Wednesday, April 26, 2023

I Recall Not Having an Air Fryer

Have you ever had an appliance try to kill you?

I remember a long time ago in college, my roommate worked at a brewpub. He and a couple of the other unskilled and possibly intoxicated employees were installing a new overhead microwave in the kitchen.

Kids, this was back when microwaves were still a major appliance and weighed as much as a stove, or a small car. He slipped on the impeccably clean kitchen floor and the microwave came down on top of him. Being a college kid, he only ended up with a cut on his forehead and a huge goose egg. If he had been our age now, he’d be dead, or at least entirely sprained.

Luckily for the brewpub, it was partly owned by Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Kathy Ireland. Being a college-aged male, instead of asking the courts for half of the business, he asked his boss for a signed Kathy Ireland poster. He got a personalized get-well card and a signed poster from her, which instantly made him college royalty.

Totally worth the almost assuredly undiagnosed concussion.

As for me, I’ve had my run-ins with various power tools and industrial machinery, but I’ve never been attacked by an appliance as far as I can remember. We came close recently, though.

I got a rather stern warning on my Amazon account that something I had purchased was being recalled. The first notice took over nearly half my screen, and the notices continued almost every time I was on Amazon, so in the e-commerce world, it was a Defcon 5 situation.

Turns out it was our air fryer. Apparently, many of our same model had burst into flames in unsuspecting consumers’ homes. Flames from your air fryer, as it turns out, is not a special cooking feature. Instead, it’s a serious safety concern.

What was more concerning than our air fryer spontaneously combusting on our kitchen island, however, was the thought of being without an air fryer for even one day.

It rivals our refrigerator as our family’s favorite kitchen appliance. I would much rather be without a microwave oven, signed Kathy Ireland poster or not, than be without our air fryer.

The air fryer is magical. You can cook anything in it, and you can cook it in a tenth of the time.

Bacon? Air fryer. Crispy, no splatter all over your stove, six minutes.

Fish? Plug the air fryer in outside. Like it never happened, and perfect fish in five minutes.

Tater tots. Nothing finer. Same goes for taquitos and chicken nuggets.

Whole, giant, frozen chicken breasts? Twenty minutes to perfection.

Reheating pizza? Don’t ever even think about doing it again without an air fryer.

It even has a button for cake, but we haven’t tried that one yet.

At this point, I don’t think our boys could function without it, and to be perfectly candid, two of them are taller than me and I was concerned about what might go down if I sent it back. After weighing the options, I simply told them to keep an eye on it while they were cooking and put out any flames that might pop up.

We went that route for more than a month before they all went to Mexico with our church over spring break. It was day two without kids when my genius wife remembered that our air fryer was a ticking time bomb and reminded me.

To the COSORI company’s credit, some of their air fryers may randomly erupt into flames, but their recall process is second to none. I filled out the simple form on my phone, sent them three pictures with the old fryer in various poses, it’s cord unceremoniously cut in two, and had a brand spanking new one in about four days. All indications are that the new one is the explosion-free model, even though it looks identical to the old one.

It was back on the counter when the boys returned from Mexico, none the wiser. Possible devastating structure fire avoided.

But more importantly, we didn’t have to endure hearing about how annoying it is to use a regular oven from three teenage boys.

Thanks, COSORI. You guys rock.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, April 19, 2023

We Interrupt This Column...

We interrupt this column for some very important medicinal appointments. You see, the boys and I ran the annual Run Rocklin 5K on Sunday, and even though they’ve been running it for years with me, and they are getting older and stronger, they all sucked this year. Well, actually Son Number Three did OK-ish, but the other two sucked. I also sucked. It was basically a suck-fest.

This has me very concerned about the health of our legs and lungs. Rocklin is only a few hundred feet above sea level, so there should have been no shortage of oxygen for us to use, but I for one couldn’t find nearly as much as I needed. The boys seemed to be having the same issue as me, albeit in a quieter and less obvious way. But their finishing times told the tale – Not enough oxygen and weak legs.

It was obviously time to take us all for a series of tests.

This leads us to the reason we are interrupting today’s column. Son Number Two happens to turn seventeen years old today, and he doesn’t have any tests scheduled at school. His two brothers don’t have any scheduled classroom tests either.

All this great lack of school test timing happened to coincide perfectly with the fact that it snowed about eight to ten inches in the Sierras yesterday, so we have the perfect storm, so to speak. Which brings us to the reason we have to interrupt this column today – namely, I’m not here.

I mean, we really had no choice but to get all three boys and me up to a high-altitude testing ground, where we’re able to run our legs through a long series of rigorous tests in a low-oxygen environment. And since it’s a low-temperature day, we’re also able to visually monitor our lung functions.

Look, I don’t like them missing school any more than they do for these kinds of medicinal appointments, but gosh darn it, the health of our children will always come first.

Do I care too much? Perhaps. But we will stay up here and run these tests until our legs can’t stand it anymore.

We’ll get to the bottom of things. And we’ll probably get there pretty fast.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, April 12, 2023

We Possess Sprinklers

I noticed one of our clumps of decorative grass by our front walk was looking a little brownish the other day (read: completely dead-looking), and realized I hadn’t turned on the sprinkler system yet.

Spring has sprung, but I had been lulled into a state of non-sprinklering by the winter we just had here in Northern California, which can only be described as a six-month monsoon with slight pauses for drizzle.

So yesterday I flipped the sprinkler controls in the garage to “on,” and this morning they ran for the first time this year. About an hour after they were supposed to have been finished, I was out on the driveway and noticed the three sprinklers on the small lawn to the right of the driveway were still on and sending quite a bit of water down the street to the storm drain.

It was odd that they hadn’t shut off when they were supposed to, but what made it even more odd was the fact that they are tied in with about half the sprinklers across the driveway on the main lawn, and those were off. So one of my sprinkler valves came on but failed to turn off, but some of its sprinklers were off and some were on.

If you know anything at all about sprinkler valves and piping, you know that what I just described is impossible, without demonic sprinkler possession being in play.

I went to all five valves and turned them on and off manually. That did not solve the problem.

I went to the sprinkler controller in the garage and turned it off. They kept running. That should also be impossible.

OK, maybe the sprinkler controller has shorted internally, I thought to myself. So, I actually disconnected each and every valve control wire from their terminals. There was no longer any possible way the valve could be signaled to be on.

The sprinklers kept running.

It was at this point that I got down on my knees in my garage and prayed for God to exorcise the evil irrigation demon that had possessed my home. I prayed hard, because I had other things to do with my morning than battle the Demon of Irritrol, but the good Lord did not stop the raging waters.

He did, however, provide me with some clarity. As I prayed for the sake of my water bill and protection from the rath of the California Eternal Drought Coalition Forces, it finally occurred to me that if half the sprinklers on one valve weren’t on, then those sprinklers weren’t on that valve. The system is wired to appear and operate as if the sprinklers on both sides of the driveway are on one valve, but they couldn’t possibly be, demonic possession or not. Water just doesn’t work that way.

So somewhere underground, that control wire from terminal 2 is connected to another control wire that goes to another valve that controls my three rogue sprinklers, and at some point during the monsoon months, that valve got corroded enough that it no longer shuts off automatically.


But where could that mystery valve be, you ask? It’s buried underground in the backyard in a valve box that was abandoned years ago when we put the pool in. I thought the valves in that box only controlled the backyard lawn sprinklers that were dug up by the pool excavator. I was obviously mistaken. At least one of them is pigtail-wired off Valve Number 2 to run three sprinklers next to my driveway that don’t shut off anymore.

Demonic possession officially ruled out. Thank you, Jesus?

So, after shutting off the water to the whole system to stop the flooding, I wrote myself a note to spend Saturday on an exploratory digging expedition.

It was my wife’s idea to have kids and buy a house. I wanted to live on a boat. Boats never have sprinkler issues, because you don’t need a pool.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, April 5, 2023

Construction Rapido

All three of our boys are in Mexico right now over spring break. They are in Mexicali with a huge group of other high school kids from our church, so at this point, I’d like to formally apologize to the country of Mexico for anything my children may say or do while in your beautiful country. Deep down in their hearts they mean well, I think, but they are complete yahoos, especially when in close proximity to each other.

The group is building houses and holding mini church camps for the local kids. Son Number One and Two are on a construction team building a two-bedroom home for a family in need, and Son Number Three is on an “Impact” team, getting his butt kicked in soccer by niños y niñas half his age.

This is Number Three’s first year going on the trip, but One and Two got to go last year to build a house, and the stories they brought back were amazing. I mean, the family they build it for was great, and they were incredibly grateful, and it changed how my sons view the world and got them to understand how blessed they are to live in America with our abundance and prosperity and access to opportunities and all of that good stuff, but that’s not what was most amazing.

The thing that blew my mind about the trip was how fast you can build a house in a country with basically no laws.

If you ignore the whole child labor law hassle it really opens up the workforce. Granted, your average high school freshman isn’t necessarily a huge asset to a construction team, but you always need grunt labor alongside the skilled labor. Plus, you don’t have to spend a lot of time on human resources issues and paperwork with child labor, because they have no rights anyway.

The house they built had full electrical, with ceiling lights and wall outlets and everything, but that goes incredibly fast when you can just install all the wires and then immediately cover them all up with drywall without waiting for a city building inspector to show up and check everything first.

The same goes for the framing, plumbing, insulation, windows, roof trusses, shingles, etc. Just build it and move on. Get at least one person on the project with construction knowledge and a plan, add the proper amount of high school monkeys, and you can build an entire house in three days.

Literally. Three days. They had another day and a half of exterior and interior trim work and painting, but the house was up, functional, and weather-tight in three days.

This year’s trip leaders are keeping the Instagram feed stocked with enough progress photos that we’re able to tell that the current house is almost finished, and also, everyone seems to still have all their fingers. That’s a win.

If my Grandpa was still alive, he’d tell you about the time when as a young married man, he bought a lot in town, dug a basement, bought an old house across town, moved it over on a large truck, and set it on top of his new basement. My mom grew up in that house, and we got to go see it a few years ago, still standing.

Things used to be simpler, and they still are in places like Mexico. If you bring some construction know-how to the party, you can get a lot done in a short period of time. And it can be accomplished very inexpensively when you rope a bunch of kids into helping.

But only if you’re able to take away their cell phones.

You see, that’s the other thing that makes this all possible. Along with the absence of building inspectors and over-regulation, the kids don’t have access to their phones for the whole week. They are amazingly able to concentrate on and complete tasks.

If they were allowed to have their phones, that three-day house build would turn into six weeks, with 57,000 “I’m building a house” TikTok dance videos and two million selfies posing with power tools.

I don’t think my grandpa would approve.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


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