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Those Moldy Oldie Appliances

April 8, 2011

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Would you believe that some folks are still hanging on to their old appliances? There’s a huge Internet market for repair parts and manuals for older appliances. It sure surprised me! I thought that those old fridges from I Love Lucy and Hazel and even The Brady Bunch had cluttered landfills eons ago. Nope. Some folks still have their old ice boxes and washing tubs!

My fridge is about… maybe 8 years old now. Before then, our fridge was an old “pick me up” from the curb (some neighbors had dumped theirs out there, but we spotted it and brought it in).

Old fridges had colors, too! Why are new fridges so boring?

It was one of those nice bottom-freezer kinds. Oh, those are so convenient! But YOW they are expensive, brand new. I don’t know how old that pick-me-up fridge was. Pretty old. When it ran, it ran well. But something happened (to the motor, maybe? can’t remember), and we decided to get a new one. Unfortunately, the brand new one is not nearly as good as the old clunker. Oh, it has more space inside, and the shelves are fancy glass instead of metal rungs… but the seal is lousy and the design of the door is poor.I had high expectations, since the new one was, well, NEW, and it was about $700 more expensive than the old one we’d had!

Do you have old appliances, still? Do you think the old ones work better than the new ones?

I have a clothes dryer that, after 18 years, is not very efficient anymore. But we have a very old TV that works fine; all my old computers work fine. And refrigerators work fine, too, as long as you keep the coolant level and the motor oiled.

Every once in a while, I like to surf the retail stores or the web and see what new gadgets they are adding to appliances. Honestly, the basic design of the refrigerator, stove, etc, hasn’t changed much in many years. The only thing manufacturers are doing is adding electronic panels to them, to appeal to Digital Women who want to check email, watch the weather AND chop the veggies at the same time.

OH my goodness, I just had a great idea– incorporate a small TV or computer monitor into the side or door of the fridge! Wouldn’t that be a space saver?! I’m sure the geeks could figure out a way to rig up a monitor. šŸ™‚ I think it’s a cool idea.

Anyway, when it comes to appliances, I’m not a fan of the massively gadgetized electronics. I’m rough on my washer and dryer and fridge– they are my work horses. The last thing I want is delicate circuitry in them to break down all the time.

Do you have a fancy appliance? Do you think it works well? If you had your choice, would you rather have a new appliance or a retro kind?

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Two Year Anniversary for Memory Foam…

April 1, 2011

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I always wanted one of those *real* memory foam mattresses. I’d endured the spring coil for many decades before the darling husband shelled out the big bucks for a memory foam. We got a Tempurpedic on sale, and I did a review shortly after. It remains one of my most popular blog posts, surprisingly.

We’ve had ours for almost two years now! Has it really been that long?! But I’m happy to say that it’s still very, very nice. And SO comfortable.

Because of herniated spinal disks and sciatica, I was in a lot of pain with the regular spring coil bed. Since we have had a memory foam mattress, I have not had one “big” bout of back problems. So I’m very partial to the memory foam. šŸ™‚

What really stinks is the foundation. We got a generic brand name foundation for the set, and after 6 months, it started squeaking like crazy. Apparently, the foundation is constructed of cardboard and plastic ribbing! Very cheap. We’ve replaced the foundation set every 6 months for 18 months (warranty) until the furniture store said they wouldn’t replace the foundation anymore, and we’d have to buy a new set. :-p I won’t get into how much that totally stinks. I guess I could sue them for breach or warranty, perhaps…. šŸ™

Anyway. The memory foam mattress itself is outstanding. After two years, here are some things I’ve learned.

The memory foam mattress IS a little hot. It’s constructed of some kind of plastic something or other, and therefore retains heat very well. I am a hot person by nature, so I get overheated sometimes. It’s not blistering hot as some reviewers would have you believe, but it’s a pretty toasty mattress in the winter, and warm in the summer. On the plus side, if you live in a cold climate or your house is cold all winter, this is THE mattress to get.

Waiting for Tooth Fairy

Livvy loves the mattress

 

The complete bed set sits lower than the average bed. So you drop into it at night and crawl up out of it in the morning. I’d rather have a higher bed. Someday, I’m going to build a bed frame out of solid lumber. This will raise the bed and replace that lousy, squeaky foundation.

The memory foam does soften over time. When we first got it, it was firm. It’s loosened a little. It’s still very comfortable, but it is softer. Also, when it’s cold, the bed is firmer, and when it’s warm, the bed relaxes. The material is sensitive to temperatures.

The mattress is extremely heavy. VERY heavy. It takes two guys to haul it up the stairs, and even then, I wondered if they were going to spill back down again….

Overall, I recommend the memory foam mattress. You can no doubt get much better deals online than retail. It was expensive, retail. You cannot use regular box springs with the memory foam, though– it must have a solid foundation. I recommend you stay far away from the generic no-brand labels and stick with the big names for the foundation. Or, build your own solid wood bed frame.

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Review of the Nesco GardenMaster Dehydrator

January 17, 2011

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I have wanted a dehydrator FOREVER. We all like to eat dried fruits, but the prices at the grocery store are excruciating. For years, I kept promising myself (and the kids) that we’d get a dehydrator… someday.

Well, I recently got a bonus at work, and shelled out the big bucks for the Nesco GardenMaster Dehydrator. I got it online for a little over $100. I hope the fruit tastes good, at least good enough to make the big expense worthwhile…

Nesco Dehydrator

The dehydrator is huge– I didn’t expect it to be so large– and comes with a nice recipe book and a package of spices for making jerky. I haven’t scrutinized the recipe book; it’s pretty basic, though. I was eager to try dehydrating some fruit (before it rotted away!) so I skipped the recipes to simply try out the dehydration machine.

Dehydrator1

The machine comes with 4 trays and 2 plastic tray liners. The trays are made of plastic, resembling netting. After a lot of use, I could see these becoming brittle and cracking. Nice thing is that replacement trays are available. You can also stack additional trays if you have large loads to process.

Dehydrator2

I decided to dehydrate my rapidly ripening papaya, and a few very over-ripe Anjou pears. The instructions say to avoid under-ripe and over-ripe fruits, but what do they know. (haha)

Papaya3

The dehydrator has a temperature control (95 to 155 degrees F) and on/off switch. It has no timer or automatic shut off (a real bummer). Since most loads take anywhere from 8-12 hours, you have to get your own timer and make sure you are home (or awake) to turn off the dehydrator. To do four trays of pretty juicy fruits, I set the control for 145 degrees, and ran it for 10 hours.

The dehydrator fan is NOISY. You know how noisy an uninsulated dishwasher can be? It’s about that loud. If yo can, run it at night, or expect to holler through your kitchen duties. It’s noisy.
The fruit turned out pretty good! I think I sliced the papaya a little too thin, but it’s still good. They are crunchy and feel like paper. But stil very edible and they are terrific with mixed nuts and raisins. The pears are magnificent. They are chewy and so sweet, with a slight taste of wine about them.

papayadried

The Nesco Gardenmaster can dry fruits, vegetables, herbs, jerky, granola, etc. I am looking forward to trying the jerky, and experimenting with fruits like bananas and mangoes. For $107, it is pretty pricey. If you don’t use a dehydrator often, a smaller unit would do just as well.
So far, so good. I like this appliance and it works well for me. If anything develops, good or bad, I’ll be back to report. Thanks for reading!

Note: I was not given this product nor compensated in any way for this review. All the opinions are mine and the facts are true to the best of my knowledge.

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Old Window Icicles

December 29, 2010

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Huh. I’ve never seen this happen before.

oldwindowicile

You know why that’s happening?! Because for the first time in this house, it is ACTUALLY WARM. It’s so warm that the warm air is leaking out through these leaky, 100-year-old windows, and making icicles when the warm air hits the freezing air outside.

Wooow.

Since ditching our forced air furnace and installing gas heaters, the house has been incredibly warm. And the gas bill is much lower than last year. Unfortunately, the electric bill is SKY HIGH because we have electric baseboards upstairs. I knew that would happen. But I wasn’t comfortable installing gas heaters upstairs. This setup is temporary– we intend on installing a hot water baseboard system in the future. But the gas heaters are just phenomenal.

I did a LOT of research about the heaters before I bought them. I’m a copywriter for a few online writing companies, so I also wrote a number of researched articles on the devices. I’m pretty impressed with them. Of course, I have a slew of carbon monoxide detectors installed throughout the house (you should install these if you have ANY gas-burning appliance in your home, anyway– and especially if you have a fireplace). Some of them have digital readouts that display the level of CO2 in the room. And mine has consistently displayed 0. Yay! The gas burners burn very cleanly.

Actually, gas heaters are no more dangerous than a wood fireplace. Wood needs oxygen in order to burn, too, and dispels carbon monoxide, too. Gas heaters have something that fireplaces do not, however– sensors. When a heater senses that oxygen is being depleted, the heater will shut off automatically.

Anyway, I am very happy with out heaters, although I think they keep the house a little too warm. The water vapor is not a problem here, as we have PLENTY of drafts in this house (I never thought I’s be grateful for a drafty house!) and the moisture helps eliminate the massive static electricity we’ve had problems with every winter. So far, the gas heaters are a win-win.

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A Review of the GE Profile Top-Loading Washer

December 28, 2010

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The renovation was too much for my 17 year-old Kenmore washing machine. We had moved it out of the kitchen into the basement during the summer, so I could still wash clothes while we gutted the kitchen. I don’t know if it was the extreme humidity down there or what, but wen we brought the Kenmore back up into the new kitchen, it spouted an oil leak at the bottom, oozing out of a rusted bottom. šŸ™

So we had to go washer shopping. I’d heard a lot about those new-fangled front-loading washers, good and bad. Besides the water-saving feature, everything else I’d read about them was bad. They are expensive, the drum and drum parts wear out quickly (some models wear out as quickly as 5 years), some develop mold and mildew problems from improperly sealed gaskets, etc etc. So we decided to stick with a reliable, tried-and-true top loading machine.

We chose the GE Profile 4.3 Cu. Ft. This model has a much larger capacity than my old Kenmore (which I got when I only had two young children), a big plus. The store offered two different models, one GE Profile has “Quiet-By-Design” technology, which means that the housing inside is insulated. Since the washer was going in the kitchen next to the living room, we got the quieter model. It ran quiet at first, but after 2 months, it’s not as quiet. Or maybe I am more sensitive to the noises now. I hardly heard it when we first got it, save for a few clicks. But now the spinner spins quite heartily. I may call the serviceman about it if it gets louder (the machine comes with a 1-year warranty).

GE washer 1

The GE Profile is supposed to use less water, similar to the claims made by front-loading machines. And the machine has no central agitator, either. The machines uses “HydroWave wash system with HE LoWater wash and InfusorTM – Utilizes the concentrated power of HE detergent, requiring less water than a traditional topload washer to get clothes clean.” “HE” stands for “High Efficiency.” It’s a special low-sudsing detergent. It tends to be a little more expensive than the regular detergents.

GE Washer 4

GE washer 5

Basically, the machine fills with water from the top and water squirts out of the holes in the tub, too. Apparently this replaces the traditional agitator. My clothes turn out clean so I think the machine does the job. I like the fabric softener dispenser, too.

The control dials are nice. Rather high tech. The sheer number of settings overwhelmed me at first. As much as I love my gadgets, I’m horribly simple when it comes to appliances. I just want to turn a knob and start the wash, not feel like Captain Kirk issuing a beamed transmogrification. I pretty much stick to the same basic settings. The digital countdown readout is very nice– it informs me how many minutes are left in the load.

GE washer 3

GE washer 2

One caveat to the machine is that it must be loaded perfectly. You can’t just dump a wad of clothes in the tub, or else the machine will not wash clothes properly or rattle off the floor for the moon. You have to place clothes in a ring all around the edges of the tub, leaving exposed the little white nub at the bottom of the tub. You can’t overstuff the machine, or else the top layer of clothing will never get “infused” with water from the tub’s holes. So far, I have been careful about loading, although one of the kids stashed a wad of jeans in it and the machine objected very loudly with some loud thumps. Loading the machine and setting the controls accurately is very important.

I’m pretty pleased so far with the GE. Then again, I am rather easy to please. I don’t require fancy buttons or an appliance to make toast while it chills milk and tells me the weather forecast… I MUST have a machine that lasts a long time, however. Today’s appliances do not have a good track record of longevity. We’ll see how this GE lasts. So far, so good.

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Appliance Repair Help Online

December 2, 2010

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I don’t know about you, but I hate paying extortion prices for appliance repair. My whole household is disrupted when one of the major appliances breaks down (I work full-time, so a disruption like that is a major headache for the family)– not to mention my budget. JUST to have the appliance repair dude step into my house is $200, and that doesn’t even include the repair yet. :-p
GE washer 3
Well, one of the benefits of writing how-to articles online for a home and garden website is that I get to learn about all KINDS of nifty tips, tricks, and online resources, like appliancepartspros.com. Woo hoo! I no longer have to rely on the repair dudes for stuff like this! We recently got a new GE washer (more on that later, as I plan to write a review on it), and it’s comforting to know I have access to all the parts should I need them. Another nice thing about researching appliances and getting parts online is that you can haggle with the repair dude (I do this all the time with the plumber). For example– if your dryer belt tears off and you need a new one, but don’t want to pull apart your dryer to fix it, ask your repair dude if you can get the parts if he will install them. My plumber does this for me, and it’s a win-win situation. It saves him the hassle and time of going to get parts for my appliance, and it saves me money because I do the legwork. And if the parts are online, you can have the mailman do all the legwork!

Anyway, repairing the appliances are expensive enough. I recommend that you do a little research yourself– find out what’s wrong, buy the parts if you need them, and maybe even install them yourself if you can. Believe me, it saves a TON of money.

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The Coolest Mailboxes EVAH

November 5, 2010

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Maybe it’s because my Hubs is a mailman. Or maybe because I am so attentive to curb appeal and architecture of homes. But I think these knoblochmailboxes.com are so cool! (And maybe it’s because “Knobloch” sounds somewhat Scottish, of which I am and love everything related to).

Tell me that isn’t cool. They are popular in Europe, and just starting to catch on here in the United States. But I like them because they are quirky, so different from the boring basic post boxes that have been around for centuries here. I like a good, quirky mailbox. And there’s nothing like one of these wild ones to throw your postman in a tizzy (mailmen are notorious for loving the status quo). I mean, HOW do you USE the thing?? Isn’t that cool– you don’t even know how to use it at first glance! It’s a puzzle!

Actually, its not too hard. With this model, there’s a slot where the mailman pops in the post. You unlock the door and it swings open. It’s made of metal so its durable, and can hold a lot of mail. I think it’s neat. There are other styles, including some of the more traditional styles we recognize, but this one appeals to me because it’s so avant garde.

What do you think? Do you like the box? Do you think your mailman would like it?

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Your Tiny Home Away From Home

October 20, 2010

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Oh my word. I was researching PDA gadgets recently, and lookie what I found!

It’s an HP mini-mini computer! I love it!

The hardest part about being a technology researcher and writer is seeing ALL these delicious gadgets. I DO SO want to try them out! I love this thing!

It’s a PDA, or Personal Digital Assistant. Kind of like a mini “home away from home” gadget. I like those. I am joined at the hip to the Internet (it’s my career). When I travel or am away from the computer, I have to be able to check in on my email and assignments. I have my iPod (which I adore), and I can connect to wireless hotspots, where available. I have no desire to find a replacement for my iPod just yet. I’m very happy with it. But I think eventually I will upgrade to something more. The iPaq is nice because it’s Windows-based (has Windows Mail, Windows Mobile Office Outlook, MSN Messenger, etc). And it takes an SD card for adding more memory (something the iPod seriously lacks). If I ever want to upgrade to something like an iPaq, I can give my iPod away to one of the kids (oh wouldn’t they love that! They love my iPod!) and get an iPaq and claim in for my business. That’s the nice thing about being self-employed– you can get gadgets and claim them for the business. šŸ˜€ Tax deductible. šŸ˜€

Buy.com has the best price I’ve seen on these babies– under $400. That’s still a very very pretty penny. Not in my immediate future, that’s for sure. But it’s nice to know that there’s something out there waiting for me. šŸ˜‰ See more deals at Buy.com.

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Our Dishwasher Dream…

September 16, 2010

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…came true!

A little background: We are a family of six. For over a year, I babysat several kids, making it TEN people to cook for, and to clean for. Imagine the humungous stacks of dishes we had to wash every single day. We couldn’t renovate the kitchen at that time, and there was no room in the kitchen to shoehorn a dishwasher. We washed and washed and washed by hand.

My kids prayed and prayed for a dishwasher, prayed and prayed for a kitchen renovation…

Ladies and gentlemen— I’d like to introduce to you—-

dishwasher90273

Our new baby!

We went without a kitchen sink for over a week before getting this in (the kids were washing dishes in the bathtub!). The first night The Hubs rigged it up, the kids and I grabbed the chairs and placed them in a circle around the kitchen. You’d think we were gearing up to buy gold coins or something! We switched it on, and — GLORIOUSLY — the machine started. It WASHED the DISHES! What a monumental moment!!!

Yeah, I’m a little exuberant. If you had to wash mounds of dirty dishes in a bathtub, you’d be a little excited, too, I’ll bet. šŸ˜€

I purposely purchased the cheapest dishwasher I could find, online. It’s a HotPoint. No fancy buttons, no fancy doodads, no special heating element. It’s a super-simple barebones machine. I had heard some stories about folks spending several hundred dollars on fancier models, only to have the fancy models croak quickly. Those electronic panels on the fancy models seems to fry very easily. That makes sense– the dishwasher generates a lot of heat with water, creating steam. Water is the enemy of electronics…

Anyway, there’s only one option on this machine: WASH. There is a toggle switch for heated dry or not, too. We tried both, and the heated dry does dry the dishes a little faster. The kids want to use it, so it’s fine with me.

I LOVE MY DISHWASHER. Glory to God, our prayers are answered. o/

By the way, here’s a frugal tip for keeping your dishwasher in tip-top shape: instead of using commercially-made rinse-cycle liquids, use white vinegar. It will keep the dishes spotless and squeaky clean, while at the same time keeping mineral deposits from clogging the inside.

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