Monday, March 23, 2009

Gadgets Galore!

Everywhere I look there are gadgets, gadgets, gadgets! Gadgets to help us do everything more efficiently: hang up our clothing, wash our floors, open our cans, pay our bills... the list is endless and it's all available right now if you call this toll-free number! My children are attracted to the commercials and I am too -- to a point. Most of them seem like a lot of money to spend to save just a little more time.

Well. I'm not saying those things aren't useful in their place. And I'm not saying that I'm operating off the grid here with my hand-cranked hair dryer. I just think that there's a place for gadgets and a place for doing some things by hand -- it brings us closer to the job and gives us an investment in it.

My first example: Bread Machines. I received mine free from a friend who was cleaning out her mother's house (after her mother had found a Greater Home). Homemade bread is good. Free is great, so I happily took my new gadget home.

Hmmm... where to store this unwieldy thing? We have a small kitchen... Storage solved, but it was always a pain to haul it out when I wanted to use it. The machine worked great, but pouring a bunch of ingredients in a chamber then forgetting about it wasn't enough for me. I used the machine for a few years, then passed it on to a friend. Now I knead my own bread (takes about 10 minutes) and it makes me feel good. The friend who has my new gadget is in heaven as she has about 10 minutes a day to prepare all the food for her family, so the gadget gives her the feeling of "homemade" while she attends to something else. We both win.

My second example: Crock Pots. Now this is a basic necessity for any home. It's not a gadget, it's an appliance, an appliance you need. With that said, I realized that having two of them was one too many. The new-to-me one (given to me by a friend who never used hers) was a beautiful stainless steel with a removable crock. However it cooked really hot, unlike my "real" crockpot, the one my mother used my whole life. It's beige with little mushrooms all around it and is stained from years of potlucks. The lid isn't original because it got mixed up with another crock pot at a church function. It's familiar, I like it, it works great, and that's what counts. I gave the stainless steel crockpot to my friend with the bread machine. Now she can make a complete meal for her family without even being home! She's dancing all around the house.

My third example: Mixer. Some of you have the deluxe stand-up mixers that do everything but pour the batter into the pan. I'm on my second or third hand-held beater, which works great (until the vent holes underneath fill up too full with cookie dough). I think we're all in agreement that a mixer is a good and useful gadget, especially when we're trying to beat egg whites into a stiff peak (something I do once every two years or so at Easter). Licking the beaters is much easier on those little hand-held mixers, too.

My fourth example: Blender. I have a Cuisinart new in the box that I've never used because my blender is so convenient and easy to clean. I'm on my second or third one of these, too. We make smoothies many mornings, which is a great way to start the day with some fruit (and maybe a secret veggie or two that I slide in and hide from the kids). I puree my blended soups, whip up milkshakes and chop away using my ordinary $12 blender from Target. Love it.

And my last example: Hubby's Gadgets. We all know that most of the fun toys in the kitchen are purchased by and for our men, right? Hubby loves his coffee grinder, individual cup coffee maker, and wide-slice toaster. I can be as "pioneer" as I want, but I can't turn out evenly browned toast over a fire, nor do I want to. His little coffee maker is ideal for the one cup he desires in the morning and it's easy for him to maintain himself (always a plus).

I'm eyeing a wheat grinder, but have realized that I would then feel obligated to grind my own wheat. I'm not there, yet. I enjoy baking from scratch, but I really enjoy having my flour come in a big bag from Costco that I can dip into quickly. A waffle maker would be fun, but I'm the only one who really likes them. And why get a George Foreman grill when we have a BBQ right out back?

As for the "as seen on TV" gadgets, they are very entertaining to watch on TV, but even my kids notice the deceptive practices they use to advertise some of them. My younger son remarked, "Have you noticed that every time that lady sweeps up the mess it goes out of the range of the camera?" Yep, I have noticed. I've noticed it with the mop, too.

We blend our appliances with our desire for simple living. So I will continue using my old-fashioned mop (or rag) to wash the floor. My son will use the Swiffer to clean the laminate. I will knead my dough by hand. The kids will use a chain saw to cut up our firewood. And we will all enjoy our clean home, fresh food and warm hearth, the part-time pioneer way!


  1. alas- not too many gadgets that I have safe time - and or money at times-
    and I discoverd that my oven will slow cook is I set the temp- at 225F- so my slow cooker is waiting for grand daughter to start her kitchen after marriage which is not until Oct.2010 - I enjoyed your blog and also your sharing- for me- the bread machine now makes the dough but only due to my old hands now- still bake it in the oven-you are a good writer that makes us think
    hugs from Meme

  2. I never thought of using my oven as a slow cooker, but of course, you are right. Now I'm wondering... which would cost more, electricity or gas? Where I live gas is pretty cheap, so that might be a way to go. Thanks for the tip!

  3. It is fun to inventory our 'gadgets' just to make sure we are using them. We have an electric potato cutter...insert a whole potato and out comes curly potatoes waiting to be fried. I used to use it all the time, but now, not so much. I'm not frying as much these days. I hardly ever use the apple peeler I bought, but the blender we got as a wedding gift thirty plus years ago still gets a workout.

  4. I think that any gadget that I've been given that's a modification of a blender is a waste for me. The Cuisinart; smoothie blender; mini electric shake mixer... All I need is a blender.

    Oh -- and a new mixmaster. Mine broke yesterday :o/

  5. old Revere Ware pan (consolation prize from Family Feud) does a great job boiling water so I can throw in the hot dogs. Heh. I'm obviously not a very creative cook...

  6. I like this column, and I completely agree with the crockpot status. That's a need, not a want. I don't use mine often because I'm not home often, but I don't know how I'd get along without it when I use it. I like the oven idea, though...

    And I use my hand-mixer to beat egg whites, too! Other than that, I usually use a spoon.