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Sheets, milk, and a shrinking sweater

March 11, 2012
by SHAUNNA DUNDER HERSHBERGER - Lifestyles Editor (sdunder@timesleaderonline.com) , Times Leader

So maybe I'm not so great at this whole domestic thing after all.

A while back, I had written about my newly found domestic prowess - how I would give Martha Stewart a run for her money. Maybe I just got cocky. Maybe it was that fancy college education that made me think, "If I can ace calculus, then surely I can make a cake." Au contraire, my friends. It turns out, no matter how intelligent or good at something you think you are, there are always things you will never learn until you do it wrong first.

For example, Justin wanted a no-bake cheesecake. We had a pie crust, but none of the other ingredients. When we were at the store, we realized we had not written down the ingredients, so to improvise, we found the pie crusts, glanced at the ingredients and then went about our shopping. Later that night, as I mixed the batter and poured it into the crust, I wondered why it was so runny. "Oh well," I thought. "I've never made these before. I'm sure it will firm up."

About two hours later, Justin called to me from the kitchen. "Hey babe? How long is it supposed to take this cheesecake to set?"

"The box said about three hours," I answered. "Why?"

He entered the living room and made a face. "It's still pretty runny."

I raised my eyebrows in confusion. Why wasn't it setting up? So I did what any good domesticated woman would do and took my search to the Internet. "Why isn't my cheesecake setting up?" I typed in the search field. After scanning through a few of the results, I learned the answer - I was a dope. And also, I used the wrong kind of milk. The recipe called for condensed milk; I had used evaporated milk. Apparently these are two vastly different entities. When I glanced at the recipe quickly in the store, I saw the word "milk" and just grabbed the first can I saw. How many different varieties of "milk in a can" are there?

Sadly, I tossed the ruined cheesecake, the fruits of my labor, into the garbage having learned a valuable lesson. There IS more than one kind of milk in a can and using the right one in your recipe makes all the difference in the world.

However, I'm not the only one in the house who is a domestic delinquent - Justin's "great sweater incident" adds him to the list. As he is wont to do, Justin piled up about a month's worth of dirty laundry before beginning his washing marathon. While Justin busied himself in the laundry room one night, I sprawled out on the couch and relaxed. A few minutes later, I heard Justin in the laundry room. "Uh oh."

I sat up. "What's wrong?" I called back. No response. I waited, but it remained quiet.

"Oh no," Justin said again after a minute.

"What?" I asked again. Any time someone calls out "uh oh" from the laundry room, you know the situation is not good.

"This sweater shrunk. It's one you got me for Christmas," he finally said a little frantically.

I didn't want to get up, but I was curious. "Is it really bad?" I wondered aloud.

"Looks like a kid's sweater!" he exclaimed.

I cajoled him to bring it in to the room, hoping that perhaps it wasn't as bad as he said. Maybe it could be stretched back into shape? But the second he entered the room with the sweater, I knew there was no hope. He was right - it did look like it would fit a little kid.

The first thing I did when he brought it to me was search for the tag inside. I flipped it over. "Dry clean only" glared back at me like a neon sign. I showed Justin. He frowned. "But I have another sweater made of the same material that I wash all the time. I never thought to look at the tag."

Frankly, I would not have looked at the tag, either. Usually when I'm buying clothes, I avoid anything that calls for dry cleaning. And when I picked out that sweater, the material felt like every other cotton-poly blend on the market, and I thought nothing of checking the care instructions. This sweater was made of merino wool. After checking with my best buddy - the Internet - I learned there are two types of merino wool: one that's washable and one that is not. Guess which one I'd picked out?

"Well, maybe it's not too bad. Maybe we can stretch it," I offered enthusiastically. I could tell he was upset, mostly because he'd ruined a sweater that I bought for him. "Try it on and let's see how bad it is."

As Justin unzipped the sweater and pulled it on, I couldn't help but bust out in laughter. The sleeves came about one third of the way up his forearms, and it was so short I could see his shirt underneath. He looked ridiculous. To humor him, I even tried it on, but the sleeves and length were also too short on me. Yep, it was ruined.

Who would have thought the same material could be both washable and non-washable? Now how are we supposed to know that? I guess that's another of those things you have to chalk up to experience.

There are some things, however, that I don't think I'll ever grasp. For example, it is humanly impossible to fold a fitted sheet. I've watched tutorial videos with the corner tucking and all those fancy techniques, but mine never looks like the one the lady does in the video. Hers is perfectly straight and flat with all the seams lying in the right direction. Mine looks like I let my dog roll around in it.

The other thing I will never understand? Justin's mentality on keeping the house clean. I may never quite understand why, when he goes to the kitchen to retrieve a new can of pop, he just doesn't take the empty can with him and take the extra two steps to the garbage can to throw it away. Instead, he prefers to let them pile up on the coffee table - our "catch all" area, and also the bane of my existence. Likewise, he throws empty wrappers and crumpled napkins on the table, and the thing that annoys me the most - he lets the mail pile up and up and up. "Look, 98 percent of the things we get in the mail we throw out," I told him once. "Why not just leaf through it as you're coming inside the house and just throw away the ones you know are junk?" No. Evidently, the garbage can is just way too far to walk. The coffee table garbage can is much closer.

And when he can't find something, it's always, "Where did YOU put it?" Me? I'm sorry, I'm not the one throwing my possessions onto heaping piles of junk. Perhaps you can't find it because you've buried it underneath your empty wrappers, junk mail or dirty clothing? Just a thought.

I was sort of liking this domestic thing, but now it's just getting to be annoying. I don't expect to be perfect, and I suppose I can take some solace in the fact that most of what I do turns out alright. Just last week, I tapped into my Hungarian roots and made my own version of chicken paprikash. I try to keep things as organized as possible and attempt to stay one step ahead of my "toss it anywhere" husband. I'm not afraid to try anything new, and with a bit of practice, I think I can master pretty much anything.

Just don't ask me to fold your fitted sheets.

 
 

 

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