I burned through at least one - sometimes two - hand mixers annually for the first eight years of my marriage to my kids' dad.
It wasn't that I was a cooking roughneck, but I pushed my little hand mixers far beyond their capabilities to make things like bagels, play dough and pretzel dough.
Maybe that's why, after the birth of Joe, our last baby, my husband bought me a KitchenAid stand mixer.
Although at the time I thought the KitchenAid was too extravagant, before long it was my most valuable kitchen tool.
On average I used my KitchenAid at least three times a week, but of course there were peak usage times like the holidays, when the rhythmic whirring of my KitchenAid was nearly nonstop.
So let's say I used it three times a week. And I know it's exactly 31 years old because Joe turned 31 on July 31. If my math's right, then conservatively speaking my 1984 KitchenAid has been used more than 4,836 times.
That glossy white stand mixer with its 5-qt. stainless bowl was a regular workhorse appliance. It stood by my side through the raising of three kids, a divorce, a marriage, and another divorce. I leaned extra hard on it when Josh was in Iraq, and I found myself mindlessly cooking at 3 a.m. to distract myself from the reality that my child was in combat. The KitchenAid saw me through catering my niece's wedding, which was the moment I knew professional catering was not my forte'.
It stood by me even after I strayed and brought in another mixer last year - bigger, stronger - named Hobart.
I found the mammoth Hobart on Craigslist after I got this wild idea to become certified with Shasta County after the California Cottage Food Law passed two years ago. Wouldn't it be fun to sell some of my baked goods?
Times like this it would have been handy to be married, because any remotely logical husband would have talked me out of this crazy baking scheme.
I became a slave to my baking passion as I tried my hand at baking mass quantities of things like coffee cakes, cookies and challah, which I sold at Oregon Street Antique Mall. I got a business license -- "Noni Doni's" -- and was operating a home-based baking business from my home faster than you can say sleep-deprived.
What made this venture such a supremely bad idea was that I already had a full-time business to run - you know, A News Cafe.com, this website upon which you're reading this column. At first, the orders flowed in, and people reserved items. Eventually, the novelty wore off, sales slowed, and sometimes even the people who reserved food wouldn't pick it up.
So I quit with the mass baking, but compromised and took on occasional catering gigs and private jobs, like a corporate order for 50 boxed coffee cakes as client gifts at Christmas.
I went back to using my trusty old KitchenAid for more reasonably sized cooking projects. So happy together.
But then about six months ago I bought my first attachment for my KitchenAid, one that allowed me to roll out and cut pasta, something I'd been doing by hand for decades. Oh my gosh, that KitchenAid pasta attachment made pasta-making so much easier. Did I notice my KitchenAid straining from time to time? Why yes, I did. But this was my loyal, no-fail KitchenAid. I knew he could handle the challenge. He'd never let me down before.
Then I discovered that I could use my pasta roller attachment to roll out flat bread dough. What a breeze! My KitchenAid strained and protested, and sometimes I could smell something - burned oil, or metal - as the KitchenAid struggled to keep up.
I pushed my KitchenAid beyond its comfort zone.
Within a day of Joe turning 31, my 31-year-old KitchenAid died in the middle of the molasses ginger cookie I've made in that mixer hundreds upon hundreds of times. I called Hokema's - the place where Mr. Hokema used to fix all kind of appliances - I learned that he's retired from that part of his job.
I could mail the super-heavy KitchenAid to KitchenAid headquarters and try to get it repaired, but there was no guarantee my machine was fixable. It was time for me to face the cruel truth. My KitchenAid's cooking days were over. Worse yet, I'm pretty sure I had a hand in its death.
That's as far as I got with this story. What else was there to say? I confess that I cried a little when my KitchenAid died, but my thoughts quickly turned to getting a replacement KitchenAid. I decided that my next one should be a larger version, because there are some recipes that I routinely double, or even quadruple, like the coffee cake and challah, and those dough batches nearly reached the top of my old KitchenAid's 5-qt. bowl, and threatened to creep up into the motor.
Son Joe and I Skyped that morning, and I told him about the death of my KitchenAid. He's a serious cook, and we talked about KitchenAids for a bit. I told him my next dream KitchenAid would be bigger than my original 5-quart mixer, and I would love one in fire-engine red, because I love red. Joe volunteered to look online to see if he could find some good prices for me.
That Joe. So thoughtful. Oh, as an aside, he asked me to be on the lookout for a package from Amazon because he'd ordered his wife's birthday presents and had them sent to my house so I could include them with my birthday box to her. Sure. No problem. I do that from time to time for him so he can order things he can't get in the Czech Republic.
A few days later it was Wednesday when friend Chris Carter and I were in full-on cooking mode for our monthly catering job - sans KitchenAid - and grandson Austin was over, because that's my grandkid day ("Wild Wednesday"). And I had a repairman over doing some stuff. So my house was in an even more heightened state of chaos than usual.
In the middle of all that calamity a United Parcel Service guy rang the doorbell. Sure enough, there was Joe's delivery. It was so heavy that I tried not to panic about how much it would cost for me to mail Marie's birthday gift to her, because I knew from experience that it costs nearly $130 to mail a 14-pound box to the Czech Republic.
This box easily weighed more than 30 pounds, so I opened the brown exterior box, curious as to what the heck Joe had ordered for Marie that weighed so much. When I looked inside, it took a few seconds before it registered that the delivery wasn't for Marie, but for me.
I burst into tears, which startled Austin, because he'd never seen me cry.
"Noni's happy! Those are happy tears!" Chris explained.
I immediately called Joe - that sneaky Pete - and he laughed when he heard my voice, still crying.
It turns out that Joe - who's A News Cafe.com's webmaster - had read my draft about my dearly departed KitchenAid, and he hatched an immediate plan to get a new KitchenAid for me, even before we'd Skyped. He contacted his brother and sister and asked if they'd pitch in, and they said instantly said yes.
So here I am. I am the owner of a gorgeous new 6-quart red KitchenAid that has a place of honor on my counter. Every time I look at it, I don't think of cooking, but of my three kids, and how loved I feel by them, and how touched I am to know they went together to buy me this incredible gift, and it wasn't my birthday, or Mother's Day or Christmas.
As per Joe's request, I christened my new KitchenAid by whipping up some molasses-ginger cookie dough, so I could mail some cookies to Joe in Marie's birthday box. This young, strong mixer was a breeze to use. It even sounded different from my elderly KitchenAid. No straining. No whining.
Clearly, this machine has stamina.
In the meantime, for some reason, I can't bring myself to throw away the old KitchenAid, even though I know it will never work again. For now, it sits on a shelf in the garage.
Also, I try not to think about the fact that if this KitchenAid lasts as long as my first one, I'll be 90 by the time it dies.
Who knows what new chapter I'll cook up for myself. But whatever it is, you can bet it will be delicious.