How to Clean Your Stainless Steel Flask

. . . That You Really Love Because You Got it in New Zealand

1. Text your friend, Lil’ Jay, with whom you have been discussing flasks: My flask smells revolting. How do you clean a flask?

2. Wait for her reply: [My fiance] says, “What do you mean ‘how do you clean a flask?’ You Google ‘how to clean a flask!”

3. Wait for the addendum: He Googled it for you.  Salt water or a little bleach in water.

4. Leave putrid flask out on the kitchen counter for one week, or until your roommate asks if there is any particular reason that your putrid flask is out on the kitchen counter.

5. Poke around in the cabinets, trying to remember what Lil’ Jay’s fiance’s Google search results suggested, until you find some white vinegar and baking soda and think, “Oh, yeah, that might have been it.”

7. Dribble some vinegar and a little bit of warm water into the flask.

8. Use the heart-shaped teaspoon your grandmother gave you for Valentine’s Day to scoop 1 tsp. baking soda into the flask.

9. Screw the cap closed and shake vigorously.

10. Listen to the fizzing.

11. Shake vigorouslier.

12. Listen to more fizzing.

13. Empty the flask. Rinse thoroughly with warm water.

14. Check old text messages and see that Lil’ Jay’s fiance actually suggested salt water and bleach, not vinegar or baking soda.

15. Google it yourself and find these great instructions for cleaning a stainless steel travel coffee mug (almost the same thing, yes?) with baking soda, boiling water, and white or cider vinegar on Good Housekeeping‘s website.

I bet Lil’ Jay’s fiance hasn’t even heard of Heloise and her hints, hmpfh!


16. Take a picture to show how well your sparkling and squeaky clean flask fits in the pocket of your pajama pants!

17. Feel silly.

18. Post it on the internet anyway.

Neurosis, thy name is Emily

I’ve been unable to write for the last five days. I’ve been busy. I’ve been exhausted. I’ve been busy number-crunching. It’s been exhausting.

It’s Coinstar, man. It’s all I can think about, that green kiosk of untold bounty. That, and the old-fashioned latch-top jar in which I’ve been collecting spare change for the last three or four years. Just how much that stockpile is worth is anyone’s guess. The ration of quarters—the coin that might make or break any monetary return—was depleted significantly in the seven months last year when I spent them to do my own laundry, but they’re accumulating again, now that I pay cash to have it done for me.

My issue is over 8.9% of whatever I have actually saved in my penny-candy jar. If I want free and easy cash, Coinstar will keep around nine cents of every dollar. No matter what, I get about ninety-one cents of every dollar that might otherwise fritter away on my dresser indefinitely. Not knowing how much I actually have in my jar means not knowing how much, exactly, Coinstar will pocket.

The alternative is to trade my spare change—100% of it—for a certificate to one of a select few retailers. Starbucks, for example. Since I’d probably spend it all on coffee anyway, that makes sense. But I almost never caffeinate at Starbucks. I walk two and a half long blocks past the nearest Starbucks to get to the Dunkin’ Donuts crammed into a stall-sized storefront on 23rd street. Dunkin’ serves a bigger cup at a lower price with a brighter flavor and a warmer reception than the competition.

Duane Reade is also a Coinstar partner, but I live and die by the CVS Pharmacy ExtraCare awards program, which earns me ExtraBucks and frequently offers coupons for CVS-brand products. I could spend my savings on shampoo and conditioner, for example, at DR for a negligible difference in price, but how much would I be losing in ExtraBucks unearned? And will that amount come to more than what Coinstar would have deducted if I had taken straight cash?  As you can see, in my effort to resist marketing ploys, I’ve become helplessly brand loyal.

(When I last visited, the older baristo was valiantly karaoke-ing to Rhianna on the radio and goading his younger and very handsome coworker to dance. That was fun.)

I haven’t been crunching any literal numbers, since the candy jar amount is still completely hypothetical, but I have been trying to figure out whether it’s worth it to fork over nine cents on my dollars for the privilege of buying whatever coffee I want. I feel like, either way, I’m giving into a trend or a marketing ploy that I really know well enough to resist.

Should this really be such a complicated matter? No. It should not. That has never stopped me from over-thinking before. Worrying over silly things like this is a hobby.

I’ve over-thought myself out. I need a Diet Coke. Forget Coinstar. I’m going to take my spare change and find the nearest vending machine.

Update (June 13): Thanks to a tip from Shawn, I have converted my change cache into $79.98 green without weighing the monetary value of every ounce of coffee or sacrificing a single ExtraBuck. Most, if not all branches of Commerce Bank have electronic coin counting machines called “Penny Arcades.” When you pour your change in, you can enter your guess at the total amount. Apparently, a good guess makes you eligible for a prize. At the very least, you get a taste of that The Price is Right sort of anticipation, and I bet the majority of bankers guess too low and are happily surprised. I guessed $41—a little more than half of what I’d saved! The service is free for everyone, not just account holders, and the machines are equipped with a child sized counter to cater to short savers.

Sometimes I wonder what miracle saved me from natural selection.

A few years ago, I went kayaking with a couple of friends. I mostly planned the trip; I was the one with experience.

About four paddling hours into our weekend, the other girls want off the ride and I’m not sure we’ll all make it through to the end. Someone is going to drown herself if she doesn’t start following my instructions. Or I might leave them all for dead. Or they’ll mutiny and try to go on without me and not one of us will live to tell the tale.

As navigator, I’ve taken responsibility for our itinerary and taken possession of our maps. I am also in charge of our supply of iodine tablets. Iodine is naturally-occurring chemical element used to purify water, ridding it of giardia and other creepy-crawly parasites. I concede to the eleventy-millionth request for a break when we get close to a water source.

I have the brown bottle iodine tablets ready in the dry-sack in my lap. I also have the yellow bottle of neutralizer tablets that come in the same package. They’re supposed to return iodine-treated water to its natural color and taste. They don’t work—they make water taste like powdered plastic—and also, they’re for pansies. I’ve decided that I’m tough enough to drink water with a metallic-tinge to its aftertaste, and I won’t tolerate otherwise.

We shore up our boats and hunt around for the spigot. Its caked in green corrosion so thick in some spots that the chemically-tarnished water has solidified layer by layer in drip-drop form. There is an advisory fixed to the faucet—the screws that hold it in place are green, too—right by the handle so that I have to wrench my wrist backward and kind of slip my thumb out of the knuckle-joint to reach around it and work the pump.


I’ve always resented water-purification. I resent the waiting. I resent that I can’t trust natural water sources. I resent tainting something that looks and smells and sounds so pure.

I fill up my pink Nalgene and break out the iodine. I tap out two tablets from the little brown bottle and pass it around to the others. Explain their purpose. Glance at my watch and note the time. Happy to comply. Ready to CHEMICALLY TREAT NON-POTABLE WATER FOR 30 MIN BEFORE I sip it or brush my teeth or even rinse the gravel out of my bikini bottoms, Girl Scout’s Honor.

I have two tablets bleeding in my damp left hand. What looks like undiluted Easter egg dye stains the creases in my palm, my life line, my wealth line, all my whatever-else lines, as I fold them in there and use my left fingers to push the sippy-top away from the mouth of my Nalgene, which is slippery in my right hand.

Left hand: tablets. Right hand: bottle. Left hand: tablets. Right hand: bottle.

This pose is so familiar to me, I could be blessing wafers and wine at Sunday Eucharist. Only instead of crossing myself from shoulder to shoulder to forehead and down, I’m conditioned to pop the pills and swallow. I smack the iodine tablets into my mouth and gulp from my water bottle. From my water bottle filled with non-potable water.

Of course.

I glance at my friends, grimacing at the chalky line down the back of my throat, thinking don’t look at me, don’t look at me, don’t look at me.

I hope they don’t choose this moment to follow my lead.

Everyone is distracted by the chemical reactions taking place in their water bottles. The jar of iodine tablets comes back around to me and I discretely drop two more tabs into my bottle, pretending just to fuss with getting the cap back on. We shake our bottles to encourage the cleansing. We wait.

“Let’s get back in the water,” I suggest. “I’ll keep an eye on the time.”

When thirty minutes have passed, I let everybody know that their water is safe to drink. We pause and sip. I concentrate on my stomach, trying to figure out if half an hour is enough time to be lethally poisoned by iodine overdose and impure water. I’m feeling pretty okay, mostly just nervous. I think I’m going to make it. But just in case.

“If anybody really hates the taste, I have these neutralizer things. They sort of make the color go away.” Is there any other vital information I should share now, in case I keel over within the hour? “I put the marshmallows in with my clothes. We should make s’mores tonight before they get too smooshed.

We all made it through the weekend alive and I managed not to accidentally swallow any other foreign objects. But I’ve gotta tell you, sometimes I wonder what miracle saved me from natural selection.

Now I know what happens when I stay up too late watching TLC

I dreamed about an alternate ending to the sixth Harry Potter book last night.  I was Harry, even though I was a witch.  And Dumbledore was definitely played by Ian McKellen/Gandalf of Lord of the Rings, which is probably how it should be in real life.  We were in a forest and it was snowy and Dumbledalf didn’t seem to have feet under all of his robes.  He hovered, but he left footprints in the snow.  It was odd.

It’s not odd that the first floor of the Hogwarts dormitory looked like Michaela and Sully’s homestead on Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman and the second floor looked like a cabin at Camp Jewell.  It’s not all that bizarre that after I survived Voldemort’s attack, the dream took a turn toward the serial killer in the woods ending.  I’m not even surprised that Matt Roloff from Little People, Big World was my house elf.

The weirdest part?  Is that I have no idea what Harry Potter was doing in my subconcious, but it makes absolutely perfect sense that Matt Roloff was there, too.

Not the next ad campaign

Checking out at Key Food with five bottles of flavored, carbonated water and nothing more

Male Self Check-out Attendant: I drink those all the time.
Me: Mmmm-hmmphhh.
Attendant: So many of them. I love them. Especially the peach flavor?
Me: Yeah, definitely.
Attendant: I sweat flavored water.
Me: I don’t even like regular water anymore.
Attendant: I think I pee flavored water.
Me: Uh?
Attendant: Too far? Too far. Sorry. Thanks for shopping at Key Food! Have a good night.
Me: Thanks, you too!