Archives for November 2014

How (Not) to Cook Peanut Butter: A Short Video by Antonia Somers

Most days I work from home and my eight-year-old daughter, Antonia, is at school. But, this week, she is off for Thanksgiving vacation and, as luck would have it, I had to go to one of my client’s offices for a brief meeting. I say brief, because maybe I was gone two hours, including driving time. Antonia stayed at home with my boyfriend’s daughter, Emma – a responsible, 13-year-old honors student. I had no doubt that they would be safe while I was gone.

I instructed them to be good, clean up after themselves, and “don’t burn down the house” – something I say each time I leave them home alone – just in case, and headed out the door.

After four attempts to FaceTime me in the middle of my meeting, all of which I declined (“Are you kidding me?” I said to my colleagues, both whom are also moms. “Antonia is trying to FaceTime me!” Since they both know my daughter, they were not surprised.), Antonia decided to get my attention by sending this video to my phone instead:


“She is special,” one colleague said to me, laughing. “I mean, really special.

When I returned home, everything appeared normal. Emma had made Antonia another sandwich on “regular” bread since the last piece of gluten-free bread suffered a slow death in the microwave. Nobody died of starvation and remarkably, the kitchen looked pretty normal. I inspected the inside of the microwave expecting to see peanut butter splattered all over. Nothing.

“It must not have been that bad,” I told Antonia and Emma. “Or, you guys did a great job cleaning it up.”

“It wasn’t that bad,” Antonia said. “The bread was just stuck to the plate, but Emma scraped it off.”

“How long did you put it in the microwave?” I asked.

“Not long, Mom,” Antonia replied. “Only a minute.”

I went to the sink to inspect the plate in question expecting to see charcoaled bread varnished to our white plate after an entire minute under 1200 watts of power. Nothing. The plate had a few crumbs on it, but was otherwise absent from evidence. If Antonia hadn’t sent me a video, I would have never known there was a mishap.

“Ok,” I told them. “You obviously handled it well and cleaned up the mess, so no harm done. Next time you want a warm peanut butter sandwich,” I said to Antonia, “try toasting the bread first and then putting peanut butter on it. Goof.”

Later that same evening, when I was assessing the contents of the refrigerator to see what I could scrounge up for dinner, I saw something in my peripheral vision. On the wall to my left about knee-high was…peanut butter? I inspected more closely. Sure enough, there was a glob of peanut butter stuck to the wall alongside the fridge. I wiped it off, puzzled, and continued my search for dinner.

A few hours later as I was standing at the stove, something caught my eye above my head on the cabinet near the kitchen sink. I stood under it and looked up to see that it was also a glob of peanut butter. I summoned the girls to the kitchen.

“I have a question,” I said to them both as they assembled before me. “Why was there a glob of peanut butter over here,” I bent down to point to the spot on the wall by the fridge, “and another one over here?” I crossed the kitchen and reached above my head to the cabinet by the sink.

The girls laughed and looked around the kitchen. “What?!” Emma said, incredulously.

“Oh my gosh!” Antonia exclaimed. “Emma had to scrape the bread off the plate with a knife ‘cuz it was so stuck!”

“Yeah, and when I did,” Emma continued, “it kinda flew off the plate and hit the counter, but I don’t know how it got up there and down there!”

Me neither. And, I’m not sure I want to know.

Only five more days until the girls go back to school.

Why My Dogs Smell Like Chicken: Don’t Try this at Home

My dogs smell like chicken. I noticed this the other night when I bent down to give Friedrich a kiss on the top of his head. Instead of his usual dog smell, he was emitting a scent that strongly resembled roasted chicken, and I think I figured out why.

Friedrich and Maya like to form different shapes in their spare time.

A few weeks ago, my boyfriend, Albie, and I noticed that our two dogs, Maya, a white lab mix, and Friedrich, the Belgian Shepherd, were scratching themselves more than usual. Then, Friedrich assumed his signature napping pose – belly up, paws in the air – and as I rubbed his tummy, I saw a little black bug running for cover.

“OH MY GOD. FRED HAS FLEAS!” I exclaimed to Albie. “In 10 years he has never had fleas. How could this happen? Do you think Maya gave them to Fred?” We immediately began searching Maya and found another tiny black insect burrowing for cover in Maya’s thick white fur.

“I have no idea,” Albie replied. “Maya has never had fleas either.” Then, in his calm, let’s-not-point-fingers-let’s-just-solve-the-problem voice, he said, “It really doesn’t matter which dog had them first, Karla. We just need to get rid of the fleas.”

Instead of spending the day an outdoor festival with music and food and fun like we had planned, we spent that Sunday afternoon de-fleaing our dogs and the house. We washed their beds; we vacuumed every floor; we sprinkled anti-flea powder on carpets and upholstery; and we gave the dogs a bath. Well, a shower actually. In Dawn dish detergent as the guy at the pet store instructed.

We have been faithfully applying a harmful, chemically based, monthly anti-flea treatment to the dogs’ backs. We are against treating our dogs with harmful chemicals, but we are against fleas even more. It didn’t work. I explained this to the guy at the pet store. “We have been putting that expensive flea repellant on their backs every month.” I told him. “How could they possibly have gotten fleas?”

“Yeah, that stuff doesn’t work,” said the guy, matter-of-factly. “Try this natural remedy. It’s much more effective.” He sold us natural oil in a tube that we had to rub into the dogs’ backs, and anti-flea carpet powder. Ninety-something dollars later, as we were walking out of the store, the guy called to us, “Oh, by the way. Give ‘em a bath in Dawn dish liquid. You’ll see the fleas drop right off ‘em.”

So, there we were, on a beautiful, sunny, Sunday afternoon cleaning the house and washing everything the dogs may or may not have come in contact with in the last six weeks. I was shuddering to think my home had become a breeding ground for fleas. It was bad enough that I had to kill a spider every once in a while, but now I had to consider the very real possibility that there were hundreds – maybe thousands – of flea eggs embedded in my carpet. I vacuumed with a fervor I usually reserve for scrubbing a temporary tattoo of my daughter’s face.

We bathed the dogs in Dawn, and sure enough, fleas dropped out of their fur like little paratroopers jumping to safety after enemy bullets had pummeled their airplane. We applied the natural oil down the dogs’ backs and that night, when we assembled their freshly washed beds, felt confident we had obliterated any living insect in the house.

We soon learned that feeling of confidence was false. As the days passed, the dogs continued to scratch and itch. We continued to see fleas scurrying deeper into their fur.

Friedrich's signature napping pose.

Friedrich’s signature napping pose.

“I’m going to tell that pet store guy I want my money back!” I told Albie. “The chemical treatment didn’t work and the natural treatment didn’t work either. Now what?” I implored. My whole body felt itchy. “I feel like fleas are crawling all over me! Look! Is this a bite?” I yanked at my shirt and pointed to my neck.

“Fleas are not crawling all over you,” Albie reassured me, inspecting the back of my neck.

“Are you sure?” I asked desperately. “Did you see anything trying to hide in my hair?”

“No,” Albie laughed. “Nothing is trying to hide in your hair, Karla. I’m sure they prefer the dogs’ fur over your head.” I wasn’t convinced.

“I have an idea,” I told him. “Let’s invite the neighbor’s dog over for a day and have him hang out with our dogs and then when all the fleas have jumped off of our dogs and onto him, we’ll send him back to his own house and our house will be free of fleas.”

“Are you serious?” Albie asked, looking at me like I had lost my mind. Which I did. Briefly. Fleas will do that to a person.

“Yes,” I told him. “Is that wrong?”

I liked our neighbors and their sweet, white retriever, so instead I typed, “what can you put on a dog with fleas” online and found an article called, “Six ways to naturally prevent and get rid of fleas on dogs,” which instructed me to spray them with a water-vinegar mixture and put apple cider vinegar in their drinking water, which I proceeded to do every single day since reading the article.

“Is it OK to let them drink so much vinegar?” I wondered out loud. Then, as I scrolled down the blog post, I read: Not only does it deter fleas, it improves a pup’s skin and coat condition from the inside out. Outstanding.

So, Maya and Friedrich have been drinking vinegar water and licking the solution off their coats each time we spray them. The fleas are still having a field day on their furry playgrounds, and the dogs now smell like chicken. Apparently, that’s a pleasant side effect of drinking vinegar.


*Update: Since writing this story, we ultimately had to bring the dogs to the vet where they were promptly bathed, treated for fleas and prescribed with a new and improved, even more expensive anti-flea medication. I am happy to report, several hundred dollars later, the fleas are obliterated and the dogs no longer smell like chicken.