Things Your Mother Forgot To Teach You

I am so excited to be kicking off a new series that I hope you will find both inspiring and well, maybe a little humorous. You might be thinking that I developed the concept of a recurring series on stuff our mothers forget to tell us based on my own upbringing but it's actually the opposite.


It was inspired because of something I forgot. Not too long ago The Youngest, a freshman in high school, asked me where the carrots were because he wanted to feed a rabbit that wandered into our garden (I'll add that this is normal in our house, since he could talk he's been a mighty protector of all animals) and I said very matter of factly, and probably with a little exasperation in my voice, "They're in the crisper, of course" to which he replied "What's a crisper?". I thought he was kidding. So did my husband who overheard this conversation. There was some back and forth, and more than a little disbelief on my end that he didn't know what a crisper was, but then he said "Well you never taught me what a crisper is". Ouch.

It stung. Especially because for as long as I can remember I have been adamant about the fact that children can't possibly learn if we don't in fact first teach them. And here I forgot to teach my children about the parts of a fridge! Now, this was all pretty hilarious but it got my mind racing into all the conversations I've had with friends, and even the mentoring and coaching I have done in my professional life, that all seems to lead to stuff our mothers forgot to teach us. That's not to say that dads are off the hook here either. It just sounds so much catchier with mom in the title!

I have had some incredible life teachers in my time, my mom and my dad separately taught me many transferable life skills and Martha Stewart filled in the gaps (I grew up with the tv show Martha Stewart Living and miss is dearly). I look around and I see a gap. While there are many sites on the big wide internet that we can turn to for entertainment and education, I don't see any that teach us the basics of how to live and live well. By that I mean somewhere we can turn to when we want attainable inspiration for home, travel and careers. I have long been fascinated by the art of living well but also knew that I would have to work for a living to be able to afford a life worth living!

So that's the genesis of this recurring feature on Celebrating This Life. I'm hoping to properly prepare my two sons for adulthood and would love to share my advice with you along the way. I've spent a good amount of time trying to think of all the things that I learned the hard way, like how to cook for myself and a family, how to set up my first apartment, beauty concerns, job/career advice all the way to how to finance your first home! These are the types of articles I'll be sharing in this series and if you have any suggestion please feel free to drop me a line at Celebratingthislife@gmail.com.

Now that we have the introductions out of the way, let's jump into our first topic. Considering how this one started, let's talk kitchen appliances. First up, the fridge.

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Let's start at the top of my fridge and work our way down. Attached to the light is the temperature control which is currently set at 5 for my fridge and 6 for the freezer at the bottom. We have glass shelves that can be reconfigured to fit large bottles of soda or our turkey at Thanksgiving. The meat drawer is where we keep all meats (sandwich meat, pepperoni, etc.) and our cheese.

At the very bottom is the crisper drawers, the ones that inspired this post! I prefer to have my vegetables in the fridge and my fruit on the counter as it helps remind me to eat more fruits! Both drawers here are filled with vegetables and the settings slide bar are set to that. The slide bars will say either 'vegetables' or 'fruit", moving them adjusts the humidity. Vegetables require higher humidity than fruit to remain fresh in your fridge. During the really hot months of the summer, I leave no fruit out on our counter. All produce ends up in these crisper drawers.

With the high heat of the summer fruit left out will spoil faster and led to the dreaded fruit flies. These tiny little flies live for ripening fruit and a total nuisance. There are many home remedies to get rid of them, my favourite is to pour a little leftover red wine into the bottom of a disposable cup. Cover with plastic and poke a few holes in the top. The flies will make their way into the cup but will not be able to fly out. Leave it out for a day and then dispose it.

My rule of thumb to keeping my fridge clean and tidy (and to prevent anything from growing in there!) is to clean and inspect the fridge and it's contents every month, or every second month. It doesn't take me too long to do either, I do it on a Saturday morning while I'm waiting for the kettle to boil.

  • Check the expiration dates on dairy and cheeses. They are always the first to spoil. 
  • Move the contents to one side and wipe the shelf with a cleaning wipe. Dry with a paper towel or tea towel and repeat on the other sides. 
  • Wipe the walls and doors with a cleaning wipe. 
  • Add or replace a partially open box of baking soda to the back of the fridge

That's really all there is to it! If something spills, clean it up right away. 

I also suggest doing a more thorough cleaning bi-annually. I do this in early December in preparation of the holidays and on the May long weekend to prepare for summer. I'll take everything out and check 'best before dates' on everything from salad dressing to jars of pickles. I take out the shelves, and because they're glass I let them come to room temperature, and then wash in hot soapy water. I'll place them back and do the same with the crisper drawers. 

Now what should you do if something seems off about your fridge? Maybe it's making funny clunking noises that it never did before or perhaps your food doesn't seem to be as cool as it should be. 

This is the time to start acting like a detective! Locate the make and model number of your fridge on the inside door. Take this information and find the manual on the company's website and search for their "Troubleshooting" section. If your question is not answered here, you might have to call the companies 1-800 number to inquire. If that still doesn't solve the problem, a repair man will be needed.

If you do bring in a repair man, and you own the fridge, make sure to get a quote on how much it will be. Once the cool setting totally died on our fridge right at the start of a long weekend. Our fridge was 8 years old at the time, and was a base model fridge. The cost of the repairs would have been almost as much as buying a new one! I know, I know, your parents probably had one fridge their whole lives and had it repaired many times. Here's the thing - they don't make them like they used to. And that goes for so many things. I think I had one toaster my whole childhood, meanwhile as an adult I am on toaster number 20!

It is also becoming increasingly difficult to find handy people who can fix appliances. I also ask the maker of my appliance if they can recommend an authorized dealer in my area. This happened once with my washing machine and they connected us with a great handyman!

cleaning your appliances
My double oven stove with my new Kendra Bester Design tea towels

On to the other kitchen appliance that everyone has - the stove. When we replaced our old one I was adamant that we get a double oven. I love to bake and cook and anyone who has ever tried to prepare Thanksgiving dinner for 10 will know how difficult it is to do when the turkey is taking up your only over for four hours. 

At the time we bought ours, 2-3 years ago, this was the last of it's kind and every manufacturer stopped making them. I am happy to report that they have risen in popularity and are back on the market! I don't know what I would do without having both ovens! If the cost is not too prohibitive, appliances are a big investment, I highly recommend going with the double oven. It's great for times when you need to bake two things are different temperatures. Say you are baking cookies and a pizza at the same time (what, I'm the only one?). 

Also, if you're currently in the market for a stove, make sure to get one that is self cleaning. My mom always recommended this and she's right! Not only do you not have to use any harmful chemicals in your home (have you ever smelled oven cleaner? It's the worst!) you don't have to put any effort into it at all! I self clean my ovens one at a time and I'll turn it on in the mornings if I'm working from home or right after dinner. They don't need cleaned very often, I probably turn it on four times a year. The lowest setting on my oven is to self-clean for three hours and that's what I go with. . When you turn on the self-cleaning cycle it locks the oven door and raises the temperature to 500 degrees Celsius or 900 degrees Fahrenheit to burn off leftovers from baking. Once the cycle is done, I let the oven cool to room temperature and then take a wet rag to wipe up any grey ashes left inside.

One thing to watch for is any screws on the oven doors. At least once a year try and tighten them. Wear and tear throughout the year will loosen them slightly and you don't want them falling out. They are so little, they can get lost easily. I would know. One of mine fell out and it took quite a while for me to find it again! Now I check all the screws in early December (this is the time of year I do a deep clean of everything in my home to prepare for guests over the holidays) and make sure everything is secure. 

If you have a glass top stove like I do, the best way to clean is with Windex grease cutter spray. It works like a charm! Never use anything abrasive like Ajax or powder based products as they will damage the glass. Also, never use any sharp utensils to scrap the surface. If something is baked on, use a rubber spatula to scrap. 

If something seems not right about your stove, follow the same procedures as the fridge. Look up your make and model number, find the troubleshooting guide and as a last resort, call a repair person. 

There you have it, we've taken a look at the fridge and stove, two staples in any kitchen. Hopefully this information will help you to keep your appliances clean and in working order for many years.