Tuesday, December 28, 2010

On the road: Phillips portable DVD player

I know, even the best of intentions are lost if there's no commitment. So I'm being committed and writing a post as we travel to South Carolina, then on to Mississippi tomorrow. Here is one thing we invested in: a portable DVD player. I know, "no TV under 2" but I think each one has to choose their battles. This is one we chose not to fight. Brendon only lasts about 1 hour in the car. Not too bad for running errands, but awful for any sort of travelling. We bought ours from Best Buy the must haves for us: two screens, able to play through the radio, and able to strap to the headrests.we settled on the 7" dual screen DVD player by Phillips. I can't add any links because I'm typing away on my phone, and it doesn't multitask very well. It's got brightness and audio controls and power buttons on both screens. The main screen has the fastforward/rewind and stop/play/pause buttons. It also has menu and options. The straps are simple, plastic clips like high chair clips. They're able to tighten well around our head rests, but could accommodate larger ones. This DVD player comes with a plethora of cords for vehicle use, or home use. The power cords join at the power plug, and are plenty long. An A/V cable connects them, it's not super long, but definitely long enough for one to be in the front and one in the back. The only thing that irks me about it, is the setup of all the buttons. On the main screen they're on the top and right SIDS, and the plug-ins are on the right side. The volume is a dial, the brightness is a button that cycles through 3 various settings. The brightness is on the top and volume on the side. On the secondary screen, all the buttons and plug-ins are on the bottom. The brightness is a dial like the volume. I wish someone had the OCD-ness to make them the same, so if you know the placement on the main screen you can feel your way around on the secondary one. Most vehicles have DVD players as an option, but if yours doesn't have one, this is a good buy. It doesn't keep Brendon from crying, but it shortens the time he spends crying until he falls asleep. It's a purchase we don't regret.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Electric Griddle, a must-have for everyone!

One item I think every person should have is an electric griddle. I don't care if they're married, single, home-living, or dorm room (ok, maybe not dorm room, and iron worked well for that). YOU need an electric griddle. They are so versatile. We use ours for pancakes and french toast, grilled cheese, and . . . uh . . . yeah, see how important they are? We have at least two of those each week. It's been used 2-3/week for the past 3 years. We bought ours, a Rival Digital Griddle when we realized that cooking one pancake or one grilled cheese sandwich at a time was not working. The stove cooked too hot, too fast. Not sure how much we paid for it, or where we bought it, but it has served it's sentence.

I like the digital temp read-out. It shows the temp (I'm not spelling it out, because I always spell it wrong, and it's such a long awkward word for me to type) as it's heating up. It beeps when it's finished heating. I like to cook at 350*. That's just such a nice round number. Mark, however, turns it all the way up to 450* or something insane like that. We're always sneaking in and changing the thermostat (oh, that was so much easier to type!) and without the other person noticing until it makes that beep. That would be the only time I don't like the beep-he finds out when I've turned the temp down!

As everything in this world must be, the griddle is washable. The teflon coated plate comes off and it can either go in the dishwasher (hmm, I think anyways, I've washed it in the dishwasher, but not here, ours is too small) or in the sink full of <s>dirty dishes</s> soapy water.

It started with a beautiful teflon surface, but it soon started to stick to things. BOO! So we counter acted with the no-stick spray. It seemed like it was never ending circle from there. Some things do fine, grillded cheese, because the butter helps. But our french toast and oft times pancakes get stuck to the surface. And just recently, it's starting to flake off on the side.
As you can see, the surface looks awful now. It started staining not too long after we used it. I think that contributed to the sticky surface. I've tried everything. I've soaked it in hot water, hot soapy water, soap. I've scrubbed with "non-scratching" sponges, with regular sponges, with those plastic circular things. I really wanted to try oven cleaner on it, but mine has walked off. So, when we're done with it, I just make sure to wash it as best I can and wish for a new one next Christmas.

There is a drain and a grease catcher, but I've found the hole too small - little crumbs of bacon get caught in it and plug it up. The handles have a area of something spongy (the white) that clings to food (mainly pancake mix) and doesn't clean off easily. I haven't had any problems with the legs or power cord though. I've also never checked the thermostat with a true thermometer (just as bad to spell as tempppdutuehdheure) so I can't say how acurate or even it is. You can see by the pattern of the stains where it heats the most-which is the middle ground. That's alright when you're just cooking one or two sandwiches, but not good for making a meal of french toast or pancakes.

Flaws included, it was a very good purchase, and I would probably buy the same model, except they don't have it where I've checked; it looks like it's been updated. Perhaps some things have been fixed? Summary: get thee to a store and <s>barter</s> pay for an electric griddle. Yes, I put my griddle on the floor, but only to take pictures, because my tiny kitchen's counters are filled with baking dishes and cookies.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Toaster: Bagel win!

 So, I've been asked what I think about my toaster. We've had this toaster for close to 3 years, probably. It's from Black & Decker, bought at Bed, Bath and Beyond. When Mark and I got married, we had this old, decrepit toaster. It had two settings, burnt and raw. We either registered and got one for a wedding present, or bought it with the money we received. Either way, we have a new toaster.

It's been well used and loved on, and so far, has held up pretty well. The top is kind of stained, as you can see in the picture, between the slots.

 I like that the slots are wide (our first one wasn't) enough for bagels. It's also not too tall so Toaster Strudels get lost. I'm so paranoid sticking a knife or a fork into a toaster to get a lost piece of pastry out. I keep seeing big flashes of light and shaking and hair standing 3 feet out.

You can see in the bottom of the toaster that there's a lot of crumbs. According to "them" there is a removable crumb tray, but I cannot figure out how it opens. I try every time I use the toaster in hopes that I missed it the last time. And every time, I feel defeated and stupid that I can't figure it out.

It has a handy dial to turn to pick the setting, it mainly stays on 2 or 2 1/2. I like that it doesn't "click" into place, so if you want 2 and a tiny bit, then you can get 2 and a tiny bit. The sides and front don't get scortching hot, like other toasters we've had. Sure, the top gets hot, but that is expected. The sides stay cool, that's a plus because so many times, AFTER the toast is done, I realize, "oops, I left the bag right next to it!"
You can see the row of four buttons on the side. the top is the cancel button--so no more feeling like you're forcing the toaster to give up it's treasure. The second is the bagel button. We'll come back to it. Third button is <s>frozen</s> defrost and fourth is reheat. We use the defrost button for toaster strudels. I'm not sure what the difference is between defrosting and toasting, or defrosting long enough that it toasts. But it works well for those yummy pastries. I've never used the reheat button. Again, not sure the difference betweeen toast and heat, or reheat and toast. Maybe the temperature setting is different?
Ok, back to the bagel button. The bagel button is my favorite button. It was pretty much the selling point we wanted this toaster. When the button is lit, like this picture *checks picture* yeah, like the picture, the outside coils turn off. So theoretically, if you've placed the bagel in the right way, it will only toast the inside of the bagel. The outside crust is already chewy enough, there's no need to toast the snot out of it. But, at the same time, it needs to stay in long enough to get the inside...toasty. Heh.

So, it's a good toaster for our little family. Since it's only two slots, it would not be good for making everyone's toast at the same time. Some mornings when I'm making breakfast for me and Brendon, I do wish for more slots. But that's only for convenience. We wouldn't have any room for a bigger toaster. Now, if only I could figure out how to open the crumb catcher instead of the dump and shake routine...

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Starting Out

I'd like to branch out a bit and put this out there. I'd like to review your products for you. I'm a full-time working mom of a 18 month old. We go out on excursions, we stay in. We take long car rides and long walks. Brendon is very curious and I'm looking for products to keep his attention, teach him new things. I'd like to do more to reduce the waste we make (wow, it is a lot!) so I cloth diaper when we are home.
That being said, I am happy to review something for you. I will do my best to write a timely post, and it will be honest. I will list the pros and cons, and what our opinions were, mine, Brendon's and my husband's, if relative :)
If I have negative things to say, I'll be sure to say equal, if not more positive things about it, but I will not twist reality to make an unsatisfactory thing perfect.
 I really am in favor of home-started businesses, and want to see them grow. We need all the economical boosts we can get!
If your product has a website/twitter/email, I'll be sure to link up the appropriate things, and provide necessary buying information. I think my readers would be more likely to visit your store and buy items when they know something about you.  Please feel free to provide me with some personal information about you and your family to add to the post.
I am open to reviewing items commercially and personally designed, both well known and not-so well known. My intent is to make your business better, whether it's large or small.
Go ahead and leave me a comment with your email address and I'll contact you through email. You know, in between chasing Brendon and my shifts at work.
Thank you!