Illustrated Articles

“This Is Not A Steak Knife”

Amanda Boehm-Garcia/September 20, 2017


Over the freeways and through the traffic to my grandmother’s house I would go at least a few times a year for the complimentary hot coffee in mid-July and the routine battery replacement on all the smoke alarms.  On one particular visit my grandmother had different tasks for me that included tightening the screws on the hinge of a cupboard door.  “Easy enough, ” I thought until I noticed something flat and metallic jammed into the screw head.  “What’s this stuck in the screw?” I asked, trying unsuccessfully to pry it out with my fingers.  “Oh, that’s just the tip of a steak knife,” my grandmother replied so nonchalantly you would think we were talking about what kind of laundry detergent she uses.  “Oh,” I replied while trying to wrap my head around what possible scenario could end with a steak knife in a screw head.  And then it dawned on me, of course, she had been trying to use the knife as a screwdriver and broken off the tip in the process.  “Couldn’t you find a screwdriver?” I asked.  “I’m sure I could if I looked around, but the knife was right there,” my grandmother explained.  “Well, geez, why was the screwdriver even invented then?” I retorted, which got me wondering, why was the screwdriver invented?  And who invented it?  An engineer with a grandmother like mine?  I decided to find out.

The screwdriver was first patented by a man whose name we are all familiar with, Henry F. Phillips.  Phillips was a terrible traveling salesman and an even worse inventor who is credited with the invention of the screwdriver.  Phillips quickly sold licenses for the Phillips head screw to numerous screw manufacturers and watched as in 1936 the first car to be built using Phillips’ head screws, the Cadillac, rolled off the assembly line.  While Henry F. Phillips was the first to patent the screwdriver, he may have not been it’s original creator.  The first appearance of the screwdriver, or something like it, dates back to the 1500s in Germany.  It is believed to have been used during wartime as the screwdriver was discovered to be listed in a manual of tools for a military workshop.  The described screwdriver appeared to be a “perfected” tool, certainly not something in it’s developmental stages, leading one to believe that it’s actual origin must date back even farther.

Which leaves me hopeful that if a caveman may have had the foresight to understand the need for a screwdriver, surely, and given the right proximity, my grandmother can too.



“From One Peach to Another”

Amanda Boehm-Garcia/September 12, 2017

I have been asked not to write anything else about my mother-in-law and my first reaction was “Sure, of course, sorry I offended anyone.”  But after a moment’s pause my response now is “You know what, no, I have just one more thing to say about her.”

It’s never easy living with someone, especially if that someone is me.  Just as my mother-in-law would do things that made my jaw drop to the floor, I’m sure there were things that I did that made her mad enough to chop down all her plants with a pair of dull scissors, it’s true I saw it happen.

For instance, how everytime I did the laundry it looked like the washer and dryer had thrown-up all the clothes both dirty and clean, leaving a disaster area for my mother-in-law to wade through so she could clean her own clothes.  Or how I could never seem to completely put away all the kid’s toys, especially all the art projects left to dry for weeks on end on the dining room table.  It’s a good thing for the Play-Doh that we ate on tray tables.  Or why I incessantly kept trying to make Chinese food that always turned out to be Stir-Fried Awfulness.  And still my mother-in-law would choke it down with a grimace that I mistook for a smile.  I can say with 100% certainty there must be plenty more annoying things that I have done that my mother-in-law is just too polite to ever mention and that is one of the many reasons why I love her.  She welcomed me into her home and did her best to live “amongst” me and, what my Dad used to lovingly refer to, as “my artist’s brain.”

Mother-in-law, what I am trying to say is thank you, thank you for putting up with me for the last few years.

I know I’m not exactly much of a peach to live with, just ask my parents.


“Is That Really Compost in My BackYard or Just Trash?”


Amanda Boehm-Garcia /  September 6, 2017

Is this compost of just trash in my backyard?  I asked myself this very question one morning after witnessing my mother-in-law dumping the leftovers from breakfast into the vegetable garden.  Puzzled by this odd occurrence and concerned by the gathering cloud of flies, I decided to do a little digging of my own into how exactly one goes about creating a proper compost pile.  After a few minutes, I quickly deduced that yes, my mother-in-law has no idea what she’s doing and that no, creating a true compost pile is not difficult at all.

Building a compost pile is a lot like  multi-tiered cake, although not as pretty, and contains many layers.

Layer One-  Leaves, straw, dead plants or even shredded newspaper will work nicely.

Layer Two-  Yard waste such as grass clippings or any vegetable based kitchen scraps.  Do not use meat or dairy products of any kind.

Layer Three-  One to two shovels-full of garden soil sprinkled evenly.

Continue Layers One through Three until your compost pile is about three feet high.  Keep the pile moist and every couple of weeks give it a thorough stir with a shovel.  The first few times that you stir the pile steam will rise, a good sign that you are on the right track.  Soon after earthworms will appear to finish turning your yard waste into rich, dark soil full of precious nutrients just begging to be sprinkled into your garden.

Although composting takes time and patience, the rewards can be well worth the wait.  And in my own case, no, just sprinkling leftovers into the garden won’t bring about beautiful soil, it will only succeed in bringing about unwanted pests, but you try explaining that to my mother-in-law.