How I Almost Threw Out the Most Beautiful Part of My Kitchen

When we purchased our 1870s home, it came with several pieces that were very appropriate to the period of the home. The previous owner Mr. Hoffman who had restored it was a collector and a fan of period pieces. One very distinctive and lovely piece was this Reliable, American Made Stove. This thing is lovely. 

However, it was restored to the original condition meaning open flames that were constantly on like a pilot light. 

Old House Diary Reliable American Made Antique Stove

When we were first in the house, we tried to work with it. One Sunday, my daughter and I were cooking up our meals for the week, when I turned my back to it. It went Vroof. I looked back at my daughter. 

"Are you alright Mom?" She asked looking at me with large eyes and blinking.

"Yes," I said. "What happened?"

"The flames shot out from the stove but seemed to part away from you." 

Well chalk that up to the Old House Diary ghost or my guardian angel I was fine. But the stove had to go. 
Old House Diary Reliable Antique StoveI did some research on the web and found a place in Michigan that specialized in old stoves. ( The owner was fantastic. He could date my stove to the 1920s and said some of its parts were from Germany and had the original "swastika" on them which was a symbol that meant love and peace before Hitler took over the symbol. 
He valued it at about a couple grand. It would be $3,000 to bring up to current standards, but when that was done its value would be about $18,000. 
Sounds nice, but who has $3,000 sitting around. So I was going to sell it.

But after looking around the kitchen, I realized the previous owners had designed the entire kitchen to match this stove. I needed to get clever. 
Old House Diary Reliable Stove Close Up

So what we did was we searched for a "drop in" range like the kind you would drop into a counter top. We needed the exact dimensions to fit. 

We got pretty close. Our plumber Phil then shut off the gas to all the ovens and units, essentially making it into a counter top. 
Old House Diary: How to Retrofit an Antique Stove
 Phil cut a piece of laminate to fill in the space that didn't fit to the right. He dropped in the range top and it works great. It's now more safe for an active family.

When people stop in to visit, the kitchen always gets a complement for the stove.

Margee Moore is a marketing professional and mother of two. She blogs about family and restoring her 1870s home for Old House Diary and Moxiemom. She is author of the book, Sleeping with the Laundry: Notes from the Mommy Track. 

The Power of Gratitude

Here's a quick lesson in marketing from a cottage industry crafter on the other side of the globe. Earlier this year, I purchased a unique poncho on Etsys from a lady in Turkey.
I had reached out to this Etsys shop owner Bilges to see if she could create her striped poncho in custom colors of the Irish flag for St. Patrick's Day. 
We spent time back and forth on the site looking at the colors. We agreed and she hand knit my poncho. It arrived in time for the holiday, directly from Turkey. The global community of crafters that is Etsys never ceases to amaze me, one world indeed. I truly believe commerce and trade is the way to world peace.

So here's the lesson we can take back to our savvy digital marketing world: it is that there is power in authentic gratitude. Along with my poncho, a handwritten card was included in the package.
In the note, she shared her joy in creating the poncho and included a small token from her culture before asking sincerely for a rating which would help her grow her business. Of course I happily helped out by spreading the joy with a 5-star rating. 

Sometimes it's the small thoughtful extra touches that build a relationship. In business we can apply this to something as simple as sending a handwritten card at the close of a project. Maybe even a gift basket of cookies or fruit for an office. The reminder here is to pause to say thanks. 

Margee Moore is an inbound marketing professional, digital marketing consultant and mother of two teens. She is author of the book Sleeping with the Laundry: Notes from the Mommy Track available on Amazon. 

Much Ado About A Do

The other day I tried on this new fake hair scrunchie that's a long ponytail style. 
"You look like Barbie," my daughter said.

OK. I was thinking. Barbie has been an architect, scientist, paleontologist, astronaut, maybe even President. So I'm thinking, OK, compare me with Barbie. That sounds good. 

"Yeah," she continued, "Barbie's Mom. You look like Barbie's Mom."

"Umm. Thanks?" I said. I don't think that's quite a complement. 

HomeHack Tip 101-103: Everything Old Is New Again

There's a time and a place for IKEA furniture so don't get me wrong. I like an IKEA sofa as much as the next person. But there are times when you need a stately, high-quality, kick-a** impressive piece of furniture. 

As the steward/keeper/number 1 fan of an old home, we've been taking our time to purchase select pieces one by one. If you know me you know this is also because we are very, very frugal too.

TIP 1: So in this week's OldHouseDiary home decor hack, my tip for affordable decorating is to find a small local antique dealer who loves what he or she does. There are sleepy little antique stores everywhere once you start to look. 

Near us, we found this great place Every Now and Then. 

You are looking for a place has their fingers on the pulse of sales. Dereck seems to know the estate sales and gets new pieces in each month. Keep in mind you don't really want a fancy shop like the ones on King Street in Charleston, where everything is overpriced.
TIP 2: Also look for pieces that can be redone. This little table above was stripped, darkened and amazingly underneath had a beautiful inlay on the top. 

TIP 3: Stop by your antique store every now and then. That way you can see what's new and scoop it up as well as keep your eye on the pieces you are watching. This amazing bedroom furniture set was made locally. It is made of mahogany and has mother of pearl inlays as well as brass and walnut inlays too. 
We know it was made locally because of the letter in it from 1928 where they are matching the beds to the dresser, back when America and particularly Cincinnati and the Midwest were places where people made stuff. Hopefully, with things like local craft beers on the rise, other locally made items will come back too and I'm hopeful for an American Renaissance. Meanwhile, I'll just keep my eye out for special pieces. Hope these tips are helpful. 

Our Lady of Grace: Remembering My Late Aunt Evie Byrnes-Mast

If we are lucky in this world we are surrounded by women who are kind, inspiring and good friends. If we are truly lucky, we may have a special role model. My late Aunt Evie was that person for me.

She was taken too soon by pancreatic cancer at the age of 81. She was a bright light in my life. Most of all I would say she was a woman of grace. She was a true lady of calmness and kindness. She spread wisdom everywhere and in every conversation. This seemed to be a natural outcropping of being the oldest daughter in her family of 11 children. It’s hard to describe what made my aunt so special, but here are some stories that I hope show ways she lived with grace.  

Putting Family First
As my mom’s older sister, my Aunt Ev was there right after my birth. Though my family moved all over the country, my aunt made it a point to visit every year despite her busy career. As a young child, I remember singing, “She’ll be coming round the mountain when she comes” for hours before her arrival. And she didn’t disappoint. She greeted us with hugs and excitement.

Family was important to Ev. She was a natural for her job as eldest daughter. After college, Ev got a job working for AT&T and was ready to move to the big city. But a trip home helped her realize that she didn’t know her younger siblings well. She decided instead to move back home to live with her family at a time when people didn’t typically think about moving home.

Giving the Gift of Time
Most of all, my aunt Ev made everyone around her feel special. When my mom had passed away, Ev was the one to be there for my daughter’s birth. She came a week early to get to know my son’s routine. On the day of my daughter’s birth she was the first person besides my husband to greet her. 

She and my son arrived at the hospital with a playdough birthday cake they had made together that morning. She was there for my daughter’s birthday every year after that.   
Her way of making people feel special was to spend time getting to know each person. When I went with my kids to visit her and my Aunt Ellen one time in Highlands, North Carolina, I watched as they all found sticks, safety pins and strings to create fishing poles. My aunts then took the kids to a pond to fish and feed the ducks. It all felt so familiar. And then I remembered trips with them myself as a child to the riverfront near their family home in New York. Some things stand the test of time.  

Living a Strong Belief
My Aunt Ev’s faith was strong and abiding, both in the almighty and the people she loved. As part of my first job, I was in a 10 week training program with a “Pass or Fire” test at the end. I was worried about passing the test. “When you were young,” she told me, “You would put your nose in a book and you would concentrate so much, you could not hear anyone around you. You have great concentration skills. You can do it.” I quit stressing and passed the test. She paid attention to each person in her life.    

Her advice and beliefs also shaped my life. As a young person out of college, we were watching the TV in her kitchen and I asked her thoughts about gay marriage or something. “Marg,” she said. “I believe everyone deserves a little happiness.” This shaped my view on so many things in life.  

Ev also welcomed me into her Atlanta family. While I lived there, I was often invited to family dinners with her husband Kurt and step kids. I was making the salad one time and left too much water on the lettuce. She patiently showed me how to do it correctly. (Who knew the “Salad Spinner” existed?) She said, “What’s worth doing, is worth doing right.” This also shaped my life, plus I never made a soggy salad again. 

Walking with Grace
Ev was a woman of grace. Her words were always kind and thoughtful (even with the soggy salad incident). When I visited her this January, she was struggling after a bout with pneumonia on top of the cancer. She told me a story of how she cried all the way home after a visit with our family and her sister, my mom. She teared up. I asked her why she was crying. She said, “It just feels like such a very long time since we’ve been together.” Well, they are together now.

It seems hard to believe Ev is gone from this world and I’m not sure how to get through it. So, rather than look at the loss, I count myself lucky to have had the time I did with Ev in my life. I have a ring she gave me and I’ll wear it often as a small reminder to strive to walk with grace like her.  

Margee Moore is a marketing professional, mother of two and author of Sleeping with the Laundry: Notes from the Mommy Track.    

My Awesome (Average) Mom

Sometimes we compare ourselves to other moms and feel we come up short. But things aren’t always as they seem—even when they appear to be written plain as day.

Last spring, my son Wendell lost his phone at our annual school fundraiser fun day. Another mom found it in the parking lot and knew to look for “mom” to find the phone’s owner. On my son’s phone though I’m saved as “My Awesome Mom” because I programmed it that way and he never changed it. I think it is pretty funny. We arranged to meet the mom in the parking lot and she gave my son his phone.

Here’s the sad part though. I ran into this mom again the other day. “I think of you every day,” she said. “I am so jealous that your son programmed your number in as ‘My Awesome Mom.’ And every day I’m trying to be awesome so my son thinks of me that way too.”

Oh no. I had to correct her. I told her I had put my number in that way. A wave of relief washed over her face and we laughed.

In reality, I’m a pretty average mom. But I do my best. I try to keep the kids fed and teach them how to live as good citizens in the world. Most important of all, I try to keep them young and protect them from learning about things before they have to.

Recently, though, that backfired. My daughter is in the 7th grade, the year of “The Talk” in health class. I thought we got a big WARNING letter home beforehand, so I had never gotten around to explaining the birds and the bees. Big mistake.

Low and behold, on a recent Friday, they got “The Talk” without warning, complete with videos and everything. To top it off, my daughter had just learned in math class how important it is to ask questions if you don’t understand something. Ugh. You know where this is going.

So yes, in health class, my daughter raised her hand and asked, “What is an erector?” but using the right word. The entire class laughed. She laughed too and passed it off as though she was joking. It was a pretty horrible, really bad day for her.

On the way home, she ran into my neighbor Jenny who asked how her day went. “Not so great,” she said and stopped in Jenny’s for tea. My daughter explained it all to Jenny who said, “It is a beautiful thing between two people who love each other and if your mom doesn’t want to explain it to you, I am happy to fill you in.”

Jenny is my dear friend. We have similar values. I deeply appreciate that she was there to catch my daughter at the end of her day and help out. I was at work and oblivious.

So the next day, my daughter and I got Indian food to have the talk. She had a ton of questions.
“That took 3 minutes,” she said when the questions were all over. “Was that so bad? You could have had that talk with me anytime.” Yes. I’m winning the award for Most Average Mom Ever.

Here’s the icing on the cake of my mom stories. Each year, my husband and I throw a St. Patrick’s Day party. We invite everyone we know because we don’t want anyone to feel left out. We get the beer and wine and ask everyone to bring a snack to share. It keeps it manageable. In school the other day (the same school where the teachers know I neglected to have “The Talk”) my daughter explained to her class how “great” her mom is.

“My mom has a St. Patrick’s Day party every year,” she says. “When she drinks a lot, I get cake for breakfast.” In my defense, I do set out cake for the kids when I’m doing the cleanup at 2:00 a.m. I do this because I know they are going to go find it anyway and that way I can get rid of it and pitch the rest. Makes sense at 2:00 a.m. usually. She continues her story to her entire class.

“And when my mom has a REAL lot to drink I get cake for breakfast, lunch and dinner.” I don’t think that is actually true. It is one of my main jobs as a mom to make sure my kids receive proper nutrition—even on “slow days.”

At the first parent meeting of school every year, our principal says, “We ask you to be skeptical of everything you child says goes on at school. We will return the same courtesy to you when you child tells us what goes on at home.” This always makes me smile. However, I may have to volunteer to be the PTA President or something to salvage my Average Mom reputation.

For all of us, my point is that things aren’t always as they seem. If you’re doing your best, you are doing a good job Mom or Dad. Don’t worry about everyone else.

Margee Moore is a mother of two and a marketing professional. She has not won any awards for parenting but is author of Sleeping with the Laundry: Notes from the Mommy Track

Heck on Wheels

My New Car Buying Experience from H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks

A few weekends ago, I suddenly needed a new car. My dream had been to live car-payment-free as long as possible and run my Honda Pilot into the ground, years from now. The dream ended suddenly, when it started to have trouble accelerating. The dealership said it needed a $4,000 transmission. Sadly, the car itself was not worth $2,000. The prognosis was it could be 2 weeks to 2 months before it would go. Driving it home, I knew it would be about two days.

I get it. I’m hard on cars. Case in point, when I was cleaning it out before trading it in. I found a blackened corpse of a banana peel in “the way back.” The last time I remember handing my kids back a banana was 2008. You get the picture.  

We decided we shouldn’t to sell it to an individual. A dealer would know what to do with it. Since the transmission was fading fast, we had one weekend to trade in, pick and purchase something new.

We started by making a short list of SUVs with third row seats for practicality, a second list of smaller SUVs for fuel economy and daily commuting. Our top choices included the Toyota Rav4, The Accura RDX, Nissan Rogue and a 2016 Honda Pilot. And then I started a list for style and color. I came across the adorable Jeep Renegade in Orange, a subcompact SUV. It was super cute and super practical, especially if I was a college co-ed with no kids—but regardless I added it to our lists.

On Friday night, for sport we drove a Land Rover. No, they don’t make one in our price range. But they were very polite about it. We also drove a Mercedes. They have used ones in our range. And Chris our associate was fantastically laid back, helpful and cool. But as I said earlier, I’m hard on cars. It does not make any financial sense for me to have a super nice one.

Saturday morning, we drove to a nearby Toyota dealer armed with our “true price” assessments from our bank. All I wanted to do was drive my choices but it took an amazing amount of time to check out the keys and be ready to drive. They had the true pricing but not the colors as it said online. We drove the Rav4 first. Believe me, I wanted to like it for its great price point, dependability and cuteness, but couldn’t. It wasn’t in my top color choices.

My husband wanted us to check out the Acura RDX. We stood around there too. Though it drove well, it looked like 1000 other SUVs on the road. I wasn’t that interested. We asked the dealer to give us an estimate on our trade in. He drove it and came back. He was extra kind to us after that like we were impaired. Very kindly he said, “How does $500 sound.” We cringed. I could now see my Pilot from another’s perspective. I really had driven it into the ground.

Then we drove to the Jeep dealer. After more standing around and talking, he pulled out the Orange Renegade from the back to test drive. I smiled. It was cute and certainly orange. It drove like you’d expect a Jeep to but was soup-ed up with heated steering wheels, Satellite radio and more. It was love. My husband however, did not love it. He felt it might not be as reliable as a Pilot. (I did get 11 years out of it before the transmission gave up the ghost.)

We decided to take a night to think about it. Our friend Charlie came over to drop off Boy Scout popcorn with his boys Louis and Marty.

“I want a Jeep too. It’s on my bucket list,” he said. “I used to draw them all the time as a kid.”
“Did you draw them in the shop?” asked my husband, “because I think that’s their natural habitat.”

On Sunday, further driving of several additional cars yielded a high level of frustration for me. The car buying experience is hell. I’ve done my research, just hand me the keys.

I came home frustrated. I had to make a decision. My husband had Monday off and would negotiate which ever one I decided on.

I opened the websites of all my top choices. And then I opened the Jeep Renegade again. There was a silly commercial and it played the popular “Renegade” song. 

“You know everyone in that commercial is under 30,” my daughter said, pointing out that my car was really designed for the young. 

My husband too said I’d be “twinsies” with ever other teen in town who had a Jeep.

But the Jeep smiled up at me from the site. It was cute. It was fun. 

And it looked like you could strap your canoe, kids and husband to the top if needed.

“Let’s get the Orange Jeep,” I said. 

And I love it. You only live once.

Margee Moore is a marketing professional, sucker for orange cars, mother of two and author of Sleeping With the Laundry. You can follow her on Facebook on Sleeping With the Laundry.