Saturday, June 25, 2022

Thinking Outside The Dent

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published June 27, 2022] ©2022

Over the years, I have found that some of my best kitchen tools would be under the heading of “off label,” i.e., not originally designed for kitchen use. Or at least their original kitchen use. 

Several decades ago, in the dark days before Amazon, I found myself unhappy with the selection of wimpy meat pounders at my local kitchen store and ended up purchasing a large rubber mallet at what was then Kragen Auto Parts. I’d been inspired by seeing one in action at the service station and thought, “Yup, that’s exactly what I need.” Chicken or meat or even bags of nuts wouldn’t stand a chance against this sucker.

I still vividly remember the saga of its acquisition. 

The main problem was explaining what I wanted to the Kragen guy since I didn’t look like the kind of person who pounds dents out of automobiles. 

“So, what are you going to use it for again?” the nice sales guy queried, totally puzzled.

“Well, for example, making chicken piccata,” I said. 

The salesman pondered this for a moment. 

 “You know this is an auto parts store, right?”

“It makes the chicken really flat,” I explained.  “But I think it will work equally well for schnitzel or even nut topping for streusel.”

I could sense this guy wanting to back away from me.  But shortly thereafter, he returned with a large rubber mallet.  Alas, the mallet head was black. “Is this what you want?” 

“Exactly!” I said.  “But what other colors does it come in?” A black rubber mallet would look really ugly in my kitchen. Way too, well, automotive-y.

“Lady,” he said, exasperated, “It’s a mallet.  It doesn’t come in colors.” 

But as luck would have it, another sales person, who was likely fired within minutes of my departure, piped up, “Actually I think they come in white too.” 

Amazingly enough, they were able to order me one in white. When I came to pick it up, the guy at the desk said, “The chicken lady, right?” I smiled, “You know, you guys should really be thinking outside the dent.” 

Thirty-some years later, this mallet has been one of the most versatile kitchen gadgets I’ve ever owned. I was tempted to bring the Kragen guys some chicken piccata just so they could see what a phenomenal job it does. But frankly, they looked more like mac n’ cheese people.

Another great “Didn’t-come-from-Williams-Sonoma” gadget is a pair of surgical forceps, acquired from a medical supply store.  I’ve had these for at least 25 years now.  They’re perfect for sautéing really small items.  I figured that anything that could keep a firm grip on internal organs would probably be able to hang on to gnocchi.  As it turned out, these forceps also worked well for tormenting my then-15-year-old son. Kids that age don’t want to know about female anatomy unless it belongs to someone in their own demographic.  Henry watched me cooking with the forceps one evening and commented that it looked a lot like a surgical tool.  “Yes,” I replied, “the surgeon gave it to me as a souvenir after my hysterectomy.  But, don’t worry -  I ran it through the dishwasher first!  Hey, where are you going?” 

OK, I admit it.  It was mean. But maybe you’ve never lived with a 15-year-old boy. Revenge is where you find it. 

Moving right along, Olof decided several years back to re-create his family’s Christmas cookie recipe to send to all the family, including decorating them, his job as a child.  He even included a batch of anatomically-correct ginger people to punk his sisters.  (They were strangely unappreciative.) After trying numerous implements to decorate his cookies and gingerbread persons, he discovered that the ultimate tool was a tiny screw driver that we kept on hand for adjusting the screws on top of sprinkler heads.  It got dishwashered first, of course.

But my most recent kitchen innovation has been to use an adjustable rubber jar lid opener as a grip for a glass with ice in it.  Let me just say that it is perfect for older persons with mildly arthritic hands to keep a good grip on their gin and tonic.  There is nothing worse than sitting out on a nice early summer night with an adult beverage only to have to slide through your fingers and splash all over your orthopedic pillow. Growing older is a constant process of accommodations.   I think I should apply for a patent.

I’ve been writing this column for nearly 14 years now and I honestly can’t think why I never managed to write on this important topic. (OK, the job lid opener is a newer innovation.) 

Of course, now there’s Amazon and the choices are pretty much unlimited so creativity isn’t required. Somebody somewhere is selling just what you want. But it still never hurts to think outside the gadget.

                                             Assorted off-label kitchen tools
Jar opener makes perfect G&T gripper

                          Olof decorating ginger persons with tiny screwdriver (in dish)

Note: Images of piccata making and hysterectomy not available


Saturday, June 11, 2022

Please Don't Do This To Your Kids

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published June 13, 2022] ©2022

Have I ever mentioned that on my mother’s side of the family, I am the only one in my generation, including my siblings, who is not a hoarder? 

My cousins and the sibs wouldn’t quite qualify for one of those cable TV shows.  Well, maybe one of them.  OK, two.  They are more selective hoarders, particularly books.  And, of course, National Geographics.

What is it about National Geographics that make people hang on to them forever?   I know people who have moved twelve times and while the dining room set or even the kids didn’t always make the cut, the National Geographics invariably end up on the truck. 

It’s probably just as well that I live in a small built-by-the-lowest-bidder-after-The-War 1947 cottage with teeny closets and no garage, attic or basement.  If we buy something, we have to give something else away.

Lack of space, however, has not deterred my various relatives.  I learned only recently that one of my cousins actually lived in a four-bedroom two-bath home which I always assumed from visits was a two-bedroom one-bath home.  The other two bedrooms and bath were just full of stuff.

Ultimately, they maxed out on space and bought a new house solely on the basis that it has TWO basements. Even so, my cousin admitted that they are footing an $8,000-a-year bill for outside storage. 

My cousin added that the trustee for their estate only accepted that responsibility “with the stipulation that she had no responsibility for the immense quantity of ‘collectibles’ clogging up our home.” Smart move.

In the interests of transparency, I will confess that my sons consider my formerly 67-now-36 albums of family photos to be hoarding. I myself think of photos as “artistic curation.” 

The kids had long been threatening to cremate me after my untimely death with the photo albums that I had amassed over the years. It would be a two-fer; get rid of Mom and the albums all at once. 

But at least my “hoard” was confined to one (very large) bookcase.

My dear friend Eleanor actually maintains that she found a cure for her husband’s hoarding. “I put my husband’s stuff that he wouldn’t get rid of in storage, then stopped paying the bill after three months.” This is brilliant in its simplicity. 

On two occasions in my life, I have been tasked with cleaning out the home of a hoarder relative.  For the record, most of the organizations that pick up donations will only take 25 boxes at a time.  That house took me eight months.

When I ended up cleaning out my aunt’s home in Hard-To-Get-There Ohio, distance and time constraints required a 35-foot dumpster, which we filled up the first day. My aunt (never married, no kids) literally had magazines dating back to the late 1800s. And yes, National Geographics.  The house had been in our family since 1860.  It’s amazing how much stuff you can acquire in 145 years.

Some weeks ago, the New York Times had an article about “death cleaning,” i.e., going through your possessions long before your demise so that your relatives are not burdened with the truly onerous task of separating the wheat from the trash.  One of the subsequent Letters to the Editor really caught my eye.  The writer, after noting that she wasn’t planning to spend a single moment of her precious time culling her abundance of possessions, including 15 years of New Yorker magazines, rationalized it like this:

“Isn’t it enough,” she queries, “that my children will receive whatever is left?  Gosh, there’s some pretty good stuff in that mess.  And isn’t it possible that inching their way through it will prove to be an interesting and rewarding treasure hunt?  And won’t this exercise tell them things about me that could not be learned any other way, adding mortar to their memory, and perhaps even their regard for me?”


Let me assure you, Letter Writer, their regard for you will be in the dumpster (along with most of your stuff) by the time they’re done “inching” through your lifetime’s collection of detritus. 

“Interesting” and “rewarding” are not two adjectives I’d ever use in cleaning out the home of a hoarder.  It’s true that my aunt’s house in Ohio produced some wonderful treasures, like stereopticons, gorgeous oil lamps, and some ornate ewers - intermixed, alas, with multiple cases of 40-year-old Jell-O, cartons of ratty underwear preserved in 1952 newspaper (she was a child of the Depression), and a huge freezer that was a veritable biohazard.

I remember showing my (hoarder) cousin a freezer container labeled “raspberries, 1968”. (It was 2004.)  She said, “Maybe they’re still good?”

So, please. Do not do this to your poor children!  For every “treasure” they might find after your demise, there will be 200 moments of fervent praying, “Please don’t let this be hereditary.” 



Sunday, June 5, 2022

I May Have Outlived My Time

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published June 6, 2022] ©2022

My worst fear isn’t dying.  It’s having to get new electronics.

Seriously, I don’t know what I’m going to do when the iPhone 30 comes out and my iPhone 7 simply won’t work anymore.  As I’ve said before, I know many people (that would include my own sons) who can’t wait to upgrade to the latest phone.  Me, I’d rather eat my own organs. 

Those nice people at the phone store always insist that they’ll do all the work for me and I won’t even notice the difference. They lie.  Not one single app that I had used before will ever work the same.  Apple will have upgraded it so that whatever features were simple and obvious require an engineering degree, or a user under ten.  My grandchildren intuitively know how to work this stuff.  But then, they study the phone nook that was built into the wall of my 1947 home and ask, “But where did you plug in the charger?”

My grandchildren are growing up with ever-changing technology so it comes easily to them.  But for me (and many in my age group), learning any new technology is just plain stressful.

My friend Ingrid sent me this message some time back about her boyfriend Mike (my age) which I keep taped to my bulletin board because it is such a delicious fantasy:

Hi Inga,

Did I ever tell you that one day I went to Mike’s house and noticed that his computer was gone? He said he was so frustrated with it that he took it out in the garage, took a hammer and beat the hell out of it. It ended up in the garbage can. Mike never bought another one.

I feel you, Mike.

Other than self-driving cars, an innovation I can really get my head around, I’ve clearly outlived my time. I grew up in an era when TV sets and household appliances did not need manuals. (Yes, really.) When paid parking required putting coins in a meter.  Where I understood light bulbs. Where I’m not completely thwarted by a self-service scanner at CVS. Where you didn’t need to use an app on your phone to check out a library book (which, by the way, takes five times longer than using a library card). 

And don’t even get me started on those Japanese toilets.  Personally, I think that people who don’t leave specific instructions taped to the wall behind them deserve what they get.  I hope you’re getting my drift there.  That’s my second favorite fantasy after smashing my computer into little tiny bits.

Some areas of technology that I was really looking forward to have utterly failed, in my view.  Like security cameras.  I’ve written about the spate of crime in our area and the frustrated efforts of my neighbors to rein in what seems to be a nightly onslaught of bike thieves, garage break-ins, porch pirates, creepy trespassers, and brazen burglary attempts even when people are home, all caught up-close-and-personal on their home security cameras and then posted on Next Door. 

Alas, security cameras are purely for entertainment purposes. Crime reduction or criminal apprehension, not so much.  You just get to watch people stealing your packages or your car or breaking into your house in real time. Sometimes the perps even wave

I have definitely found it is a mental health move to rant about technology from time to time.  Otherwise, I truly would be sorely tempted to follow Mike’s lead and inflict violence upon my computer, and maybe even my phone too.

I remember in some long-ago anthropology class where some cultures, not wishing to waste precious food resources on non-productive elders, set them adrift on an ice floe, probably in the direction of some hungry-looking polar bears, and waved bye-bye.   This worked better in cold climates than, say, the Kalahari Desert, where the equivalent was probably tying a tying a slab of raw meat around mom and dad and leaving them on the savannah.  Where was I going with this?  Ah yes, people outliving their time. But maybe those old folks were ready to go. I fantasize them floating off to sea saying, “Don’t tell the kids but we just so sick of trying to get reliable Wi-fi in the igloo. How hard was dog sledding over to the neighbors?”

It is a common lament among people in my demographic to wish that daily life didn’t seem to require tech support in the form of adult kids or alas, actual tech support. We don’t want to have to ask anybody how to do what always used to be simple things.  The irony is that we all agree that at one point in our lives, we were really excited about future innovations. Who knew that the Smith-Corona electric typewriter that revolutionized my college career was going to be such a slippery slope?

But I still wouldn’t mind one of those self-driving cars. 



Sunday, May 29, 2022

Leave Me Alone. I'm Not Buying.

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published May 30, 2022] ©2022

Sometimes it feels like there is hardly a moment in my day that I am not being marketed to. The reason for that is that there truly isn’t a moment in my day that I’m not being marketed to.

The thing is, it’s a total waste.  I am probably the hardest sell in America.  Unless it’s dog food, I’m pretty much not buying. Signing up for Ad Block only seems to slightly reduce the onslaught from pretty much any internet site I look at, and even Instagram friends now subject me to ads if I want to see their content.

If there’s one group whose salesmanship I am especially impervious to, it’s celebrities.  I guess one of the perks of being famous is that you can sell your name and that people who are not me will buy stuff just because you said so. For me, it’s an anti-endorsement if a celeb’s name is attached to it. 

Some celebrities, even ones I find appealing in their own ways, are so over-merchandized that every time I come across their latest consortium-building endeavor I want to scream, “Stop! Please just stop!  You’re an actress! Why would I want to buy cookware from you?”

And is there a celebrity who does not have his/her own fragrance? How many fragrances can the market and/or the CVS beauty counter bear? (For the record, my signature fragrance would be a heady mix of Chardonnay and Mounds bars, with notes of chicken wings.)

The Kardashians, of course, are legendary in the merch world, a new line of products seeming to “drop” every week. Ditto Chip and Joanna Gaines whose ever expanding empire includes multiple TV shows, magazines, housewares, a store and enough other projects to keep anyone busy 72 hours a day. I can only wonder how the Kardashians and Gaines even remember their collective kids’ names never mind spend any quality time with them. (I fantasize a future reality TV show Who Are My Parents? where these kids have to pick their folks out of a line up. And are rewarded with merchandise from the folks’ conglomerates if they do.)

Even Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond has now branched into candles, denim apparel, floral quilts and ice cream makers in addition to opening a restaurant and a boutique hotel. I mean, can’t she just cook?  Actually, if she were hawking butter, I’d probably buy it. This woman knows fats 

It’s not just celebrities whose charms I am happy to resist.  I know that some people have to make their living cold calling but who in their right mind turns over their hard-earned money to a total stranger who calls them over the phone?  Especially if that caller is selling financial products.

This being La Jolla, I’ve had my share of cold callers offering me a “free” review of my investment portfolio to see if they “might” be able to offer me a better return.

Hard to imagine that this cold caller would ever look over my investments and say, “Nope, you’re good! Can’t do any better for you!” Harder yet to imagine that I would ever let someone even look at it in the first place.

I do have to confess that during my 12 years of impoverished single parenthood, I might have been tempted to say yes, since my entire portfolio consisted of $54.  If that investment sales guy could have offered me an upgrade from spaghetti to hamburgers, I might have gone for it.

I think pretty much everyone who owns a cell phone is getting robocalls from those automobile warranty people.  One of these days, if I’m not busy, I’m going to engage one of these folks just as I did recently with the Grandma Scam.  Frankly, I’m not convinced they want to give me a warranty on my 2005 Toyota Corolla.  Of if they did, whether the premium would be more than the value of the car. And by the way, those folks must have a thousand numbers.  I have blocked literally 100 numbers from the auto warranty folks on my iPhone but they just keep calling on a different line.  You think they’d have their own Do Not Call list (“Has old Corolla. Don’t bother.”)

I’m starting to figure out that monetizing anything and everything is pretty much the norm anymore, whether it’s a personal blog, Instagram account, or any type of internet communication.  But if anyone starts sending me an email with an ad in it, our relationship is over.

So sorry, U.S. economy.  We’re strictly in downsize mode at this stage in our life. I just hope technology can come up with a both a phone and internet command, Control N, short for “No Ads Ever! You’re wasting your time! And annoying the s—t out of me!”

 Not going to happen, but everyone needs a dream.


Sunday, May 15, 2022

We Were Just Trying to Pay Our Taxes

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published May 16, 2022] ©2022

Olof and I don’t have a complicated financial life, so he is fully capable of doing our taxes on TurboTax every year. Somehow this year, instead of getting money back from both the state and the feds, we owed them a bunch of money. As in low-five figures. But as we do with our quarterly estimated taxes, I wrote each entity a check, stuck it in the envelope with the payment stub and deposited it (obviously not certified) in the mailbox outside the Pacific Beach Post Office.

The federal check was cashed within a week.  The state check is still at large.

I have no idea where the U.S. Postal Service or the Franchise Tax Board (FTB) is at fault.  But a wayward tax check can cost you a bunch of money in penalties and late fees if it is not received by the deadline. 

Fortunately, I had sent both checks more than a month in advance.  When the one check didn’t clear, I started to panic.  The Franchise Tax Board’s chat line human said there was nothing she could do in less we had a cancelled check.  But, we said, that is precisely the point.  You haven’t processed our check.  Wait a little longer, she said. We’re not exactly balls of fire 

We tried setting up accounts but to do that, your identity has to be verified by Transunion, one of the credit reporting agencies.  We have never ever been able to get our identities verified for any on-line site through Transunion, despite multiple efforts to correct inaccuracies over the years, because they insist we have lived at places we never lived or had phone numbers that are so ancient that we no longer recognize them.  So the only way to get these accounts set up was to have the FTB send us pin numbers in the mail in “3-5 days”.  Olof’s took 12, mine 18. But both arrived long past the tax deadline.

Meanwhile, the federal and state Estimated Tax payment checks I’d sent a week after our  tax return checks immediately cleared.

The idea of cancelling a check to any government tax institution was almost too terrifying to contemplate.  But as the April 18 deadline fast approached, I finally stopped payment on the first check.

I then bit the bullet and called the Franchise Tax Board’s customer service line. The endless recording, of course, advised setting up an “easy” (hah!) account rather than wait for what they predicted would be AT LEAST three hours in hold time. And believe me, it was.

But I finally got a human who said he would investigate the situation for me.  He asked for my call-back number in case we were disconnected before putting me on a “brief hold”. Whereupon we were disconnected. He never called back despite the fact that I clutched my phone in my desperate little hands for the next four hours hoping he might.

So, now at the 11th hour, with the Franchise Tax Board’s automated line continuing to profess no payment from us, I went on to their link to pay them directly through our bank account routing and account number.  This went well until I tried to actually input the amount of payment.  I tried it 15 different ways – commas, decimal points etc. etc. – but no luck.  Finally I dragged Olof over to my computer to consult.  It has been my experience that machinery, particularly computer-related machinery, is afraid of Olof and will cooperate in ways with him that they won’t with me.  And sure enough, Olof typed in the amount using the numerical keypad on the right side of the keyboard and voilà.  It’s entered.  I was using the numbers along the top of the keyboard. 

And this leads me to why I prefer to write checks instead of setting up on-line accounts to pay things.  There is always some stupid glitch.  I swear agencies like Transunion and the DMV and the Franchise Tax Board only hire people who have flunked out of computer school and have never once tested their websites on an actual person before inflicting them on the populace.  Certainly the Covid vaccine scheduling sites were a classic example.

Setting up on-line accounts usually requires – as did – picking three security questions from ten utterly inane options like: “What is the one course you regret not taking?” Whatever happened to “city where you were married”?

So even before you get to the idiotic questions whose answers you’d never remember, there’s still the whole dual authentication thing where they send a code to your phone (usually my phone which is very annoying to Olof in case I’m not home), and deciphering the sometimes indecipherable I’m-not-a-robot stuff, and resetting the password that you had to set up with a capital letter and special characters and at least eight numbers that expires every six months and can’t be re-used.

Believe me, a check is five times faster.  Well, assuming it gets there.


Saturday, May 7, 2022

Favorite Column Leads, Part V: Technology And Misceallaneous

 [“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published May 9, 2022] ©2022

 This fall will commence my fourteenth year of writing “Let Inga Tell You.”  It’s been the best retirement gig ever. I’ve covered a lot of topics, some of them repeatedly:  technology, kids, husbands, rats, weight, parking, appliances, Covid, and a host of La Jolla-centric issues.  Over the last four columns, I re-capped some of my favorite leads from the time I started this column. (No, I’m not retiring.) In this final installment, I’m covering my on-going battle with technology, appliances that have gotten too smart for me, travel, and assorted miscellaneous topics.


I personally think that it’s not too much to ask that computers do what you want, not what you say. [Jan. 14, 2010]

I know some people who can’t wait to upgrade their cell phones when a new model comes out. Personally, I’d rather eat my own organs.  [March 29, 2017]

Welcome to Auntie Inga’s Curmudgeon Hour. Grab your preferred beverage and sit down while I whine again about why life has just gotten too perplexing for me.  Jan. 22, 2020]   

Every election, I conclude that robocalls are God’s way of punishing people who still have land lines.  [June 12, 2014]

 As anyone who has read my column for any length of time knows, I truly believe that technology will be the death of me.  Probably literally, when I can’t figure out how to call 911 on my cell phone as I’m having a heart attack. [“Feb. 19, 2020]

  Technology has just become too technical.  [Aug. 16, 2018]

  There are infinite numbers of things that can go wrong with your computer. And Microsoft thinks of new ones every day. [ Aug. 27, 2015] 

  Being defeated by my new alarm clock was definitely a new low in my ever-deteriorating relationship with technology. [May 18, 2017]                 


It’s getting harder and harder to find dumb appliances. You’d think that with tens of millions of us Boomers descending into incipient senility that appliance manufacturers would be falling all over themselves to create the Jitterbug phone version of washers, dryers, stoves, microwaves and remotes.  [Sept. 21, 2017]

“Smart” appliances have totally run amok.  A friend’s dryer had an auto “wrinkle control” feature that fluffed up dried clothes every 30 seconds until the door was opened.  The friends went on vacation to Europe having put clothes in the dryer before they left. It was still fluffing when they returned. [Jan. 24, 2019]

Most of us are familiar with Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ five stages of dealing with death, but I think they work equally well with appliance repair. [April 22, 2010]


After our flight to Boston was delayed in 30-minute increments for eight hours only to be cancelled, it occurred to us that the reason TSA confiscates guns and knives isn’t just to thwart terrorists but to protect the gate agents.  [July 23, 2015] 

Somewhere in our fourth hour as hostages of a major airline at SeaTac, I couldn’t help but reflect that if our captors were terrorists, there would at least be someone negotiating for our release. [Nov. 12, 2007]

A close friend recently reported that her husband, a 59-year-old senior executive, has concluded that the nearly ten million miles of business travel he has logged in his career have taken too much of a toll on his health and he is taking early retirement.  It could be more of an adjustment than he thinks, she adds. She’s not sure he realizes his only friends are airline personnel. [Dec. 15, 2011]

And now, a few favorite Miscellaneous:

There’s probably nothing I enjoy more on the internet than misspelled moral outrage.  [April 7, 2011]

There are two phrases that always strike fear in my heart: “packed flat for easy assembly” and “it’s a simple outpatient procedure.” [November 6, 2014] 

Recently I hired a local high school kid to help me move some boxes, explaining that my husband was in Saudi Arabia. My teen helper’s brow puckered for a moment before he inquired, “Is that near Fresno?” [Feb. 10, 2011]

It’s not only modern men in power positions who are clueless about women.  If Ben Franklin were alive today, I’d love to whack him upside the head with my Susan B. Anthony T-shirt.  [Dec. 6, 2017]

People often ask me if my husband and children mind that I write about them.   Well, they might if they ever read my column.  [August 8, 2013]

Sometimes people ask me to help their kids with their college application essays under the assumption that I actually have any expertise.  I’m happy to help but first feel compelled to issue the disclaimer that my sum total writing training has been comprised of wantonly publishing often-ill-considered personal stories in my local paper. [Dec. 1, 2011]


Saturday, April 30, 2022

Favorite Column Leads, Part IV: Life In La Jolla

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published May 2, 2022] ©2022

This fall will commence my fourteenth year of writing “Let Inga Tell You.”  It’s been the best retirement gig ever. I’ve covered a lot of topics, some of them repeatedly: technology, kids, rats husbands, weight, parking, appliances, Covid, and a host of local issues.  Over the last few columns, I’ve re-capped some of my favorite leads from the time I started this column. (No, I’m not retiring.)  Previously, I covered Husbands, kids, pets, grandkids, health, and aging. This week it’s Life in La Jolla. 

I know that everyone has to die of something.  I, for example, am more than willing to die from chocolate.  What I’m not willing to have as the cause of my demise is Death By Vons Parking Lot.  People roar down the aisles of that lot like Bobby Unser on the Indianapolis Speedway.  Except, of course, that when Bobby took the curve in the final stretch, he wasn’t talking on his cell phone.  [August 20, 2009]

What is so rare as a day in June that is not gloomy? [June 15, 2016 

I think it should be standard practice that after a remodel, you give a party for your neighbors and beg their forgiveness. [“September 11, 2014] 

It was the Monday of Thanksgiving week, three days before the kids and grandtots would be arriving, when my kitchen suddenly smelled like a marlin had died on the counter top. I only had one question:  Does God hate me? [Dec. 10, 2015] (A possum had died and decomposed in the crawl space under my kitchen.)

You know you’re turning into a curmudgeon when you can’t decide whether to write about dog poop or leaf blowers.  [Sept. 19, 2013]

Those who celebrated the Chinese New Year on January 25 know that this is the Year of the Rat.  I couldn’t help but reflect that in La Jolla, it is always the year of the rat.  The little buggers really like it here. [March 12, 2020]

There have long been allegations that there are plenty of parking structure and off-street spaces in downtown La Jolla if the local denizens weren’t too cheap to pay for them.  Well, OK, we are too cheap to pay for them, but that’s the least of it.   [April 7, 2021]

I can only conclude that La Jolla’s motto should be “Build it and you will get away with it.”  [March 19, 2020]

You know that life around you has become too perpetually noisy when you hear a sound that you can’t quite place but seems familiar. Then you realize it’s birds chirping.  In fact, it’s your own aviary birds. [May 5, 2021]

Sometimes I think I’ve fallen into the twilight zone when I realize I live in a state where it’s legal to get an abortion, but not a haircut.  [Jan. 13, 2021]

I was going to write about the vaccine rollout last week but my first draft was 25,000 words and they only allow me 800.  But maybe that says it all right there. [Feb. 17, 2021]

With an 11,000 square foot lawn-infested lot and only a 1600 square foot home, my husband and I are plagued with nightmares of San Diego’s newly-created Water Police showing up in the dead of night. The only question is:  will they be after us or the azaleas?  [June 2, 2009 

Every letter to the editor on the subject of the drought suggests converting lawns to a garden of “attractive native plants.” Is it just me or is “attractive native plants” an oxymoron? [June 18, 2015] 

Even in a beach community, restaurants have standards, as in the not-uncommon sign, “No shirt – no shoes – no come in.”  It goes without saying that they’re referring to guys as nothing would probably be better for business than women showing up topless. [Aug. 24, 2017]

The man who knocked on my front door pointed to the curb.  “Is that your car?”  Instantly you know there’s no good news to be had.  Which doesn’t, of course, keep you from fantasizing he’ll say, “I just wanted to say that I totally love those older model Toyota Corollas.  Such classic lines.  And SO affordable.”  [May 1, 2014] [My car was hit-and-run.]

DMV, how do I hate thee?  Let me count the ways. [Nov. 14, 2019] [Getting my Real ID]

One night about a year and a half ago, some miscreants wandered up and down our street and smashed the side mirrors and tail lights of more than 50 high-end cars. They significantly damaged our neighbor’s Lexus SUV then moved to our driveway where they whacked Olof’s BMW. But like the Angel of Death, they passed over my 2005 Corolla. I couldn’t help but wonder at the time: was this a class thing? Did they consider my crappy Corolla one of their own? Or, I feared, did they just think it wasn’t worth the effort?  [May 7, 2015] 

When you can’t even hear your own outdoor aviary birds, you know that surrounding construction projects are out of hand.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Favorite Column Leads, Part III: Life, Aging, Chocolate

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published April 18, 2022] ©2022

This fall will commence my fourteenth year of writing “Let Inga Tell You.”  It’s been the best retirement gig ever. I’ve covered a lot of topics, some of them repeatedly: technology, kids, husbands, rats, weight, parking, appliances, Covid, and a host of La Jolla-centric issues.  Over the last few columns, I re-capped some of my favorite leads from the time I started this column. [No, I’m not retiring.]  This week I’m covering my on-going issues with health, aging, my house, life, and, of course, chocolate.    

I’ve spent considerable time over the years pondering the mysteries of the universe, but the one I truly can’t solve is why it takes four La Jolla women eighty emails to find a mutually-agreed upon date for lunch.  [June 30, 2011] [This column has had more reprint requests - as far away as South Africa- than any other column I’ve written.]

There was definitely a selection factor about the people who attended my 50th high school reunion in suburban New York a few weeks ago.  We were the people who weren’t dead. [Aug. 13, 2015] 

Everybody has a fantasy about what they’d do if they won the lottery. I’ve always been clear about mine: hire a live-in masseuse. I’d get a minimum of two massages a day of about four hours each. In fact, some days I wouldn’t even get off the table, especially if I could figure out a way to simultaneously get a straw into a glass of chardonnay.  [August 7, 2014]

Over the twelve years I’ve been writing this column, chocolate has been a frequent topic, most recently as a health food, which, by the way, it has finally been determined to be.  I was definitely born too soon.  [June 9, 2021]

Several years ago at a holiday lunch, I was seated next to a woman who had opened her own clothing boutique in North County. She thought it was a travesty that women’s clothes were mostly targeted toward the really slender. So in addition to carrying clothes for the emaciated svelte (my term), it was her plan to design clothing for her boutique for the “larger woman.” “What sizes?” I inquired, suddenly taking interest.  “8-12,” she says.  It was all I could do not to accidentally knock her Nicoise salad (dressing on the side) into her scrawny size two lap. [January 17, 2022] 

On January 1, I always vow – in writing - that this year I will lose the forty pounds I gained on the White Wine and Mrs. Fields Depression Diet during my divorce.  A minor detail, upon which we shall not dwell, was that the divorce was twenty-six years ago. Dec. 31, 2009]

I recently saw a beautiful choker necklace in a catalog and knew I had to have it.  But when it arrived, I discovered that the model had one thing I didn’t have:  a neck.  [July 14, 2011

It has not escaped my attention that all of my favorite TV shows are sponsored by antidepressants.  [Nov.17, 2011]

You know you’re getting older when you catch your adult kids walking around with a tape measure envisioning the remodel after you’re dead.  [May 3, 2012]

Last week I wrote about my husband Olof’s surprising heart attack after he’d just spent a year getting down to his ideal weight, eschewing alcohol and bad carbs, and walking two hours a day.  So much self-sacrifice and you STILL have a heart attack? Profoundly unfair. I could only wonder afterwards: should I just stick with chocolate and chardonnay, my food groups of choice? I would NOT want to risk a cardiac event. [Feb. 8, 2018]

It’s comforting to know that after I’m gone, I’ll live on through Post-it notes. [August 31, 2017]

I’m not the worst housekeeper in the world. But I am a contender. [April 20, 2016]

They don’t call me Orchid Death for nothing. [Oct. 6, 2021]

  You can hardly pick up a magazine these days without reading about the Japanese uber-organizer Marie Kondo whose best-selling book about tidying advises only keeping things that “spark joy.”  Does that include husbands and children? [Feb. 7, 2019]

A hazard of being a multi-ethnic household this time of year is that I’m always afraid the Menorah will set fire to the Nativity scene.  [Dec. 5, 2013]

Our dog, Lily, is definitely an emotional support animal even if she doesn’t have a diploma.  Fortunately, I also have an emotional support husband.  My kids, not so much.  But isn’t that why you have a dog? (And a husband?) June 3, 2020]

This time of year, we start hearing a rat family scurrying around our attic crawl space searching for warmth as San Diego’s version of winter begins. Honestly, these rats are such wusses. It’s San Diego you guys. It’s 60 degrees. They’d never make it as New York rats, let me tell you.  [November 20 2014] 

A mere month ago I conducted what I call a Preemptive Rodential Offensive, denuding my orange tree of 700+ oranges to avert our annual summer rat invasion. A rat accompli, the only fauna I’d now have to deal with was our visiting grand dog, Winston. That was until my husband remarked, “Do you hear quacking?”  [June 27, 2013]

Yup, we heard quacking.  And Winston wasn't happy about it. [2013].

















Sunday, April 10, 2022

Favorite Column Leads, Part II: Kids And Grandkids

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published April 11, 2022] ©2022

This fall will commence my fourteenth year of writing “Let Inga Tell You.”  It’s been the best retirement gig ever. I’ve covered a lot of topics, some of them repeatedly: technology, kids, husbands, rats, weight, parking, appliances, Covid, and a host of La Jolla-centric issues.  Over the next few columns, I am going to re-cap some of my favorite leads from the time I started this column. Last week, I covered Husbands (particularly Olof). This week we’ll cover Kids (my older son (the irrepressible adopted Rory) and my younger son, Henry), single parenthood, grandkids and pets. 

When I became single after my divorce, it was a sobering thought that if I wasn’t murdered on any given night, it was only because no one felt like it.  [Sept. 29, 2021]

There are times when you just have to lie.  All right, I can hear my many lovely devout friends shaking their heads and saying, “No, it is NEVER okay to lie.”   So let this be my mea culpa:  I lied. But if I hadn’t lied, I’d probably still have a dead possum in my front yard.  [Dec. 2, 2010]

I still have the now-slightly-moldy handmade card my older son Rory gave me for Mother’s Day when he was 10:  You’ve been like a mother to me, it read. [May 11, 2017]

My husband has always maintained that I married him for his skills with a sewer augur, but that’s only partially true.  [March 11, 2010] (Rory loved flushing myriad objects down the toilet so he could watch it overflow.)

A few months ago, I wrote two columns regaling my readers with stories about how my older son, Rory, managed to terrorize me repeatedly by re-enacting scenes from horror movies he’d been allowed to watch at his father’s.  I personally think my ex hoped I would suffer a heart attack and die, thereby absolving him from further child support payments.  He denies this. [Nov. 18, 2020]

Every teenager at some point ponders the question, “Just how stupid ARE my parents?”  [June 6, 2013]

I get that teenager sons need to separate from their mothers. But do they have to be so mean about it?   [April 13, 2014]

Of all the fantasies one has as a new mom, one never imagines that some day that adorable blob will be assigned to write a paper for his abnormal psychology class analyzing the psychopathology of someone he knows well.  And choose you. [Nov.4, 2010]

Recently I had the pleasure of meeting my son’s mother for the first time.  [March 24, 2011] [I had to wait 32 years to use that line.]


Over the holidays, it is always our hope to have the company of our four preschool grandchildren. And after they leave, it is always our hope to someday get all of our electronics working again.  [Jan. 24, 2013]

Recently, we spent four days in L.A. babysitting our grandchildren – 5, 4, and 14 months – paroling our son and daughter-in-law for a much-needed get-away.  Overall it went well. There were, however, three heart-stopping episodes but fortunately nothing that could not be resolved by either (1) acetone (2) phenobarbital or (3) the realization that the house wasn’t on fire after all. [Sept. 10, 2015] 

I was thinking about writing a guide on how to be a good mother-in-law but truthfully it can all be summed up in two words: “Shut. Up.”  [May 9, 2013]

Preschool is a whole new world since my sons went. Two of my grandchildren go to a preschool in L.A. that is not only rabidly environmentally-conscious but also has a zero tolerance policy for sugar (bad for you) and nuts (someone could be allergic) on school grounds. (Knives would probably be OK.)   [May 11, 2016]

I’ve finally come to understand the basic connection between grandparents and tiny grandchildren: diapers. They really want to get out of them, and we fervently hope never to get into them.  [July 10, 2014]

At my granddaughter’s first birthday, her mother tore off a small piece of the baby-sized chocolate cake and gave it to her.  My granddaughter ignored it, picked up the cake itself, and buried her face in it. I knew absolutely at that moment that my genes had been thrown forward. [Oct. 11, 2018] 


A few years back when I wrote about our birds, I cautioned that one should never let kids get a pet with a longer life expectancy than yours. I really, really mean it. [October 16, 2014]

Call me naïve, but I really thought neutering a dog was supposed to make him, well, uninterested.  But even after Winston went under the knife, there would be the odd occasion when we’d be having a dinner party on our patio and a guest would suddenly exhibit a certain telltale twitching indicating to us that Winston was under the table having a close encounter of the interspecies kind. [March 2, 2016]

I still have the hand-made card Rory made for me for Mother's Day when he was 10


Saturday, April 2, 2022

Favorite Column Leads, Part I: Husbands

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published April 4, 2022] ©2022

 This fall will commence my fourteenth year of writing “Let Inga Tell You.”  It’s been the best retirement gig ever. I’ve covered a lot of topics, some of them repeatedly: technology, kids, husbands, aging, rats, weight, parking, appliances, Covid, and a host of La Jolla-centric issues.  Over the next few columns, I am going to re-cap some of my favorite leads (or ledes as they say in the newspaper biz) from the time I started this column. And no, this doesn’t mean I’m retiring.  (You should be so lucky.) This week we’ll start with: Husbands (particularly my engineer husband, Olof).

We know couples who contend they can talk to each other about “anything.”  My husband Olof agrees that’s the way relationships ought to be, so long as you never actually do it. [Sept. 26, 2013]

My husband is having an emotional affair with a cooking show lady.  There, I’ve said it.  [Feb. 6, 2014]

When Olof married me sixteen years ago after eight years of commuting from the Bay area, I knew it was important for him to have his own space in my house since he’d had to give up his own home.  Since Rory had just left for college, I told Olof that room was his to do what he wished. Who knew I married someone with no taste?   [Feb. 24, 2011]

A while back, I wrote about how Olof and I were engaged in dishwasher wars now that he had taken over this chore in retirement.  Three-plus years later, after considerable discussion and negotiation, I would like to report that…nothing has changed.  [April 18, 2019]

Now that Olof no longer requires a high security clearance for his job, I can safely divulge that all anyone ever needed to do to get him to spill every secret he knew was tie him to a chair in front of a continuous loop of feminine hygiene commercials.  [May 20, 2010]

What is it with men, anyway?  No, don’t even try to answer that. [Nov. 11, 2020]

When my husband, Olof, asked me what I wanted for my birthday, I didn’t hesitate to request a top-of-the-line sewer auger.   Now, this might suggest that the romance has gone out of the relationship or worse, could be considered a dismal metaphorical condemnation of our union.  [Nov. 7, 2013)

I wrote last week about finding the ideal Christmas gift for my engineer Olof:  a slide rule.  I’d like to report that it is being lovingly slid on a daily basis.  Who knew there were so many uses for a logarithmic scale? [Jan. 20, 2019] [It was a never-used personalized high school graduation gift from 1949 sold on eBay by the now-deceased recipient’s estate.]

I think I can sum up my husband, Olof’s, and my different styles by the funeral instructions our estate attorney had us write when he set up our trusts.  Mine went on for three pages.  Olof’s were all of six words: “I don’t care. I’ll be dead.”  [Jan. 10, 2013]

It’s been my observation over 11 years and nearly 400 columns that I always get the most response when I write about dogs or my husband, Olof. Olof is trying not take this personally. [Oct. 21, 2020]

Forget iPhones, iPods, iPads and Wii. My husband and I agree that no techno gismo ever invented compares to GPS.  But then, we’re not called the Bobbsey Twins of Directional Disability for nothing. [Feb.11, 2010 

Last year, my husband took a trip with four fellow-physics-major college roommates that as basically a geek fest tour of the Pacific Northwest.  They took in the Boeing factory, then Reactor B, and apparently got positively misty-eyed at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory in Hanford. The only people who had more fun than they did were their wives who didn't have to go.  [Sept. 5, 2019]

Before my engineer husband tries to explain anything technical to me, he says, “I think you might want to get the yellow pad.”  He, of course, means an 8x11 lined legal pad which we buy by the kilo, since he also asserts that when I die, he’s going to insert a multi-pack of them into my coffin for my use in the hereafter. In his dream of the hereafter, somebody else is helping me with my technical problems who is not him.  [Dec. 13, 2012] 

A now a favorite one about a different husband:  

My expat friend Julia had to go out of town for several weeks on a family emergency and was surprised to return and find a veritable mountain of laundry waiting for her. She'd expected laundry, of course, but commented that she had never realized that her husband Fred owned so many clothes. Turned out that when she left, he hadn't. But as he ran out of clean clothes, he just kept buying more.  Weeks of more. [May 31, 2012]

I loved that my husband was willing to take over the dishes after he retired, but he runs the machine a quarter full.  Makes me crazy! (Column April 18, 2019)

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Bad Grandma

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published March 21, 2022] ©2022

The voice on the other end of the phone couldn’t have been more enthusiastic.  “Hi grandma!” said a late teen-early 20-ish voice.

It definitely wasn’t one of my grandsons who are all a lot younger.

“I’m sorry,” I said politely. “But I think you have the wrong number.” I was about to hang up when he said, “I knew you wouldn’t recognize my voice.  I’m sick. In fact that’s why I’m calling.”  He coughs for effect.

And in a flash I knew: grandma scam! While it would have been tempting to just hang up, this suddenly seemed a lot more interesting than paying the property tax bill on-line which I’d been doing at the time. 

“So which grandson are you?” I say, deciding to play along. 

“Geesh, grandma, you don’t know?”

“Timmy?” I say.

“Yes, Timmy,” he replies. “Here’s the problem. I went to Mexico for the weekend with some friends and got really sick. And now they won’t let me out of the hospital if I don’t pay the bill in cash. Mom and Dad didn’t know I was going and they would just kill me.  (Pause.) You’ve always been my favorite grandma.”

Woo-hoo! This script was right out of the AARP Scams-on-Seniors Playbook. Now I was intrigued.

“So how much do you need?” I said.

“$2,000,” says my fake grandson Timmy. “I know it’s a lot of money but I promise I’ll pay you back.”  Another pause, and a voice of contrition. “I’ve learned my lesson.” 

“Are you sure they won’t take your medical insurance?” I inquire.

Timmy starts to sound a tad annoyed. “I already asked. Cash or nothing.”  He decides to up the ante. “My friends are leaving this afternoon to drive back so if I can’t get out, they’ll leave me behind.”  Upping the ante some more: “I’ve heard they put people in jail who can’t pay their bills down here.”  Escalating to Defcon1: “I’m really scared.”

“Don’t worry, sweetie,” I say in best faux-caring grandma voice. “Just tell me how I get the money to you”

If one could hear a happy dance across optical fiber, this would have been it. “Can you wire it to me via Western Union?” he gushes, that rasp in his voice suddenly gone.  “Just go to It’s really easy. Have you got something to write with?” (Pause.)  “You really are the best grandma ever.”

Oops! The property tax line is about to time me out. Don’t want to have to start all over again.  As much fun as this has been, it’s time to wrap up TimmyGate.

“You know, Timmy,” I say, “You’ve never been my favorite grandson. In fact, I’ve never really liked you at all.”  And I hung up.

Burning questions consumed me for the rest of the day after this phone call.  The first being: how does anyone actually fall for this scam?  There were dozens of specific questions I could have asked him that would have exposed him as a fake. I’ve read that the truly artful grandma scammers have done a little research, sometimes found out the names of the actual grandchildren, maybe even their birthdays, or their parents’ names. Maybe the family pet.

But this little dweeb hadn’t even bothered and was hoping to deflect questions with aspersions on grandma’s love for him. Get ME to come up with the right grandchild name. I have to say that as a grandma scammer, he wasn’t very good. My one shot at grandma scamdom and I get an amateur.

On-line research on the subject later in the day suggested that the reason the grandma scam works is that grandparents are desperate to hear from their deadbeat grandkids, regardless of the excuse.  Saying “I love you” is the closer.

That people still fall for the much-publicized Nigerian scam is even more baffling. Have they been living under a rock? (Or have the brains of one?) A wealthy Nigerian prince/businessman sends total strangers an email (I’ve received dozens) and wants to give them ten million all for the minor inconvenience of letting the prince/businessman use your U.S. bank account to transfer some of his funds out of his war-torn country.

But my other burning question about “Timmy” was: how did he get my number?  Is AARP selling us out?  Is there a list of grandmas you can buy on the internet at Or do they just cold call until they get a woman who sounds old?  (I DO NOT SOUND OLD.) 

I would have loved to have asked him before I hung up, “So Timmy, I’ll actually wire you $50 if you tell me how you got my number.”  But he would never have told me. And I would never have sent the $50 anyway.