28 November 2011

And we're back

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving! We just got back from a visit with my MIL's sisters in upstate New York. Tom's aunts got to spend lots of quality time with Clara and Evelyn, and I'm pretty sure they're smitten with (if not exhausted by) those little ones. By the time we get the car cleaned out, the laundry washed and put away, and sleep schedules back to normal, it'll be time for our Christmas trip to Houston.

As promised, here's a quick snapshot of the girls' room. Like I said before, it's minty but I can live with it!

22 November 2011

Minty fresh

I've been wanting to mulch the front flower bed since I planted the pieris and hyacinths, but it has been raining pretty much nonstop. Despite my best efforts to keep the street gutter clean, there has been standing water there since the rain started. Oh well.

The wet weather has given me a great excuse to get things done indoors. I first put all the tools back into the nook at the top of the stairs:

Still looks messy, but everything is tidy and visible.

That freed up enough room in the bedroom for me to crack open the paint I bought from the big sale at Sherwin-Williams.

 About $36 for two gallons. Not shabby!

I had them mix a custom color between two adjacent color chips. It is a hue between SW Embellished Blue and SW Waterfall.

As soon as the can was open I feared I had made a huge mistake. It looked very minty. 


I started painting anyway, knowing that it always looks different on the walls than in the can, and I could always paint over it with another color if it was totally horrible. Oh boy. It went from mint to MINT!. I spent a lot of time picking out the paint color and was pretty bummed that it was reading as bright mint green on the white walls. I kept on trucking, though, and now I'm glad I did. Now that it's surrounded by itself rather than white, it looks more like the aqua color I expected. Whew. Color crisis averted! I'll have to provide a picture another time - the rainy gray outside wasn't providing good lighting for photos.

15 November 2011

Appliance review: The range

By far, my most frequently viewed blog post is the one about the Frigidaire range we purchased a year and a half ago. Now that I've had the chance to use it for a while, I figure I ought to review the appliance to give googlers some more information. I don't think this model is still available, but many of the features are shared across Frigidaire models, so the information is still relevant. This is going to be a lengthy review, so I wouldn't stick around unless you're looking for Frigidaire range information.

Overall, I really like the range, especially given its price point. Its functions are intuitive and self-explanatory and therefore easy to use. The burners heat quickly and evenly, and the oven maintains its temperature very well. The five-burner setup is an ideal compromise if you don't have room for a 6-burner cooktop but need more than 4 burners. (I've ever only used 3 burners at once, but I have never used it to cook for a crowd.) The glass front is wonderful - it's easy to clean and gives a more streamlined look than traditional metal-faced ovens. The door stays completely cool to the touch during operation, a fact that I've been thankful for more than once with a toddler running around.

Cooking. I can only compare this with what I have used before, which has been electric ranges of varying ages and efficiencies. I've never cooked with gas and so cannot compare it with that. However, this is the most reliable electric range I've ever used. Granted, before this I was using a HotPoint coiltop that was older than I am, so it was a huge improvement from my most recent range. The burners heat quickly but are responsive to changes in settings. It's probably more a result of my cookware, but I rarely use anything over medium heat (boiling water for pasta is an exception). The variable-sized burners are lovely, too. I don't often use the bigger sizes, but it is a nice option for when I need them.

The oven temperature is steady and reliable. Unlike the old HotPoint, 375 actually means 375 and not "somewhere between 300 and 450." I like that you don't have to press a "start" button after setting the temperature. The display shows what temperature the oven is set to but does not show the actual temperature. My absolute favorite feature of this oven is the magical Quick Bake button. This turns on a fan in the back of the oven, circulating the hot air which allows for faster and more even baking. And by faster, I mean really fast. The user manual says 30% shorter time, but I have found that 50% is more like it. Dishes that would normally take an hour or longer to cook are suddenly a manageable weeknight meal. This feature is geared toward baked goods, but I've found it works the same with just about anything I cook. The only exception I've discovered is anything that contains uncooked rice; the rice simply needs the full cooking time to absorb the liquid.

Oven racks. I love the rack that slides forward when the door opens. Although it's lower than the center rack, I  use it almost exclusively. I think the fact that the element is not exposed makes this rack act more as a center rack than you'd expect. I expect this rack has saved me from getting burned at least a time or two. I have never used the split-rack feature because I have only ever cooked one dish at a time. If I needed more vertical room, I'd probably take the entire split rack out and not just half of it.

Cleaning. The ceramic cooktop is subject to all the typical woes of glasstop stoves, but it cleans up wonderfully when you take the time to do it. I'm lucky if I get the top cleaned off really well once a week, and once a month is probably more like it. Despite my utter neglect, it polishes up bright and shiny every time.  I've even accidentally melted some plastic onto the top (despite the hot-burner indicator light, I set something down on the stovetop), and it came off without damaging the surface. The fact that there is no exposed element at the bottom of the oven makes cleaning the oven chamber a simple process (if you're cleaning by hand, which I sometimes do after something's dripped but before it has had a chance to set). Otherwise, the self-clean feature is a good one to have.Works as advertised.

Below-oven drawer. Since our kitchen is just barely functional and cabinets are nonexistent, the oven drawer has been a blessing. I still have a lot of cookware in boxes, but this drawer holds 2 glass casserole dishes, several cookie sheets, 3 round cake pans, a broiler pan, and 3 loaf pans just fine. Cramming all that stuff in the drawer takes careful stacking, but it is certainly sufficient for all I use in a typical week's time. The drawer glides are strong enough to hold this amount without issue, but I probably wouldn't want to store my cast iron collection there.

Warranty. The appliance comes with a one-year warranty from the manufacturer. We bought the extended warranty from Lowe's but regretted it a few weeks later. We received a warranty-extension offer from Frigidaire that would have cost about a third of what the warranty from Lowe's cost us. I'm not sure if other manufacturers do this, but my advice for this brand is to wait for their offer in the mail.

Miscellaneous. The oven light is bright and does a good job illuminating whatever is baking. This is especially true if your food is on the slide-out oven rack. Being able to clearly see the food reduces how often you need to open the oven, which helps maintain the oven temperature, which in turn reduces cooking time. The clock is easy to set, which seems like such a minor thing, but our car clock is wrong for half the year because it is such an ordeal to change it for daylight savings.

And now for what I don't like. First, the "Bake Time" button. This complaint is threefold. When you use the bake time key, the display does not show you the remaining time, but rather the oven temperature setting.  Pressing the button during baking will reveal this information. However, I'm often busy prepping other items for dinner while something in the oven cooks, and I often have to wash my hands of food gunk before checking the remaining time. The second part of the "bake time" button complaint is that once the time runs out, you have to press "cancel" to stop the timer from beeping. The problem? The cancel button also turns off the oven. If dinner needs to cook a little bit longer, you have to turn the oven back on and set the temperature again. Both issues are resolved rather simply by using the timer button instead of the bake time button. The remaining time is displayed, and pressing the timer button again - not the cancel button - turns off the beeping. The third problem is it does not account for the preheat time. If you want to start the timer immediately, you'd need to add the time it takes to warm up the oven or simply set the timer after the preheat is finished. This problem is not solved with the use of the kitchen timer, but it is still a minor issue.

Another issue is the preheat. It seems to take an abnormally long time to reach the desired temperature, about 10 minutes for 350 degrees. However, it usually takes me at least this long to prep whatever it is I'm cooking. If I manage to finish prep before the preheat, I use the extra couple of minutes to wash up some dishes or start on a side dish. Not an inconvenience at all.

My only other complaint is an aesthetic one. I mentioned that I loved the glass front. However, there are some plastic components, namely the handle and where the handle attaches to the door. The handle has retained its bright white appearance, but the back plate (the couple of inches just above the glass door) has yellowed slightly. I have not tried to use any chemicals on it to see if it can be brightened back up. The discoloration is hardly noticeable because of the size of the handle and the vents in the plastic.

All in all, I'm very pleased with the performance and function of the LGEF3033. It is a step up from a basic range and carries some nice features without a huge upcharge for the bells and whistles I'd never use. I would certainly recommend this appliance with enthusiasm to anyone looking for a great range at an affordable price.

14 November 2011

Back outside again

Because of our temperate weather Saturday, I spent naptime outside trying to get the front of the house a little more presentable. All the leaves and debris from the entire block inevitably end up in the gutter in front of our house and blocks the storm drain at the corner. The gutter has a hard enough time doing its job due to an incorrect pitch, and all the gunk just makes it worse. Anyway, I periodically shovel out all the junk to prevent standing water  when it rains.  

 In case you don't know what a gutter looks like. Leaves are already starting to gather again.
 I finally planted the pieris that's been sitting on the porch for months and also got some hyacinths in the ground. It sounds like a small task, but I had to clear the ground of the grass and weeds that had overtaken the area. I had to till up the compacted soil with a shovel before I could plant anything. 

Still needs mulch, but I should be able to do that today. If I get really ambitious, I may try to get some more bulbs planted close to the existing mulch line. We'll see.

11 November 2011

Ambitious goals

My to-do list for the day was very short. It involved installing these things:

Really not ambitious at all. You see, Clara hasn't been sleeping well lately. Instead of napping she's been practicing a range of awful vocalizations that I'm pretty sure no other creature could replicate. And of course Evie can't sleep with all that racket going on, and the sounds are about to drive me to the madhouse. And unfortunately those noises aren't stopping at night, either. All in all it's been a rough few days for everybody around here. Keeping the task list short was kind of a necessity. So, how'd I do?

Alright, so that's not entirely true. Though it was a blink-and-you'll-miss-it nap today, I did manage to install the doorknob. This was the only door in the house that was missing its knob, and the genius employee of our contractor stuck a piece of wood through the mechanism so you could get the door back open if necessary. I picked up a glass doorknob at an antique shop for $14. Here's the STUNNING transformation. I obviously need to clean up the door and hardware, but you're not likely to get a splinter anymore while trying to open the door.

And this is as far as I got with the fan/light switch.

If Clara keeps up this pace, it'll take me all year to get that switch wired.

04 November 2011

Frugal Friday: Paint sale!

If you're looking to do a paint-spruce up soon, head on over to your local Sherwin-Williams store before Monday. They're having a huge sale, with paint at 40% off! Their paint is a little bit more pricey than the stuff you can find at big box stores, but the quality is supposedly much better, and the sale makes it less expensive than the competitors! For an even better deal, print out their coupon for an additional $10 off a $50 purchase. Happy painting!