The End of an Era

The year was 2009. Yooper Stewart and I purchased our first home together. We packed, painted the house, and moved the week of Thanksgiving. Then, the night before turkey day — when both sets of parents were coming to our house — we discovered a tragedy.

No. More. Coffee.

It was late. It was dark. And, because this is Michigan, I’m sure it was snowing. We not only needed coffee to help us unpack, we knew we’d need it for the weekend, and there wasn’t anywhere close to buy coffee on Thanksgiving day.

No problem. Our new house is only two blocks from the grocery store! We headed over only to discover that our small grocery store offers the same disappointing coffee selection as most grocery stores — limited decaf selection.

You see, Yooper Stewart and I are a rare breed. We drink coffee because we like the taste; we don’t actually like the caffeine. Unfortunately, we like the taste of good coffee. In a perfect world, we could pick up Swiss water processed French roast decaf at any corner market. In reality, we’re lucky if most places have anything better than breakfast blend Colombia beans (bleh).

Back in 2009, we bought club-sized organic bags of decaf from Sam’s Club, but we couldn’t wait 36 hours to buy coffee, so we did it. We bought Maxwell House.

I don’t know why we bought such a large container, but we did. And it was terrible. I think we may have dumped the grounds after we were able to make it to the Club for our regular brew. The club bag didn’t fit in the cupboard, however, so we made a decision — keep the Maxwell House tub and refill it with our favorite beans.

For the past decade, we’ve done exactly that. There are now so many more decaf options available that we’ve never run out, but our coffee always comes in a bag, and the plastic air-tight tub is much more convenient (and clean!). The Maxwell House tub has been good to us, but it’s time to move on. We got a new couch and new toilets — it was time for a new coffee container. It was an unexpectedly emotional goodbye for Yooper Stewart, so we captured the moment on film (he has pictures of his shirts from high school too — the guy is so sentimental).

There’s a happy end to this story, though. Our coffee finally has a new grown-up home, and the Maxwell House container shall live on in the garage as Yooper Stewart’s new nuts-and-bolts box. It’s a good ending for everyone.

Peas or Plumbing?

Earlier this year I made a commitment to eat healthier. Part of that commitment: vegetables with every meal. That sounds simple enough, but let’s be honest—sometimes you can’t figure out how to pair broccoli with pancakes and other times you’re too tired (or lazy) to cook more than macaroni and cheese with hot dogs.

I haven’t figure out how to make broccoli and pancakes work yet, but I’ve mastered the mac and cheese and dogs conundrum—peas. Grab yourself a bag of frozen peas, pour them in, and viola! Veggies with dinner. Last month I made such a dinner; one digestive cycle later, however, and I had a predicament.

After the necessary rigamarole of eating, digesting, and eliminating dinner, I went about my business. Because I work from home, I tend to drink a lot of coffee, then drink a lot of water to counteract the acidity of the coffee. You see where this is going? Back to the bathroom. No big deal. I’m used to it. What I’m not used to, however, are peas floating in my toilet.

That’s right. I don’t know if I consumed too many peas, failed to properly digest them, or my plumbing failed, but a stubborn cluster of peas floated through the toilet. It didn’t concern me though. Surely they’d drown in my excess of coffee and water.

But they didn’t.

Huddled together, clinging to the surface, those peas tormented me through my coffee break, lunch, afternoon snack, and the next dinner! I had no choice but to warn my husband and ask for his assistance. Oddly elated to be asked to help in such a situation, my truck driver husband swelled with pride at the knowledge that nothing could survive an encounter with his digestive output.


Those stupid tiny veggies-I-had-to-have-at-dinner mocked me as they swam laps around my commode. But what if they weren’t mocking me? What if the peas were suffering (what I can only imagine must have been a torturous existence) because of our bad plumbing? We know our house has some issues that we’ve been saving up to fix, but it never occurred to me that our decision to be fiscally responsible would lead to the unnecessary anguish of innocent pisum sativum.

There was no time to test the theory, though. After dozens of flushes, the peas remained, and the cleaning lady was coming! I had a choice to make: my pride or my strainer? Being the frugal woman that I am, my strainer won, so when the cleaning lady arrived I had to explain the Pea vs. Plumbing debacle. I don’t know what she did or how she did it, but that afternoon I enjoyed a pea-less toilet.

The moral to this story? Sometimes we have issues in our lives that we can’t figure out. It doesn’t matter who’s to blame—the mutant peas or the failing plumbing. What matters is how you respond to the situation. Are you willing to risk your pride to ask for help? I’m glad I did (though I’m hesitant to eat peas anytime soon).

Hangry Stewart

Hangry: When you are so hungry that your lack of food causes you to become angry, frustrated or both. (Urban Dictionary)

For the first thirty years of my life, I had no concept of the word hangry. It never made sense to me. If you get hungry, eat! There’s no reason to get upset. Just grab an apple, and get back to work.

And then I met Yooper Stewart. Hard working, handsome, sweetest-guy-you’ll-ever-meet.

I won’t lie: the first several years of our marriage were hard. We didn’t live together before we got married, so it wasn’t just being married that we had to figure out. We had to learn all about each other’s habits and living styles (and let me tell you—as one of three daughters—living with a man for the first time opened my eyes to whole new levels of clutter and body odors).

One thing I never would have anticipated: an adult man who’s incapable of identifying his body’s hunger cues. Someone who could wake up a confident, capable man, then regress to toddler-like logic and confusion by lunch time.

For years, we argued. I tried to reason with my overly sensitive husband, but he always found something else to whine about. His whining annoyed me. My annoyance frustrated him. His frustration made me anger. Eventually there would be yelling and tears.

More than a decade later, I’m starting to figure him out. This past weekend*, for example, went something like this…

YS: (holding an empty plastic storage container) I don’t know what to do with this.

Me: We don’t use it for anything. We could get rid of it.

YS: (sigh) I guess I could use it for my Lego store.

Me: I thought you were closing that, and you already have stacks of containers.

YS: Fine! (throws container into recycle bin)

Me: We don’t have to throw it away. We could donate it.

YS: (cue toddler voice) But then we’d have to wash it!

Me: What the heck? So we wash it! What are— (realization)

Me: (pours a bowl of cereal, pushes it toward Yooper Stewart, slowly backs away)


YS: I’m going to run to the store, then get started in the yard and work out in the garage. Do you need anything?

Crisis averted.

And that, my friends, is why I carry snacks with me everywhere.

*Yooper Stewart would like to go on the record as saying that he’s pretty sure I was hangry this past weekend, and that I may have been overreacting a bit too. (Doubtful, but I promised I’d let you know.)

Life Hacks with Yooper Stewart

Yooper Stewart Bed Frame Flavor Bars. Patent pending.

Meijer – the preferred retail store of Midwesterners. It’s also where Yooper Stewart and I regularly hang out. We not only grocery shop, we restock his Amazon store, buy clothes, and laugh uncontrollably at ourselves as we cruise the aisles, often with a tactical shopping cart (a YS term for the smaller, dual-basket carts).

On our most recent trip to Meijer, Yooper Stewart clued me in to some of his redneck-inspired life hacks. Here are three of my favorites:

  1. Weekend Wear: why bother with an entire wardrobe when you can wear one outfit all weekend (saving yourself time and money)? Here’s how it works: take a shower Friday night, then put on a clean shirt. Wear that shirt to bed, and to your family picnic the next day, then to bed again. No muss. No fuss. No coconuts – just the same shirt all weekend.
  2. Flavor Bars: Open your gas grill. Look into it – below the grates you’ll see some metal strips. These strips cover the flames, protecting the fire from going out while also adding flavor to your food (the drippings heat on the metal, creating smoke and adding flavor). After a while the flavor bars may need to be replaced. Normal people go to the store and buy replacement bars. Yooper Stewart disassembled a bed frame and used pieces of it in our grill. Since I’m not keen on the flavor of burned paint on my food, I wanted to buy real replacement flavor bars. So there we are in Meijer – Yooper Stewart and I arguing because he didn’t trust the quality of the store-bought flavor bars. You know – the ones specifically designed and made for a grill. His argument: store-bought flavor bars will only last 10-15 years; his bars will survive at least two generations of grill masters. It took fifteen minutes to convince him that the store-bought bars were probably a better option than Aunt Linda’s old bed frame.
  3. The Belt. I have no words. Instead, I’ll let you see for yourself.

I can’t wait to see what I learn from him the next time he’s home!

By Any Means Necessary (aka Hunting Yooper Stewart Style)

(WARNING: Graphic photos below – if you are squeamish about dead animals, stop now!)

For the past two years my husband has battled the woods and the elements in an attempt to score some organically-raised, free-range venison (aka he’s gone deer hunting). As the new guy at work, however, he’s the last to get vacation time for this event, and seeing as the rifle season is only two-weeks long, he’s limited to an hour here and there before and after work. After a few days of non-stop working and hunting, he’s usually exhausted and hasn’t been able to kill anything yet.

The year he tried something different – he smashed our car into a deer.wreck

It wasn’t actually by choice, and it did cause quite a bit of damage to our car, but Yooper Stewart is safe, the car is fully covered, and YS finally managed to bag a buck (a 7-point buck at that). As luck would have it, YS was actually pulling the trailer, so he tossed the great car-killer into the back and brought it home.



Technically YS still had to get to work (he was on his way before the little run-in), but his deer-hunting boss understood the value of free, fresh meat. A friend offered to process the deer for us, but not until the following week. With the predicted temperatures at 75 degrees for the day, YS had to at least gut and cool the carcass in order to preserve it.


After watching a demonstration on YouTube and talking with a friend about proper technique, YS started the process of gutting a deer – the first time he’s done this in 20 years. (FYI – “How to Gut a Deer in Eight Minutes” works on YouTube with an experienced hunter gutting a deer conveniently located on a hill. For the rest of us, plan on half an hour).


I’ll spare you the really gross pictures (though we have them – my aunt took pictures of EVERYTHING). After the gutting, YS had to rinse the deer well. Having hit him with the car, some of the intestines exploded, releasing its contents into the deer. YS took his time cleaning – no one wants deer poop in their venison.



As I said, with predicted temps in the mid-seventies, cooling the carcass was critical. The original plan included a tarp and bags of ice, but then it occurred to us – we had an empty chest freezer in the garage! Commence operation Freezer Stuff.


The whole dragging-to-the-freezer process humored me (especially when this happened), but then YS needed help getting the deer into the freezer. That required me touching the deer. I’m not all that squeamish, but touching the deer’s head…I know it’s not possible, but I kept expecting it to wake up and thrash. I don’t know why that was my biggest fear, but it was. Regardless, I’m keen on the idea of “free” meat for the winter, so I sucked it up.

He wasn’t a natural fit for the freezer, so YS grabbed a hatchet and got creative. (Icky picture below).



That will work for now (and it will guarantee that my chest freezer gets a head-to-toe, inside-and-out soak and scrub down with commercial strength hydrogen peroxide – to be performed by YS).


It may not be exactly how YS planned to provide meat for his family, but it worked, and now he has a nice, 7-point rack to show off.

Yooper Stewart’s Grocery Games

Grocery shopping: a constant test of discipline and concentration.

Yooper Stewart and I don’t have a good history of grocery shopping. One day we walked into Meijer with a list of 8-9 items. We left with a cart full of food and a $180 bill. After that I decided we shouldn’t shop together anymore. The Meijer is, unfortunately, not very close to my house, and I don’t like to drive. YS works a couple of miles from the store, so it’s tempting to send him there after work. We’ve tried this route a few times, but we still have a few kinks to work out.

1. Coupons: I’m not sure how he does it, but Yooper Stewart can’t keep track of coupons. He’s prone to leave them in his car or, my personal favorite, see a coupon for one brand of coffee creamer, but come home with the other.

2. Tired wandering: Yooper Stewart has a physical job. After work, he’s tired. Meijer doesn’t just sell food; they have garden supplies, camping gear, and Legos. It can sometimes take him over an hour to buy a dozen items.

3. Four pears, three people: YS isn’t the greatest buyer of produce. We now have three adults in our home, but he doesn’t think about that when buying fruit. He buys just enough to fill the produce bag. That often means four pears for three people, which translates into another trip to the store, which usually means another night of cruising the Lego aisle.

4. Sales: YS loves a sale. He can’t pass them up. I once asked for a bottle of antacids. He came home with five bottles (and thousands of tablets). We haven’t bought Tums in years. More recently I wanted some cream cheese. Instead of 4-5 8 oz. blocks of cheese, I ended up with 10+ 7 oz. tubs of plain and flavored cream cheese. I didn’t really need it (or want it), but at least it didn’t cost much.

We still haven’t figured out a fool-proof shopping technique, but we make it work (even if it means using honey cream cheese in the lasagna). At least it keeps dinners interesting!

Yooper Stewart Cooks … Sort Of

Last week was a crazy-busy week for me, so I asked Yooper Stewart to give me a hand. He was skeptical, but when I showed him that I already had the ingredients – he only needed to put it together – he agreed. There’s no one cuter in the kitchen (over the age of 12) than my honey, YS.


Even in the kitchen he wears his uniform – jeans and a hoodie. It amuses me that he cooks with one hand in his pocket.




Sloppy Joes – he had the onions and peppers chopped and measured about two hours prior to dinner time. The house stunk because of the red onions, but it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make to get a little bit of help in the kitchen.


Without question the most entertaining part of the evening included Pillsbury biscuits. It was late before I realized I didn’t have any buns, so I suggested insta-biscuits. Yooper Stewart was more than leary – he actually read the directions!


And then he pondered the instructions. “Don’t these can’s explode?” he asked. I assured him it would be a controlled blast, but he wanted to see the directions for himself.


No honey, you can’t bake the biscuits like this. (He wasn’t really going to … I think).



Viola! Relaxing with a tasty meal cooked by his own hands (please ignore the mess – this is Lego-Central).


An ordinary, everyday shopping back.

Finding a Kohl’s bag at my house is as common as finding a chair at anybody else’s house. I like to shop, and I like to bargain shop even more, so Kohl’s is the place for me. I have their bags in all shapes and sizes. You’ll find them in various closets and in the car.  I often reuse them for garbage bags or to haul stuff away. There are, after all, just bags…but not if you’re Yooper Stewart. If you’re Yooper Stewart, a Kohl’s bag is anything you want it to be.

Case in point – food storage:

Nothing quite ordinary about it...

One day YS had the chance to take home a large leftover salad. The salad came in it’s own lidded bowl, but we were going to church and the bowl wouldn’t fit in the mini-fridge. Not a problem. One of YS’s greatest gifts is his problem solving ability. All he had to do was find a smaller salad container. Enter the Kohl’s bag. I had to give him props – it was a pretty smart plan. I figured we’d get home and transport the salad to a more appropriate container.

Who was I kidding?

The Yooper Stewart way.

Do you see the smile on his face? Can’t you just sense his glee at creating his own brand of storage containers? Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Yooperware.

The salad stayed in the bag for two days as we enjoyed our salad. Though I wouldn’t have picked a Kohl’s bag for the leftovers, I have to admit that clean up was a snap – just tie and toss. He’s so creative.

I’m just really hoping that next week he doesn’t try to bring home leftover hot chocolate…

Hey there sweetie…

To suggest that Yooper Stewart has a sweet tooth is like suggesting that Rosie O’Donnell might be liberal. YS likes his sugar, that’s all there is to it. It doesn’t even have to be in anything. Puffed and shaped works just fine for him.

This is just part of his marshmallow collection – golf ball sized, holiday shaped, and cremed. Someplace, he even has a bag of those teeny, tiny marshmallows (the ones that come in the hot cocoa packets). No marshmallow is too big or too small for my man. I’m thinking of making my own in the near future. I’ll probably get a recipe from my friend Louise, but if you’re interested, here’s the recipe I’m considering.

FYI – that’s YS’s new table cloth.

Chef Stewart

It may not surprise anyone to hear that Yooper Stewart doesn’t really cook. During our short engagement, he only cooked dinner for me once – Hamburger Helper. I never asked him to cook again. Now I’m not the best cook in the world, but I try. I make as much from scratch as I possibly can, and I try to make sure The Yooper gets three meals a day, complete with fiber, protein, and veggies.

The Yooper’s become accustomed to these meals. They’ve even inspired him. He’s decided that he, too, would like to cook, and once The Yooper decides he wants to do something, he throws himself into it with everything he’s got.

It’s not enough for him to learn how to make a killer mac-n-cheese from scratch (as he’s doing here). He needs to know which cheese is the creamiest, which is the tangiest, and which ones work the best with elbow, curly, and tubular noodles. It’s all about going over-the-top.

To gather this type of information, The Yooper needs resources. I started cooking with the Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book.

That’s not over-the-top enough for The Yooper. It’s not big enough. It can’t possibly hold the recipe to every meal he’s ever eaten, plus each recipe for every meal he might want to eat in the future, should we decide to have suckling pig with a rhubarb glaze served on a bed of ginger-infused wild long grain Ethiopian rice and cumin coated peas. There’s no way you’ll find that recipe in the BH&G, but we might need it.

In an attempt to make sure he can access any recipe when he wants it (without having to log on to his computer), The Yooper started collecting cook books. And magazines. And recipe cards. And fliers. Anything that has a recipe that might possibly interest him has come into my house. Many, many, many of them have gone right back out the door, but dozens (upon dozens) remain.

We have a small collection of cook books in the house, but the real treasures are in the garage.

Here’s The Yooper’s collection of Fine Cooking magazine. As you can see, he has a few. He has an even bigger stack of Cook’s Illustrated. I couldn’t find it, but that’s okay! He also has a few books…

And a few more…

Remember – that’s just the garage. Inside we have my Better Homes & Garden, The Joy of Cooking, Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a Day, Fix-it-and-Forget-it, etc, plus a subscription to Food magazine. We are covered in the cook book department. Please don’t ever feel the need to give us one – we probably already own it…somewhere.

I’m happy that The Yooper has found a hobby to love. I just wish he had more time to practice it, and I’m sure he does, too. Not only is the food always tasty, but so are the breaks.