by Harriet Saunders
from the novel The Girl, the Gold Tooth & Everything by
Harriet’s Helpful Hints
Harriet Saunders is a supporting character from my second novel, The Girl, the Gold Tooth & Everything. As one of my main character Mina’s only friends, harried Harriet helps ground Mina in her life--in fun and irreverent ways! The character herself is a cocktail / composite of all the frazzled mothers I have known, myself included. In this “Anything Goes” post, I imagined someone had asked Harriet to write a home-making column, sharing some of her best tips for domestic bliss. Please leave me comment sharing one of your most incredible household hints, helpful or horrid. I’d love to hear them. Enjoy!
Squalor is the new black.
Who says that? I say that! In this day and age, it’s much more important to over-parent your kids. To get down on that filthy floor and play with them rather than clean it. Of course there does get to be a point when cleaning is necessary. In that case...
Never clean your house in full.
Straightening up is really all you ever have to do, most of the time. Just let the neighbors’ kids leave their shoes on when they come over so you don’t have to explain to their parents why their once-white socks are as black as your soul. (If you don’t care about their stupid parents and what they think, by all means have those kids run around in their socks and pick up some of the dirt and grime while they’re at it. Mop, schmop. Am I right?!)
If you must scrub, don’t wimp out on the chemicals.
Especially if you clean as infrequently as I do. As well-meaning as vinegar and baking soda are, they’re just not going to cut it on a toilet bowl ring that’s had months to set in. No. You’re going to have to go with the strongest cleaning chemicals you can legally buy. If they burn your skin and your throat when you breathe them in, you’re doing it right.
If you want your husband to help you clean, clean naked.
You know you can get your husband to do whatever you want him to as long as you ask him when you’re naked. Also, cleaning naked means no bleach stains or other crap on your clothes, which is kind of a plus because god knows, if you’re hanging around your house with your kids all day, your clothes are crappy enough as they are.
Don’t have rugs.
Why? Listen to these words. See these words in your carpets. Play-Dough. Mashed potatoes. Rice. Grape juice. What else do you need to know?
Do “all-socks” loads of laundry.
This one may seem practical, smart even, but I have to be honest with you, it’s just plain lazy. The whole thing about where do the socks disappear to... It’s no great mystery, folks. They get tangled up in your other clothes. Speaking of socks, instead of going through the torture of sorting and balling them up, when they come out of the dryer just pile them into a giant tub you set in the hallway and let everyone fend for themselves. It’s great fun! Especially in the morning.
Fact: I haven’t been able to keep even a single article of clothing unstained since I got married. If I went to task to remove all the stains in my clothes, there would be no time for drinking. So what’s my solution? I don’t bother--and neither should you. Look, any mother who walks around in fresh, crisp, immaculate clothing is just doing a disservice to every other mother out there. If there’s a stain on your shirt, wear a dramatic scarf or necklace to divert attention. (Unless the stain is by your neck. Then I guess you’re probably screwed.)
Let’s see... Let’s see. Oh yeah. Sewing!
Is never worth it. Never.
Dogs make excellent vacuum cleaners.
Or so I am told. Sammy, my husband, won’t give in to a dog right now. As if he’s the one who’s going to take care of it! A dog is a great investment--and cheap if you’re smart about it. If you have enough kids under the age of eight in your house, throwing and dropping food all over the place, you won’t even need to buy dog food. Think about it.
Have an even number of kids.
I don’t know why more people don’t know this, honestly. When you have an odd number, someone’s always left out, and you can bet that little bugger’s going to be up your butt looking for a bud. Give the kid a bud. (Then go grab yourself a Bud or a bottle of gin or whatever’s going to get you through having all those kids.)
Make dinners that seem like more effort than they are.
I’ve learned you can make pretty good things with practically no involvement on your part, and also make the people who live with you think they’re getting something special while you’re at it. (Be careful of cooking too well, however. You don’t want them to expect it.) Here’s a recipe:
Pasta With Meat
(I suppose you could say “bolognese” if you’re feeling fancy, but that seems like a lot of trouble to me. And I’m sure more goes into bolognese, but I don’t really care.)
A sweet onion, roughly chopped (some people call this “country-style” but let’s be honest that it’s “lazy-style”, okay?)
Some garlic (I’m not going to tell you how much, that’s between you and your spouse)
A splash of wine, red or white (you know, whatever’s open)*
A can of crushed tomatoes
Salt and pepper
A package of ground beef
A box of pasta
1. Toss into a pot: olive oil, onion, and garlic. When it all gets nice and soft and hot, splash in wine, then pour in the tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer.
2. Cook pasta in boiling water for however long it says on the box. (If you made the pasta fresh by hand, you’re not doing this right.)
3. Brown meat in a frying pan. Don’t drain it. (Blah, blah, blah health. But who cares. It’s better this way.)
4. Now: The sauce goes in to the meat; they both go over the pasta. And you’re done.
Did you just make special “homemade” tomato sauce? You bet you did, you clever thing! Now pat yourself on the back, pour yourself a drink, and go catch up on The Real Housewives of Whatever.
* Please note: Dry vermouth is very cheap and not that tasty. And if you, like me, prefer to save every last drop of your wine for drinking, I say buy a giant bottle of dry vermouth, keep it for cooking, and be done with it. (If you do ever run out of wine or vodka, you can probably tolerate some vermouth over ice. I’ve suffered it. I didn’t die. Drop a couple of olives in there and it will almost kill the taste. And remember, it’s cheap! So why not?)
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A fast-paced, richly layered, and darkly humorous satire filled with quirky characters and unforgettable moments of humanity!
Mina Clark is losing her mind-or maybe it's already gone. She isn't quite sure. Feeling displaced in her over-priced McMansion-dotted suburban world, she is grappling not only with deep debt, a mostly absent husband, and her playground-terrorizer 3-year-old Emma, but also with a significant amnesia she can't shake-a "temporary" condition now going on several years, brought on by a traumatic event she cannot remember, and which everyone around her feels is best forgotten.
When a trip to the dentist leaves Mina with a new gold crown, her whole life changes. Slowly her memory and her mojo return. But when everything begins to crash down around her, she's not sure if what's happening is real, of if she's just now fully losing her mind... especially when she realizes the only person she can trust is the one she fears the most. What's it all going to cost her in the end?
Francine LaSala has written nonfiction on every topic imaginable, from circus freaks to sex, and edited bestselling authors of all genres (fiction and nonfiction) through her company, Francine LaSala Productions. The author of novels Rita Hayworth's Shoes and The Girl, The Gold Tooth & Everything, and four feature-length screenplays, she lives with her husband and two daughters in New York. Contact her: firstname.lastname@example.org.