Saturday, November 19, 2022


I don’t know what prehistoric housewives did to keep dust off their furniture if they had any.  If they did anything at all, it must have been frustrating to try to keep dust off things in a cave with dirt floors.  If it were me, I’d give up.  If you have dirt all around you anyway, it’s silly to try to keep it off whatever you are sitting on.

It must have been challenging, also, to keep dust off all that fancy furniture in the Palace of Versailles and other upscale homes of that period.  Since people didn’t bathe very often or wear deodorant in those days, maybe they didn’t mind a little dirt on their elegant chairs and tables because they were so busy dealing with dirty and smelly people.  Let’s hope so.

The modern householder has choices of methods to use when removing dust from furniture.

Method No. 1 is the one used by fussy people who are addicted to extra work.  This method involves using dustcloths, Lemon Pledge, and other instruments of torture.  Lemon Pledge is fine if you don’t mind your house smelling like the citrus section of a greengrocer’s shop.  The poor misguided people who use this method go from piece of furniture to piece of furniture, moving knickknacks, books, and figurines around, climbing up stepladders, and making sure that every darned spot of dust or anything else is thoroughly eradicated with the cloth and the Lemon Pledge.  This is their idea of a fun way to spend an afternoon.

Method No. 2 is similar to Method No. 1, except instead of a dustcloth and Lemon Pledge, the person uses a feather duster or a Swiffer duster, sometimes with a long handle, making the use of a stepladder obsolete except in the case of a high shelf with stuff on it that has to be moved.  Other than that, the procedure is the same, as is the amount of time it takes to finish the job.  These people are to be pitied as much as the users of Method No. 1.

Method No. 3 is the one used by the rest of us.  It uses a Swiffer duster, preferably with a long handle, without moving any objects, especially on high shelves.  This removes most of the visible dust, which is okay with us.  This method is often used after the chief homemaker of the house has not dusted anything in weeks.

One way of ensuring that no dust will settle on a piece of furniture is to load it down with blankets, clothing, books, or whatever other detritus is available.  When you remove the items, the furniture under them will be dust-free.  This works every time.

I hope my readers have found this little reference guide useful.  By the way, the instructions given above are in no way indicative of the practices of the author, and I hope you all understand that because I would hate it if everyone thought I’m a slob.


Friday, November 18, 2022



In olden times human beings had dirt floors in their homes.  At least the poor people had dirt floors; the rich had things like marble floors and servants to do the cleaning.  You didn’t have to wash your floor if you weren’t a servant assigned to do the job.  This was known as the golden age.

Progress being what it is, washing the floor eventually became “woman’s work,” and the wife of the family got the job whether she wanted it or not.  Thus the tradition of having your mother yell at you for tracking dirt on the floor began.  Before that time, it didn’t matter if you came into the house with muddy boots because the floors were made of dirt.  The advent of wood floors was the cause of a great deal of childhood trauma.

Many modern inventions are designed to make floor washing easier or more efficient.  Along with the regular brooms, dustpans, mops, sponges, and buckets, we have various types of vacuum cleaners, Swiffer WetJets, Swiffer Sweepers, carpet cleaners, and what have you.  Accompanying this equipment, we have all kinds of cleaning agents that smell like everything from bleach to lemon to pine.  All of these have one thing in common:  they can be put away in a closet, and you don’t have to think about them if you don’t want to.

This technique would work fine if it weren’t for one thing:  dust.  Dust flies around the house and settles down on whatever surface it can find, including the floors.  The animal’s hair adds to the dust if you have a pet.  In the kitchen, you are likely to have a couple of spots from dropped food or spilled coffee.  In other words, the longer you keep the cleaning equipment in the closet, the bigger the mess you will have.

When the mess reaches the height of your ankles, you’re sneezing from the dust, and you can’t stand to look at it anymore, you decide it’s time to take a deep breath, open the broom closet, and get to work.

You are immediately faced with two choices.  You can do things the old-fashioned way, also known as the hard way, or the modern way, also known as the lazy way.  The old-fashioned way involves buckets, mops, sponges, brooms, dustpans, vacuum cleaners, and muscle power.  The modern method involves Swiffer Sweepers, Swiffer Dusters, Swiffer WetJets, and other lightweight items that don’t include using muscles, pushing semi-heavy machinery around, or bending over.

The old-fashioned way has one thing going for it:  your floors get thoroughly clean.  They had better get thoroughly clean because of all the effort you have to put into the job.  The bucket full of water mixed with bleach or Lysol is heavy and has to be schlepped from room to room.  At the same time, you must carry the mop you are using to put the mixture on the floor and spread it around.  If you haven’t cleaned your floors in months, you will have to press hard with the mop and go over the floor more than once to get all the dirt.  If you are really zealous, you will get down on the floor with a sponge and dig at especially stubborn spots.  By the time you are finished, you will look like this:


You are advised to use the old-fashioned way if you have an afternoon to waste use up with miserable, backbreaking housework.  You might be able to eat off your floors afterward, but you’ll be too tired to try it.

I won’t even mention waxing floors.  I won’t even think about it.  What you don’t think about won’t hurt you.

The modern way produces a fine floor if you don’t have your mother-in-law or some other fussbudget visiting you.  With this method, there are no heavy buckets, bleach, or Lysol.  There is only a long-handled thingamajig, to which you attach a hopefully absorbent, light piece of electrostatic cloth.  If you are “mopping” the floor instead of only dusting it, you attach a piece of material that has been soaking in cleaning stuff and smells just like it.  If you are using a Swiffer WetJet, the cloth sticks to the bottom.  If you are only dusting the floor, you quickly push the long-handled thingamajig around it, sometimes turning it around so it will pick up all the dust and pet hair, not just some of it.  If you don’t feel like bending over and picking up the stubborn things that won’t attach to the cloth, keep turning it around until you catch it or push it into a dustpan.  If you are using a Swiffer WetJet, ignore the remaining dirt spots.  They are part of the modern housekeeping experience.  After you have been doing this for a while, you might end up looking like this:


Today’s apartment or house dweller often chooses the easier way out of the household mess problem.  Of course, there will still be some dust on the floor, a few pet hairs here and there, and maybe a drop on the kitchen floor, but you’ll get most of it, anyway.  The proper modern housekeeper has learned to be content with this.  You can always tell yourself that your home looks like people live in it, which is more accurate than you think.

There is yet another option:  hire someone else to clean your place.  If you are paying someone else to do the crummy jobs you don’t want to do, you can specify the old-fashioned method.  After all, it isn’t YOUR back that is being bent!  The only problem with this is the financial outlay.  You get what you pay for, though.  If you want a clean home and don’t want to do it yourself, pay a professional and shut up.  Tips are also welcome in these cases if the person has done an outstanding job and you want to get a reputation as a good customer so they’ll return to continue doing your work for you.



Monday, November 14, 2022



Primitive man did not know about cooking until someone discovered how to light a fire one day.  The technique went viral, and people everywhere enjoyed having heat in the winter.  Then some prehistoric klutz dropped a piece of meat into a fire, spit out a few curses, fished it out, and ate it, thereby discovering cooking.  The culinary art spread over the world.  Suddenly, fewer people died of food poisoning, food tasted better, and the population flourished.  We, the descendants of these ancient chefs, have inherited the tradition of partially burning almost everything we eat.

Some people love to cook.  To these people, a kitchen is heaven, and the smells and sounds of prepared food are like the singing of a heavenly choir.

I am not one of those people.

It’s not that I don’t know how to cook.  Like all girl children of my generation, I was taught to cook, iron clothes, clean the house, and sew, the idea being that I would probably get married right out of high school or college and spend the rest of my days doing those things.  My mother and grandmother made valiant efforts to domesticate me, with mixed results.  I was determined to be a professional singer, even at a young age, and in my mind, that did not jive with slaving over a hot stove, vacuuming rugs, or ironing clothes.  However, what they taught stuck with me, resulting in me not being a complete slob.

Getting back to the subject, I’m not particularly eager to cook.  I’ll do it if I have to, but I refuse to enjoy it, especially if it involves a lot of preparation and complication.  I’m satisfied if I can sprinkle a little salt and pepper on something, toss it into a nonstick frying pan and leave it there until it’s done enough to eat without the risk of dying.  This is very rarely possible, though, because of things called recipes.  You must know what you’re doing if you want to cook something that won’t make you want to vomit.  This usually means following directions invented by someone else who did know what they were doing and trusting the results will turn out the way they are supposed to turn out.

In addition to a stove, you need the right equipment and supplies to follow a recipe.  This includes measuring cups, measuring spoons, frying pans, baking pans, saucepans, sieves, spatulas, wooden spoons, knives, timers, olive oil, vegetable oil, butter, salt, pepper, garlic … you get the idea.  The list never ends.  You also need a place to prop up your recipe so that you can look at it every thirty seconds to ensure you aren’t messing everything up.  That is important, especially when dealing with such things as garlic and salt.  Please don’t ask me how I know this.

So what does a non-cook like me do when faced with using fire to improve the way food comes naturally?  Well, it goes something like this.

Defrosting the Meat

If you have been doing the right thing and keeping your meat in the freezer, you will need to defrost it.  You can do this in a couple of ways.  The first way is to take it out of the freezer and put it in the fridge.  This is a safe way to do it without a mess.  The only problem is it takes forever.  You can’t suddenly remember in the middle of the day that you forgot to take the meat out of the freezer because when you are ready to cook it, it will still be as frozen as an igloo in winter.  You must be organized enough to take it out of the freezer early in the day.

Another method is the microwave for people who can’t remember to put their keys away, let alone take the meat out of the freezer.  This requires a certain amount of technical ability to figure out how to do this.  Once you figure it out, it’s easy, or it should be, but the problem is it’s messy.  The microwave will ask you to turn the meat over in the middle of the operation, which requires handling.  To know if the meat is defrosted, you must handle it again.  All you can think of is “salmonella,” so you wash your hands every time, which is a pain in the ass.

Pre-heating the Oven

If you have an old-fashioned stove, this is easy.  You turn the knob to the desired temperature and wait for the oven to heat up.

If you have one of the newfangled cooking machines with a digital oven, you must figure out how to use it.  If you are a genius, this is easy.  For the rest of us, it takes time and brainpower.  People who can’t even use email without messing up will have a hard time with this.  Once you figure it out, of course, you wonder what all the fuss was about because all you have to do is press buttons.  Of course, the next time you use the stove, you must remember which buttons to press.  This is a whole other problem for the technically challenged.

Stoves with digital ovens let you know when the oven is ready, usually about a half-hour before you need it.

Preparing Vegetables

First, you have to wash them.  Raw veggies come with germs and sometimes anti-bug spray all over them.  So you take a handful of whatever you are dealing with and turn on the faucet, hoping you won’t drop half your handful into the sink and have to wash it all over again.  If you’re smart and don’t mind dirtying up yet another thing you’ll have to wash later, you can use a colander.

Cutting raw veggies is another thing; this requires a knife, which requires coordination.  If you are cutting carrots into ½ inch pieces, ensure you don’t cut your fingers into ½ inch pieces, too.  Oh, and use a cutting board.  Your kitchen counter will thank you.

Cooking Meat and Fish

Don’t ask me why, but you must “brown” meat and fish before putting them in the oven.  Just do it, and don’t complain.

If you are a safety fanatic, buy a meat thermometer and ensure your stuff cooks at the right temperature.  You probably won’t bother doing this if you are average.  Just be sure your animal-based food is cooked all the way through, and you probably won’t die from eating it.  I haven’t died yet, or I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this.

The Easy Way

Buy a pre-prepared meal or some takeout and stick it in the microwave.

What to Do Afterward

Eat the food you have cooked.  If you don’t live by yourself, give some of it to the lucky people who share your domicile.

You will have a sink and a stovetop full of dirty dishes, utensils, and pans.  If you are lucky, you can put them in a dishwasher and press a button.  You’ll have to wash them all by hand if you are not lucky because they will not wash themselves.  Do it and get it over with.

I hope this little instruction sheet has helped whoever needed help before reading this.  If not, I hope I didn’t confuse you too much.


Monday, April 25, 2022

The World's Worst Earworm

Summer must be very near because the Mister Softee trucks patrol the neighborhood.  At least there is one of them wandering around here.  It makes its presence known by broadcasting the world’s worst earworm:  the Mister Softee Ice Cream Truck Song.

That little tinkly tune goes into your ears, heads for your brain, winds its way around and then loses its way out.  In other words, it won’t leave, and it plays itself again and again in a maddening loop.

Singing it out loud doesn’t help, and doing that simply makes the tune dig deeper into your brain.  Singing another melody to yourself gives temporary relief, but once you stop singing the new song, the Mister Softee song comes back stronger than ever.  Either that, or the latest song becomes a new earworm, and everything is as wrong as ever.  In other words, don’t bother trying this remedy.  You’ll drive yourself crazy.

Another option is to try to forget about the song by getting busy doing something that has nothing to do with ice cream, trucks, or music.  Don’t bother.  The jingle will continue to sing itself in your brain even while you are doing dishes, playing on the computer, or doing whatever task you can think of. 

All things must end, and the Mister Softee song will eventually die in your brain – until the truck comes lilting by again.

Monday, April 4, 2022

Growing Up Minicozzi: School Days

WARNING:  This is going to be another serious essay.  Please don’t say I didn’t tell you.

It has taken me a lifetime of spiritual and psychological growth to overcome the mental and emotional problems I had as a kid.  I was a pathologically shy, homely, unpopular child who couldn’t stop daydreaming.  It was an attention deficit without hyperactivity.  I would check out mentally, like Walter Mitty in the famous short story by James Thurber.  As you can imagine, this caused problems and sometimes embarrassment when I missed something going on around me because my mind had been twenty million miles away.  In addition, I was so shy that I was afraid to approach other kids.  The result was that other kids ignored me and found me weird.  I was not invited to parties.  I never went to a dance.  I never had a date.  My self-esteem was so bad that it never occurred to me that any boy would find me attractive.

With one exception, I was never bullied, for which I am thankful.  That exception occurred in the Seventh Grade when a mischievous kid named Jim was seated behind me in the last seat in our row.  Across from Jim sat Tim, who, unfortunately, provided an audience for Jim when he was tormenting me.  Jim’s favorite trick was to poke me in the ribs and make me twitch, feeding him and his buddy with loads of silent hilarity across the aisle.  My Mom always told me to ignore people who were bothering me because they would stop if I didn’t give them any attention.  I believed her.  I never responded to Jim or confronted him.  It didn’t work.  My lack of response only made the hilarity stronger.  Eventually, the teacher took pity on me and moved Jim to another seat in front of the room, where she could keep an eye on him.  He never bothered me again after that.

I went through elementary school as a class outcast, but I managed to make friends with a couple of other girls who were also outside the school hierarchy, and they became my best friends.  When I was in the Seventh Grade, my singing voice was discovered when I was asked to sing a phrase in class.  My Seventh Grade teacher reported this discovery to my piano teacher, who arranged for me to be accepted as a voice student in a local music school with a partial scholarship.  Music was my savior.  Here was something I could do, a talent that only a couple of the other kids had.  It was something on which I could focus and on which I could attach some ambition and dreams.  It started my journey toward becoming an opera singer, which would be my life’s vocation.  That is a subject of another essay for another time.

High school was no different from elementary school.  My shyness was beginning to lift a little, but not enough, and a lifetime of being cut off from other kids had created habits of isolation that were hard to break.  In addition, life at home with an alcoholic father could be hellish at times.  My friendships with my two friends continued, and so did my singing lessons.  These two things probably saved me from ending up in a mental hospital.  Something happened at the end of my junior year, though, which caused me a lot of hurt, to the point where I switched in my senior year and attended a different high school.

It was a tradition in our school for the outgoing senior class to “will” things to the junior class.  These would not be anything really tangible; they would be nostalgic, funny, or sentimental.  I was the only member of the junior class who was left out.  Nobody “willed” me anything.  I sat in the gymnasium, where the assembly was, waiting to hear my name called.  I waited in vain.  I cried on the bus all the way home, trying to hide my tears from the other riders.

In the high school to which I transferred in my senior year, I was not any more popular, but there were theatrical and musical activities that kept me busy enough.

We often wish we could go back to our younger days, knowing what we know now.  I wish I could show my younger self what I have now become and get her to believe that she was beautiful, valuable, capable, and, yes, likable.

Friday, April 1, 2022

Growing Up Minicozzi

WARNING:  This is one of my serious essays.  It isn't funny.  You are welcome to read on, however.

You’d never know it to look at me now, but I was a shy, awkward, and unpopular child.  I got off to a bad start with the other kids and stayed that way throughout school and beyond.  I was never actively hated.  Nobody bullied me, at least most of the time.  But I was studiously ignored by the other kids and sometimes ridiculed.  I wasn’t invited to parties.  I never attended a dance, including proms.  I never had a date.  It never occurred to me that any boy would find me attractive.

I had no self-esteem whatsoever, some of which was due to my father’s verbal abuse, which was considerable.  He was an alcoholic, and when he had been drinking, he could get very mean with us.  To his friends, he was the life of the party.  He was verbally abusive to those of us he was supposed to love.  I thank God he never hit any of us.  He stuck to words, but he might as well have beat us because his words hurt, and they left emotional scars, some of which I am still trying to deal with at age 76.  He was a good man when he was sober, but he was a mean drunk as far as his family was concerned.

(No, Dad, I never played tackle for the 49ers.  I have always been a big girl and a big lady, but I was a GIRL, and I became a WOMAN.  Attacking my femininity because of my size was not cool.)

In my Dad’s defense, I have some good memories of him.  He would sometimes sit at the piano with me, and we would sing popular songs together.  He had a pleasant baritone voice, and it was fun to sing with him.  It was a good way of bonding.  We even had some nice talks sometimes.  So yes, there were good times, too.

My Dad passed away in his 50s from what started as lung cancer.  When he was in the hospital dying, I traveled back across the country to see him for one last time.  Cancer and chemotherapy had reduced him to skin and bones, and the full head of hair he always had was gone.  I would not have recognized him if I had not known who it was lying there in that bed.  At one point, I took his hand and held it.  I was never sure if he recognized me.  But I think he was waiting for me.  When I got back to my home in Boston, I was told he had passed on.  I couldn’t travel back across the country for his funeral, so I missed it.  But I’m glad I got to visit him in his last days, hold his hand, and maybe be recognized by him.

This started out to be about my school days, but I digressed.  That can happen sometimes.  Maybe my next essay will be about my school days.  Stay tuned.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Master Class

My senior center offered me a year’s membership to the Master Class website free of charge.  Of course, I took advantage of this offer.  The site offers a cornucopia of courses taught by famous, highly successful people.  As a would-be writer, I found this too tempting to pass up.  Where else could I get classes taught by the likes of David Sedaris and Joyce Carol Oates?  I lept at the chance.

In my defense, I have taken the complete course offered by David Sedaris.  I found it very informative and David Sedaris very captivating.  I have also begun to take Joyce Carol Oates’ class.  However, I have that one on “pause” right now.  Instead, I went through a course in comedy by Steve Martin.  I have no ambition to become a standup comedian.  The idea of standing in front of an audience trying to be funny gives me royal conniptions.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love performing.  I have spent most of my adult life as a professional opera and concert singer.  I just don’t like the kind of performing where you have to talk extemporaneously instead of singing and where people can talk back to you if they don’t like you.  So why did I go all the way through a course by Steve Martin?  If you know the answer to that question, please tell me.

I am now going through a course in Country Music taught by Reba McEntire.  I don’t sing country music.  I like it, but I don’t sing it.  I have an operatic voice, and any attempt by me to sing in country style sounds ridiculous.  So why do I find this course fascinating while Joyce Carol Oates’ class is still on hold?  Again, please don’t ask me.  You’ll just get a silly answer.

I think my next class will be on writing or something related to it.  After all, my year’s subscription to the site will expire, and I will have to decide if I want to pay their yearly price and continue.  I’d better get all the writing instruction I can before the decision-making time comes if I choose to be frugal for a change.

In the meantime, Reba McEntire will still tell me how to sing country music, whether I plan to do it or not.


I don’t know what prehistoric housewives did to keep dust off their furniture if they had any.   If they did anything at all, it must have b...