Reine said...

Congratulations, Susan!

Hallie, get the stove. If you need a new kitchen to put it in, so much the better.

You may be thinking of a corollary to Parkinson's law which states that work expands to fill the time allotted. It similarly follows that stuff accumulates to fit the space created. Ergo build the kitchen, and you will get all the stuff you need to accommodate your skillet.

The people in my life tend to nurture this:

Me: Let's adopt a child who needs a home.
Steve: Yes, that sounds nice. Let's.
Social worker: Congratulations! We have three. They're a set.

Me: We need a bigger house.
Steve: Yes, that sounds wise. Let's.
Steve's mum: I found you a house with a big yard. It's only quarter section, but there are woods that you can harvest for firewood. There's a stream and a hill of wild buckwheat. Forty acres are flat and suitable for alfalfa or barley. You could have a kitchen garden in the courtyard... lovely. Of course there are bees. You don't own them, but the man who does will give you a 5 gallon tin of honey each year for allowing him to keep them on the back 40. The adobe clay that was used to build the house is out back in case you need to do repairs... more, more, more... . There is a summer kitchen on the upper level located in the mother-in-law apartment.

Me: What about the children's rooms?

Steve's mum: Aren't they going to school in Pennsylvania?

Pat D said...

My fridge's stomach rumbles, but others claim it is the ice maker.

Hallie Ephron said...

That's downright exponential, Reine!

I'm with you on the rumbling, Pat D.

Reine said...

And all true, Hallie. xo

FChurch said...

Congratulations, Susan! The awesome Reds strike again!

I once had new windows put in. Then my drapes didn't fit. So new drapes. Then the walls didn't look right. So new paint. Then the couch.... Yep! Always something!

Joan Emerson said...

Congratulations, Susan!
“If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” is a great book [and most of the similar ones it has spawned are pretty clever, too. I especially like “If You Give a Moose a Muffin” and “If You Take a Mouse to the Movies,” both by the same author].
I think this is the perfect description for Hallie’s phenomenon . . . .

Linda Rodriguez said...

Way to go, Susan!!

Hallie, I've been laughing my way through this post and then the comments. I think we must all be sisters somehow. It's really just the old houses, though. Though how does that explain the new outfit, must have new jewelry, shawl, shoes, and purse to go with?

Ray Daniel said...

My nightmare scenario is that one day a tile will fall out of the bathroom wall and cause us to raze the house.


Hallie, there's nothing better than using an iron frying pan on a gas stove. While you're upgrading...

(Beware, could lead to a new heating system).

Grandma Cootie said...

It's like dominos or a slippery slope - once I get this I need that and then one of those. Sometimes that stops me from buying the first thing, which might be good after all.

But what's with the new appliances? I went to get a new dishwasher and become mesmerized with how the entire line would "match" and look so beautiful in my kitchen. Never gave a second thought to the fact that different burners on the stove - power, dual ring, simmer - might mean I could only get that teeny, tiny flame I like on one of them. And the oven? I have been making homemade pizza since I was about 9. Now I am learning again how to get it to come out that way. I didn't think the oven would cook differently, just different features. Oh well, practice makes perfect.