Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Kitchen that wasn't made for Cooking

About a year ago I realized that I really didn't like to cook anymore.  It was an odd discovery as I always thought that I did.  I like to eat.  I used to watch a lot of Food Network TV.  I enjoyed looking through cooking magazines and websites.  However, I no longer wanted to cook the food I saw.  I began to wonder what happened.  Why did I not like cooking anymore?  Was it because I felt it was something I HAD to do?  Was it because I was tired after putting in a full days work and running a few miles or going to the gym after work?  Then it dawned on me.  It's my kitchen.

The funny thing is, when we saw our house for the very first time I was quite impressed with the kitchen.  Though it's not 'new' it had a few updates and looked way more impressive than the kitchens in some of the other homes we looked at.  However, looks can be deceiving.  In no particular order, here are some things I dislike about my kitchen.

- We have an electric stove top.  At my previous rentals I had gas stove tops.  I can't count how many times I've boiled things over after turning the heat down/off.  It's a real pain in the butt to have to REMOVE the pot completely!  Not to mention that you can't tell if the burners are still hot.  My hot pads have burn marks all over them because someone kept placing them on the hot burners. (that someone was not me)

- The oven is the size of a pan of lasagna.  For the most part, this isn't an issue since I typically just cook for two.  But, forget about baking a crap-ton of Christmas cookies.  It takes forever.  I'm not even sure a Thanksgiving turkey would fit inside.  I actually had to give away a brand new cookie sheet that I purchased because after taking the sticky tags off and putting stuff on it, I found that it didn't fit inside my oven!  Ugh!  Not to mention that it's older than dirt and is a built in so it's not so easy to get a new (bigger) one.

Old built in oven and electric stove top
- Outlets are hard to come by.  Our counter top is in the shape of an L.  The sink is against an outside wall.  The other side is like an island (peninsula) looking into the dining room.  So, there is one set of electrical outlets in the corner.  It's not in a very convenient spot and we often use an extension cord.

See the outlet on the wall in the corner?
 By the toaster and coffee maker and everything else that needs to be plugged in? 
So annoying.

Extension cord to plug in the crock pot away from all the other crap.
I should note, the crock pot is my favorite method of cooking these days.  Just dump it all in and leave!
- We're short on counter space; both horizontally and vertically.  The upper cabinets hang too close to the counter top.  Blenders, stand mixers, food processors, and anything with a lid or flip top don't fit under it.  I've hit my hands so many times when removing lids they should be callused.  My Kitchen Aid mixer has been used once in this house because I realized I can't use it on my counter.  Again, no Christmas cookies here!  The cabinets also have glass doors.  They look pretty, but I always have to keep the insides nice and display worthy. 

Notice that the blender sits just below the upper cabinets.

Notice how close my hand is to the upper cabinets when I try to remove the lid.  No swiftly removing lids while saying 'Voila!' to showcase your latest creation or you'll be screaming in pain because you crushed your knuckles.  Instead, you must use the tilt and remove method...and hope you don't tilt too far and spill the contents all over.

- Though the kitchen looks slightly 'open concept' with the peninsula separating the kitchen and dining room, having conversations between the two rooms is impossible.  Basically, you talk into the cabinets and the person on the other side can't hear anything.  In order to talk to someone on the other side you have to bend over and talk under the cabinets.

- I don't have a dishwasher and some counter space is used for a drying rack.  I really don't mind not having a dishwasher (Well, I have one.  My husband does not!) but it gets really annoying when guests come over and someone says, "You don't have a dishwasher?" like we live in the stone ages.  Our house was built in 1962.  Dishwashers did not exist then.

I could go on about not having cabinet or pantry space, but I think that is a concern for most people.  Plus, we have enough food in our pantry to feed us for months, I'm sure! 

We've discussed what we would do to the kitchen if we ever decided to break down and remodel.  Some ideas are extreme; get rid of the dining room and make one huge kitchen.  Other ideas aren't as much so.  Maybe we'll just start with a new stove top and work our way up to the gourmet kitchen (because then I will cook gourmet food, right?).  Until then, I'm left with what I've got and thoroughly enjoy the nights we can go out to eat!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Favorite Things: Tech Edition - Apps

In this edition of Favorite Things I'm going to share my favorite phone apps* (many of which are regular old Internet sites as well).  However, I’m not going to bother with the common ones like Facebook, Google Reader, Instagram, Pandora, or even games.  I’m going to focus on apps you may not have heard of or have heard of but didn't know what they were for or why they might benefit you.  Okay.  Ready?  Here we go. 
Trip It 

This is a website as well, but the mobile site is nice to have when you are on the go, like in an airport.  Basically, it’s a storage place for all of your travel plans.  When you purchase airline tickets you can have the airline e-mail TripIt and all the flight information (times, flight numbers, confirmation numbers) will get stored in your TripIt account.  You can also add hotel and rental car information.  It puts all of the confirmation numbers and such for a trip into one place, making it a handy tool for accessing the information (rather than having 15 separate e-mails in your inbox).  The other nice feature is that you can connect your travel information with other TripIt users if you so choose so that your travel info is in their account.  My husband and I use this when we take trips without the other.  This way, he has access to my flight numbers and times and then knows when to pick me up from the airport.  Gone are the days of him asking me to e-mail him my itinerary for the tenth time…or me wondering if I sent him one in the first place!  The mobile app is extremely convenient because you no longer have to carry around hard copies of confirmation numbers with you (though, I still do because you never know when your phone is going to die!). 

I sometimes use this app when I am out running.  Using the GPS on your phone it will track your route and calculate distance, time, and pace.  You can also manually log routes on the website.  The GPS is a little unpredictable (possibly the fault of my phone not the app).  Sometimes it tracks me way off course.  But it’s nice to get a general idea of how far I ran.  I don’t use this all the time since I typically run the same route and know how long it is and don’t usually run to beat times, it’s just fun for those days when you feel like it.  I believe there is a MapMyRide version as well for biking, but I don’t see why you can’t use one for both. 

This is another travel app.  I’ve used this when I have layovers in unfamiliar airports.  You enter the airport and the concourse you are on and you can find out what stores and restaurants are nearby.  So, if you have a short layover but want to grab something to eat, you can open the app while you’re waiting to deplane and find out what your food choices are before you even get inside the airport.  Then you can decide right then where you want to eat, instead of opting for your first sighting only to find that there was something better if you had just kept walking!

I realize I like a lot of travel related apps!  That’s probably because when I travel I don’t have access to a computer but I always have my phone.  The TripAdvisor app is nice to have if you want to look up reviews to restaurants or tour providers when you are out of town or on the go and don't have a computer with you to access the website. 
I used this app (and website) last year when I wanted to drop a few pounds before having to bare myself in a two piece swimsuit on our trip to Belize (all my favorite apps really DO relate to travel, don’t they?).  You set up your account with your current weight and weight loss goals and it spits out a daily calorie number for you to target depending on how many pounds you want to lose per week and how active you are naturally (Are you a waitress or someone who sits at a desk all day?).  Throughout the day you add any foods you ate to the log and it will track the calories for you.  The database of foods is extensive and includes many restaurant meals.  You can also scan the bar code of an item to find it.  You can also track your exercise and it will add the calories you gained from exercise to your total for the day.  I found this easy as I was able to add to my list whenever/wherever I wanted.  I didn’t have to wait until I had access to a computer or write it down on a piece of paper.  I wasn’t all gung-ho about it and ‘took off’ on weekends and special events, but it helped me be more aware of what I was eating.  The best part?  I lost about 12 pounds in four months!  Of course, for me, the best motivation to lose weight is fear of swimsuit season.  As soon as my trip was over I stopped logging and gained a few pounds back, but it’s easy to start up again…no joining fee!

Have you ever heard a song on the radio or at a sporting event and wondered what the name of the song/artist was so that you could go home and download it?  If so, this is an app you'll want to have.  Just turn it on and click ‘tap here’.  The little men inside your phone will listen to the song and tell you the name and artist!  It even stores your last few searches so that you will remember it when you get home.  There have only been a few occasions where it was not able to identify the song and most of those are due to too much background noise (like at a sporting event with cheering).

This is basically a folder that is networked between your phone and your PC/tablet.  You have to install it on both devices and sync them.  Then, you can easily share pictures, music and other files between your phone and PC.  Got an old picture from a few years ago that you’d like to use as your phone wallpaper?  Just plop the file in the DropBox folder on your PC.  Turn on your phone and open the DropBox folder and, viola!  The picture is now accessible on your phone.

That completes the tech edition of Favorite Things.  Please don't expect many more technical related posts.  This is as techie as this non-techie girl gets! 

*I have an Android phone.  I do not know if all of these apps are available for other types of phones/tablets, but I would guess that most are.