Friday, March 6, 2015

Money Can't Buy You Love - or a "Perfect" Popcorn Popper!

It's been one of THOSE days. You know the sort, don't you?

It actually began last week when CatMan and I had movie night and I noticed that the popcorn tasted a bit "off."

Upon closer inspection I figured out that my wonderful stove top popcorn popper had developed a decidedly rancid smell, and this was apparently being transferred to the popcorn. Lovely.

In theory, stove top poppers can just be washed in hot soapy water, but apparently this has not been enough to counteract the years of oily buildup that has well... built up! I have tried putting it in the dishwasher in the past, but the wooden handle cracked, and to make matters worse, the lid used to have a plastic window which broke eons ago, so I had cobbled together a patch, but it was flimsy and was also catching a lot of oil and debris.

To make a long story short, I spent an entire day scrubbing and trying to craft a better repair - during which time I tore several fingernails down to the quick and cut a huge gash in my finger. I finally got it back to acceptable status, but I was frustrated, I was in pain, I was angry, and I could see the entire scenario repeating itself in a few months when the rancid oil started to build up again.

At that point I did a bad thing. I went online and searched for "dishwasher safe stove top popcorn popper" and this appeared:

Stainless steel construction with a tempered glass lid, a silicone plug for dumping in the kernels, a "direct drive" paddle with no gears to break, and best of all... dishwasher safe! It was $89, but I figured it would be an "investment piece" because we do make 2-3 batches of popcorn a week. Plus... no aluminum, no plastic, no toxins... what could go wrong?

Soooo... in a moment of frustration induced weakness, I whipped out my credit card and yesterday it arrived on my doorstep.

I was so excited that I got it out, set it up and made a batch of popcorn to try it out. I took one bite and... OH NOOOO!!!! Chewy popcorn!

Now... I don't know if any of you are true popcorn connoisseurs, but in CatMan's world, chewy popcorn is a crime against humanity. It didn't take me long to figure out what the problem was... the lid seals pretty snugly against the edges and only had three tiny vent holes for the steam to escape. Inadequate ventilation will give you chewy popcorn every time.

But I spent hours reading the reviews, and not a single person mentioned this problem. How could this be? Did I really just drop $90 on something that isn't even gonna work?!?

Things sorta went downhill from there.

First of all, Princess seems to have gotten wise to my current fluid-giving arrangement, and has once again turned into "snarling beast" whenever I set her down in "the chair."

I love her to death, but I was getting pretty frazzled by her attempts to chew my fingers off, so I decided to take a break and go pick up my new eyeglasses. Yes, folks - presbyopia has struck and I finally gave in and ordered bifocals... but since I know a lot of people have trouble with them I also ordered separate reading and distance glasses too, you know, just to cover all of my bases. Again... what could go wrong?

Well... I pick the suckers up, put on the bifocals and can't see a thing. No surprise there, it will take time. But the reading glasses worked great, and when I put on the distance glasses I happily drive home reading every street sign clearly for the first time in years.

Of course when I got home I sat down at the computer and promptly discovered that I couldn't see a damn thing! I also looked closer at the bifocals and determined that part of the problem is that the line is a quarter inch higher on one lens than the other! No wonder I can't see.

I'm gonna have to take the bifocals back, but that won't solve the computer problem, so in another fit of pissed-off frustration I ended up ordering several more pairs - one specifically for computer distance and a pair of progressive bifocals to see if I can make those work any better - not holding my breath.

Good Lord! How many pairs of glasses is it gonna take to be able to see?

Of course the fun doesn't stop there. On the way home from the optical place I decided to stop at the thrift store to see if I could find something I could use as a portable stand for hanging Princess' fluids so I can easily change up the system when she gets wise to one spot or another.

So I stumbled around the store blindly (I was trying out the bifocals) and while I was there... I happened upon a brand spankin' new Whirley Pop popper!

It's aluminum with a wooden handle, so it still can't go in the dishwasher, but at least it should be a little easier to clean because it has a functional lid with no crazy repairs to deal with. That'll solve the problem, right?

Of course, there's no guarantee the Whirley Pop won't make chewy popcorn too. But you know what they say... in for a penny, in for a pound - or in this case $3.99. Good Gawd!

And to put the topper on my lousy day, as I was checking out at the thrift store, the fellow asked me if I wanted my "senior discount!" What?!? I mean, I do have a birthday coming up, but I've still got a few years to go before I hit 50. It must have been the damned bifocals.

Lordy! A room full of popcorn poppers and a grocery sack full of eyeglasses and I still haven't solved either problem yet!

So what's the point of this long whiny story other than to bitch about my bad day? I guess it just points out one of the cornerstone lies upon which our consumerist society is built. There is this myth out there (one that the giant marketing machine LOVES to promote) that says something like this: If you're just willing to "spend the money" all of your problems can be solved.

Feel Ugly? Buy some makeup!
Too Fat? Buy a gym membership!
Not Cool Enough? Buy a sportscar!
Feel Dorky? Buy Some New Clothes!
Stessed Out? Treat yourself to an expensive vacation!
You Bought Too Much Crap? Buy a Bigger House!
And on... and on... and on...

But here's the thing... it's all just a big fat LIE!

In fact, more often than not, the more money you spend, the more problems you end up with!

Like say... a house full of popcorn poppers and eyeglasses!

Seriously though... you really can't just expect to throw money at problems and make them go away - solving problems requires creative thinking and actual work. One would think that a person like myself would know this by now, but apparently some of us are just slow learners...

I'm still not sure how to resolve either situation - but I think a good start would be to step back, take a deep breath and stop throwing money at it. Life will go on, even without the "perfect" popcorn popper, and I'm certainly not the only person who's ever had to deal with aging eyesight.

It just all makes me so darned mad... why can't things just work the way they're "supposed to?" Guess I'm not the first person to ask that question either!

So tell me... how do you deal with things when you hit "frustration overload?" Do you ever fall victim to trying to buy your way out of it?


  1. Oh Cat, I know this feeling so well! Most of the time I am perfectly well aware that money doesn't help, then in a moment of weakness, when nothing's going right, for some reason that piece of knowledge packs its bags and takes a little vacation. It then returns, refreshed and full of gusto, when the expensive item has failed to solve the problem. "Yes, that's right, money won't solve your problems. Here is a nice example of that principle in action. Look, see how all that money you spent has only created a new problem! What? Where was I? Well everyone needs a break sometimes."

    1. Yes, yes! It's the fact that I KNOW throwing money at problems doesn't work that makes me feel like even more of an idiot. I guess I just have to look at it as a "friendly reminder" rather than an indictment.

  2. At least you still have your sense of humor :) as always I love your kitty pictures.
    I'm not one to throw money at things, it's sort of a joke in out house that we don't rush things, takes maybe 6-12 month to decide on a purchase, this is more to do with laziness than being thrifty.
    I can sympathize about the bifocals. I finally got a pair a couple of years ago and hated them...with a passion. So I went back to just reading glasses.
    Kitties are a law unto themselves and you have to go with their rules, I hope you can get a new system set up for Princess..

    I got nuthin about the popcorn machine, I only ever made it in a regular pan on the stove. I hope you will return the one you bought online, I am a big believer in letting companies know when they sell and inferior product.

    One of our problems with buying things is we consider most products to be inferior these days, so it takes a lot of research to buy something we know won't last (like in the old days)

    1. I generally don't rush into purchases either - clearly emotions were at work in this instance. But I totally agree that it's really hard to find anything that's well made these days. In defense of the new popcorn maker - it is very sturdy and looks like it will last a long time... it just doesn't make good popcorn! I may try propping open the little silicone plug to see if that gives it enough ventilation before I send it back. Sigh.

  3. Usually just voicing my frustrations, helps my feelings dissipate. As for the glasses, my husband does a lot of computer work, so he has a pair just made for that distance.

    And I'm so out of it, because I do popcorn in the microwave, I didn't realize there were popcorn poppers for the stove. I thought everyone did it like we did growing up--a little oil in a big pot, some pop corn, and shaking the pot once we heard some pops to keep it from burning. It worked well almost every time. If the newest popper doesn't work, you might try a regular pot.

    1. I've tried just about every popcorn making method under the sun. For many, many months I tried to make the "regular pot" method work, but it was hard to keep the lid askew enough to provide proper ventilation, and apparently my shaking skills leave something to be desired because more than once I welded a layer of burnt popcorn to the bottom of the pan.

      Anyhow, if you eat any meaningful amount of popcorn I'd advise against the microwave variety. There's an actual condition called "popcorn lung" which causes scarring of the lung tissue when the chemical they use for the butter flavoring becomes aerosolized and is inhaled. You'd probably have to eat a LOT of it to do serious damage, but here in Colorado some guy won a $7 million lawsuit after developing the condition - but I think he ate several bags per day.

    2. Yuck! I'm glad we don't have a microwave so I can't be tempted by the lung scarring popcorn!!

    3. I've made popcorn in the microwave with just plain popcorn in a brown paper lunch bag. I'm not a connoisseur so it might not be up to your standards, but I started doing this to avoid the chemicals (and packaging) in the microwave popcorn.

    4. I tried that method but it kept coming out scorched. I think perhaps there was a bit of "operator error" involved! :-)

    5. I realize that prepackaged microwave popcorn may not be the healthiest, but it goes in my "everything" in moderation category. There are some workers that worked in popcorn plants that developed lung problems from breathing one of the chemicals used in flavorings. This was after a lot of exposure. There have never been any cases of this from home use. However, most of the major manufacturers removed the chemical anyway.

    6. Well, actually the Colorado man who sued & won wasn't a factory worker, just a guy who ate a LOT of microwave popcorn. The only reason I know about this is because it was all over the local news at the time:

      Anyhow, I think you're totally right that it's probably not an issue if you don't eat it regularly. Personally, I don't like the taste of microwave popcorn - or the plastic lining on the bag - I have an irrational fear of putting plastic in the microwave! :-)

  4. It's just one of them days...that a girl goes through...

    When I'm angry inside, I don't wanna take it out on you...

    1. OK - I had to go look up the song...

      Yes - what she said!

  5. Like Live and Learn, I need to verbalize my frustrations, and sometimes it just takes me a day or two to get past it. I think you have every right to feel frustrated, for what it's worth. I'm right there with you on the bifocals. I've been using reading glasses for a few years (I will hit the big five-oh very very soon) and I decided a year ago to get the "progressive" lens glasses--mostly, reading glasses work fine for me, as my distance vision is perfect. However, at work I go between patient care and computer use and hauling glasses on and off was getting old. A similar thing happened to me with my progressives--the left lens was off by a tiny amount but enough that it made me miserable to wear them. I never bothered getting them fixed until this past December ... and I still don't like the darn things. In case you weren't told by your optician, it's best to pick out larger frames, as it will give you more lens space for the double-duty your lens have to perform. I wasn't told that and mine are too small, so ... I still whip them on and off at work--at least when somebody talks to me while I'm charting, they don't look all blurry when I look up at them!

    I rarely make popcorn and when I do, it's the microwave stuff, so I got nothin' for ya there.

    1. Well, the bifocals went back yesterday and they're gonna fix them. There were several problems including the fact that since the optician was out when I went to pick them up the girl behind the counter just gave them to me without fitting them - so they were sitting way too high on my face.

      I guess it will just take some time to figure out what works. I think part of the issue is that I have a very narrow face that's very difficult to fit with glasses - so there was literally only one choice for frames that they could even put bifocals in! Now that I have the measurements for the right frame width I may try ordering some online where I'll have more choices.

  6. Surely something works! Unfortunately, I have no hints on how to figure out what those things would be. Myself, I can still pretend I don't need bifocals. I don't have a cat or anyone who needs me to help give them nasty medicine. And I apparently am oblivious to the horrors of chewy popcorn because I just use a regular pot with no vents at all!! (I hope you can still respect me! For other things, of course!)

    I also have no hints for dealing with frustration overload. Generally, I like to throw things. Of course not breakable things. And I have also learned not to throw small, important things, like my keys, which I may then not be able to find again for some time. I really cannot recommend throwing things as a strategy--it's yet another strategy that creates more problems than it solves.

    Actually, one strategy I like is to switch my focus to something that is not frustrating. When I have several project failures in a row, I make my next project be one with a much higher likelihood of success. (This doesn't help with the old problems, however.)

    I guess I'm just here for moral support! I wish you good luck!

    1. Ha! Well, chewy popcorn was not part of my lexicon either until I met CatMan. But alas, it's one of those things that once you're hip to the issue you can never go back!

      I used to enjoy throwing things too, but unfortunately it tends to frighten the cats, so I've had to adopt other coping mechanisms. :-)

      And I do very much appreciate the moral support!

  7. My favorite popcorn popper was an old non-stick 8-qt. covered saucepan that my mother used to have. Somehow, that pan popped corn better than anything else. I think it was aluminum, but not 100% may have had an inset of another metal on the bottom to distribute heat better. Unfortunately, we didn't realize what a gem it was until she got new pans and threw that old, dented thing out..the new pans never did do the job as well.

    1. Ha! Isn't that the way it always goes? Perhaps there's a lesson in there about the fallacy of "upgrading" in general!

    2. I have finally learned not to throw the old thing away until I have tried out the new thing a sufficient number of times to feel sure that it really is better than the old thing.

  8. I make popcorn in a pan and shake it to stop it sticking...I don't think it comes out chewy, but then I am not a popcorn connoisseur!

    I've got better at resisting the urge to throw money at a problem when I get frustrated...but then I beat myself up about it even more if the money solution doesn't work, as I feel that I should have known better!
    When I get frustrated by stuff (usually mess) I either try and sort it out in a frenzy of energy, or get really annoyed and threaten to make a bonfire of the lot.
    If it's a frustration which can't be solved by just getting on with sorting the problem, I tend to find something else to do and go back to the annoying thing once my rage has dissappated a little! Or find someone else to do the annoying thing..

    1. Exactly! It's the fact that I should have known better that makes me feel even worse about it all.

      And the visual image of a bonfire full of popcorn poppers and eyeglasses is strangely satisfying at the moment. I'm not entirely sure either one are made of flammable materials, but since it's only a "mental bonfire" I suppose it's a moot point!

    2. Maybe the mental bonfire is enough to get rid of the frustration!

    3. I recently read a book called "A Field Guide to Happiness" by Linda Leaming ( She's an American who fell in love with the Buddhist country of Bhutan and ended up marrying a Bhutanese man - and lives part time in Bhutan and part time in Tennessee (talk about culture clash!)

      Anyhow, there's a section in the book where she talks about how the Bhutanese deal with anger - she said they do something called an "anger meditation" which basically means that you let your mind go completely wild with rage and visualize all of the crazy things you'd like to do. It's sort of the opposite of the idea that we should try to calm ourselves down and not feel the anger - the idea is to feel it completely until it dissipates.

      So, after I got over the spending mania, I decided to give it a try. I started visualizing bursting into the eyeglasses store, screaming like a banshee, and using the $90 stainless steel popcorn popper to smash everything in sight! I have to admit, the pure ridiculousness of the idea did make me feel a bit better! :-)

    4. Haha! I will give that a go next time I have rage!!

  9. No! I remember well when you found your popcorn pan and how excited you were. Oil is so hard to clean once it builds up, I try to clean any oil with a baking soda paste immediately. I love popcorn but always made it on the stove with a regular pan and just shook the heck out of it until it stopped popping.

    And your glasses problem wow I am so sorry. My grandparents dealt with bifocals and complained bitterly about them, until they had cataract surgery and no longer needed glasses at all. I worried about my needing them for years. Then ten years ago I had lasik surgery so I could finally see and was informed that they could only repair either distance or up close vision. I didn't have a problem with the up close it was the distance, I was considered legally blind. By having the distance restored I knew one day I would probably need reading glasses but heck that was better than bifocals. So far I haven't needed anything! I sure hope you find a solution soon. Have you considered replacing the bifocals with two pairs of glasses, one for reading and one for distance?

    1. Thanks for commiserating with me. I am hopeful that I may have found a way to make the new popper work. I removed its silicone plug and in its place I put a small wire strainer that I had lying around. It lets the steam out but keeps the popcorn in. It made popcorn that was plenty crisp for me that way, but it has yet to pass the CatMan test. Fingers crossed, because scrubbing the thing by hand after every use will probably make me lose my mind (not to mention more fingernails!)

      And I'm hopeful that the eyeglasses situation is headed toward resolution too. I did order separate reading & distance glasses, but I can't see at the computer with either. So I ordered a pair specifically for the computer distance (only $15 at as well as a pair of "progressive" or no-line bi-focals that supposedly let you focus at a variety of distances. We shall see...

      I'm incredibly jealous about your lasik. I'm not a candidate because my pupils are too big - and I can't wear contacts because my astigmatism is too severe and goes off at a weird angle. Sigh.

  10. A few years ago I realized I needed reading glasses - the print on packaging had gotten smaller over time. So I bought a pair at a discount store. Then one day I wasn't wearing my contacts and I realized I could read just fine without them, but I couldn't see well enough to drive. To read, I could either have contacts AND glasses or nothing. to drive, I needed contacts (or distance glasses). It got confusing. I ended up doing monovision (one contact for distance plus no contact for reading) and haven't worn reading glasses in years. Unfortunately, the print seems to be getting small again...

    1. I've heard of this monovision thing and I'm sorta incredulous that people can do it. Perhaps one would adapt, but I fear I'd end up with a horrible migraine! Since I can't wear contacts I can't exactly experiment with it either.

      But hopefully some combination of glasses will do the trick. Oh the many joys of aging! :-)

  11. Ugh that does sound like some bad days!

    I've had a "throw money at it" situation too just recently. I really struggle with making desicions and being a perfectionist when it comes to buying clothes. But I needed a new pair of shoes and after much online browsing I ordered three pairs, thinking that I'd keep the one I liked the most. So I did, and was pretty happy with myself for not making the process any harder than that. But then I start walking with the new nice looking shoes (more than across my living room floor), and they're just very uncomfortable, not good shoes, my legs were hurting. But since I'd already worn them outside and taken off the tags I couldn't send them back. :( I was so disappointed but really needed a pair of similar shoes, so I reluctantly decided to get another pair from a brand that I know makes good quality shoes. My father generously offered to pay for them. So I went to a store that carries the brand and picked out the best option. They weren't as cute as the once that were uncomfortable, but I though they were the best I could do. I had looked at their online site aswell. I just took the tag off earlier today, and used them for a short walk. Very comfortable. Then, when it's too late of course, an ad pops up from the same brand with a much nicer looking pair of shoes! Almost exactly what I wanted. I'm so disappoineted. It really improves my quality of life when I have a few clothes and shoes that I like, but shopping is such a nightmare for me. Now I just feel really sorry for myself, catastrophizing and thinking that I'll have to look ugly and dowdy and be miserable in the shoes my father payed for for a few years. I just can't bring myself to discard ANOTHER pretty much brand new pair of shoes, and throw money at ANOTHER pair. I know I should be grateful I could afford new shoes in the first place and all of that, but like I said, I just feel really sorry for myself.


    1. AAARRRGGGHHH! Soooo frustrating! Perhaps your shoes can befriend my popcorn poppers and... well, I don't know what shoes and popcorn poppers would do with each other but they'd certainly have similar stories to tell.

      I'm feeling a bit better about my popcorn popper collection now that a bit of time has passed - it's not the end of the world, and it really isn't tangible proof of my inadequacy as a human being - it's just that we live in a very imperfect world full of very unreasonable expectations - which is sorta how our crazy economy works.

      I still haven't decided which one or ones to keep, but I figure I don't have to decide right now - and if I don't want the expensive one, I can always sell it on eBay or Craigslist.

      My suggestion is to give it a week or two and see how you feel - maybe the uncomfortable shoes can be stretched or somehow made more comfortable? Or maybe the comfortable ones will grow on you. Or maybe you could sell both pairs and buy the ones you really want!

      Sometimes I think that it's having all of these choices in the first place that leads to our unhappiness... I mean, if there weren't so many choices, we wouldn't have the expectation that we should be able to find the "perfect" item. I dunno... maybe we'd just be more pissed off - but at least we wouldn't have to feel like we somehow screwed up by not having a crystal shopping ball!

    2. Thanks SO much for comiserating and not judging my vain problems! 8) Yes, my shoes and your popcorn poppers should hang out, lol.

      Glad to hear you're feeling better. I do too, a little bit.I figure the pair I have aren't THAT bad, and they won't be the only shoes I'll wear anyhow. I also have an on-going project of renewing my wardrobe, so I'm thinking that I'll hopefully have some better luck with other purchases, and that their prettyness will at least somewhat off-set the shoes' not-cute-enough-ness. 8)

      I do think you have a point. Yes, it does feel authentic or whatever that I want a few clothes I like, but that' probably has a lot to do with having internalized a lot of societal pressure to look good/put together and what have you. And yes, there IS a lot of pressure to find the "perfect" item!

      Thanks Cat!


    3. I don't think you're being un-authentic at all - good shoes are a must! But I often wonder what people living 200 years ago would think of all of our choices!


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