My Kingdom for a Potato Masher!

When we were packing up all our worldly possessions back in August, we were trying to be strategic about which items we might need, and which could remain in storage for six months or so. We knew moving from a three-bedroom house to a two-bedroom apartment meant space would be limited, and we didn’t want to clutter up our place with things we could do without.

Unfortunately, we didn’t do a great job prioritizing.

This first became apparent when my parents were visiting during the beginning of October. I was making mashed potatoes for dinner one evening and realized our potato masher was buried in a box somewhere in the garage, along with both the stand mixer and the handheld mixer, either of which would have worked as fine substitutes.

Apparently, we didn’t think we’d be doing any mixing or mashing for half a year. Oh, but we made sure to set aside a giant serving platter so large, it could probably hold three turkeys and a ham.

“Why don’t you ask Nancy if she has one we can borrow?” Tara asked.
“Why don’t you ask Nancy if she has one we can borrow?” I shot back.

You might recall that I mentioned Nancy when we first moved in. She’s the friendly but scatterbrained 80 y/o neighbor in Apt. 1 who latched onto us when we were unloading the U-Haul. As sweet as this lady is, every time we chat, she tells us the same exact stories as if recounting them for the first time. All we can do is nod along politely. Tara and I actually invented a drinking game based on our conversations with her. Every time Nancy tells us she was born in North Dakota, we take a shot. Every time she tells us her age, or talks about living in 17 different countries, or hating trees, or her former house on Main Street, we take a shot. We’re usually three sheets to the wind after just a few minutes. (Keep in mind, we aren’t really knocking back shots right in front of her. It’s more like a theoretical drinking game.)

And once Nancy corners you, you can pretty much kiss the next 10 minutes of your life goodbye. She was literally blocking the hallway door one time, holding us captive while going on and on about being born in North Dakota and living abroad for much of her 80 years and hating trees.

Tara was busy attending to the meatloaf, so though I was reluctant to pay her a visit, desperate times called for desperate measures. Those potatoes weren’t going to mash themselves.

I walked over there, knocked on her door, and she let me in. I asked if she had a potato masher we might borrow, and she said yes, of course, let me just find it. She then starts digging through her kitchen drawers, taking things out, piling them up on the counter. I told her that was okay, I’d improvise, but she insisted she had one. She knew it was there somewhere. Finally, her face brightened up.

“Here you go!” she said triumphantly, handing me a gardening trowel. Which still had clumps of dirt clinging to the tines.

I simply thanked her and carried it back with me. Tara took one look at it and burst out laughing. I ended up beating those potatoes into submission with a wooden spoon. Good thing I like ’em lumpy.

When I returned the garden trowel the next day, she asked me how it had worked out. “Like a charm!” I lied.

So, as Thanksgiving drew nearer, we realized we were still without a potato masher. Not wanting to bother Nancy again and potentially return with a rake or dusty VCR remote or something, Tara suggested we hit up a thrift store. Sure enough, I was able to score a potato masher for $1.99, thus saving the holiday from the ignominy of chunky potatoes. At least we had a giant serving platter for our small turkey…one that we aren’t likely to use again for another 12 months.

Hey, you try packing up your whole house in two weeks!

Thanksgiving was low-key and delicious. We cooked, we ate, we drank, we took a long walk downtown and back, we watched our go-to movies. All in all, it was a very pleasant day.

And because – like the potato masher – all our holiday decorations, including two artificial trees, were buried in No Man’s Land, we had a new dilemma when it came to Christmas. I’d told Tara I was happy to dig through the garage and retrieve everything, but she just smirked and said, “Good luck with that.”

“How bad can it be?” I asked.

Upon opening the garage door, I realized how bad it could be. I would have had to bushwhack my way through boxes and tubs and patio chairs and kayaks just to reach the holiday stuff, and that wasn’t happening. Neither was the two-foot tabletop tree Tara suggested. I wanted at least some semblance of the holiday season, so we compromised: we’d purchase a modest real tree and hit up thrift stores for the decorations.

This ended up working out very well. I was able to find a tree stand, ornaments, and a few knickknacks for the apartment. All for about $40. Aside from the lights, which we picked up from Target, and the glorious foam cheesehead topper, everything on our tree came from a thrift store.

Observing our cheesehead-bedecked Christmas tree, Tara turned to me and asked a simple question.

“Why are we like this?”

I don’t know what she’s talking about. How else are you going to celebrate a new life in Wisconsin? I think the tree looks pretty gouda!

78 thoughts on “My Kingdom for a Potato Masher!

  1. I’m almost afraid to ask, but why does Nancy hate trees? And honestly I have to laugh, because if you’d moved in next to us? My husband would be the one talking your ear off and blocking your escape. I swear that man would talk to a wall.
    Nice job on the thrift store tree. And topping it with cheese?
    Brie still my heart. Perfect!

    Liked by 5 people

    1. The tree thing is weird, huh? She says, because she was born in North Dakota – where it’s flat and pretty arid – she just isn’t used to trees. I’d probably like them even more under those circumstances, but that’s just me.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Clearly, you are a new reader! We have at least two dozen lava lamps. There are five more in the apartment not pictured, one on my desk at work, and another couple of boxes packed away.

      In our defense, we only have mashed potatoes a few times a year, but those lava lamps burn brightly for 12 months. 🙂


  2. Oh my goodness the groan for that last line, but you just couldn’t help yourself, could you?

    Dear sweet Nancy. I’m totally going to be her someday. Great story, though. But how the heck can anyone hate trees? That alone makes her a loon.

    “Why are we like this?” That’s just classic. Way to go, Tara! I love it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You know me well enough to know I’ll never let a pun, no matter how cheesy, go by unused!

      I actually had a dream about Nancy one time. Is that weird? We were dining out and she was our server. Kept bringing us the wrong dishes, and then she just sat down at our table and started eating as if she were one of the diners instead. Dear, sweet Nancy, indeed.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I admire Nancy- multipurpose tool use- extremely environmentally friendly, but then the dislike of trees sort of trumps the eco thing… The tree looks lovely and so very Wisconsin appropriate. Nice job!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. There was a man who lived in a house on the sidewalk I used to walk past to go fetch kids at school when they were little. He had a dog he walked regularly so I knew him well enough to exchange more than pleasantries, but not well enough to socialize with formally. He would tell me all about how he and his husband acquired their house, the ailments of his dog, etc etc which was all fine and dandy except… if I was on my way to fetch kids, I needed to be there on time. The school wouldn’t release the kids to anyone other than the designated person and, they were not happy when the designated person was late because that meant they had to retain the 5 and 7 year olds longer than they contractual obligation stated. ANYWAY, there I was rushing past Jim and Pat’s house and there was Jim saying hi. I would say hi back and make a big animated fuss about being in a rush but you know how these things go – like Nancy he would launch into some conversation about this and that and the next thing I knew I was sucked deep into Spencer’s latest treatments or Pat’s latest culinary experiment yada yada…

    So I get the Nancy connection, is what I’m saying. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s the problem with people like that. They NEVER pick up on cues, no matter how unsubtle you make them! Did you ever consider a fake phone conversation? I’ve tried that tactic before (though I’m always afraid my phone will ring for real right in the middle of my “call”).

      Liked by 1 person

  5. The cheesehead is a travesty. Where is the Denver cyber horse?!

    Our neighbor across the street, Gin, was a lot like your Nancy. If she started talking to you, you were trapped for an hour. Andy used to send all the security guys who would interview our neighbors (for his top secret security clearance) to her house. Hilarious.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The cheesehead has nothing to do with the Packers. It’s all about Wisconsin! Although, as a diehard Broncos fan (even in this season of our discontent), it does break my heart a little to have something even remotely associated with Green Bay atop our tree.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. OK, but let’s get technical here. It’s not sitting atop anybody’s head, so it’s not actually a cheese head: it’s just a giant block of cheese. And that, my friend, is the epitome of Wisconsin!


  6. “All we can do is nod along politely.” Yes, that is one of pitfalls of being a nice person. I’ve had my share of Nancy Neighbors in my time. The cheese on top of your tree is meaningful– and darned weird.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re right. I’ll need to work on becoming a meaner person. My time’s too valuable for all this polite nonsense!

      It’s weird for sure. And fun. Admit it: you’d hang out with us over cocktails! (Or Sauvignon Blanc.)

      Liked by 1 person

  7. The potato masher story–hilarious! The neighbor sounds a little like my mother. (although she would be able to locate a potato masher for you after lengthy repetitive stories) I like the tree and own that cheesehead. I wouldn’t use it as a tree topper though. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I was going to say, “No decorations? No problem! Just spend Christmas on a Caribbean island and you can skip the decorating altogether.” But it looks like you solved the problem. As for the cheese wedge topper, you are making your fellow Wisconsinites proud. P.S. Tell Nancy you hate bushes and see where that conversation goes…

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Excellent way to make the best of the situation! We purchased a small tree made from pallet wood from the Boy Scouts (or a similar group) in 2016. My dad had died in February , mom’s health was failing, and I just didn’t have it in me to deal with a full-sized tree and all it entailed. In 2017 we permanently down-sized to a 4.5 ft tree. I love our “tiny” tree!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I agree about the great way to make the best of the situation, though I wonder, why not go for baked potatoes instead of mashed? 🙂 Then you can keep your kingdom and not have to beat “those potatoes into submission with a wooden spoon” 😀

      I’m sorry about your loss, Linda, glad you’ve found a way to cherish the quality, not the size 🙂

      Which makes me think… Xmas tree lava lamps? :O

      Liked by 2 people

      1. If Christmas tree lava lamps are a thing, sign me up! I’ve never seen one before, but I’ll be on the lookout.

        I only get mashed potatoes a few times a year (Tara isn’t a fan), so they feel more special to me than a baked potato. Besides which, if I’m baking a potato, it’s going to be a sweet potato!

        I’m sorry for your loss too, Linda. Under the circumstances, I feel like your tiny tree is perfect!

        Liked by 2 people

      2. You got me interested in the potential of Christmas Tree lava lamps, and I think we hit an untapped market!!! All I could find was Santa Claus lava lamps and green/red lava lamps a la:

        While I love a baked sweet potato, I don’t recall ever saying no to a baked potato… Especially if it’s sliced so that it gets a little crispy *enter drool emoticon here* 😛

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Who hates trees? That is just bizarre. Then again, if she thinks a garden tool is a potato masher, maybe she really just hates parking meters!

    That tree topper is . . . Interesting.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The only reason they weren’t on was because we had to unplug them in order to plug in the tree. It was one or the other! Not to worry, though: there are plenty more lava lamps scattered around the apartment for us to enjoy.


  11. Pretty gouda…ha, ha, ha! I once saw a meme that potato mashers exist to keep our drawers from opening properly. And I laugh every time I open my drawer with the masher in it. But after this post, I do have a better appreciation for the fact that it is a uniquely suited tool.

    And I love the tree. It looks pretty gouda indeed! Nice work, Mark!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I have a robust fork (cutlery rather than garden sort 😉 ) which I used to mash potatoes with, but Himself prefers a proper masher and he’s now the boss of the kitchen. He’s broken two so far -plastic I hasten to add, not metal – and although I’ve suggested he purchases metal for the next one, or to just leave the mashing to me… no decision has yet been made. I fear he may consider packet mashed potato which is simply too awful to accept.

    Great tree – excellent thrift shopping!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is probably the wrong time to admit that we do, on occasion, resort to packet mashed potatoes. Oddly enough, Tara likes those better than the real thing.

      Irony of ironies, she used to live in Idaho, too. If you’re not familiar, that’s the land of the potato.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. He does put packet mashed potato on things like Shepherds Pie. I’m only truly fussy when it’s on it’s own (like at Thanksgiving). But I do miss having salt with it as Himself has high blood pressure. That said, it’s only on eggs or mashed potato that I actually still miss it.


  13. I fear that one day I’ll share more than just a name with Nancy. I’m sure she really looks forward to chatting with you (or anyone). I love the cheesehead on top of the tree!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Cheese as a tree-topper? That’s new to me, as is hating trees. What isn’t new is knowing the one thing you need at that very moment after arriving at your new destination…residing among the tens of boxes used to move…is located in a box on the bottom at the back of the pile. Never fails. If I could get to the gardening trowel instead of the potato masher, that trowel now has a new job.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. “she tells us the same exact stories as if recounting them for the first time” – that’s how my husband and I talk to each other (just wait – it’ll come to you) Tragic that your de-cluttering seems to ending as “re-cluttering”

    Liked by 1 person

  16. GOUDA! HA. The tree is ahhhhmazing.
    You guys are the best; that’s why you’re like that. 🙂
    Sweet, sweet Nancy. I understand why you’d try to avoid her, but I also feel bad for her. Can you please, please ask her WHAT SHE HAS AGAINST TREES?!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I’m a new reader so catching up on such things as the lava lamps and a shared love for Madison. Best wishes on your house hunt! We downsized significantly and often miss our garlic press. Who’d a thunk it. Carry on with your love of cheese.

    Liked by 1 person

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