Hazardous Duty, by Christy Barritt

Y’all… I finally found an author who writes in my genre! Well, almost. Christy Barritt’s “Squeaky Clean Mysteries” books are all-out mysteries that are suspenseful and sometimes macabre, while always hilarious. In fact, she’s as goofy as I am, if not more so. I’ve devoured several of her books in the last few weeks, but for now, I’ll settle on one to recommend.

Hazardous Duty, released in 2008, is the first in Barritt’s series. (Some may think that’s old, but Barritt produced fifteen stories in the series and I suggest starting with this title.) Her main character is Gabby St. Claire, whose studies in forensic science got slightly derailed into a crime-scene cleaning business. In this book, Gabby does a really thorough job at a house where the victim was shot. In fact, she finds significant evidence which the police missed. She does her best to insert herself and her observations into the investigation, annoying the detectives to no end.

Image credit: ChristyBarritt.com

Gabby’s friends are all sort of quirky. Come to think of it, so is she. She isn’t just a goofball, though… I developed a strong sympathy for her. Complex characters, humorous moments both slapstick and subtle, and a genuine mystery all come together to make this book a Great Weekend Read.

Find it at Barritt’s website, or on Amazon.

PS: Barritt also has multiple series of suspense novels that I’ve delved into and enjoy.

Thanks for reading,

Jan

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Appliance Agitation

Here we go again… not long ago, I was relaxing on the patio with a good novel while a load of cycling clothes and other truly gross stuff was in the wash. Everything was fine until Brent popped his head out the back door and said, “The washer is making a weird noise.” I sighed and went to check it out.

He was right. It sounded like a cross between a freight train and someone trying to start a car with a weak battery.

According to the knob, the machine was in the Spin cycle. We opened the lid to find the washed clothes just sitting there, having a spa day in the dirty water that was supposed to be draining out of the tub.

Not cool. (By the way, that damage in the center was from years earlier when I working on a sewing project. Who damages their washing machine while sewing?)

Brent suggested I should be the one to choose the new machine, since I’m the laundry guru. We’d been under “shelter in place” for a few weeks by this time, so I was happy to skitter off to Lowe’s. Brent stayed to fish the Lycra out of its sudsy hot tub. Did I mention he’s a hero?

After two hours of looking at machines/considering pros & cons, I came home to find the bikewear all rinsed and neatly hung on the pool fence. Don’t worry; those little things on the spikes aren’t shrunken heads, just our cycling socks.

I gave Brent the good news that I’d bought a Maytag. It would arrive on the next delivery date. Eleven days away.

A look of horror crossed his face. “ELEVEN DAYS??”

“You seem skeptical.”

“ELEVEN? DAYS?”

“Sure. It’s no problem–I can hand wash whatever we need until then.”

After all, we have a sink in the laundry room. Plus enough T-shirts to last until the week before Thanksgiving. Besides, the dryer still works. I pictured swishing a few lightweight items around in the sink, giving them a good rinse under the spray faucet, and tossing them into the dryer.

Brent pictured my suggestion a little differently:

Re-enactment of an imaginary event. No rocks or laundry were harmed.

Okay, fine. The next morning, I called Lowe’s to cancel the order. Brent researched washing machines and found a local indie dealer who could deliver a Speed Queen the same day. The new machine even has some of the old-school features I like!

And so, our wardrobe maintenance hasn’t missed a beat.

But just watch the rest of the appliances talk the Speed Queen into joining the revolt.

Thanks for reading,

Jan

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Useless–Or Not

I’ll tell you, this “Shelter-in-place” thing doesn’t keep a person very busy. I mean, sure, I could clean house–but I’m not that desperate.

Anyway, I’ve done a fair amount of light reading lately. In one story, a character complained that someone else was “as useless as the ‘g’ in lasagna.” Which gave me a laugh — I’d never heard that one before.

But then I got to thinking (shelter-in-place also lends itself to thinking)… Is the ‘g’ in lasagne really useless? After all, you don’t pronounce it.

Normally, the purpose of each letter letter in the alphabet is to represent one (or more) sounds in speech. But not always! In Italian words like ‘lasagne,’ the ‘g’ tells you to pronounce the ‘n’ differently: ‘n-e’ is pronounced ‘nyeh’ instead of ‘neh.’ The ‘gn’ is like the ‘ñ’ in Spanish.

We need silent letters in English, too. They let us distinguish between ‘pane’ and ‘pan’; ‘dime’ and ‘dim.’

Then I got to thinking (on about the third cup of coffee) about other things that seem useless because they don’t serve what we think of as their normal function. Or because we don’t like them.

Say your car breaks down [or in my case, more likely an appliance] and needs repair. This huge inconvenience might just keep you off the road long enough to avoid a serious traffic accident. Or the repair process could even bring some important contact or relationship into your life.

And what about the student with some physical handicap that keeps him from excelling at a sport he loves? I’m sure we have all heard stories about that one kid who serves on the support / equipment / water boy squad. Rather than look down on him for his lack of athletic talent, the jocks come to love and appreciate him. He elevates the whole team by inspiring their understanding, humility, and compassion.

Setbacks and frustrations may seem useless–just a waste of time and energy. But I have it on excellent authority that nothing can thwart God’s good purpose for you.

As near as I can figure, since God wastes nothing, we shouldn’t dismiss any experience as “useless.”

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have this sudden urge to go make lasagne.

Thanks for reading,

Jan

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Curb Your Enthusiasm!

Late last summer, our second Italy bicycle tour was closing in fast. Time to start hitting some hills! So one Saturday, I hopped on Sully and took off for a hilly climbers’ playground neighborhood near Joe Pool Lake.

After an hour or so of climbs, I was feeling strong and working up a sweat. Soon I’d start home. But first… a quick rest break at the nearby fire station. There’s a little lobby with a water fountain and restroom. I pulled into the wide fire-engine drive and aimed my weary self toward the shade at the opposite end of the building.

Both bike and brain coasted along. Until the raised sidewalk separating the garage drive from the parking lot appeared just in front of my wheel. I grabbed the brakes but it was too late. Sully jarred into the curb and I went over onto my right side.

A quick inventory revealed that all limbs were still present and functional… though one knee, sporting a patch of road rash, was going to be stiff. Sully was a different story. I tried rolling him to the fire station porch, but his back wheel wouldn’t budge.

Fine. I carried him.

No point in calling Brent–he was out on his bike somewhere. Maybe someone could give me a ride home? So I started scrolling through my phone contact list.

Some of these people I haven’t talked to in years. Others, I don’t even remember who they are. Some friends are inconsiderately located out of state.

I sat on a bench, tapping my phone against my chin and trying to decide what to do next.

A cyclist rode by. I sort of grudged that this guy wasn’t having any mechanical issu–wait–

That’s Brent!

I was gonna yell and chase him down, but he was turning in to the station anyway.

He was glad to see me… until he got a good look at my bike. Dripping with sweat, he managed to yank my rear derailleur out of the spokes where it had been jammed. I could pedal but not change gears.

I made the ten miles home without too much trouble. The next thing was to have the rear derailleur replaced.

One slight problem. My 10-speed derailleur was obsolete–no replacements. I’d have to switch to a new 12-speed one. No biggie, right?

Wrong.

The 12-speed required a 12-cog freewheel (cassette). Fine. Only the wider arrangement required a new wider-range front derailleur…

It was like a really expensive version of “If you Give a Mouse a Cookie.”

We ended up replacing every single bit of the drive train. I was thankful we could at least keep Sully’s frame and handlebar.

I’m also thankful that I now have some seriously killer gears. Somehow those 13-percent grades don’t seem as steep as they used to.

Oh, and the tour?

It was fabulous.

Your Turn: Did you ever have an event coming up, and the preparations turned out to be waaaay more trouble and expense than the event itself? Let’s commiserate in the “Comments Welcome Here” box below.

Thanks for reading,
Jan

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A World Upside Down

Our world is upside-down, and I think I’m getting a little slap-happy being stuck at home most of the time. For instance, a commercial came on TV the other evening. The announcer said something about a “… Lindt chocolate bunny…”

Brent: “I bought two of those.”

Me: “Uh-oh! You didn’t leave them together, did you?!”

Brent: >blank look<

Me: “Wait, that could actually work out better… they’ll make more chocolate!”

Brent (gently pats my head): “Your braid is too tight.”

Yep, we can sit around watching TV and there’s chocolate in the house. We can go outside, take care of the lawn and flower beds, and ride our bikes. We can go buy groceries when we need them. Obviously, sheltering in place isn’t giving us too much trouble.

But our hearts go out to those who are ill, grieving, or under serious hardship.

People need hope.

As near as I can figure, that could account for the higher-than-usual interest in Easter this year. This pandemic puts us face-to-face with our own mortality like never before. The COVID-19 virus is killing people, not just in the US, but all over the world. As we wonder “Who’s next?” it’s natural to ask, “What’s next?” 

Looking back to the first century, we see the nation of Israel turned upside down, facing all kinds of hardship and restrictions. Kind of like our situation, except this was because of Roman oppression rather than a disease.

Along came Jesus, teaching people how very much our Creator loves everyone and wants to free us. His followers expected him to free Israel from the Romans, but he was more interested in freeing individuals from their own twisted human nature.

He came to give his life for every one of ours. And he did, on a Roman cross. Ah, but then he burst from the grave, defeating death once for all. He offers abundant life on earth and a future in glory to anyone who will trust in him.

While our 21st-century world is upside down, let’s all observe the safety guidelines, both for our own sake and for others’. But also remember the one who overcame death itself. He promises to be with us through any hardship, and cares about everything you’re dealing with.

Even if it’s just that your braid is too tight.

Thanks for reading,

Jan

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Processing… Processing…

You know you have an appliance problem when you have to plaster them with notes to yourself. Case in point…

Spring-latchy thingsWhen I cook at home, I’m prone to shred fingers along with carrots. My sliced potatoes are like snowflakes: no two slices alike. Clearly, I needed a food processor. Thanks to the recommendation of my favorite food blogger, Beauty Beyond Bones, I gained the confidence to choose one: a 14-cup model from Cuisinart.

In due time I got the goods and opened the box to free the various components from their Styrofoam straitjackets. It seemed awfully complicated. Each part featured a lot of metal springy-latchy-looking things. Clear plastic tunnels kept the latches out of my reach.

Just as well. I was sort of afraid to touch them anyway.

I turned to the instruction book.

It offered page after page of instructions and safety warnings, including how to use the assembled processor, how to clean the assembled processor, and lots of things NOT to do with the assembled processor.

That would’ve been great… if only there were some hint about how to actually assemble the processor.

The picture on the cover* shows the assembled appliance from the front. You can’t tell a thing about how the parts fit together, let alone how to latch them without breaking something.

I went to their website. Surely they’d have helpful demos, right?

Nope.

Barely visible rod

Okay, never mind. How hard can it be?

I fitted the lid onto the bowl okay, then inserted the pusher into the large food tube.  I didn’t notice  at the time, but a metal rod runs downward along one side. I unknowingly positioned that side toward the center of the lid rather than sticking out over its edge.

Looks good. Let’s try shredding some carrots.

inserts 4-inch carrot lengths into small center food tube; poises pusher above them; pushes “on” button

Nothing. Yes, it was plugged in. I checked. Twice.

Great. I have a food processor that won’t process.

One more time, let’s look at the manual.

Uhhh… where is the manual?

Honestly, it was right there, and then I couldn’t find it. I have never seen it since.

With a few unflattering remarks, I turned back to the “assembled” processor and used the trial-and-error method. As it turns out, the food pusher, the kingpin of the whole operation, was facing the wrong way. The rod on the side has to stick out over the edge of the lid. If you push it down (and you have to use some serious muscle), it forces its way into the latch tunnel on the bowl. This somehow positions all the latchy things in a way that signals the processor it’s “Safe To Turn On.”

The resulting spring-loaded array of parts looks like a medieval mouse trap and feels as if it could sproinggg apart with no warning.

BUT, five seconds after this discovery? I had a cup or so of shredded carrots.

I still can’t bear to leave the food pusher’s metal rod wedged into the latch tunnel. I mean, I can just feeeel the springs wearing out from holding their tension all the time. So I store the thing with the pusher sitting backwards. And knowing how forgetful I can be, I now have a Post-It note stuck on the pusher:

So, yeah, I’m letting this one appliance give me orders. I can only hope that doesn’t snowball into yet another mutiny.

Thanks for reading,

Jan

* Photo is NOT from the cover of the instruction book, as said book went AWOL somewhere along the line.

jj

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