40 Year Skillet Maintenance

When Bethann and I got married in 1975, we received Corning Ware Centura dishes with matching cookware that was supposed to be unbreakable, oven to freezer to microwave, last forever. We had four daughters, worked full time, rehabbed a couple of houses we were living in; exercised radical and exuberant hospitality and disproved that theory, or whatever it was. When those unbreakable pans hit the floor and broke, they shattered with panache! (Let it sink in. … OK … now ,,, both parts? groan?  Thanks.)

So we replaced the dished with cheap apple stoneware dishes for years. They take up too much room in our limited cupboards in our current old house, so we bought speckled enamel tinware in Amish country for our everyday plates. We can fit so many in our cupboards, we don’t need paper plates any more for parties. That’s right, the post is about skillets!

Back in 1975, we were given a set of three cast iron skillets. We have probably used at least one of them almost every day since. That set cost far less than a placesetting of our CenturaWare® or than one Corning® pan. Cast iron is superior to Teflon® for several reasons, the most significant of which is the production of it does not poison seals at the North Pole. If we had been given Teflon® pans, we wouldn’t be talking about them now. They would be long gone. Any bits we would have ingested would have been carcinogenic; whereas bits of cast iron pans are iron, which most people need in their diet.

Cast iron skillets take some basic maintenance. We wash them with hot water and steel wool. Then we put them on the stove with the flame on low to dry. Occasionally, if it looks too dry, we put a little olive oil in it while it is still hot and rub it around evenly with a clean rag or paper towel to re-season it.

After 40 years of use, your pan may look like this:

Medium Skillet with 40 year accretion of crud
Medium Skillet with 40 year accretion of crud on bottom

It was time to take action to restore this skillet, so it could continue to serve for another 40 years. It was simple, I took a spent oscillating cutter tool blade and scraped the accumulated charred crud off the bottom and outsides of the pan. Then I scrubbed it with steel wool and rinsed and repeated. Then I finished by scouring the bottom and outsides with comet and hot water with steel wool and rinsing thoroughly.

Almost done.
Almost done.
Good for another 40 years
Good for another 40 years

Now it should take less energy to heat and cook. It will distribute heat more evenly, like when it was new. So mark your calendars to do your 40 year maintenance on all your cast iron skillets. It works the same way for Dutch Ovens, too. With them, you could probably get away with 50 years, as there isn’t so much stovetop use.

This was one of my “sidetracks” from home repairs. I get in the mode of fixing things, then that mode sort of generalizes in me. I get sidetracked onto these little projects as breaks from the bigger ones. Not to worry, I did manage to finish replacing the fan in the upstairs bathroom.

I work on these projects and write about them to combat my severe depressive disorder and cPTSD. Maybe you find something helpful.

This house is not just our house. It is also the base of operations for The King’s Jubilee to which we have dedicated our lives and resources for three decades. It is also a small native plant refuge for birds, insects, butterflies and small mammals in the middle of an old borough in part of the urban sprawl outside of Philadelphia. If you want to help us save our house you may make a donation via The King’s Jubilee using the Paypal button below or go to GoFundMe and help us out there. Thanks!



Living Room Makeover

Our 50 cent couch against the newly painted wall
Our 50 cent couch against a newly painted wall

We were told by our realtor to just let the house rot. We are in the process of foreclosure. The odds are we are going to lose the house. We are trying to negotiate a refinance, but PHH, the mortgage handling company, has never been honest, even to the point of lying to me about who owns our mortgage while I was looking at a letter I had just received from them which told me that it was HSBC, the Scottish drug dealing bank that the US Senate bailed out with no strings attached. It makes sense that PHH represents HSBC. One criminal organization represents another. I digress.

Entertainment Stand painted with Behr Ancient Pottery (N250-5) Premium Plus satin
Entertainment Stand painted with Behr Ancient Pottery (N250-5) Premium Plus satin
50 cent couch covered in beautiful throw I sewed with pillows I covered with excess fabric from the recliners.
50 cent couch covered in beautiful throw I sewed with pillows I covered with excess fabric from the recliners.

We still live in the house. I am on disability due to my six strokes caused by migraines, more than 40 TIAs, and innumerable prolonged (at times, 20 days long) debilitating migraines that mimic strokes. I asked the ALJ, “Would you hire me?” He granted my Social Security disability immediately. We are losing the house because the lawyer I used screwed things up and I still haven’t received the two years’ back pay. (Somehow, he got his full fee based on it, though. A lawsuit may be pending. I digress again.) Back on track. Bethann and I decided that we wanted to paint the living room as a gift to each other for Christmas. This was a first for us in our over 40 years of marriage; to have that sort of idea at the same time, with neither of us having to persuade the other.

Laying out fabric on the kitchen table, to cut and sew for the couch throw and cushion covers.
Laying out fabric on the kitchen table, to cut and sew for the couch throw and cushion covers.

Normally, I would just pick the colors and paint. Bethann would learn to like it. I know that is unusual. I have always been the color person in our house. Only once did I have to retreat on a color. That was the Rubber Ducky’s Bill Orange for the trim of the upstairs bathroom that I painted while she was at a Ladies’ Night Out several years ago.  She let me leave the walls Rubber Ducky Yellow, but shook her head and said, “What? Can’t I leave you home alone anymore?” I said, “It’s only paint! These colors were big in the ’60s.” Just brings back images of a young, perky Judy Carne saying “SockItToMe!”

My recliner in rust fabric, with my cat, Skittles in the foreground.
My recliner in rust fabric, with my cat, Skittles in the foreground.
Bethann's recliner in chocolate brocade. We bought this for $10/yd.
Bethann’s recliner in chocolate brocade. We bought this for $10/yd. The walls are painted with Behr’s Brazilian Tan (N250-2) Flat finish

At any rate, for this project, I actually went to Home Depot and got paint chips and little samples to try; an absolute first for me! We agreed on the colors, adjusting one, with no argument with each other. We wanted to respect the age of the house (new part: 1845, kitchen & bedroom above: 1700s) without leaving it moldering in its antebellum past. Bethann and I went to Joann Fabric with a great 50% off upholstery fabric coupon and selected fabrics for throw covers for the couch and our recliners, for about $80. It was like an ultra low budget Trading Spaces room makeover, only done right.

Bathroom to the left, Den/Office ahead, Basement to the right. I rehung that door with new hinges and reset the surface mount lock.
Bathroom to the left, Den/Office ahead, Basement to the right. I rehung that door with new hinges and reset the surface mount lock. This is all in Behr’s Clay Dust (N250-1) Premium Plus Eggshell finish

The job included the tiny entryway, tiny back hall, stairway and upstairs hall. The job included 9 doors, 15 doorframes, and 3 windows. We have reconsidered what we hang on our walls and have opted for less. I eliminated the shelves over the windows that the former owner had incorporated into the frames. They weren’t level, and we wanted a cleaner look. I had to replace the top piece of the frame on two of the windows, because the way the shelves were installed destroyed the antique parts of the frames.

I am still repairing sagging  accoustic tiles in the ceiling in preparation for painting it with high gloss, ultra bright white paint. The tiles are faux stamped tin style. I am using high powered glue in a dispenser with a long, narrow spout. I insert the spout between the tiles, at the corner where they are sagging to deliver glue on top of the tiles. Then I tighten the tiles to the frame above with a screw through a piece of stiff cardboard and leave it there long enough for the glue to dry. Then I move on to the next spot that needs to be repaired.

We would like to keep our house. If we lose it, we still don’t want to leave it a wreck. We don’t want someone to come in and say, “How could they live this way?”

I am working on our house against hope and professional advice. It is not just our house. It is also the base of operations for The King’s Jubilee to which we have dedicated our lives and resources for three decades. It is also a small native plant refuge for birds, insects, butterflies and small mammals in the middle of an old borough in part of the urban sprawl outside of Philadelphia. If you want to help us save our house you may make a donation via The King’s Jubilee using the Paypal button below or go to GoFundMe and help us out there. Thanks!



My 11 Step Program

Measuring pad to mark for center
Measuring pad to mark for center

It started with my wife and I deciding to change the color of the living room as our Christmas gift to each other. It is the gift that keeps on giving. The living room color determined the stairway color and upstairs hall, that is, since we changed the color of the woodwork. I had painted the steps before. I wanted them to hold up better this time. Bethann thought it would be nice to soften the noise a bit and make them easier on stocking feet.

Step painted & taped. 1 strip of paper to be removed yet.
Step painted & taped. 1 strip of paper to be removed yet.

Our house is old. Of course, this staircase is in the “new part” which was built in 1845 to be the hotel for the railroad when it came through Souderton.
It is narrow at 30″ at the bottom and less than 29″ at the top, in just 11 steps. We have 7′ ceilings. I had painted the first coat on the floor, before I decided the ceiling needed repainting. That white paint really drips! At any rate, I found a simple and economical solution in carpet pads at Home Depot. A pack of 13 sold for under $11. They came with no installation instructions. They were being sold near the large area rugs and window treatments, not near the stair runners. I found a pack. I wasn’t sure if they were dark olive or gray. The Home Depot is only a mile and a half away, so no big deal, if they ended up not looking right in the stairway. (It turns out, in context, they appeared to be dark olive.) Almost all of the tape at Home Depot or Lowe’s is in their paint departments, with certain exceptions. How consumers are supposed to keep track of all the ins and outs of capitalist, retailer, marketing manipulation, I don’t know. Half of the employees don’t know. They learn as they go, as training is minimal. So I went to the paint counter to ask where I could find a fairly agressive, double-sided tape. The man showed me to that expensive, thick 3M stuff, that never comes off, leaving a foam residue, or removing part of the substrate if ever removed. I told him that was too aggressive. I was taping down carpet pads. Gravity and regular foot pressure were on our side. He begrudgingly told me they sold carpet tape two aisles over, with the flooring, but that it was thin and not very aggressive. You could easily remove and reposition the carpet pads with that. He was disgusted as he said it. I said that sounds like just what I need!

While others were sleeping, I started at the top and worked my way down. I centered a pad and marked both ends’ location on the step with pencil. Then I painted up to those marks and roughly just within where the pad would go. Next, the tape was applied to the step. Then the pad was pressed into place. I did five steps one night and the remaining six a few days later.

Completed Step
Completed Step

My 11 Step Program was completed for a total cost of just under $20 plus the paint.

I am working on our house against hope and professional advice. We are facing foreclosure. If you want to help us save our house you may make a donation via The King’s Jubilee using the Paypal button below or go to GoFundMe and help us out there. Thanks!