Friday, March 2, 2012

My Amazing Appliances aka New Washer and Dryer

I've had my new washer/dryer for 9 days and I have to say: I LOVE THEM! Well, maybe that's a bit too enthusiastic, but you know what I mean. Most of you that follow me on Facebook know the saga, but here it is in a nutshell:

My old washer had been dying a slow death. It was a front-loader so when the bearings went bad, my options were to replace the entire drum (one of the joys of a front-loading machine), which would have cost me about $500-$600, purchase a new washer, or continue using the old one till she blew. Guess which option I chose! haha.. and she lasted about another year or so! Finally, when I discovered the washer was spitting grease onto the clothes as she washed them, I decided she'd made her point. And the research began....

I really hated my front-loading machine. In all fairness, the machine was purchased in June 2002 and was one of the first of the 'new' front-loaders. The manufacturers made it sound like this was a brand new thing, but my mom had a front-loader when I was growing up. I loved watching it wash when I wasn't watching the grass grow. Hey, it was a small town in Texas, ok? You got your fun where you could! At any rate, I posted on Facebook and asked for opinions on top-loading versus front-loading. I combed through Google and read reviews. I looked at Consumer Reports. I asked people I knew. And I was pretty determined not to purchase another front-loading machine.

I purchased a front-loading machine. Yup. I did. And since the old dryer was also 10 years old, we bought the dryer, too. Now, before everyone yells "TRAITOR" and sends me to the gallows, let me tell you what I discovered in those days (and yes, I mean days!) of research. Basically, you get what you pay for. Washing machines are like paint: you can go cheap, and you'll end up redoing the job pretty darn quick. You can go high-end and be out lots of dollars, but the machine should last you at least 10 years so prorate those dollars. Call me old-school, but I grew up with machines that lasted 10 years and longer, and I just think they should last that long, like my car. The old washer, as I said, was purchased in June 2002 and here it is March 2012, and voila! I'm purchasing a new machine. I hope not to have to go through this again until 2022 (is that really a year? 2022? or does the world end before then?) By the way, the old washer/dryer was also moved 2-3 times and we all know how delicately movers handle our belongings..'nuff said.

I also stated that I really didn't want to pay a lot of money for a washer/dryer that, unfortunately, sit in my garage. I miss an indoor laundry room but in this little house that I call my "cottage", that's where the machines reside. Well, I spent a lot of money for a washer/dryer that sit in the garage. I'm over it.

Quickly, let me review what I learned about top-loading machines. They are supposedly water-wise, so the people I spoke with (including a salesperson and a friend) said the machines only put water to the top of your clothes, then suck it out, then put more water in, then suck it out again. There's not any or little agitation these days. Consequently, all that dirty water that's swishing over your clothes is being drained back down on the top of them with the cycle. No one I spoke to liked their top-loaders or would recommend them, and the reviews were so-so. I decided to give the front-loaders another chance. If I hated them, I could always return them before my 90 days was up and find a rock and a stream, I guess.

I had a Kenmore washer/dryer from Sears, and my new washer/dryer are also Kenmore Elite from Sears. What can I say? I am brand loyal. My husband and I spent almost 4 hours on a Sunday looking at every brand of machine in our area. I was very close to purchasing an Electrolux (yes, they make washer/dryers now, not just vacuums), and we decided we should check our Sears appliance store before we made our final decision. The Electrolux dealer had offered us an excellent price on their machines, so I was pretty tempted. We got to Sears and looked at their comparable models. Then we went out to our car and discussed, discussed, called Electrolux with some questions, discussed some more, and made our decision. We went back into Sears and asked if they could meet or beat the price on the Electrolux. And good ole Sears: they came down on their price and beat the competition! The machines were very much alike, but the deciding factor was the Kenmore name. I do have a friend that has the Electrolux machines and loves them, so I feel like I would have been pretty happy with them, but the truth is I feel like I know Sears. They are like an old family friend... the very units I were replacing were from Sears and generations of my family have used Sears products, and that really tipped the scale in their favor. The only downside was this was a Sunday and Monday was a holiday, so I wouldn't get my machines delivered until Wednesday. Could I live without doing laundry for 3 more days? Yes, I could, but barely. The laundry was really piling up!

Sears called me at least 3 times before the machines were delivered to tell me they were coming. When was the last time a company did that? They called me the night before, the morning of, and just before they arrived! They called me early in the morning to let me know there were some scratches on the washer and did I just want to reorder a new machine? Well, honestly, I was getting antsy about the laundry piles that were growing and reproducing while I waited for these machines, especially since I hadn't done laundry for the week prior because of the whole grease-spitting issue with the old one. I asked if they could bring the machine out so I could see how bad the scratches were and they agreed. The scratches they originally mentioned were so small if the delivery man hadn't pointed them out, I wouldn't have seen them! So the process began. Out with the old, in with the new. Took them about 45 minutes to get them in and leveled, etc. Then I noticed the 'other' scratches. Oy. These were obvious and I know the delivery guys didn't scratch them, because I was out in the garage when they were doing their installation. But these scratches bothered me. I decided I should use the machines and see how I liked them before we did any discussion of replacement, and I called my salesperson and told her what was going on. She was great! She made a note and we decided to check with each other in the next day or so to see what I thought.

I started washing. I think I did 12 loads that day. I gave both machines a workout! And with each load, I was happier and happier with my decision. These machines do everything but my nails and my hair! The dryer has a steam option, which we tested with a jacket that had some wrinkles in it, and it worked great! There are so many options on the washer, I have to study to see which one I want to use. The old, nasty buzzer noise for cycle ending  is gone, replaced by a lovely chiming sound (same with the dryer). I have a 'whitest whites' cycle on the washer- makes me laugh because of course I want the whitest whites! I also have a 'sanitation' cycle and a steam cycle on the washer. I can also 'pause' the machine to add any forgotten items, something I could not do with old machine; I could add clothes but it was kind of a mess to do so. I'll post some pictures at the end of this post so you can see the machines and all their options.

I decided to live with the scratches. This was really kind of a dilemma for me. I felt like I should have been more upset, really, because I paid a lot of money for these machines! However, I also felt there was a risk of moving another machine in and having scratches on that one, too. I spoke with my salesperson and once again, Sears came through. They offered me a little over 10% cash back on the washer plus free touch-up paint to cover the scratches! I happily had her put that money back in my checking account, and the touch-up paint should be here in a few days. You can't really see the scratches unless I show you where they are so once again, I'm happy with my decision.

Efficiency was a big point with me. I was told that my old machines were energy efficient but frankly, I don't think they were. The washer took forever and so did the dryer. The washer might have been more water efficient, but I wasn't so sure about the electricity it used. The new washer still has long cycles but as my husband pointed out, the engine in this machine should be more refined and technologically advanced, so it should use less electricity. Ok. Whatever. I'm still not so sure about that part of it. The dryer, however, is a different story. My old machines were what I would call 'first generation' of the return to the front-loading lifestyle, so their technology was, well, 10 years old. The dryer would run for the length of the cycle I set, so even if the clothes were dry, it baked them until the hour or so was up. The new dryer, however, has a sensor. The cycle may start as a 50-minute cycle but if the clothes dry before then, it shuts itself off. There is a digital timer on the machine so I can see how much time is left in the cycle. Since the washer does such a nice job of spinning most of the water out of the wash, I've noticed that I can set the dryer for a 50-minute cycle but it will adjust itself and dry the clothes in 20 minutes or so. Nice!

Lastly, I bought big machines (4.6). I like to wash my bedspreads, rugs, etc frequently since my house is open most of the time out here in Southern California and things get dusty. These machines can handle my biggest and bulkiest items with no problem. Pictures below and yes! these machines are a very dark PURPLE!! Sears calls them 'blackberry'. Oh, and I also got efficiency rebates from my utility companies!

So, here they are in my garage. They are definitely bigger than my last machines, but they fit. It's a tight fit, hence my hesitation about replacing the washer for a few scratches, which are on the side by the water heater, so who sees those? But I will use the touch-up paint.

This is the dryer panel. You can see how many options I have!

This is the washer panel. Bad picture. I didn't get the additional 7 options to the left of that dial.

I purchased large machines since I like to wash bulky items like rugs and bedspreads. Notice the doors are reversible (like a refrigerator), so I don't have to reach around a door to move the clothes. Who knew I could get 'suicide doors' on my washer/dryer!

 I also have the units on pedestals. Since I'm tall, it helps my back a lot not to have to bend so far to move loads around. The pedestals hold my laundry supplies, so that's a nice touch!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies

A few days ago (maybe even 2 weeks?? really? that long?) I posted a picture of these yummy chocolate chip peanut butter cookies on my Facebook wall and said I would post the recipe on my blog soon (sorry). I also mentioned how I was salivating as I baked them and tasted the cookie dough (who, me?). I have to face facts: I am spineless when it comes to homebaked cookies and cookie dough. I love them! Everything about them: the decision of which cookie to make, the wonder at how flour and sugar and eggs and etcetera combine to make the most delightful little cookies, the taste-testing of the dough, the smell, and the final result! Who invented this idea? I don't know that I could look at flour and eggs and etcetera and say to myself, "Self, I just bet if I combined all these ingredients and dropped them by little spoonfuls on a cookie sheet and baked them, they would taste great!" But I am oh so glad that somebody or somebodies gave it a whirl!!

The recipe I found comes from the most delicious website I have run across lately: Bakerella. Her website just makes me want to bake everything she posts! Wait till you see her Valentine cookies, oh my oh my! Here's a link: .  Take some time to peruse her site; you will be so glad you did!

Just FYI: I did not roll them in the pecans since I knew my grandson would be eating these, and he doesn't like nuts right now (he's 4, I'm sure he'll love them eventually!), but I can see where adding the pecans would make these 'serve at any event' cookies, for sure. Also, I tend to make my cookies a little smaller just because I like them bite-size; it's a visual thing for me -- I'd rather eat 4 cookies than 2. Also, other than no pecans, my cookies looked exactly like Bakerella's (always a good thing!)!

Here is her recipe for the cookies I made:

Dark Chocolate Chip Comfort Cookies from

1-1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teasoon salt
1/2 cup butter, slightly softened
1-1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
10 oz. dark chocolate chips
chopped pecans, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, mix flour, cocoa, soda, and salt using a wire whisk and set aside. In another bowl, cream butter, sugar, and peanut butter until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and mix until combined. Add flour mixture to creamed mixture and mix until combined. Stir in dark chocolate chips. Roll cookie dough into 1-1/4 inch balls. (If desired, roll balls in chopped pecans.) Place on parchment paper-covered baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes. Place cookies on cookie rack to cool. Makes about 30, 2-inch cookies.

Send a comment and let me know how you liked them!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Adventures in (Homemade) Body Scrub!

Let it be known that, secretly, I am a girlie girl. On the outside, people see the house-cleaning, yard-working, grocery-shopping mom... on the inside, I yearn for spas, pedicures, manicures, massages... I also love everything herbal: doesn't it just feel right to use things from the earth? So, having recently given up coffee (that story in another blog), I had some coffee left in my freezer that was just crying out to be used somehow. Aha!, says I... body scrub!

I looked online and found several recipes and then, of course, sorta made up my own based on what I'd read. Here's my recipe in the best-guessed amounts:

1 cup (approx) of Starbucks Sumatra Blend Regular Coffee (ha, an expensive scrub!)
2-3 tablespoons brown sugar
2-3 tablespoons granulated sugar
Safflower oil, just enough to get it 'movable' so it will go on the skin
Vanilla, just enough to dilute the coffee smell

Just mix all that in a bowl and take it to the shower!

Well, the fun begins when you get in the shower. I scooped up a pile of the brown gunk, er, I mean, scrub, and slopped it on my leg. The first thing I noticed was that, oh boy, I was going to have to scrub the shower when I got done because this stuff was going everywhere! No matter how carefully I applied it to my body, coffee grounds appeared on the shower wall, etc. I finished scrubbing my entire body with this stuff, and it actually felt pretty good. I looked like a bad mud wrestler, but my skin felt pretty good!

Then the rinsing began. Well, let me tell you... there were coffee grounds in places on my body that Juan Valdez can only dream of! Good grief, who knew coffee grounds could move like that? I know I didn't intentionally put the scrub in some of those places, but nonetheless, I rinsed and rinsed, and rinsed again. And then rinsed. And then had to rinse down the walls of the shower and all those nooks and crannies behind shampoo bottles, etc. But I repeat, my skin felt GREAT! Really! And I didn't smell like I had fallen in the used grounds bin at Starbucks.

Would I do this again? Probably not. Well, maybe. But I would definitely explore other homemade scrubs, perhaps sticking with salt and baking soda, which are white and won't show as badly if I do a poor job of shower cleaning afterwards. But I would encourage you to try one. You feel like you're doing something spa-like that isn't costing an arm and a leg (you don't have to use Starbucks, haha), and your skin really does feel nice. Here are a few tips based on my experience:

* Don't do this if you're in a hurry, like before work. You must, absolutely MUST, clean your shower afterwards. Besides the obvious brown coffee grounds everywhere, the floor of your shower becomes very slippery, so please don't create a hazard for yourself or anyone else who steps in the shower after you're done. I was able to get the visible grounds cleaned up, but I suspect they will be like Easter grass or Christmas tree needles: they will show up over the next few weeks in spite of what I thought was a thorough cleanup.

* Don't do this on the same day you shave. The scrub is invigorating and would probably be a bit too much if you've shaved the same day.

* I still applied my regular moisturizer afterwards; it just gave me that little extra I needed because I have very dry skin. My skin still felt great when I went to bed in the evening tho!

* Look online for recipes. There are lots out there, including some with essential oils like lavender, etc., which would smell great.

On the whole, this was fun, beneficial, and a great way to use up the last of the coffee I had. I will most definitely try this again with different recipes. If you decide to try one, please post and let us know what you used. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

First Blog

Okay, I say to myself, time to get serious about that blog. Where to start? How about a first posting introduction or really, what is it I have to say? What do I want to do with this blog? The answer is simple and complicated. I want to do everything! I want this blog to have the feel of sitting down with a good friend, sharing a cuppa 'whatever' (I prefer tea), and having one of those lazy afternoon conversations that starts with 'hello' and winds its way through a wonderful journey of laughter, maybe some tears, but always comfort and companionship along the way. I want to share things: crafts, recipes, gardening ideas, books, movies, stories of family, introspection and self-knowledge, and even those frustrations we all have! And I want readers to share their stories with me, too, so as we make the connection, we do become those friends of comfort that we all need. I hope you will come along with me on this journey of sharing and introspection. See you next time! (For the story of the title of my blog and my nickname of YaYa, see my profile.)