Tag Archives: chores

Hey, there, can I polish your wood?

Awww, I’m sorry if you wound up at this post because you were looking for something involving Rosey Palm and her Five Sisters. While today’s topic does center around a job one does with one’s hands on wood and while the sexual innuendo was not an accident, this post is specifically about polishing wood furniture with oil.

You can skip the blathering and go straight to the instructions, if you’d like. You’ll find them under the red sentence below (scroll down…keep scrolling).

Why am I writing a post on polishing wood furniture with oil when I am about as far from being a homemaker as possible and am in no way an expert on this subject?

I’m glad you asked. It all started when my friends began to come up far enough up in the world to need house cleaners. When you are first able to hire help to clean your house, you start out small because that’s all you can afford. Often, you find an acquaintance, someone your co-worker knows or maybe one of the parents in your child’s preschool class, who cleans houses on the side and you strike a bargain with that person. Soon you get used to coming home to a clean house one Thursday out of the month and you look forward to the freshly-vacuumed carpets, the crumb-free countertops, the mirrors in which you can see your reflection, the glistening cabinets. The thing is, those super-shiny wood pieces? Unless there’s a lacquer varnish already in place, they are not supposed to look like that after they’ve been cleaned and polished. Yes, that wet look is amazing and you come to associate cleanliness with high-gloss kitchen cabinets but, really, you’re just creating buildup and asking for dust to stick to all the wood. I have railed against this for years and now I am going to stand up for wood, to shout loudly, to proclaim vehemently: YOU ARE DOING IT WRONG!

No, I am not a master woodworker, though I did take a shop class in middle school where I played with a bandsaw and sandpaper.  Really, though, I am not certified in the art of furniture care. I don’t have a degree in oils and waxes. I did, however, apprentice in housewifery under my grandmother who was, as most women of her time, highly knowledgeable and experienced in taking care of household belongings because way back then, people planned to pass their crap down to the next generation since there was no IKEA. I may not have remembered much from those long-ago lessons but I can polish my wood furniture.

Please note: I’m talking about regular, run-of-the-mill (haha), daily-use furniture made of wood (not fake wood or veneer) and not antiquities, not museum-quality pieces, not heirlooms that came over on the Mayflower. If you own things like that, you probably already know how to care for them. If you don’t, you should visit a museum or wood shop or fine furniture store and ask for help.

Ok! Let’s begin!

So you want to polish your wood. But what to use? Endust? Pledge? Sure – though like Coke and Pepsi, all those products yell about how the rival products are sub-par so choosing can get confusing. What about wax? If you have nothing else to do in your life or if you have amazing, costly furniture that will still be in your family when the world comes to an end, then, yes, wax is great. But have you ever waxed your car? Take those basic principles and apply them – and the wax – to all the wood pieces in your house. Mr. Miyagi will be very proud of you.

This is going to take you a long time but will probably build muscles and reflexes for your next karate battle.

I prefer oil, specifically lemon oil because that’s what my grandmother used and I like the way it smells. There are other oils out there: Old English, Tung oil (not tongue oil, we’re not cats), linseed oil, on and on and on. If you don’t want to explore all the different oils and just need to be told what to do: Go get some lemon oil.


1) Gather your supplies

You have to clean the furniture before you can polish it. I like to use Murphy Oil Soap but there are a bunch of recipes out there for making your own cleanser, as well as polish. If you use Murphy’s, you may as well buy a bucket used just for cleaning with this soap because it leaves a tacky residue when you mix it in the kitchen sink. Also, you can keep your whole wood cleaning kit in the bucket and that will make you feel professional and awesome.

Have a toothbrush and a razor blade on hand. You probably won’t need them, but in case you do, they’ll be at your disposal.

Grab some rags. You’ll need one to wash, one to polish, and one to buff. I use cotton rags from old t-shirts or socks from old husbands (ok, he’s not actually that old) A lot of people like to use microfiber dust cloth type thingies and if you have ’em, use ’em but why buy them if you already have cut-up bits of cloth?

My Murphy's, my bucket, my rag

My Murphy’s, my bucket, my rag

I know I just told you I like to use lemon oil and told you to go buy some.  However, I have some dark pieces of wood that sometimes get a bit scratched up and the lemon oil doesn’t hide the scratches nearly as well as the Old English oil that is full of stain or whatever is in there.

Here are my oils and my rubbers. Ha ha, I said "rubbers" This is such a dirty post.

Here are my oils and my rubbers. Ha ha, I said “rubbers” This is such a dirty post.

Ok, ready for the next step?

2) De-grit the flat surfaces

Unless it’s dry and windy out, my furniture just gathers dust. However, toward the end of summer, there are times I have to gently brush the grit off the wood before I clean it. If you don’t do this, you risk putting icky little scratches into your furniture so brush the grit off with a soft brush, a non-scratchy cloth, canned air or, heck, blow really hard on it. Just git rid of that grit!

3) Wash that wood

Make the Murphy’s Oil Soap solution, there are instructions on the bottle. Dunk your cleaning rag into the soapy water then wring the rag out really well because we’re not mopping, here; we don’t need a lot of wetness. A damp cloth is a kind cloth…or something. Anyhow, get your Cinderella on and clean every bit of wood furniture in the house. If there are wax drippings or bits of crusty jam or that white powdery stuff – no, not cocaine – left behind by harsh minerals in your water, you might need to gently scrape it free. Don’t dig it out, just give it a loving nudge with your thumbnail. If that doesn’t work, scrub gently with the toothbrush or use the razor to maneuver the offending substance up and away from the surface of your furniture.

Wash the whole piece – sides, underside, legs, arms, whatever. If it’s wood, wash it. Then go wash the next piece of wood, then the next, and don’t stop until all the wood is clean.


You know, I wanted to directly steal this from Allie Brosh, herself, mostly because I am a very bad person, especially on the internet. While I have this particular post bookmarked, I have most of her posts bookmarked which wasn’t helpful in this case and so I did an Image search because that should have brought it straight up, right? And it did, this was the first image, but it’s not from her site. It’s from some other site who stole the picture before I did. The entire internet has stolen this picture before me and most of them have meme’d it up and…*sigh* Ms. Brosh, if you ever see this and want me to remove this hand-me-down theft, just let me know and I will do so. You can tell me in the comments section, I won’t mind because then I can frame the comment…well, after printing it and stuff. This internet is so difficult sometimes.

4) Let the wood dry

The wood shouldn’t have been wet but you did just rub it down with a damp cloth so it needs to dry a bit before it can be oiled.

5) Annie, get your oil

There are a few schools of thought on the oil rag. I’ve recently joined the one that says you should get your rag as oily as possible and when you’re done using it, store it in a sealed plastic bag so you can use it again next time and not have to apply so much oil. I use a sock as my oil rag because I can stick my hand up inside and really get my whole arm into the action.

The first couple of times you polish your furniture, you’ll need to apply tons of oil to your oiling cloth. I don’t know how important it is to put the oil on the cloth instead of directly on the wood, but since that’s how my grandmother did it, that’s how we’re doing it, too. Press the cloth to the mouth of the oil bottle and upend the bottle onto the cloth. Do this two or three times, leaving oily circles in your cloth…or sock, in my case.

That's an oil dot. The table I'm about to oil is nice and clean and dry even though it looks all shiny and wet. It's not. Trust me.

That’s an oil dot. The table I’m about to oil is nice and clean and dry even though it looks all shiny and wet.

6) Polish the wood

I remember learning in my shop class to “go with the grain” and I think that was for staining and finishing but maybe it’s also for polishing? I don’t remember and I don’t actually use that advice anyhow. I rub the oil into the wood using little circles. It’s really easy to see what you’re doing since everything you’ve oiled will be all slick and shining. Oil everything you washed, get it all glossied-up and purty. Again, if you’re using  a new cloth, you’ll have to re-oil it often as the cloth will suck up more oil than the furniture does.

Oooh, so slickery. While it looks nice, the shine does not equal cleanliness. You’re not done yet. Keep going.

7) Buff it out

And here’s the part that always gets left behind, the part that makes me want to yell at the house cleaners who let wood stay wet-looking, the part that spawned this whole post in the first place.

Look. When you put on sunscreen, you don’t just smear it on and let it stay white and sticky on your skin, right? (If you do, this analogy is not going to work for you) You rub it in so as to protect your skin. This is pretty much the same thing.

You’ve got a buffing cloth (also a sock, in my case) and it’s time to put it to use. Return to the first piece of furniture you oiled. The oil should have sat long enough to soak in by now and it’s time to rub it in the rest of the way and take the leftover oil off the surface. You can go with the grain or you can use big circles as you wipe the cloth across the furniture. Rub briskly, press firmly but not like you’re trying to dent the wood or anything, and keep going over the oil until it no longer looks oily. Continue buffing the furniture in the order in which it was oiled.

This sock will rub in and wipe away all that excess oil.

This sock will rub in and wipe away all that excess oil.

8) Stand back and admire your handiwork. Maybe also have a drink, you deserve it, though wash your hands first, otherwise your oily fingers will drop the glass.

Your furniture should now be beautiful, clean and shining but with a matte finish, not glossy. Your house should smell like oil soap and lemon oil. You should feel like a ’50’s housewife. You can put your pearls on, if you’d like. Better yet, make yourself a martini and kick back. Just don’t put your feet on the newly-cleaned wood.

See? It’s shiny but not glossy. This is how your wood is supposed to look after it’s been oiled. Glossy is pretty, yes, but it dries and turns sticky, attracting even more dust and pet hair and small bugs and probably children. You know, now that I think of it, maybe cleaners leave behind a high-gloss shine so that your furniture gets dirtier more quickly necessitating their services more often. If that’s the case: It’s a trap!


Remember I said I live in a dry climate? It’s important that we let the oil sit on the wood for a few minutes before buffing it off. I don’t know that this is so important in humid climates. You might be able to get away with oiling the piece and then buffing it right away. I don’t know. Consult someone you trust who knows about taking care of furniture in humid areas. It still needs to be buffed, though.

I don’t wash my oiling or buffing cloths, I store them in a Ziploc bag and reuse them until they can’t be used any longer, which is usually after several years. Then I throw them away because I’m not sure they can be recycled in any fashion.

I should be doing this quarterly, possibly more often, but I don’t. I’m way too lazy. I dust maybe once a month and then oil the furniture twice a year, if it’s lucky. I do oil it every January after I take down the Christmas decorations, though. That happens without fail.

You’ll note I didn’t mention the Old English polish-with-stain. You can read the directions on the bottle if you plan on using something like that. Just remember to match the color of the polish to the color of the wood. For instance, the dark wood polish isn’t good for light pine. Well, I mean, it’s fine for light pine if you want to stain it darker with wood polish but…why would you do that?

If you want to wax your furniture instead, I can’t help you there. I hate waxing anything. However, this website might be able to help.

Remember: I am not a licensed furniture caretaker. It’s hard to ruin your furniture using lemon oil but if you have any niggling doubts about whether or not you should use the process above on your furniture, then don’t. Maybe just go with a damp cloth. Or hire a house cleaner.

Lastly: The table that acted as my model was my dad’s. It had belonged to his parents beforehand and they gave it to him when he moved out. It’s at least fifty years old, was refinished about twenty years ago, and it still looks nice so, obviously, this method works. Others work, too. Find the one that’s best for you but please do not leave your wood all slick and shiny. Thank you.

**The title of this post and all the not-that-hidden innuendo within are dedicated to Julio because he is a perv.


Filed under Adventures, In my backyard, My Opinions on STUFF

Well, crap. I’m becoming my mother.

My mom has this big worry  that she will die and no one in the family will know how to preserve food. I think it keeps her awake at nights, or used to, up until Little B started showing some interest in the kitchenly arts. Not to be upstaged by my suck-up neice, I spent Labor Day weekend in my mom’s cucina, canning things.

Ok, technically, I jarred things and, honestly, it wasn’t as bad as I always think it is. But there’s a reason I hate canning, believing it to be akin to medieval torture. My mom has always canned stuff from the garden as well as things found in the woods. Nice, right? No, not when you’re forced into summertime slave labor and have to work your child fingers to the bone, peeling and chopping and cold-bathing fruits and veggies, all the while asphyxiating on the toxic fumes of pickle brine. Seriously, it’s a horrible past time, especially if you really want to be outside playing.

It was bad enough Mom sent us to harvest choke- and pin-cherries down in  The Glen — She’d throw us out of the house with margarine tubs and tell us we weren’t allowed back until they were full. Chris would finish in half an hour, drop off his bucket, and go exploring. Noelle, Bedot, and I, though, it took us all day. Know why? Chris put his hand at the top of the cherry-laden limb and pulled downward, dumping everything into the bucket…leaves, twigs…Spike, but we girls, much like Mopsy, Flopsy, and Cottontail or whatever her name was, were very careful in our picking, taking only the ripe and juicy berries from the tree and leaving the shriveled ones, the green ones, the bitter ones for all our woodland friends. Also, we knew we’d have to sort through them later so may as well do the sorting first and save ourselves some time — Anyway, we harvested stuff and that should have been enough, but it wasn’t. We had to help preserve it, too, like we were Laura Ingalls Wilder or something. That, quite naturally, created within all of us a loathing of preserving food. I remember thinking it would be better to starve in the winter than to put up pickled things for those long, dark months. I may have been a slightly melodramatic kid. I really did hate canning, though. Even freezing became tainted simply because it was vaguely related.

Back to this weekend. I had a few extra zucchini hanging around (like a seven thousand) and Mom has a recipe for zucchini relish. Since she was going to have all the canning paraphernalia going anyhow, she asked if I’d like to come over to help her and also make some zucchini relish, myself. Being the amazingly dutiful daughter I am, I said, “Why, yes, that sounds…great.” I grabbed my zukes, along with my neighbor and her things-to-be-canned, and we went to put stuff in jars.

I want to make a big deal out of it, a tale of woe filled with blood and lost limbs but…it was really easy. And fast. Well, my relish was fast. My neighbor’s salsa was not as it was her first time canning ever and also my mom had never made salsa so it became a big experiment but the point here is, it wasn’t like I remembered. It wasn’t a torture session and I didn’t leave crying. I also didn’t get to help my mom with her canning because we ran out of time so I went back the next morning and we worked on the tomatoes. I remembered that I love peeling tomatoes! I could do that all day! (But only for one day out of the year; I wouldn’t want it as my career, or anything) We put up 5 pints of almost-overripe New Girls with basil and they look lovely. They’ll taste lovely when I make them into spaghetti sauce this winter.

These are 2 of my 7 jars of zucchini relish. They contain all of my own zucchini and garlic, some of my own onions and carrots, and storebought peppers because I didn’t grow any this year.

So maybe this canning business isn’t as horrible as my childhood memories tell me it is. Maybe this is something I could do with my mom every year. I’d get to learn how to make her pretty-much-famous sweet relish which I could then add to my collection of heirloom recipes and maybe I’d even bump Little B out of that coveted Favorite Child spot in the process! (ha ha, that’s a little canning humor, there)


Filed under Adventures, In my backyard, My Dearly Beloveds, White trash childhood

I just realized how difficult retirement will be

I live with the belief that I will retire in the next 20 years; it is a great hope of mine. I’ve heard that a lot of people retire and then just die because they have no purpose left in life. That is not going to happen to me. Gabe and I have a whole list of things we want to do when I no longer have to work. It’s a long list and after the past week, I worry we will never get to it.

I took the first week of the New Year off  (highly recommended, by the way) and had hoped to take down Indoor Christmas on the 1st. Usually, I like to leave it all up for awhile but the house has been non-stop decorated for one holiday after another since October 1st and I was 100% ready to have it all back to normal. After Christmas was packed away, we were going to clean like crazy. I figured that would take me to the 3rd and then I could tackle my list things I wanted to accomplish after the house was clean and put to rights:


It’s not a long list. There are no difficult items. I had a week to do this. Why didn’t I get it all done?

Well, guess what?
The Goodwill stuff only got packed up because I did laundry and had to put it away and needed space. I did manage to finish And I Shall Have Some Peace There: Trading In the Fast Lane For My Own Dirt Road  by Margaret Roach  and felt good about that, but everything else? Didn’t even touch it. And you know why? Because as we cleaned, all these other things that needed doing kept popping up.

I emptied the china cabinet, dusted and oiled it, cleaned the contents, then put it all back and found that I am missing 3 little garden party cups.


The cups in the foreground? There should be 12. I can only find 9. My heart hurts over this.

I know the set was whole when I moved in, but I don’t know if I put all the pieces in the cabinet, or not. That necessitated a trip to the Underhouse (like an undercroft only different because we don’t live in a medieval dwelling) to see if there was still a box of fancy dishes down there. I didn’t find one. Since the shed is a disaster zone, I couldn’t look out there but I don’t put things like that in the shed. After an hour of searching, I had to give up and just cry. This particular set is important to me and I hate knowing I’ve lost some of it.

Gabe got us a new bird feeder to replace the one that met with a horrible demise in a recent bear attack. It was taking up space on the living room floor so I had to fill and hang it and, in the process, was mugged for my birdseed by the local gang. Little bastards.


That deer that’s looking at the seed on the ground? It just came right up. I marched off to get the dog who then barked these bullies straight out of the yard. Good job, Daisy May!

The amaryllis my mom gave me – it came as a bulb in a box – four years ago finally bloomed for the first time so I had to take a LOT of pictures of it. Every day. And I had to tell it how happy I was that it was finally able to show off and that it was stunning. That sort of cut into my cleaning and sorting time.


It’s so pretty! I want to stare at it for hours like I’m some sort of creep. I don’t think it would mind, though. That’s why I have a lot of plants. They don’t care if I’m creepy. At least, I don’t think they do.

We celebrated Toki&Evie’s 5th birthday on January 3rd. We sang to them and gave them birthday food (Fancy Feast, something they NEVER get any other time of year) and presents (new treats and new stuffed mice) It was a good birthday for them but I can’t believe they’re five. That has nothing to do with cleaning, really, but it deserves mention because Evie told me to put it in here.


Five years old! He’s so big!


Also five…and apparently none too thrilled about it. Well, she sure changed her tune when we popped that Fancy Feast lid.

And once we were finally finished after FOUR DAYS!!! (seriously? how dirty are we?), we sat down and discussed the problems and gaps we’d found and what do to about them. This lead to a discussion of things that need to change. Here are some of the things we’ll be doing differently:
-The little tabletop water fountain I’ve got in the dining area will be used more often; I’ve had it running since I put it back out and it’s been a pleasant background noise. Also, I like to think the water that is surely evaporating from it is good for all the plants nearby. Win/win.
-We will plan meals. We ate well and on-time the entire week despite being horrendously busy getting dust and cobwebs in our nose holes. It wasn’t hard – the eating responsibly thing, not the dust in the nose-holes thing (though that wasn’t hard, either). If we can do it while on a mission to restore tidiness to our home, we can do it in a normal week.
-We are taking back the kitchen table! It’s not a parking lot, it’s a place to eat. No more gnawing food mindlessly on the couch in front of the TV and no more messy table top. We both want to lose weight and I have a feeling this will help (it’s far too easy to sit on the couch and just continue shoving food in our faces while we watch an entire season of some TV show or another on DVD)
-We are going to clean up after ourselves immediately. We’ll just clean as we go, all day every day, and then I won’t have to clean the house on weekends and we can do fun things, instead!

These sound like resolutions, but they’re not. They are the things we need to do because we are grown-ups managing our own household, because we care about our health and well-being and about our marriage. So…we’re just going to do them, new year or not.

Come Saturday, I was exhausted. So was Gabe. We sat around all day and read. It was glorious but I felt a twinge of guilt because I hadn’t done anything else on my list and I knew I wouldn’t because Sunday was devoted to meal planning, grocery shopping, and getting ready for Monday.
That’s when I realized how hard retirement will be and I wondered if we would ever get to our Things To Do When We Retire list. Maybe that’s the real reason people just up and die after retiring; it’s disheartening to know that you thought you were done working only to find you are just beginning. I think I’d rather some eternal rest, too, than a retirement full of finishing unfinished crap.


Filed under Adventures, In my backyard, My Dearly Beloveds, My Phenomenal Fake Life