Friday, June 18, 2010

You Take my Breath Away- and my Burned on Food, and my Dirty Floors

I don't usually have something to post twice in one day, but I suppose it's been an unusually productive day. And, since our camera is at youth conference today, I learned to download pictures from my phone. I thought I'd share. Lucky you! Hope you can see them.

Now, on to our regularly scheduled post.

Meet my stove.

He/She/It does a fantastic job of cooking our food and is used by almost every member of our family almost everyday. For some reason I never got around to lining the drip pans with tin foil when we moved in and they've been great at collecting lots of stuff that we spill every day. So, every week (ok, every month, but it's on the schedule for every week!) I let them soak overnight to get as much gunk off as possible. Despite my good intentions the front two drip pans looked like this after soaking all night and scrubbing this morning:

In case you can't tell by the wonderful photos above, they are covered in burned-on who-knows-what (eggs being a very good first guess). I scrub and scrub but am slowly being beaten out. This morning I remembered that ammonia is great at removing burned on messes in ovens. Maybe it would work for the drip pans, too.

To use ammonia in the oven, just fill a small bowl with ammonia. I use the small Corelle ones. (I don't know if it has to be glass or not, but it seems a little less reactive to me than metal. Plastic may work, too, but don't forget and leave it in the oven when you turn it on!) Set the bowl in the oven, close the door, go to bed. In the morning, get up, shower, etc, remove the bowl from the oven, wipe out all the burned-on spills, rinse sponge/rag, be done. Notice I said "wipe", not "scrub". It really is that easy.

I didn't want to use the whole oven this morning. (To be honest, we have a gas oven and I'm not sure if it's smart to fill the oven with ammonia fumes when there's gas and a pilot light near-by. I need to check in to that still.) I also didn't have all night before I needed to use the stove for dinner tonight. So, I created a small enclosed space with a large glass bowl and glass lid. I put the small bowl with ammonia at the bottom, the two drip pans on top (curved sides facing each other so the fumes could circulate) and then put the lid over the whole thing and left it for the day.

Right before I needed to cook dinner, I pulled them out. I did need to scrub because it had only been a few hours, but EVERY bit of burned on anything came off.

So, I'm thinking that for less than $2 a 64 oz. bottle of ammonia, I can have clean and shiny drip pans for a lot less money and work than covering them with tin foil. Woohoo! But wait, there's more! A little scrubbing with a little straight ammonia not only cleared my sinuses right out, it also cleaned off the stuff that burned to the stove top underneath the drip pan. (Don't ask me how that happened. It just did.)

And, I learned last week a cup of water, 1 tsp. of ammonia, and 2 Tbsp. of a gentle liquid soap of any kind makes a great jewelry cleaner. A little ammonia in a bucket of water does wonders on a kitchen floor. And, I'm assuming there's some sort of glass cleaning possibilities since Windex is all about having ammonia in it. I'll have to Google that.

The best part is, you don't have to order at all, much less in the next 10 minutes or even before next week, there are no special codes to enter, or coupons to find. This baby is available at your local grocer sitting humbly, probably on a bottom shelf, on the cleaning supplies aisle. If you're lucky, your grocer will also carry the lemon scented kind. Wal-Mart doesn't, but our grocery store (Hannaford's) in NH did. It doesn't clear our your sinuses as well, but it is a little more pleasant to be around.

So, remember this little guy the next time you're ready to throw your drip pans out the window and buy new ones.

It was the easiest cleaning job I've had in a long time.

Knowledge is Power

About 10 years ago we went took the kids to visit my grandma in California. On the way home the car stopped working, thankfully not too far from a friend of ours who was a mechanic. We made it to his house, his wife fed us, and the family put us up for the night. The next morning Chris had the car apart, the new part in place, and we were on our way shortly after lunch. I remember telling him what a mystery a car, and pretty much all mechanical devices, are to me. I could give you a run down (at least then) on the components of the nervous system in your body but had absolutely no idea what happened to that wire under the hood of the car once it disappeared from view. He said something about not having a clue about the human body once you got deeper than the skin and we both agreed it was a good thing that there are different people with different knowledge bases in the world.

Over the years we've had lots of opportunities to learn new things. I can now patch and paint a hole in the wall, remove wall paper, paint, repair broken doors, install a new counter-top and new light fixtures, install a new disposal, and do very minor plumbing repairs to name a few. I have pretty much avoided machines, though, and they remain a large mystery to me. So, with that, let me just say:

I replaced the heating element in my dryer today.

Actually, it took me two days- yesterday I took the dryer apart and figured out which part was broken. (Thanks to my neighbor for muscle to pull a part out and for having an ohm meter to test it with.) Today I bought the element, put it in (with my own muscle), tested it, and had no left over parts.

That may not sound very impressive. In fact, to summarize the process in just a few sentences somehow trivializes my last two days. Let me say it again, I replaced the heating element in my dryer. I even have a bloody knuckle to prove it. I realize a service call could have had the whole thing taken care of in a matter of hours, but, doggonit (is that really a word?), I have a brain and shouldn't I be able to figure this out- and while Greg was gone at youth conference to boot? The best part of the whole thing is not even the functioning dryer. The best part is the amazing feeling of accomplishment that comes from figuring out something new- and made even better by having it actually work. One hour or two days- it feels good to say I fixed it because I'd never done it before and, to be honest, it always seemed a bit intimidating to me.

It's a very empowering feeling to break outside of your boundaries, and try something new. The occasional success is icing. It's the trying that provides the long term education. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Knowledge comes by eyes always open and working hands; and there is no knowledge that is not power." Watching something is not the same as trying it first hand. Watching is interesting. Trying something first hand opens the doors to new possibilities and the confidence to explore them.

I realize that we're just talking dryers here- and only one quarter of the schematic diagram that came with the installation instructions for this particular dryer. But, today the dryer is more than a white box that spits out heat and requires a specialist to keep alive. I can open the panel door, look inside, and know what's where in that corner. Next step are the other three schematics. Who knows, maybe I'll even tackle the washing machine someday. The car is still pretty much a mystery to me and the bolt that fell off the other day makes me nervous since I can't see where it fell from. But, we'll take one machine- and one break down- at a time. If I can learn how a muscle works and the anatomy of a human body, man-made machines can't be that hard. It's just a matter of doing it- and having the right equipment. Looks like "ohm meter" will be making it's debut on my wish list.