Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Easy Does It

Listen, I don't mean to get all philosophical on you or anything, but (and maybe you've already noticed this) Life Is Hard.  And I am all about Making Life Easier.  Oh, sure, Americans have taken this to ridiculous heights with things like spray cheese and vending machines that sell birth control, but there are several appliances that I have come to appreciate for making my life much comfier and less of a hassle.  Here they are, in no particular order:

1.  Snowblower.  When I was much younger and living at home, we kids had to do all of the shovelling.  My dad had a really bad back and four able-bodied kids.  Why shouldn't we have?  When I left home and eventually got a house as a wife and mom, Rick and I shovelled a lot.  So did the boys, under duress (once they got wise to the idea that it wasn't "fun").  Finally, we got sick of all of it and in 2005 we bought a snowblower.  Holy crap, was that one of The Best Days Of Our Lives (and one of The Smartest).  What used to take us forever now takes Rick about half an hour.  Oh, once in a while I go out there after a snow and shovel off the deck and a path to my car, and I clear off the front steps and walk for the mail lady.  But for the Big Job, I wait for Rick and the snowblower.  So wonderful.

2.  TV Remote.  Don't laugh.  I cannot be the only one who remembers The Old Days when there was no remote control, or at least a day when the remote got lost.  (There was one horrifying day here at the Dept. when all four of us had a debilitating flu, and no one could see the remote.  Not one person could move to look for it.  We were stuck watching PBS for about ten hours, including a terrifying period of Elmo on Sesame Street.)  I am almost daily amazed by the remote.  Volume, channel, TV Guide, go back to previous channel!  Set your sleep timer!  All from the comfort of my chair with a cat on my lap while playing Words with Friends against my almost-daughter Kait on my iPhone.  The only remote my parents ever had was, again, four kids.  "See what's on 3!  Bring me the TV Guide!  Go turn it down."  All while we sat the required three feet away so we didn't ruin our eyes.

3.  Mini-Chopper.  My mini-chopper came as an attachment to my hand blender, which I also love.  But I would miss my mini-chopper more if I lost it.  Need half an onion diced up?  In about ten seconds it can be done and tearlessly.  And if you needed a clove of garlic and a jalapeno, too, just put it in at the same time.  So convenient.  It has revolutionized and streamlined my guacamole production.  I've chopped up mushrooms for meatloaves and whizzed up overripe bananas for cakes and quickbreads.  Who wants to haul out a bigass Cuisinart all the time, or stand there and dice up everything?  And I'm not going to pay someone to do it for me by buying overpriced precut stuff at the store.

4.  In-the-Door Icemaker/Water Dispenser Combo.  Oh, I know.  This is the same contraption that viciously and supernaturally attacked me right before Christmas.  But it and its predecessor are terrific inventions.  How terrible and tedious is it to have to fill and refill ice cube trays?  How irritated and irate do you get when you find an empty tray in the freezer?  The icemaker eliminates all of that as well as the loss of skin on your fingers from them sticking to the frozen trays as you handle them.  I can just press my waterglass to the lever and the ice clamors into it. Then I move it over a bit, and a freshet of filtered water joins it.  So easy.  I am admonished by my medical professionals to stay hydrated.  This makes it a pleasure.  (When it is not looking to kill me.)

Modern Life, despite its advances, remains a challenge for all of us.  Computers own our very souls and SmartPhones have turned our society into a strange place where we are isolated, yet loudly sharing our lives with strangers. 

In spite of that, there are machines that improve our lives daily.  What are some of the appliances or overlooked machines which you now realize are the Heroes Of Your Life?

*image credit


  1. Anonymous3:49 PM

    I know you only need your phone to be a phone, but I get such use out of my iPhone! I can get directions to anywhere I want, find out how long until the next bus is arriving (and track it via satellite), find movie times and purchase tickets, and hundreds of other things. It's indispensable when living in a city or traveling.

    And you might laugh, but I love that I can hold down a button on my phone and say, "Wake me up at eight AM," or "Set an alarm for one hour," and Siri does. She's always there for me, so much that I actually thank her. One day I told her, "I love you, Siri," and she responded, "You are the wind beneath my wings."

    My friend doesn't thank Siri. Once, when he told her to looking something up for him, she snapped back, "You didn't say please."

  2. Anonymous3:50 PM

    Oh, and that last comment was from Mikey G. I'm still having identity issues :-p

  3. I agree with you on all of the above gadgets (although we've always had a leaf-blower, living in the Southwest,) but I never truly appreciated my icemaker until we moved to Korea. Our apartment in a zillion-story highrise in the heart of super-technological Seoul has every possible gadget known to man (including heated toilet seats, remotes and timers for the lights in our bedrooms, and a built-in interactive information center that allows me to access all the CC cameras around the building.) What I don't have, however, is a freaking water dispenser or icemaker in my refrigerator. This may be because the Koreans don't use ice as much as Americans do,or it may be that our
    landlord was too cheap to spring for the fridge with the icemaker. In any case, MrL and I feel like we've been thrust back into our early married years, only we now have a 15-year-old roommate who never fills ice trays

  4. The insulin pump. Now, there is a gadget that is actually life saving! My daughter has type-1 diabetes and wears a pump. I am so grateful for that little techno- gadget every single day.

  5. Anonymous9:11 AM

    I agree about all of the above. I would add to that list: remote control garage door opener. Like you, as a child I was the TV remote control, but I was also the garage door remote control opener-- which I disliked more than being the TV remote control.

    In fact, I'm convinced that my back has never forgiven my parents for making me open all those heavy, disjointed, creaky doors. It still hurts.

  6. Ally--Oh, that's a great one. I love that one,too. Do you ever play the game where you see how far down the street you can be and still have the garage door remote work? I have it down to a science now. It's pointless, but fun.

    You're absolutely correct, though: Sitting in one's car in the snow or rain and hitting that button to merely sail into the warm, dry confines of the garage is a distinct pleasure. Oh, yes.

    Diabetes Is the Baby of the Family--Hi, and welcome to the Dept.! I'm fascinated by any health-oriented appliances like that. I had students in the past with the insulin pump, and they said the same thing you did. It made an incredible difference in their lives. I had a student with a pacemaker, too, and that also amazed me. On a far smaller scale, I have a TENS device that I used after my shoulder surgery, and that really intrigued me, too. (I know; I'm easily amused.)

    MsCaroline--Hello! Welcome to the Dept.! How exotic to have someone comment about life in Korea. I've often heard from online friends in other countries that we Americans are unusually fond of our ice. I wonder why that is?

    As far as your leafblower, I am torn about that particular machine. While I appreciate the convenience, I find its noise an anathema. Our neighborhood in the fall is inescapably noisy because no one rakes anymore. Sometimes I have to take a drive to escape it.
    I'd like to relocate--eventually--to the SW. Please tell me that I can find a place not bristling with leafblowers! LOL.

    MikeyG--(IF that is your real name. LOL) Oh, I do value my iPhone greatly. The calendar keeps me organized; I jot down things on its Notepad; I communicate with Jared and Sam via text; I take tons of photos now on the spur of the moment with its camera; I play games with the boys and Kait; oh, all kinds of things. I was trying to laud the more mundane and overlooked Heroes of everyday living. I think most people with phones would automatically say "my phone." Gosh, our lives are on our phones and computers.

  7. Yes, an icemaker would be fabulous. Sigh. But we do have a bin we dump the trays in & we never put an empty tray back in the fridge (there is occasionally a danger of an empty bin and ice trays full of water & not ice).

    When we first moved to our house the neighbor let Mike borrow the snow blower a few times when we had a big snow - and several times we've come back from a trip to find that he just went ahead & took care of our driveway for us. Love that man. We haven't really needed it the last couple of years (cue Climate Change Terror Rant).

    I am SO ambivilent about a smart phone - which is good because we couldn't afford it anyway. I just have visions of never getting anything done ever again :)

  8. My husband's Kabota. He puts tracks on it for winter and can get around our 300 acre bush. Safely. Well, pretty safely. Better than the snowmobile he used to use and regularly stick.
    And m y Kindle.
    Right now the buzzer on my drier is nagging me to go and fold laundry. Not sure I love that, but it beats ironing the stuff.
    Love this post! Could go on about ice makers but 'BZZZZ". Sigh

  9. The iPhone and computer are an absolutely essential part of everyday life for just about everyone, so that’s just mundane. I do love your choice of the TV remote. I have always secretly felt that it was The Ultimate in lazy, but I simply don’t care.

    For me though, the Magic Bullet is a joy. I use it at the barn to grind pills for the horses. I don’t need it very often but when a horse has been prescribed a certain antibiotic, and they need 15 (quite large and rock-hard) pills twice a day for two weeks, the Magic Bullet can’t be beat. Unlike people, horses won’t take pills just because you tell them to, so you have to pulverize all those pills and hide them in other feed. Grinding that many pills by hand (and I have done just that in the past) is right up there with the torture of having to listen to Justin Beiber, so the 60 or 90 seconds it takes to grind a batch of pills with the Bullet is heavenly.

    My other favorite is our Keurig. Hot water, tea, coffee, cider, or hot chocolate instantly is my idea of wonderful. It’s way faster than the stove or microwave, and your beverage is fresh and piping hot. There is such a great selection of K-cups available these days that it’s almost impossible not to find something to enjoy.

  10. LaFF--So many of my friends and family laud their Keurigs. I often consider getting one, but when I extrapolate the actual cost per pound of those little cuppy things, I just can't justify it. My buddy Sue said, however, that she bought a reusable filter cup for hers. I could do that. I would buy one box of an assorted beverage cups, though. That would be nice to have.

    Your Magic Bullet--is it only used for the horse meds? I bet I could have shipped you one of my coffee grinders, which I use solely for spices, not coffee. I got a few in giftie baskets over the years from kind students who were amused by my coffee addiction back in the day. But I bet the MB is quicker, more efficient, and more fun.

    Mary G--You use words I always have to google! This time, I could infer from context what a Kabota was.

    Our family dryer at home when I lived with my parents and sibs had the buzzer. HOW I HATED IT. I detest anything or anyone trying to be my boss, and that thing was just a mechanical nag. And so loudly annoying! It buzzed every 5 minutes until you went down to the basement and got those damned clothes. My sympathies. But I completely agree that the wonder of the dryer is its wrinkle relaxing. And the fact that it makes clothes so nice and warm!

    Glad you enjoyed this post! BZZZZ!

    Bug--Yay! You're here! Remarkably, my iPhone doesn't really distract me too terribly unless someone plays a word on Words with Friends, or the boys start a flurry of text msgs. This isn't very often. I use it, to a great extent, like a PDA.

    Your neighbor is a sweetie. We have no such neighbors, sadly. We did, at one point, but they moved away. I miss them terribly. It's sad when a neighborhood changes.

    An icemaker is a lovely convenience, but on the occasions when we've had to do without, I managed just fine. Don't we all?

    A friend of mine has a whole-house, built-in vacuum system. He just inserts a hose into the wall of each room and vacuums. I cannot imagine that! He says he can't imagine NOT having it. So there you go.

  11. Ah, the TV remote. I too, remember when I WAS the remote ("See what's on Channel 8, Honey. Daddy's tired.") I didn't mind, I was prone on the floor in front of the set, anyway. Nowadays, I'm not even sure how to change the channels without the remote--and all hail the DVR and On Demand.

    Realprof loves gadgets, particularly power tools. He's a talented carpenter, so he really uses them. My personal favotite is his Dremel Tool set. (I'm scared spitless of the table saw, though.)

  12. fauxprof--I do not have a DVR. Everyone in the Entire World does, and my brother (older) once turned to me, fixed me with a deadly serious look and said, "Nance, if there is One Thing I can say that you ever listen to and that will make a difference in your life, this is it: Get A DVR. I am serious. It will revolutionize your television viewing."

    I swear to you, I almost teared up. After my father's death, he has become the patriarch of the family, and...well, it seemed really important. Don't tell him that I still don't have one.

    Rick is a carpenter also, and he has an entire basement full of woodworking tools, power and otherwise. I am afraid of all of them. Currently, I'm trying to get him to employ some of them in a Cat Gym/Tower Project.

    Please do NOT tell me that you have made lovely miniature doodads with the dremel. I'll feel so inadequate. Tell me you use it to buff the corns on your feet instead.

  13. I just like watching him use the Dremel tools, and imagining what I could craft if I were not clumsiness personified. When we were first married, he found out that I had always wanted a "real" dollhouse, so he built me a beautiful one--and enjoyed the process so much, he built another in the shape of a lighthouse. (He loves lighthouses.)

    Yup, I'm a case of arrested development, all right.


  14. Hi Nance,

    I was never the remote control for our TV viewing family, I was the ANTENNA!

    When we got our first television-
    Shortly after the Peloponnesian Wars- it was my job to stand by the TV and hold the Rabbit Ears antenna so we got a better picture.

    It was my idea to wrap aluminum foil around the antenna to make Milton Berle or Sid Caesar come in more clearly. Many copied me and I was always sorry I had not applied for a patent for my invention.

    You young Whippersnappers have it too easy these days with your cable quality picture and your remote controls.

  15. Nancy--So nice to see you here! I hope that means you and the Mr. are doing well.

    I never had to be the antenna as you did, but I certainly can relate. We once had an old console set that had a nonexistent horizontal hold. The picture constantly rolled, so each time we watched, one of us had to "fix the flop." That meant sitting nearest to use the Horizontal Knob and try to catch the "seam" of the picture and focus it in. Sigh. What a life!

    fauxprof--I don't think it's arrested development at all! You probably aren't any different than lots of women who always pined for a dollhouse. I had a crappy metal one with one-color plastic figures and furniture that wasn't too nice. Your husband is very romantic and lovely to build you a perfect one.

  16. Oh, gosh, TV alone with the remote and the DVR. A godsend. The remote is a no-brainer (who's going to get up and down like a yo-yo with hundreds of channels?), but being able to record stuff and watch it when I want to (make that when I CAN), zip past the commercials, freeze frame if the phone rings (or whatever)... could not do without it. (OK, the remote can also freeze frame, but... there ain't nuthin' like the DVR.)

    As for other stuff, and skipping over the obvious such as computers, internet, etc., I would have to laud the dishwasher, washing machine, dryer, and garbage disposal, all of which I lived without for nearly 25 years, living in old apartments or studio apartments which did not come with these little amenities.

    The laundry issue was really the worst hardship. Madrid did not have laundromats back then. (They have a few nowadays and one even has an internet café.) I was in good shape, though, thanks to walking a mile every Saturday to drop off my laundry at a dry cleaner's where I left my week's load of dirty duds and picked up the clean stuff from the week before. I hauled it down the road in one of these: http://tinyurl.com/bn6apkz
    The clean duds, by the way, were all nicely folded, which is something I do actually miss, lol.

    When I came back to the States, I was so looking forward to being able to wash & dry clothes in my own abode, but alas, it was a while before I could afford to live somewhere that did not force me to use The Laundry Room, a vile place where the machines never worked properly (and that's if you could even put coins in them, since 95% of the machines had the coin slots smashed from vandals, which made me frightened of even going in there.) The alternative, which I ended up using, was hanging out at a place called Spin Cycle. I chose that particular laundromat because the police patroled around there on a regular basis. Nuff said.

    We now have stackables in our condo, and lemme tell ya, life is good.

  17. Ortizzle--I don't know...there is something terribly lovely about being able to go and pick up your laundry--washed, dried, and FOLDED by SOMEONE ELSE--and simply pack it in your little canvas trolley and wheel it away.

    And live in Spain all the while.

    Beyond that, I do understand. Jared and Sam have lived in apartments where they had coin-op only laundry facilities, and besides the ridiculous expense, it's plain inconvenient. Thankfully, they both have their washer/dryer in their units now, and really appreciate it. (And so does MY personal laundry facility. LOL)

  18. Having just re-read 'girl with a pearl earring', where poor Griet had to soak the laundry, scrub the laundry, wring out the laundry, hang the laundry, then iron the laundry...and being a huge fan of the 'Little House' books, where of course it was "Wash on Monday, Iron on Tuesday, Mend on Wednesday, churn on Thursday, clean on Friday, bake on Saturday", I am thrilled by any appliance that takes a whole day's worth of chores down into mere minutes. I can put a load of laundry into the wash, start the dishwasher, and sit down at my desk for the paying job. Take the wash out and put it in the dryer takes a minute or two. Unloading the dishwasher takes maybe 5 at the most. The dryer makes clothes all fluffy and nice, so for all but the crispest shirts, there's no need to iron. So while I agree with your new fangled contraptions, my heart goes to the washer/dryer/dishwasher. Then again, there's the TV. I also don't have a DVR. But we do watch Netflix through our xbox and blueray player, plus we have 'on demand' with cable. With the dearth of decent programming, it's lovely to be able to find something to watch on TV. I, by the way, was also the remote (being the youngest in my household), and sometimes the antennae. Remotes rock.

    We don't use much ice. I don't have a ice machine on my fridge, and have never had one, so I'm not sure if it would change my life for me or not. No snow here, but I did live in Alaska as a child, so I can imagine what a blessing a snow blower would be. I hate leaf blowers. HATE. Not that we don't own one. That's Ted's thing.

    I'm interested in the mini-chopper. Is it the manual thing with a plunger (http://www.surlatable.com/product/PRO-997262/?affsrcid=Aff0001&mr:trackingCode=B41CE088-3DF4-E111-8D02-001517384908&mr:referralID=NA&mr:adType=pla&mr:ad=29427145301&mr:keyword=&mr:match=&mr:filter=24156051701&origin=pla) on top that you use, or is it a tiny little Cuisinart? Because if you're a big fan of the manual one, they're only $10, and perhaps I should get one for my garlic chopping needs. If it's the Cuisinart, perhaps I'll pass. One more appliance around here might be one too many for my tiny condo life.

  19. j@jj.com--Oh, how I love all of those books! SO MUCH.

    And I'm with you about especially the dishwasher. The novelty of a machine washing my dishes while I sit around and do something else has never, ever worn off.

    My mini-chopper happens to be an attachment that came with my stick/immersion blender, which I also love (and mounts to my kitchen wall above my counter). It came in a set like this one.

    I have such a tiny galley-style kitchen that I mount a lot of my often-used things on the wall on coat-hooks all around my counter, such as my stand mixer attachments, my box grater, microplane, manual can opener, whisks, etc. My immersion blender had a little bracket of its own, and it's so handy. I use it a lot, and its mini-chopper stores in a cupboard above it.


Oh, thank you for joining the fray!

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