Category Archives: appliances

What a Difference a Year Makes

A year ago we were on the hunt for a house in our current school district. We searched for months. I was a modern day Goldilocks looking for a place to settle down, only nothing felt just right. Every house we visited seemed too old (and overpriced), or in the wrong neighborhood (and overpriced), or lovely and updated, but overpriced. We saw a few low priced short sales and foreclosure houses, but those were in such a state of neglect that we didn’t give them a second look.

A trip to to the store to check out new appliances for a house we had not yet found, let alone bought, seemed like a flight of fancy, so I indulged myself further with a visit to the store’s Santa.

 

It turned out Santa was wrong. We didn’t find a house by the end of 2010. It took until the spring of 2011 before we found The One. It was old and musty, but it was priced right. It had potential. And we could afford to bring out that potential*.

Santa’s elves, disguised as Abt delivery men, are paying a visit to our house this week. Turns out a houseful of appliances weighs too much for Santa’s reindeer.

Do you think they’ll bring cookies? I’ll be happy as long as they don’t mess up our fabulous newly sanded, shiny wood floor.

 

living room new floor

Here’s a similar view from earlier this year. The worn green carpeting was actually a gift from the owners. It protected the hardwood floors for the last 30-40 years.

Green carpet dining room

 * Mostly. I think. Ask me once we finish paying for all this work. And some furniture.

Zojirushi “Fuzzy Logic” Rice Cooker Giveaway

rice cooker with fuzzy logicWhat can I say? As a woman in my mid-40s, I’ve accepted that there are some tasks I will never master. One such task is cooking rice. Really. It sounds simple enough- rice, water, pot, flame- I just never get it right. So I was intrigued when I was offered the chance to review the Zojirushi Micom Unamami Rice Cooker/Warmer.

In recent years, I’ve admired the Japanese appliance line at the International Housewares Show. And I sometimes wear a Zojirushi apron embellished with their happy elephant mascot when I cook, thanks to a Clutter Cast from Kim Tracy Prince. And given that I can’t cook rice worth a damn, I decided a Zojirushi rice cooker was just the thing I needed for my new kitchen. (Okay, one of many things.)

I love the handle that makes the unit so portable, but I’ll admit that at first it seemed like the cooker had a lot of bells and whistles (or songs really, it plays Mary Had a Little Lamb when it starts up) and the directions were confusing.

Then I found the set written in English and decided to give it a go.

Still, I had one of those, “Why did I bother with this?” moments. After all, I have a rice cooker–my husband.

And then.

A little electric song indicated that my rice was ready and Oh. My.

It was perfect.

So perfect that I wound up cooking four batches of rice in three days (a lifetime record!). And I don’t think that a single grain was left over.

While fuzzy logic seems to be my m.o. it doesn’t always work in my favor. However, fuzzy logic is also behind the technology that helps this rice cook each batch of rice, whether brown, white, sushi*, etc., to perfection. The easy-to-read LCD panel spells out all the many choices (and has a clock). People, this rice cooker is so high-tech that ThinkGeek sells it.

But wait, there’s more!

It has slow cooker functions, so it can be used to make soup, or just keep your batch warm while you run the end-of-day carpools that always interfere with getting a hot dinner on the table. Along those lines it also has a delay timer, a feature I’ve not yet tried. And then there’s that umami setting that takes rice to a new level by gently soaking and steaming it.

The unit is easy to operate, simple to clean and did I mention the flip-up handle that makes it so wonderfully portable? Invite me to a party and ask me to bring rice!

zojirushi

Or win one of these Zojirushi lovelies for yourself.

To enter:

1. (Required) Comment once on this blog by 11:50 PM CST on December 22, 2011 (Happy Chanukah!) for a basic entry. US addresses only. No purchase necessary to win, but the winner must be 18 years of age. The prize has a retail value of approximately $150 -180. Winner will be randomly chosen by the WordPress plug-in, “And the Winner is.”

You can also have up to five optional extra entries; I need a separate comment for each of these items, so I can count each one as an extra entry:

2. Tweet about the entry and come back to let me know you did.

3. “Like” Reluctant Renovator on Facebook and come back to let me know.

4. Subscribe to our newsletter, Progress Notes. We send one update a month featuring our progress and advising you on our fabulous home product finds and giveaways. Come back to let me know.

5. Subscribe to my YouTube Channel so you can keep up with Reluctant Renovator video blogs.

6. Follow @RenovatorKim on Twitter.

Winner will be chosen and notified by December 23, 2011 and will have two days to respond to me. If no response if received, a new winner will be chosen.

 Disclaimer: I was sent a product to review. All opinions are my own. Except for the one about me not being able to cook rice- that is the opinion of my family as well. The company will be shipping a similar product to the contest winner in early 2012.

* I had to wing it when I used brown sushi rice, my fifth batch in the unit. Do I use the sushi rice setting or the brown rice setting? I wish I remembered which one I chose, because I need to try the other one next time. See? Damn my fuzzy logic.

Our Appliance Order

advertisement for Jenn-air stove

clever Jenn-Air ad

Ye olde fridge is moving down to the basement and the stove is gone. Soon we’ll have a kitchen full of all new appliances. Well, after they tear down the cabinets, strip off the linoleum flooring and the subfloor and buff up the underlying oak, install new cabinets and the solid surface counter top we’ll be ready for the whole shmear- a new fridge, range, microwave and, for the first time ever in this house, a dishwasher and disposer.

Having all new appliances is both exciting (shiny!) and intimidating (how long before I chip/scratch/break them?).

We’re planning to buy from Abt Electronics because they give out fresh chocolate chip cookies on the weekends have excellent customer service.

Dear readers, you have given me great advice so far, so I want to run our choices by you. If you see a dud here, let me know before it’s too late! Here’s what we’re looking at:

Samsung 26 cu ft White French Door Bottom Freezer Refrigerator
We didn’t want in-the-door water service because my parents and we have had issue with ice dams forming that created serious problems. For my parents, it caused a meltdown that warped their wood floor. I think this Samsung has water service inside the fridge, which seems like a ridiculous waste of energy, i.e. stand at the fridge with the door open while you fill you glass with water, but we don’t plan to use the feature. I really like the freezer handle, we both like the internal LED lights, which for some reason, not all manufacturers use.

GE Profile 6.0 cu ft Freestanding Double Oven Gas Range with Self-Cleaning Oven and Center Oval Burner w/ Nonstick Griddle
I told you a griddle in the middle was all the rage again. I like that this double oven has the small oven on the bottom. So many manufacturers place the small oven on top and the large one below, which I guess is handy for baking cookies or a quick pizza, but who wants to bend down to the floor to pick up a 15 pound turkey? Not me.

Maytag 24 inch Jetclean Plus White UnderCounter Steam Dishwasher
Maybe I’ll finally use my wedding china knowing it can go in the washer on a steam cycle. (Eager brides, listen to your groom; skip the fine dishes.)

GE Spacemaker 1.8 cu ft white microhood
This will go over the stove. We’re used to this design, so I don’t think it will make the stove top feel cramped.

Whirlpool Cabrio White Top Loading Washer and Whirlpool Cabrio White front Load Gas Dryer
Call me old-fashioned, but I’m all about the top loader. That said, this isn’t your mama’s toploader. Nor is it the old Maytag that came with our house. I think I could fit in one day’s worth of one family member’s clothes and call it a full load. Hooray for modern large capacity, high efficiency washers. But not really. I’ve read that because it’s so easy to wash so much that people today do more laundry than in the past. Agreed?

So, what do you think? We good?

We’re not buying Jenn-Air, Whirlpool’s high end brand, but they get linky love for their very creative ad which had a pull-out stove (pictured above), so that consumers can literally see it in their kitchen. My arms were just a little too short to get the best effect, but you get the idea.

Edited 10/3 to add (because I can’t lose a list if it’s on my blog)

The Franke water tap lb1000, chrome

Water Filter, the Franke FRX02 (with lead removal!)

KitchenAid KCDS100T garbage disposal

There’s a 36-inch Hole in my Heart

oven plus stove that we soldReally, the hole is in my kitchen counter where the stove used to be. We sold the range that came with the house and we haven’t even started the gut job yet. Go Team Moldofsky! Like the St. Charles vintage metal cabinets (for which I might have a buyer), the Tappan range looks like it was top of the line for its time and remained in pretty good shape for its age. The wide, circa 1982 cream and black unit had four gas burners and a griddle in the middle. Everything old is new again- the griddle in the middle concept is all the rage right now. In fact, our new stove top will sport one. Not because I want one, but because that’s the new thang. I didn’t really have a choice.

And the industrial look?

I’m not a fan.

But that’s also still a thang.

At any rate, I totally pulled a Tom Sawyer because instead of breaking my back to haul that monster out of the house with DH, I got some other folks to do it and pay me a few bucks in the process. Score!

Yes, the unit worked although it was a bit tricky to turn off the oven. I sold it cheap.

Also, I might be responsible for the Chicago area’s newest meth lab.

Just kidding!

But really, don’t you meet interesting folks from Craigslist?

In the process of clearing out our old place, we found a Chicago-area couple (his and her architects as I recall) with a fondness for all things Braun. I think we sold items I didn’t even want to part with (*cough* Braun immersion blender that was a wedding gift *cough*) just so we’d get to hang out with them for a few minutes. Again.

Also, the money was good. I mean, if we didn’t bring in money from selling all our stuff, how could we afford to replace it all?

I’m an American, don’t mess with my logic.

I’ll be back in a few days to share the new appliances we’re planning to purchase. If you see any duds, please warn me.

empty space where our stove used to be

What is this? 30 years of dirt or more?

 

What Color Should I Paint…My Mixer?

I’ve having enough trouble choosing colors for my walls that I hadn’t even stopped to think about what color to paint my stand mixer. Actually, I hadn’t even considered painting it, until I saw these droolworthy Kitchen Aid mixers  from Un Amore by Nicole Dinardo, as pointed out by Ree, The Pioneer Woman.

They are stunning.

I think they fall into the category, “If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.” But I see Nicole also sells decals, so the masses can DIY their way to a mixer than makes a statement for under $25.00. Go ahead, pimp your mixer!

I’d totally get those flames if they matches the paint in the kitchen. But actually, I’d need to get a stand mixer, too.

I sold ours a couple of years ago. I’m all about the strong arm and the wooden spoon. Unless I’m whipping up meringue or something, I do it by hand. Or, as I like to say almost all my cookies come with hand jobs.

Actually, that’s the first time I ever said that.

How about you? I mean, do you have a stand mixer? More importantly, how often do you use it? Should I get a new one?

 

Is Induction Cooking Right for My Family?

induction cooktops do not get hot

The pot gets hot, but pad is just a bit warm.

A couple of weeks ago we took a trip to the Chicagoland appliance Mecca, Abt (mmmm, free cookies). We checked out refrigerators, dishwashers, washers and dryers. We also looked at the various ranges and cooktops. I was surprised that I didn’t see any induction ranges. What up? An employee told me that induction ranges were not on display because they have few successful buyers, meaning that not many people buy them and of those who do, a noticeable percentage return their units. I’ve heard this about induction from other appliance sales and repair people.

On the other hand, I’ve heard so much about the benefits of induction cooking from the PR arm of appliance companies.

Interesting, no?

Which brings me to this recent musing on the matter, which I originally posted on my personal blog, Hormone-colored Days.

I recently had a chance to visit the World of Whirlpool Product Experience Center in Chicago and learn about their new appliances. The Whirlpool lines include Whirlpool, Maytag, KitchenAid and Jenn-Air. I showed up with a special kitchen issue of Consumer Reports in hand because I am that dorky and many of Whirlpool’s products received top ratings.

Knowing I have a kitchen and bath(s) redo, not to mention a new laundry room in my future, I thought this event would provide a good opportunity to learn about new appliances and visit with some of my blog friends.

Chicago is also home to the Kenmore Live Studio (a former client). I think it’s interesting to note the different approaches these two companies took. Whirlpool’s Center is quite, sophisticated, elegant and elite.

Kenmore, on the other hand, is practically a fishbowl. Located in a busy part of the city, in a street level corner studio with glass walls, Kenmore is for the people. And by the people, too. Parent groups, bloggers, even the Confection Industry trade group have used the space. It seems to me anyone with a good idea and a bit of enthusiasm can host a program there. They even launched their own reality web show.

One thing both Whirlpool and Kenmore have in common is their love of induction cooktops. Their PR folks proclaim that induction cooking is the wave of the future.

Induction cooking is, well, let’s just call it electro-magnetic magical and note that in order for it to work, you need ferrous, or iron-containing pots and pans (hint: a magnet will stick to them). Seriously, though, here’s a read about the science behind induction cooking.

Induction cooking is the most fuel efficient way to cook.

Not only does it waste less energy, but it heats up more quickly.

It’s safer if you have little ones around because the cooking element heats up the pot, not the surface. Therefore if junior turns the stove on and there’s no iron pot on the element, nothing will get heated up- there’s no danger of burns or burning down the house. Cool, huh?

So why aren’t the masses rushing to buy induction cooktops and ranges?

The unit may require an upgrade in your kitchen wiring.

You may need to buy new pots and pans. Out of the dozen or so pots and pans around my parents house, I only found one ferrous pot. This adds an expense to an already expensive new appliance. Also, of the many pots and pans on the market, only a few lines have labels noting compatible cooking surfaces. I’m not in the habit of bringing a magnet when I shop. Are you?

If you have a gas stove, it’s likely cheaper to use than induction, even though it’s not as energy-efficient.

I think another key deterrent is that few people know someone who actually owns and cooks with an induction cooktop. Who wants to be the first of their friends to take a gamble on such a costly purchase?

I don’t know if there’s induction cooktop trade group, but I think a massive sampling program is in order if appliance manufacturers want induction to catch on.

When I worked with Kenmore, they provided a handful of bloggers with induction cookpads, which not only made for the fabulous swag, but in hindsight, was a brilliant move. (Even more brilliant because the pad came with an induction-friendly pan.)

I have one of those induction pads and plan to experiment with it in the coming weeks*.

We’re rewiring the entire house, buying new appliances and gave away/sold/tossed our scratched up old pots and pan, so many purchase barriers have been eliminated. However, out kitchen has natural gas service, which means low operating costs, and likely a lower appliance purchase price, as well.

We could stick out necks out and go induction. Or we can stick with a gas range.

What do you think we should buy?

Do you have induction? (This is difference than a glass top electric unit.)  Do you know someone who has an induction cooktop?

I want to thank the folks at Whirlpool for an informative day (read a more detailed account over at West of the Loop) as well as as kitchen design an appliance inspiration, not to mention one of the best meals I’ve had all year.

*Given the lag time from draft to posting, I already started playing around with induction a bit more and will share my findings at Reluctant Renovator.