The Secret Life of Melanie O.
Sunday, August 31, 2008
I remember when I was a child, how badly I wanted to be grown up. On family trips to the beach, I admired the young women in their bikinis and sunglasses as they stood in the line at the snack bar. It seemed like such an adult thing to be able to go to the beach by yourself and buy your own Cokes and hot dogs.

I looked up to the grown women in my family: my grandmothers, who always had rules about how things should be done. My mother's mother made sure that my sister and I always wore white cotton gloves whenever we went out. No one does that any more. No woman went out without a hat and lipstick and I remember my grandmother's collection of pillbox hats and liquid lip varnishes. No one makes those lip varnishes any more - at least, not the way they used to. I suspect they may have been laden with toxic chemicals.

I loved my grandmother's house with its clothes chute and huge attic. The basement had an incinerator and was divided up into separate rooms, one of which my grandfather used for his HAM radio equipment. Their house was a great place to explore, and I wanted one just like it when I grew up. I don't think anyone builds houses with clothes chutes any more, or an incinerator in the basement.

I remember my father's mother and her little dressing table that had her Moon Drops lipsticks and Pond's cold cream laid out neatly for the few times she went out. My father's mother always had a neat house and always cooked for our family when my parents took us to visit. The grown-ups used to sit around and play cards at night, while the kids colored in coloring books. Looking back, those were our halcyon days. Now that I'm a grown-up, I don't think I could re-create those days, for many reasons.

I remember my mother best, dressed in a Pucci-esque print dress. I don't know why this particular dress stands out (I think I may even have a picture of her in it somewhere), but it seems to symbolize the freedom of the late '60's. I think that was a big part of my wanting to be grown up - we just seemed to have had a lot of freedoms in those days. Isn't it funny how you can recall the past with just a snapshot, and the best snapshots of the past are the ones in your head?
posted by Melanie O. at 4:00 PM - 6 comments
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
TV Dads
I recently saw a photo of Robert Reed, who played Mike Brady on The Brady Bunch, which got me started thinking about all of the TV dads that I knew, growing up in the '60's and '70's and the images that they portrayed.

The first dads I remember were Ozzie Nelson from the The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, and Steve Douglas, from My Three Sons. These dads, while faced with the adversities of raising boys in a modern world, rarely lost their cool and approached parenting with logic, humor, and wisdom. Although someone else was writing the script, these were dads that I could look up to, and they were dads the way that I thought dads should be. Ozzie stayed married to Harriet and they supported each other and presented a (mostly) united front to their offspring. Steven Douglas, an engineer, was a widower, and his brother was brought into the family to help look after his three sons (one of whom was adopted). This show proved at once that men could be both nurturing and disciplinarians.

Amongst the widowers, TV dads gave me Tom Corbett in The Courtship of Eddie's Father, and Andy Taylor of The Andy Griffith Show. Again, the dads were wise, funny, and unflappable. They had housekeepers and maiden aunts to help raise the kids - but these dads took their responsibilities seriously.

After Mike Brady and The Brady Bunch, there was Jock Ewing of Dallas. Jock was the stern patriarch of the Ewing clan, who, despite his sons' misadventures, remained the backbone of the family and the love of Miss Ellie's life. This was a dad who was powerful, but fair, and just as much a husband as he was a father.

Some time in the '80's, though, dads got "dumbed down" and saddled with mouthy kids. The emphasis of family shows went from Father Knows Best to "It's All About Us Dad (or Mom,)" and parents got shoved to the sidelines as silent mentors at best, and became the butt of jokes, at worst. Steven Keaton of Family Ties played second fiddle to his son Alex. Child characters usurped the authority of parents in shows too numerous to mention. Dads, as characters in sitcoms especially, deteriorated to incompetent buffoons, with the noted exception of Bill Cosby, who was really a throw-back to those '60's dads. I remember the praise heaped on Mr Cosby at the time (deservedly so) - but his character of Cliff Huxtable was really a rehash of Ozzie Nelson's TV character.

When I got married the first time, I truly expected that the man that I married would be like the dads I grew up with on television. It was a harsh awakening to learn that not all men take fatherhood or being a husband with the same depth of conviction that I saw in the TV dads.

For all of the "old fashioned values" that get put down every day in the media and in our daily interactions, I'll take the old TV dads over the new ones any day.

Photos are for commentary purposes only.


posted by Melanie O. at 7:51 PM - 6 comments
Monday, August 11, 2008
The new oven
My oven died. Last year.

We took it apart to see if it could be fixed, but the bottom element was completely corroded. How it got to such a sad state, I have no idea. The oven was only 3 years old. In my mind, I see a former tenant drying engine parts in it and corrosive liquids dripping down the back ... certainly, a new oven's quality couldn't be THAT bad?

At any rate, there have been no nice baked dinners or cakes in our house for over a year. Our oven did little more than grill.

I finally saved up enough money for a replacement, and Dan and I went oven shopping. I was overjoyed to be able to pick out my own stainless steel Italian oven. It's beautiful - a fan-forced electric oven with 5 different cooking modes. I'm in heaven! The first thing I'm going to do once we install it is bake a cake!

And then came the dilemma. How to get it home? The store only delivers on Tuesdays and Thursdays, the days that I'm in the city. So, we asked around to see if we could borrow a neighbor's utility vehicle.

The clutch was broken on it.

Dan asked to borrow one from work. It was being used.

So, we went to pick it up in the old Beamer, thinking that we could angle it into the trunk. WRONG! The oven is much bigger than we thought. There was only one option left: roof racks.

A kind gentleman, as big as Dan, helped us lift it to the roof racks. Dan strapped the oven down with four different straps. This is where driving a truck comes in handy. Who'd have thought this skill would come in handy outside of work?

The oven was strapped firmly to the roof of the car, and that's when the wind picked up. I didn't think we'd make it home without the oven being blown off the roof racks and into the path of some unsuspecting car. But no - we went sailing down the road while the wind howled, whistled and groaned through the straps and often sounded like a cow in hard labor. We even got some curious gazes from cattle as we groaned our way past farmhouses.

Fortunately, we made it home in one piece and managed to slide the oven off the roof using a ramp, onto our veranda. Slowly, but surely, Dan and I got the box into the house. I have a new oven!

But the oven doesn't plug into the wall, like the old one does. It has to be hard wired. It's been several days and there it sits, in its box. Dan's trucking skills were handy..... but now we need an electrician!
posted by Melanie O. at 10:35 AM - 7 comments
Friday, August 01, 2008
The art of pizza
There have been two foods that I have loved my entire life: ice cream, and pizza. As I get older, however, I realise that I am drifting away from craving ice cream, to craving pizza. I think this goes along with the decline in the need for sweet food in my life (including chocolate. O the horror!) Whatever the reason, I'm thinking that pizza is the perfect food.

I am not sure why this is. Pizza is simple - a bread-like crust, tomato sauce, cheese, and toppings of your choice. There's variety available in the toppings, but I always seem to gravitate towards my favorite: pepperoni and onion. I know people who like ham and pineapple (fruit on a pizza is a travesty, in my opinion, unless it's a dessert pizza. I've had those, too,) meat lovers (cholesterol on a crust), veggie lovers, margherita, seafood, barbecued chicken - you name it. If it's edible, it probably can be a pizza topping.

Pizza is versatile. You can make "gourmet" style pizza with goat cheese and exotic ingredients, for formal affairs. You can cut it up into small pieces and serve it as an hors d'oeuvre. Pizza is just as at home with black ties and dresses, as it is with jeans and t-shirts. Pizza can be made at home as easily as it can be made by a pizzeria (just make sure you have a good hot oven and a ceramic pizza stone.)

Pizza can be eaten politely with a knife and fork, or folded or rolled up and eaten casually, with strings of mozzarella cheese dripping from the pizza slice to your mouth. It can be eaten hot or cold. In fact, pizza eaten cold makes a great breakfast.

I can't think of any other food that I can honestly say I don't get tired of having on a regular basis. Sunday is pizza night at our house. What's your favorite?
posted by Melanie O. at 4:51 PM - 8 comments

About Me
Name: Melanie O.
Home: Durham, North Carolina, United States
About Me: Female, American health and beauty-conscious professional who has rekindled a childhood love of dolls.
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