While I am far from being a good cook, I know my way around a kitchen. As the oldest of six kids I helped my mother in the kitchen and around the house. She went through a period of health problems when I was a young teen and I filled in for Mom as best I could.

Martha Stewart will never give me an award for my household skills, but I get along. In addition to cooking I can do laundry, iron, mend and darn. Over the years these skills have come in handy.

My world was turned upside down early this year when I became a widower and nearly five months later those old skills are coming in handy. My job schedule makes it most practical to eat out at noon, but I have steadfastly avoided doing so in the evening except for special occasions. Thank heavens for frozen and canned foods. With the warmer weather I have fired up the gas grill. And I have learned a few shortcuts.

A few nights ago, however, I experienced my first kitchen disaster. Upon arriving home from work I decided to grill a burger and heat up some canned baked beans.

I poured a can of beans into a glass casserole dish and put them on the stove. The grill had heated up by this time so I put a patty of ground beef on the grill. Knowing it would take a few minutes I sat down at my computer to check e-mails.

Absorbed in my e-mails I forgot about the beans heating up in the glass dish on the stove. The sound of a muffled explosion startled me. Dashing from my home office into the kitchen I quickly discovered the source of the noise. Forgotten on the stove, the beans had heated to the point of the glass dish exploding. There were beans and shards of glass all over the glass stove top and an adjoining counter top.

I quickly turned off the heating element and surveyed the damage. A rubber pan scraper and a large ice cream scoop became the tools of choice to remove the hot beans and pieces of glass from the stove and the counter top. The beans that ended up directly on the heating element were baked to the glass surface. After a few minutes of clean-up I remembered that the hamburger patty was still on the grill. A dash to the deck found the hamburger patty overcooked and blackened.

With bad words floating around my head (honest, that’s all the farther they got) I put the hamburger patty on a plate and took it to the kitchen. Angry, frustrated and hungry I decided to eat the burger. A large quantity of ketchup covered most of the burnt taste. Still angry and frustrated, I had lost my appetite. It took a long time to clean the stove top. Fortunately, I found a container of glass stove top cleaner and it ended up looking better than before. After I settled down hunger returned. Unwilling to start up the grill again I decided that I could fill up on dessert. I made a large ice cream cone and mentally reviewed the comedy of errors that had played out that evening. I’m doing better on laundry and housecleaning. No disasters so far. As a horticulturist, however, I’m lousy. I don’t care much for houseplants but have six of them in the living and dining rooms. Don’t ask me what kind of plants they are. They’re flowers.

It took a few weeks to learn that too much water is as bad as not enough water. I just wanted to water the darn things and be done with it. After a few cases of over watering I discovered it takes more time to mop up water from the floor than it does to water the plants a little bit each week.

All six plants are still alive. That’s amazing.

I wear a dress shirt to work most days and have discovered that the "no iron" claim of shirts is so much baloney. Including some shirts that are ready for The Salvation Army thrift store I have enough to get me through two weeks. Every other week then I perform an ironing marathon. Didn’t care for ironing when I was a kid; care for it even less today.

So I’m surviving. All those things I learned 50 years ago are keeping me from going crazy.