Sunday, September 28, 2014

Counting our can'ts

Yesterday's winner of an eBook from the LUCKY series by Deborah Coonts is Kathy Reel! Kathy, email me at hallie "at" hallieepron dot come and I'll put you and Deborah in touch.
HALLIE EPHRON: When I was in grade school, I hated maps because it was always about being printing neatly and coloring within the lines, two skills which I am constitutionally incapable of.

I also cannot make pie crust without leaving the kitchen and myself covered with flour. And I cannot fold. My daughter (who was briefly a salesperson at The Gap where she aced Folding 101) has tried to teach me, but my folded items always come out crooked.

There. Confession is good for the soul.

And because misery loves company, I'm asking you to confess: what simple skill would you love to be good at but you just don't have it in you?

RHYS BOWEN: I don't know that I've ever yearned to be good at it, but I'm hopeless at ironing. My mother used to iron my father's underwear and all the sheets. I always manage to put in as many creases as I take out. Especially shirts. Can't do sleeves.

And like you, Hallie, I'd love to have a linen closet with beautifully folded sheets and towels. I once had a cleaning lady who made it look like Martha Stewart lived in the house. But alas she went to nursing school.

LUCY BURDETTE: What a disappointment Rhys! :) I am a disaster with remote controls. John has at least six of them with which to run the TV, DVR, Roku, sound surround, and who knows what else. I cannot keep in my head which to turn what on, which to move to what setting, and on and on. Besides, I'm impatient about it and can't understand why it has to be so complicated.

He says if something bad happens to him, I won't ever again be able to watch a TV program. And that could be true--all the more reason to keep him around.

Oh, I've just thought of something I'm not good at and would love to improve, and that's wrapping packages. I've never learned to do those perfectly folded corners and impressive bows. Thank heavens there are boxes and bags these days so I don't have to display my deficiency so often.

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  I am a great present wrapper, and a great ironer, and love to do both.

HOWEVER! There have been times when I have gone upstairs to where Jonathan is reading, and had to ask him to come down and turn on the television. NO idea. Roku, Amazon Fire, NO IDEA. When he's not home I barely can watch TV. Sometimes I can't even get the set to go on.

And Hallie, that is hilarious. I cannot fold at all. I can't even figure out how to hang towels on towel racks. In thirds, then flap them over? But then they are too long. In thirds, and then in half, then flap them over? But then they are too puffy.

I think I'll go watch TV. Oh. No.

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: I am pleased to say I have mastered the feminine arts of ironing, folding and present-wrapping (though I don't enjoy the latter. In fact, I own the worlds largest collection of gift bags, and on Christmas morning, I make everyone hand me their bags as soon as the present is out and then I refold them and put them away that afternoon.)

What I'm inept at: the TV/blu-ray/VCR-DVD set up and their controls. If I want to watch a movie, I have to call one of the kids over to set it up for me. Pie crust, which is an embarrassment, as my grandmother and mother were expert crust-makers. Candy. My mom used to make the best fudge in the world. Every time I've tried it, it comes out a hopeless blackened gludge. Or a rock.

I also can't play chess to save my life. Ross loves it, and taught all the kids when they were young. He runs the school chess team for third-to-fifth graders! But me? I'm as hopeless as I am with poker ( I can never remember the hands or trumps or whatever they're called,)

SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: Hallie, I also worked at the Gap, so I too can fold like a professional!

And I'm with Hank on the remotes and technology. We have gaming systems and all kinds of crazy things (I don't even know what they are) and I have to say the Kiddo is very patient at trying to explain it all to me. Again. And again.....

DEBORAH CROMBIE: I am so happy to see that we share the some of the same disabilities!  I cannot fold to save my life. I am so covetous of perfectly folded sheets that I even bought a big thick book on housekeeping  hints that had diagrams showing how to fold a fitted sheet. It didn't help. I'm hopeless. I end up with a big lump. T-shirts, forget it. I have friend who worked for Gap in college--I used to get her to pack my suitcase for me. It was heaven.

Nor can I iron. Are the two related? 
I can, however, wrap a very nice package. And do nice things with ribbon.

As for the TV, I can't watch the one in the living room unless Rick is home and can tell me which buttons to push on the universal remote control. There are at least sixteen steps to actually get to TV, and I can never remember them.

But, Hallie, don't hit me--I can actually make a fairly decent pie crust. Heaven knows why.

HALLIE: I won't hit you, Debs. I make a good pie crust, too. I just end up looking the Pillsbury dough boy when I'm done.

What about the rest of you out there? What do you really wish you could do?


  1. Okay, I can iron and fold and wrap and sew and even make a decent pie crust. I can figure out the workings of the television and the remote and, although I am clueless about hooking the machine up, once it is connected I can manage the VCR. The DVD player tends to stump me, though, and John always has to tell me how to get it switched from playing TV mode to playing DVR mode.

    But I cannot give directions to get anyone from Point A to Point B [nor can I get myself there]. I can get myself hopelessly lost just trying to go around the block . . . .

  2. Ha ha, Joan! And I can GIVE directions, but I can not follow them. Big surprise.

  3. Fascinating to hear that NOBODY can manage the remotes! Like Joan, I can iron, fold, wrap, sew, and make a killer pie crust. No way can I watch TV or a movie by myself, though. Luckily, I never watch TV, and only watch movies with Hugh, who has it all mastered.

    I am constitutionally incapable of keeping shelves of clothes tidy. In my closet there are some vertical open shelves, like cubbies, for sweaters and stuff. My sweaters and stuff are always in a jumble. I can never find anything and even when I take it all out, fold it neatlly and stack in back in, it seems like overnight it jumbles itself. Sheesh.
    Also incapable of keeping my top drawer neat - underwear, bras, hankies, some jewelry boxes - all a big mess. Sigh. It looks just like my mother's did, now that I think of it.

  4. I cannot make a pot of coffee. Since I don't drink coffee, I have used this excuse as a defensive mechanism for years. We have a lovely coffee shop two blocks away. True confession!

  5. Edith, maybe we were separated at birth?

    Nancy, I bet you'd make a good cuppa if you drank the stuff. My husband makes the coffee in our house, but I get up hours earlier and love my morning coffee, so I have learned to make it, though his is better.

  6. Hoping every guessed Jungle Red commenter above was me. Before my coffee had kicked in.

  7. Wonderful to see so many smart and talented women with remote control issues. Add my name. I can fold, iron and wrap packages competently,if not brilliantly, but I cannot seem to master all buttons and cable boxes....and ...and... There was a hilarious episode of Modern Family about this. I watched and thought"that is my life!"

  8. Aaargh - those demon remotes!!!

    Snap my fingers - I wish I could snap my fingers. I've tried for 65 years and I haven't given up yet, I'm sure I'll get the hang of it one of these days.

  9. I can iron, fold those sheets and clothes, sew a button, sew a dress, prune the orchard trees and grapes, and can handle the remote (I bought a tv with the dvd player in the tv--cuts down on remotes)--even make a decent though not spectacular pie crust and wrap packages.

    Why can't I master a roast??? Dry, tasteless, no matter what recipe I try!

  10. I can use the remotes, but only because I only do two things with the TV, watch TV and watch DVD s. Switching from one to the other,though, requires using three different remotes. No idea why. Husband figured out the sequence and I wrote it down. The real challenge for me is when Word suddenly and for no reason I can see, changes the way the display on my monitor looks. Sometimes it's the toolbar that disappears. Sometimes it suddenly stops showing my header. Completely throws me. I know there must be a simple solution and that I probably caused the problem I myself by hitting a wrong key, but I can never fix it without help (and major panic). I can, however fold fitted sheets as per the diagram. My mom taught me when I was very young. Ironing, too, but these days I don't even own an ironing board.


  11. Omigosh, Julie, I'm the package bag queen in our house, too! In fact, there are a couple of bags that my daughter and I have passed back and forth for a few years.

    But I can fold, sew, iron (I used to teach sewing, and one of the moms of a student was so excited that I taught her seven-year old to iron: "She can do ALL our ironing now!"), and used to wrap elaborate packages. When my middle daughter was in about fifth grade she took over in her seasonal business, "I Wrap" (50 cents a package, such a deal), and that's when I lost interest in keeping up with that whole deal.

    As for what I have not mastered, plotting a novel. That's a big one. And the remote control thing mystifies me. Why can't there be a single control? And why are there a jillion buttons on those things, and what the hey are they all meant to do? If we could get one to make Nancy's coffee, THAT would be genius. Just add a "Make Coffee" button, right?

  12. So funny, Karen... because I cannot "plot" a novel... all I can do is write one and then scrape away and find the plot in the mess.

  13. "I once had a cleaning lady who made it look like Martha Stewart lived in the house."

    I swear I had to read that line 3 times, because the first two times I read it as Mary Stewart. Which sounds nice, but unlikely.

    So clearly, I can't read.

    Also can't play guitar, despite really really wanting to. And trying. And taking lessons. And buying guitars.

    (can we have another post on things we HAVE mastered? :^))

  14. Okay, Susan D - I'm dying to know. What HAVE you mastered??

    Meanwhile I can add a can't, something I've taken lessons in and still can't. Tango.

  15. I can iron (my grandmother taught me) and I can fold (my mom folded like Martha Stewart long before Martha did), and then I saw people folding in a store, where they used the equivalent of a clean plastic cutting board as a guide. It works wonders). The trick to gift wrapping seems to be a clear surface-- I don't have those in my house, and I sure would like to know how one gets one (I apparently belong to the any-flat-surface-is-for-stacking-things-on school of housekeeping).

    And I can't make a pie crust to save my life, probably because I won't eat one (I eat out the filling, maybe some of the top crust if there is one but I prefer there not be and often pick it off). And I make my cookies CRISPY so to other people they may seem too well done (I often rebake cookies I buy because they are too soft for me).

    I have an advantage with remotes because I don't watch DVDs or have a DVR (alphabet soup, anyone?) and I have never had cable. But cable-- when I've encountered it at hotels or at friends' homes-- totally eludes me. What ARE all those channels for? How do you get to them without scrolling through all the rest? And is it worth the bother?

    There are a lot of things I WON'T do (like change my oil or put air in my tires) but that doesn't mean I can't do them. I also don't mow my lawn anymore-- the recovery time from the backache it gives me means it is much cheaper to pay someone else to do it.

    I THINK I could even program my computer (if I could find decent instructions or understand what the guy in India is telling me). But I don't choose to. And I wouldn't even fill my own gas tank if I could find any full service gas stations. Alas, they have ceased to exist.

  16. Does that lead to another post on things we WON'T do?

  17. I can make pie crust, fold, iron and most other household chores. What I cannot do, no matter how hard I try, is whistle. I envy those who can whistle to call their dogs or get the attention of a crowd, but there's nothing I can do about it. It has frustrated me my whole life.

  18. Bev, I gave up on that so long ago that it didn't enter my mind. I can manage a feeble poor excuse for a one-tone whistle (but with difficulty) but I can't snap my fingers.

  19. Putting air in a tire!! I always seem to let more out than I get in. Weird. More than one remote and I have problems. If I run into a detour or something, I will get lost. I have waited for sunset so I know vaguely which direction to go. ;)

  20. Ann, I am never confident about adding air to tires, either. It's not an intuitive process, right?

    Between us, my husband and I managed to teach the three girls to drive, and to teach them and my grandson to whistle, tie bows, wink one eye, and snap fingers. Plus, make a popping sound with a finger popped out of the corner of the mouth.

    Or, as we like to call them, life skills.

  21. Ann, I'm with you! I think there's a trick to that tire thing that no one tells you.

    Karen, you're good.

  22. I can't iron without burning myself. I've decided that if throwing it in the dryer doesn't get the wrinkles out then I'll just be wrinkly! :)

  23. Following directions! No ay. Someone starts giving mw directions, my bran simply shuts down.

  24. ANd um, can somwone tell me how to fold towels?

  25. Bev, I was just going to say "whistle"!! I can snap my fingers, but I'd love to be able to put them in my mouth and make that really loud whistle noise that can get a whole room's attention!

  26. You'd be dangerous then, Lucy.

    THIRDS? I can't even fold a piece of paper in thirds.

  27. Whew! I'm flying in late tonight. I don't sew, and for years I felt bad about it. I'm not really sure if I can't. In junior high, I did a nice job of sewing in home economics, and I can sew on a button and used to be able to do hems. I'm just not interested in it, and although I don't feel so bad about it anymore, it still seems like a basic skill that should have been second nature to me. And, yes, it's all wrapped up in the old-fashioned, out-dated expectations of women.

    I can iron, but I can't fold a fitted sheet to save my life. I've tried to follow the instructions to do so, but the sheet is just not cooperative.

    I have had to master the remotes, as my husband works in another state and isn't home that often. I had to become competent to a certain extent in operating the computer when I did my library Masters online. I absolutely can make coffee because I have to have it. I can't work the grill because I've chosen not to learn and delegate that job to my husband.

    Oh, Lucy, I'd love to be able to do one of those room commanding whistles, too.

  28. Fold sheets? Nope. Can't do. I roll them up in a ball and shove them onto a linen closet shelf. Anyone doesn't like wrinkled sheets can arrange to be in the garage when the dryer stops.

  29. I can iron, sew, fold sheets and towels, and roll pie crust. I can put air in my tires and change a flat. I can even turn the TV on with the remote. I wrap a decent package.

    What I can't do? Can't change the TV to a DVD. One remote I can handle three are ridiculous. I can read fiction but can't read technical stuff or directions (dyslexic).

    I can't carry a tune or sing, or do hand motioned. My Girl Scouts teased me all the time about that.

    I can't make coffee to save my life. I guess those Irish and English genes made me a tea drinker and brewer.

  30. Late to answering Hallie's question, and unlike Lucy, I CAN
    put my fingers in my mouth and make that really loud whistle noise that can get a whole room's attention!

    My cousin taught me when I was 13, and it has remained a very useful accomplishment.