Behind the Stove

Old stove.
What is behind YOUR stove?

It's a scary question. One that frightens event the most fastidious clean freak.
First the stove dies, then we find the deal of a range and get it home. Now, were going to have to face whatever was hiding behind our stove.

We live in a house that's over a hundred years old. The stove has been here for at least 20 years, probably more. We've lived here for 10. About 5 years ago, when I got a new vacuum with lots of fancy attachments, I pulled out the stove as far as I could on my own. I climbed up on the counter and slid down as far as I could with the long hose and cleaned out whatever I could suck up. It was gross and scary. I use that long hose often, to slide all the way under the stove to get what I can. The problem is that the kitchen was tiled about 70 years ago (totally not exaggerating). The tile ends about 4 inches under the stove creating an edge that the vacuum can't accommodate. I knew we were going to find filth. So, here it is. I'm putting it all out there for the whole world to see.
Full disclosure. Don't judge.
Ick. Gross.  
All swept up in the dustpan.
Oven is hot!
New Stove.
Let them eat Turkey.
Happy Thanksgiving.
Counting blessings: 
handyman Mr. T, new stove, even cooking temps, Thanksgiving, family love, evenings in the kitchen

Wanted: Free Standing Range

We interrupt this well planned week to bring you an opportunity to practice thanksgiving.

Wednesday morning PLAN: kids to school, clean kitchen, organize for Thanksgiving cooking, don't forget early pick up, start baking, prep turkey, make stuffing.
Wednesday morning ACTUAL: kids to school, run around town looking for a new range that doesn't cost a fortune and is in stock, bring said range home, late for early pick up, remove old range and install new range. 

In times past, when I've replaced or purchased major appliances, I've had the means to do so without much worry. These days, our purchases small and large are planned. There is no rainy day fund. A few months ago, it was a hot water heater and this week, it's the oven, or rather a 30" standard free standing range. Making this unplanned investment meant finding a good deal and due to the turkey defrosted in my fridge, it meant finding one in stock. Thanks to youtube and Mr. T, we were cautiously optimistic that IF we found one we could afford AND it was available today, we could bring it home and install it ourselves.

After googling and asking around, we had a list of stops and were off on the hunt on a rainy morning with coffee in hand. Our options were limited by price and availability, so our stops were quick. Do you have anything in stock? If so, how much? In and out. We checked out refurbished appliances and walked warehouses. After an hour plus, we had a few options, not great, but adequate. After a couple hole-in-the-wall scary places, we decided to try a retail store after the next stop. Retail store meant higher prices and ordering something that would be delivered next week at the earliest. I was searching craigslist from my phone. Texting out of town neighbors to check on borrowing their oven. The turkey may not be making an appearance this Thanksgiving. Nonetheless, we were making the best of it.

We walked into the last place on our list and there stood three brand new ranges that we could afford, the best by far, we'd seen all day. They were last year's models with slight blemishes. The one we liked best had a dent in the back that no one would ever see. Within 10 minutes, we were loading it up and headed home.
Counting blessings: 
dented, discounted appliances, car large enough to hold a major appliance, school gracious to accommodate our tardy pick up on an early dismissal day, smiling kids, Mr. T's patience, good heartedness and love 

Now, would we really be able to install it ourselves?

Epic. Oven. Fail.

It's Tuesday Evening. Bacon Jam is simmering on the stove. Bread Dough has been rising for 18 hours and is ready to go into the oven. Bacon is ready to be broiled crispy for our BLT dinner. Kids are doing homework. Music is humming in the background. Life is good. Excited to see my parents, nearly done reading One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp, and my heart is full of anticipation and thanksgiving. It has been a busy day.

image courtesy
Groceries purchased. 
Turkey Dinner Timeline created.
Emails returned.
New Client contacted.
Thank You note sent.
School pictures & hand-written notes from kids readied. 
Car Oil changed.
Holiday Marketplace check dropped.

The phone rings, the doorbell dings, the oven preheats.
I'm in my zone where I thrive, taking care of things left and right, crossing the "to do's" off my list.
The bread goes into the hot oven.


Why is the oven cold?
The gas burner is on but the oven is not.
Check the knob. Yep, it says 500. But, it's cold and 20 years old.
I turn everything off, the oven, the cooktop, the music.
Maybe we all need a moment of silence, a little time out, a tiny rest.
3 painstaking moments of quiet.
Oven back on. Wait. Nothing.
Burner back on. Wait. Nothing but the click, click with no igniting.
The kids feel my sense of urgency as I talk to the stove, pleading for heat. Please. It's Thanksgiving. I have a turkey in the fridge. Please don't die. Not today. Not this week.
I laugh. Funny how this happens today, when I've purposed to look for the small gifts for which to be thankful. Where is the gift in this?

Maybe it's heating up. I ask for confirmation from my son who has strolled through to find out what's going on. The girls sit at the breakfast bar watching, uncharacteristically quiet. "The oven feels warm, doesn't it?" "Does it feel like it's heating up?" "Mom, it's cold. Maybe you accidently turned it off."
Right. Okay. Yah. I've been busy. Maybe I turned it off instead of on.
Off. On. On. Off.
Still cold.
One burner sputters to life and I clap. It's a sign of life. I rejoice.
I hug son. He looks concerned.
My mind spins options. Can a turkey be cooked stovetop? Camp BBQ?
It's not unreasonable for a range to die after 20+ years. The natural gas guy just weeks ago advised us to be prepared for it's death as he performed an annual "gas" check up. We could go for Chinese on Thanksgiving รก la A Christmas Story.
My heart tells me this is not an emergency, it's an opportunity to be content and thankful.
My eyes cast an urgent glance at my notebook open to my Thanksgiving Schedule.
My blood pressure rises.
My voice hits crisis tone.

This is the ironic moment.
When you purpose in your heart to change your response and look for moments of gratefulness, you'll find them. Life is funny like that. It's easy to be thankful when life's going as planned. Not so much when the unexpected happens at inopportune times.
Is there really an opportune time for a major appliance to fail?
Yes, in the summer when you aren't baking.
Not the day before hosting Thanksgiving.
Not when your're launching a catering business.
Not now.

It's only an oven. It's only a turkey.
Count blessings:
warm house, full heart, sweet toes urled up while doing homework, smell of bacon, unconditional love, full fridge, loving parents that I look forward to seeing, witty sister banter, words on pages, stacks of books, favorite saucepan...
opportunity to practice, be content, be thankful.

It is Thanksgiving, after all.

a kitchen blog

On January 1, 2012, I launched hatchpress with my best friend. 

I hope you'll find it full of great ideas for your kitchen. 
Head on over and take a look around. 


Thinking about how we organize our life leads to thoughts on 
I'm a thinker, perhaps an over-thinker.

Long before blogging and facebook and twitter
... near the Holidays or the start of a new year or my birthday in July... 
I'd start a journal (again) and become reflective about life. 

My resolve to journal and prioritize never lasted very long. I'm a great starter of projects but not-so-good a finisher. This translates to a basket of journals that sit on a forgotten shelf behind a door. Rarely do I peer into the past they hold. But, there are the handful of times that I've made a pot of coffee,  pulled out that basket, sat up at the kitchen counter and looked at me on the pages. It's only really a few pages, the first 10 or so of each journal filled with thoughts, the rest remain unwritten. But, it endears me to that girl, that woman who has written her soul. It endears me to Me. 

We can be so tough on ourselves, our choices, our misinterpretations, our journey. 
To be reminded of who we've been and where we've come from 
brings a moment of clarity and respect... 
admiration for the brave road we've traveled. 

I like to keep bits and pieces of life for these times of contemplation. For instance, occasionally, I've written my grocery list in said journals. I've even tucked receipts, recipes or notes from a meeting or church in there, too, always dated, of course. I love and appreciate history, old houses, things that tell a story. These bits tell a story. I'm a good story teller, maybe a bit long winded or wordy, but those little details are important. 

This past week, I was digging through files and folders in a cabinet I keep in the basement. 

Okay, it sounds like I'm a pack rat with my baskets and cabinets of history. But, I've done lots of volunteer work, thrown parties, taught classes, done dinner parties, each with their own file of notes and details. It doesn't feel right to throw it all away or recycle it, particularly when I may need to go back to them for inspiration, a recipe, a note. 

That's just what I was looking for... notes from a class I taught with my mom years ago on decorating and cooking for Thanksgiving. We made a complete turkey dinner and set a gorgeous table. Each in attendance went home with a folder of recipes and ideas, inspired to enjoy the season. I was looking for those recipes, the ones I know in my head but needed to see on paper. 

 I found a whole lot more. 

I found a part of my story. 

Tucked into the folder was my soul, circa September, 2004. A full page typed of raw emotion and life, feelings put on paper. In the first paragraph, "I am writing this down so that I can share in years to come and say with great confidence and security that feelings are real no matter your fail level." Indeed. It reads like a diary entry, a glance at my heart. 

Story is vital. 
My story is important. 
A bit of history gives my story perspective in the present. 
It's where I've been and helps me get to my goal.

Today, I'm setting goals and thinking about my priorities,
I'm thankful.
I'm writing in my journal. 
I'm writing my journey.

Our 1st Official Catered Happy Hour

We did our first official catered happy hour last week.
(Warning: Lots of images, but it's worth it. You know you want to see 'em!)

We've practiced a lot, tried out new recipes, counted and recounted wine glasses and plates. 

This was the real thing as in we actually got a check at the end of the night. 
As with anything, there are a few tiny wrinkles to iron out, details to fine tune, and practical ideas to make us more efficient. 
But, that being said, it went well. 

Now... to figure out if we actually made any money! 

weekly planner

As I said in my walk down "calendar" memory lane, I'm forever on the quest for the perfect calendar system for my family. But, I realize perfection isn't possible.

Here's what's working for us right now.

I have an imac and love ical. I use to input every little thing into the calendar. I was meticulous with color coding. Every person had their own color. The school even had a color. But, things change, get rescheduled or canceled and I didn't want to be tied to my computer. I was spending too much time playing with all that. Now, I use ical as a foundation. I imported the kids' school calendar, birthdays, & national holidays. Then, simply print it, four months at a time. Staple 'em together and that's THE calendar. The one that I'd be lost without. I use mostly pencil and all the people in our house know the drill. Check the calendar before making plans. It's kept on my desk, inside the front cover of my Notebook (more on the notebook later). No one is allowed to remove it.
And, I don't carry it around with me, I leave my calendar at home
I'm easily distracted and have about a hundred good ideas every day. Okay. Maybe not 100. But, A lot. It's essential for someone like me to find a way to keep perspective on a daily and weekly basis. 

As with the calendars, I've tried all sorts of daily/weekly planner ideas. My current Weekly Planner is adapted from Tsh Oxenreider over at If you're an organizational freak like me, you really must spend a few hours on the simplemom site. It's full of good things. Years ago she posted her daily docket and I downloaded and used that for a while. Here's the thing. I don't like having one page for every day, it's a lot of paper and pressure to fill up all the space. 
Some days were full...
other days, not so much. 

A full page made me feel good, accomplished; an empty page had me thinking I'd done nothing all day. But, some days the most important things I do are the ones I don't need to "schedule" or write down. 

I've realized a weekly planner is a better way to go for me. 
MY Weekly Planner is based on the daily docket idea. 

Usually on Sundays, I look over the Friday Footnotes from the kids' school and review the calendar then put all the pertinent information on my Planner. I try to add something inspiring and pick a few most important things for the week. Sometimes these are projects and sometimes just things to ponder. If I'm in the mood, I type all the info so it looks fancy and organized. But, mostly, I have a blank one and pencil in the details. 

I found that I was doodling all over the back with details and information like when I'd pay a bill online, I'd jot down the reference number or when I had a brilliant idea, I'd start mapping it out. I try to keep track of my daily spending but I'm not vigilant about it, so there were those type of notes as well. Plus, there's always things that come up that need to be on Next Week's Planner. 

So, I added another page to help organize these types of things. 

To save paper, I print the Weekly Planner on one side and 
the Details page on the other side. 
One piece of paper for each week with everything in one spot. 
Even smarter, I print the Details page the opposite direction 
so it's right side up when I flip it over. 

This might seem over the top for some but it works for me. Occasionally, like last week, I didn't do a weekly planner at all. I was sick and just never got around to it. I felt a little lost all week with this nagging feeling that I was forgetting something. In fact, I did forget things. I didn't return phone calls. I didn't get much done. But, today is Sunday. I feel better. I'm organized and ready for what the week's going to bring. It's a good feeling.  

Next, I'll tell you all about my notebook.
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