94. Oven Ordeal

Somewhere about last April, I boldly pronounced that the next big project would be to move the kitchen stoves around. Yes, well…
It is January. I’m aware of that. One thing I’ve discovered while writing this blog: even though I write about what is going to happen, that doesn’t mean I have control.(In more ways than one…) I always have big plans in my head! Sometimes Mr. H.C. refuses to listen to those plans; sometimes bigger events happen that always serve to remind me who Is in control.

I’m certain that I whined a lot about the stoves. I had many good reasons to whine:

Under construction

Under construction…

  • The Apple Hill stove was still in the living room, while all other utensils, food, pans, etc. were in the bright, pretty new kitchen.
  • The stove in the cottage was Clara’s ELECTRIC stove, and I know that people will disagree with me about this, but I HATE ELECTRIC stoves because they always burn everything.

We also had to relocate Henry the cat’s food and water; nothing like having to search for your dinner bowl…

  • There was a large hole in the kitchen where the stove was to go, and it ruined all my photos of the kitchen.
  • My wonderful gas convection oven, which has never burned anything in its life, was sitting up in the city house cold, unused, and alone.

Switching stoves was definitely an ordeal, but we managed to get them both moved last weekend without dropping either stove on anyone’s foot, without either stove sliding off the dolly, and without anyone hurting his back. And we are filled with relief that we don’t have to switch refrigerators!

Safely inside, still strapped to the dolly.

Safely inside, still strapped to the dolly. If you look closely, you can tell that it’s not gonna fit…

The thing about this beautiful black range is that it just isn’t regular. It borders on being a built-in, and even though it has the same dimensions as most stoves, there are just a lot of quirks. It was 5/8 of an inch off, and something had to give. It was either cut the soapstone countertop or cut the cabinet or cut the wall. The wall won — the cabinet is now recessed 5/8 of an inch into the wall.

The dry wall was cut out, and the stud at the corner was notched to enable the cabinet to slide back 5/8 of an inch.

The dry wall was cut out, and the stud at the corner was notched to enable the cabinet to slide back 5/8 of an inch.

Once that side was done we pushed the stove in place, but it wouldn’t go far enough to the back wall. Turns out, the gas hookup had to be lowered. Twice. The floor even had to be cut out around the pipe to get it low enough for the back of the stove.

See the flooring cut out?

See the flooring cut out?

I’m blessed to have an even-tempered, patient husband who did not once throw a tool or utter any curses (at least out loud). All told, it took nine and a half hours — we unloaded the stove from the truck at 10 AM and Mr. H.C. turned on the gas around 7:30 PM. (Yes, the pizza delivery guy knows where we live.)

Henry in a prison of his own choosing...

Henry in a prison of his own choosing…

Henry the cat, however, was not even-tempered. The noise of various saws and drills and air compressors drove him to the basement where he sulked all day, hidden behind some boards. This was so unlike our usual placid kitty, we actually thought he had suffered a kitty stroke. It’s not as if he’s never heard power tools before… Mr. H.C. finally took down a box and a blankie and set it near the heater vent. He curled in, and we shut the door to keep out the noise.

It's a good thing he's skinny. I had to slide over a ladder and he stepped out on to the ladder rungs to get out.

It’s a good thing he’s skinny. I had to slide over a ladder and he stepped out on to the ladder rungs to get out.

To busy myself while all this was going on, I cleaned the stove! And I have another gorgeous tip for all you people out there who love organic cleaners. I love to clean with vinegar and baking soda, but I don’t love the smell. (Drum roll, please…)

Orange Vinegar!

Orange Vinegar!

Put your orange peels in plain old white vinegar and let it sit on your counter for a few days. It smells so wonderful, you can hardly tell it’s vinegar! Well, okay, not quite. But it sure beats the smell of the plain stuff. It smelled so good, I’m going to use some of the next batch for cole slaw dressing. And I’m also going to try it in Olive Oil. Have any of you ever been to a Vom Fass store? Delicious Vinegars and oils in pretty little bottles and very pricey! Yep, I’m makin’ my own Extra Fancy Orange Vinegar!

IMG_3639Back to cleaning the stove — the baking soda and orange vinegar did a perfectly serviceable job of cleaning the top. I had actually cleaned the oven about a month ago in anticipation of moving it, so all I did with the oven was give it a wipe down; but the baking soda and orange vinegar fizzed off the caked-on brown stuff on the glass of the oven door, too. It is so clean, it reflects the floor!

It didn't take long for it to collect pans, teapots, and a utensil jar...

It didn’t take long for it to collect pans, teapots, a utensil jar, and a pretty new towel…

And here’s another shot from a different angle:

Yes, I cleaned the counters just for this picture.

Yes, I cleaned and oiled the countertops just for this picture.

Our first meal was baked salmon. And next week I’m baking this Coconut Lemon cake from Foodie with Family for someone’s birthday…I think he deserves it!

93. Goin’ to town and buyin’ the mantel

Mr. H.C. is famous for saying “Well, as Dad used to say…” and then he’ll pop off with some odd phrase, and nine times out of ten, my mom (or grandfather) said it too. It might be just old time country talk, or it might be real Greene County lingo, I’m not sure. But three of four of our parents were Greene County lifers (Clara always made sure to tell you that she was from California!) so this post is lovingly for them — and anyone else who loves the hollows, ridges, and idioms of Greene County.

Over a year ago we wandered into Jan’s Country Nook, a little hardware/antique/secondhand store on the main street of town. The window display drew us in — cast iron ash buckets, galvanized wash tubs, old tools, and a fireplace mantel — together with a jumble of other old and odd items led us into thinking that if we found any diamonds or rhinestones, they might not be too high. After all, we have champagne taste and a beer pocketbook.

We pooshed open the door, but nobody paid us any mind. Two old codgers in red and black plaid wool jackets and orange hunting caps were loudly discussing the pros and cons of the weather, and what it had to do with the price of eggs, and the salt situation in India. One was settin’ a spell on an upside down tub, and the other was leanin’ his elbow on a cluttered ledge. He was big enough to eat hay, and he crowded out the place.  Nearby was a small, thin lady with longish gray hair and a gravelly voice; she was puttin’ in her two cents as well. They both seemed to be hollering at the man who was sittin’ down; could have been he was deaf as a stump, or maybe he just had the flaps of his hat pulled over his ears.

Mr. H.C never met an old tool he didn’t like, and I was chompin’ at the bit for a galvanized washtub, so we were in hog heaven. The wood floor creaked as I walked down the right side, Mr. H.C walked down the left side and we met in the back of the store and conferred. There was a double washtub (on a stand!) but we allowed how it was in pretty bad shape, and Mr. H.C. can be tight-fisted with a dollar. We agreed it wasn’t worth the money, switched places, and moseyed up the other sides.

Old dolls, blue canning jars, and wooden Flexible Flyer sleds mingled with hard-to-find hardware items. Mr.H.C. bought some slotted brass screws that are scarcer than hen’s teeth these days. He was tickled pink to find them.

Mantel

I found this in the archives. Proof of the date of purchase and of the fireplace soot on the finish. We were keepin’ our fingers crossed that it just needed cleaned.

Neither of us can remember who saw it first, but Mr. H.C. is givin’ me credit. It was leaning against the wall and it looked like it had been around the barn once or twice. In fact, we’d been all around Robin Hood’s barn looking at mantels in other places — in the Burgh and in little Worshington — but all the ones we had seen were for the birds, and they were too pricey to boot. We had a rough opening measurement, but not exact, so after we had given it the once-over and allowed how it might do, we had to go back to Apple Hill to be sure it would fit. We told her we only lived down the road a piece, and we’d be back if the crick didn’t rise.

What we had to work with…

Well, we had to redd up the place to make room; the area around the fireplace looked like a cyclone had struck it. But we measured it twice and determined it would fit, so we high-tailed it back to the store.

Seventy-five dollars, firm.

Seventy-five dollars, firm.

I asked her if she would take $65, but she was firm. “The price is $75,” she said.

So we followed her back to the counter and settled up. She must have felt bad for not bargaining with us, so she gave us a handy dandy little 2013 calendar book and pen to make up for it, which I just found and threw away last week.

And to think we pert’near bought one for $150 at Construction Junction down in the city…

coal burning fireplace
The mantel pretty much looked like this for the last 11 months — collecting dust, odds & ends and serving as a tool shelf. All along I had planned on lightly sanding it and experimenting with Annie Sloan’s Chalk paint. I’ve read about it, watched You-tube videos and I was ready for the challenge. Then I added up how much it would cost. Jumpin’ Jehoshaphat! It would have been a pretty penny, and we already talked about that beer pocketbook, and Mr. H.C. isn’t the only one who can be tightfisted with a dollar. As Joe would say, “We were feeling too poor to paint and too proud to whitewash.”

So for the next month I worked like a dog — I got paint in my hair and primer on my britches. I reckon I looked like the wild woman of Borneo. Here are some pictures of it getting fixed up…

I reckon I’m gonna try to make my own chalk paint sometime soon; I’ve got a bee in my bonnet about it, and I’ve heard tell all you need is some plaster of paris. And some paint. Wait till you see the dining room chairs…

92. DIY Organic Hand Cleaner for Oil-stains and paints (that’s actually good for your hands)

I had an amazing brainstorm discovery yesterday — and really? These things don’t happen to me that often, folks! I got so excited, I have to share this with you.

Sanding is hard on hands

Sanding is hard on hands

Since we have been redoing the cottage, my hands have not been lovely. They never were, but now they are worse. Stains under fingernails, oil paint that won’t come off, dry skin from various kinds of dirt and toxins. And now it’s winter!

Off and on for the past two years, I have been experimenting with DIY lotions and creams. I’ve made Lovely Lavender Lotion from Healing Heart Oils; Grapefruit Body Butter from One Good Thing by Jillee; Homemade Lavender Deodorant from Full of Graces; and Olive Oil Cleansing Lotion from Wellness Mama. I recently got really brave and made up my own recipe for Body Bomb from a ratio recipe. All these links are tried and make great stuff from easily available, edible foods and oils, and if you are at all inclined, I encourage you to check them out and make your own. Nothing like being able to eat your hand cream!

Yesterday I was using oil stain on the fireplace mantle that I am messing around with sanding, staining, priming and painting. I’m a tactile kind of person, and I hate wearing gloves. So at the end of the staining session, my hands and fingernails were stained a lovely red mahogany. A good name for a new nail polish?

This is a before picture of the fireplace mantle -- It is currently dis-mantled and sitting on sawhorses in the living room. Look for another post about it soon -- when it is finished.

This is a before picture of the fireplace mantle — It is currently dis-mantled and sitting on sawhorses in the living room. Look for another post about it soon — when it is finished.

I was looking disgustedly at my hands, thinking:

1. I’m glad tomorrow isn’t Sunday; and

2. Hmm. It’s time to make dinner and I’m going to make meatballs with these hands?

I washed my hands with kitchen soap and water, but I knew it wouldn’t be enough. They were still sticky with stain. Mr. H.C. always has wipes I can use, but the jar specifically says “Not intended for personal cleansing.” Hmmm.

As I was stewing about the stain on my hands, the phrase “Oil cleans oil” flashed through my brain. I practically ran into the bathroom to get my jar of newly made Olive Oil Facial Cleanser. I put a good dollop on my hands and rubbed them all over, and the red mahogany stain magically and wonderfully disappeared. Not only did it clean my hands, it made them feel wonderfully soft. After all, this is a facial cleanser!

So I hurried to find a jar that would hold the little cleanser pads that you can buy at drug stores for very cheap. I put half in the jar, and poured in half the oil; then filled the jar and poured in the rest of the oil mixture. Now I have handy little cleansing pads for either my face OR my paint-and-stain-covered hands.

And I finally found a good use for my Vintage Burma-Shave jar that we found in the glass dump on our property last summer!

And I finally found a good use for my Vintage Burma-Shave jar that we found in the Apple Hill Glass Dump last summer!

Here is the oh-so-simple way to make it:

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (or expeller-pressed Sweet Almond Oil)
Castor Oil (you can find this in most drug stores)
Essential oil of your choice — I used peppermint; lemon or grapefruit would be nice too.
Cleanser pads
Wide mouth jar with tight fitting lid

Mix the oils together and add a few drops of essential oil until you like the smell. If you are using peppermint, don’t overdo it; it is a facial cleanser as well, and peppermint isn’t always good in the eyes!

Here is the important idea: the castor oil is the astringent, so you don’t want to leave it out entirely, but depending on your skin type or the season of year, you can add more or less to the Olive oil. The mix to start with is one part Castor Oil to four parts Olive Oil. (If you would like to know the specific idea and ratios behind the Oil Cleansing Method, go to theOilCleansingMethod.com for an in-depth discussion and also options for differing oils and ratios to use in your mix.) Wellness Mama also has a very good article on it, and it is where I found my original recipe.

And just because I didn’t want to give you false information, I also tried this again today on my oil-paint-stained hands. (Mr. H.C. said to tell you all that this was stinky, sticky oil-based primer that gave us both watery eyes).

Before

Before

After 5 minutes with my little oil-saturated cleansing pad.

After — Just 5 minutes with my little oil-saturated cleansing pad.

It is also an amazing make-up remover. This wonderful stuff cleans your hands, takes off your makeup, and gently cleans your face — all with the same natural Olive Oil Cleanser. Try it, and let me know what you think.