Category Archives: Life

Favorite Household Items

Here are a list of items I use around the house. They are not totally computer related and are in no particular order.

Miele Delphi Vacuum

I have a thing for vacuuming. No, I don’t really enjoy it. But of all the chores of the house I think it’s my favorite. Vacumming isn’t very hard and it gives immediate results. Contrast this with scrubbing the floor, which is equally important, but much more work.

When I decided to replace my $60 cordless vacuum with a new one, I wanted a good one. After reading reviews, I settled on the Miele Delphi. It’s $500 so not cheap. But it’s a nice vacuum that I expect to last years. First, it’s mostly made of metal so it feels well c

My house is Pergo flooring through a little bit over half with a few rooms and a hall with carpeting. Most any vacuum should be able to handle hardwood flooring (or faux-hardwood) and the test of the vacuum for me is on the carpet. Unfortunately, the carpet is stained anyways so it’s not working miracles. However, it does a good job of picking up off the carpet so I can’t complain. It also comes with three attachments besides the power brush so I can get edges and drapes.

My favorite parts about the vacuum though? Weight and noise. It’s light enough I can pick it up and easily carry it up and down the stairs. The worst part about using it on stairs is the awkwardness of holding a vacucum. And it’s quiet. Not whisper quiet of course, but it’s quiet enough I can listen to music with headphones without blasting it. If I turn the power down a little, people can talk in the room without me having to feel like too much of a jerk for vacuuming when people are talking.

Is $500 for a vacuum worth it? It all depends. If you have only hardwood flooring and don’t vacuum much, then maybe not. But if you have some carpet, pets, need to get under furniture, and want something that will last, this is a vacuum worth considering.

Merkel Razor

Gillette generally owns the market for men’s razors. I received my first Mach 3 from Gillette when I turned 13. Great marketing – I used it for the next 15 years. A friend of mine moved to the Merkel razors and said they were a better shave. The up front cost is a bit more than the disposable type, but it’s much less expensive over the years. The shave, for me at least, is closer and it has almost no pull. Disposable razors had a lot of pull and it only got worse as the blade dulled. Almost no pull with the double sided razors.

Of all the purchases on the list, this is the one I wouldn’t give up. Name something else on here and I’d give it up but I won’t ever go back to a disposable razor. The one downside is you can’t get them through security so don’t try to bring them on a carry on. I keep a Gillette razor around for that situation but it doesn’t see light except for an overnight flight.

Breville Smart Oven

I took this recommendation straight from The Sweet Home and Cook’s Illustrated. Both rated the Breville Smart Oven the best toaster. It’s $250. That’s a lot for a toaster oven.

First, this toaster oven is huge. When we opened the oven we had a moment of “…where do we put this?”. Once we got it setup it fit fine. Because it’s huge, it’s able to hold a lot. I managed to warm up a cheap pizza from the grocery store in it. Given the choice, I’ll use the toaster to warm something instead of getting the entire oven warm.

Overall, I do like the toaster oven. Its controls are all digital which means I can easily repeat how dark something is done. In other words, the on switch isn’t the same as the darkness. However, because it’s digital, there are only so many preset levels. You can override it and control exactly how long the heater is on.

Speaking of heater, that’s one of the cool things (ha!) about this toaster oven. The heating elements are variable which means instead of turning on and off, they will change temperatures to keep the temperature even. Whether this makes any difference is beyond me, but it does seem to do a pretty decent job of even cooking.

I’ve toasted many bagels in this and it does a nice job. I cooked a cheap pizza on it and it seemed to cook a bit too fast on the edges and not fast enough in the center. It does have a convection option so I would need to play with it a bit more to understand why it wasn’t cooking as even as I’d like.

The Sweet Home review is more thorough than I care to offer, so read theirs and make a decision. If you use a toaster oven a lot, it’s a worthwhile investment. If you don’t, it’s probably a harder justification to spend $250 on a toaster oven.

KitchenAid Artisan Mixer

It’s metal. It’s red. It’s the KitchenAid Artisan Stand Mixer. The iconic kitchen appliance resides on my counter partially for function but partially for form. Really, it’s a beautiful appliance as appliances go. It comes with multiple attachments for different functions. Mine powers through dough and anything I’ve thrown at it so far. We have pasta attachments for making home made pasta of various kinds.

There should be more to say about the stand mixer. There isn’t. If you bake or need to mix things, this is the one to get. I wouldn’t think twice.

Food Processor

Food processors are something people often consider to chop up food and mix it together. However, a food processor can chop onions and make that whole process of prepping a lot easier. No, I haven’t used it for that yet. But I will, I promise.

Regardless, this is a nice food processor with good power, a nice secure lid, and the typical attachments. It’s not cheap, but it’s not expensive at $179. Again, that’s a decent amount of money for a food processor but I expect this to last a long time as well. I could have purchased a $50 plastic one, but those would burn out in significantly less time and have less power. There are no concerns this would power through dough or almost whatever I throw at it.

Cast Iron Skillet

A cast iron skillet is simple. They’re heavy, they’re black, and they are made to last if you take care of them. I have a simple Lodge brand cast iron skillet which is my frying pan of choice for almost anything which can be cooked on cast iron, especially meats.

Cast iron takes a bit different method of cleaning than stainless steel but it will last a lifetime if you take good care of it. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to make mine look as smooth and pristine as some people can. It’s okay. I love my cast iron skillet anyways. And for $25 it’s not expensive either. I’d recommend to anyone who cooks a bit to go out and purchase one – just make sure you understand how to clean it.

Ice Cube Tray

Another mention of The Sweet Home comes up. I found out about this tray on a review. Never did I think I’d really care about ice cubes. That is until we got a new freezer and didn’t have room for the ice cube tray. I dropped $10 on this tray because it promised to not spill under most conditions. Sure as heck fire, it doesn’t spill as long as you keep it under 45 degrees.

The cubes are oval at the bottom so simply pressing on the right side should cause the cube to flip out easily. Much easier than having to use your nails to pull out ice cubes.

WeatherTech Floor Mats

I live in the Chicago suburbs. We have winter. We have rain. Normal carpet floor mats take a beating and eventually wear down. It was a fact of life until a co-worker told me he loves his WeatherTech floor mats. These became my birthday gift and I immediately loved them. If you get the high end ones, they’re made to fit your car so it’s not generic. If your car has a bump near the seat for a heating duct, the floor mat should be ordered to have a bump to accompany it. Water doesn’t absorb into the surface because it’s plastic instead of carpet. This is good and bad. It’s good because you can hose the floor mats out very easily to keep them clean. It’s bad because snow tends to puddle up on the mat. This is a little frustrating, but it’s inevitable. A night is typica

Spills are something people talk about. I haven’t dealt with a spill quite yet but I could imagine spilling a liquid on these would be amazing since it’s easy to clean up and shouldn’t get all over your car.

Wedding Hints

Weddings are huge. And as someone who is at the tail end of planning one, I wanted to give some hints for those just setting out on the adventure.

Elope – Everyone will tell you to elope and not do a wedding. If you two are willing to consider eloping then at least consider it. Weddings are stressful, complex, and expensive. They strain relationships and create and immense amount of stress. I’m not saying eloping is for everyone. But if you two are open to the idea, give it a good thought.

Coordination – There is a lot involved with weddings. There are the things you can think of such as invitations and flowers. But there’s a lot of small details you don’t consider until you’re well into it. Unless the bride is planning the entire wedding, you will need to coordinate your documents. It doesn’t matter what tool you use as long as you a central repository. We had separate invite lists with varying data and formatting. Uniformity would have eased some steps.
* Google Drive – Shared documents are important and Google Drive’s ability to do spreadsheets is going to prove useful for invitation lists and budgets.
* Slack – I don’t use Slack but people seem to like it for group collaboration.
* Dropbox – Shared files on Dropbox are fine too.

DIY – Lots of people are crafty and enjoy making things of their wedding. If you have the skills and desire, do it. But like any home improvement project, it takes longer than you think, is often more expensive, and requires three trips to Home Depot. Think carefully whether you should be doing something or just paying to have it done. Time and energy are limited and paying for something can make life easier.

Money – No matter how expensive you think something is, round it up to the nearest hundred. If it’s higher than $x600 (ex. $1700) then round it to the nearest thousand. You’ll be thankful when something is “only” $300. Lots of websites have budgeting templates which can give you an idea on costs. Do this activity early and be thorough. Think about stamps, inner envelopes, outer envelopes, liners, printing, tax, delivery fees, and whatever else you can think of.

Who Is The Wedding For – Early in the process talk to with your significant other who the wedding is for. Many think it’s in honor of you two, but is it actually for you two? I’m of the opinion the wedding is 75% for the bride, 20% for the families, and 5% for the groom. Other people may say it’s mostly for the families while others say it’s only for the bride and groom. You could probably find some who think it’s for the bridal party. Not that any of it is wrong, but this exercise will reveal outside influences and let you ask the question whether that influence is acceptable. Perhaps even ask your families if you want their input.

Create A Timeline – There is no shortage of opinions on when events around the wedding should happen. Do you send the invitations out 2 months before or a month and a half before? What about 2 and a half months? Develop a timeline, perhaps using a Gantt chart with milestones to help keep everything on track. Dates move and that’s okay but knowing how it impacts the rest of the timeline in a visual manner is important. You two may work different and prefer other methods.

Demand Good Customer Service – You’ll be paying handsomely for your wedding. In Chicago, the average price for a wedding photographer must be at least $1500. You’re spending good money on their services and if you’re not getting good customer service during the planning, be sure to raise complaints. They may not be able to help you and it may be too late, but don’t people walk all over you.

Have Fun and Stay Positive – If there’s one thing I did poorly during the entire process (and believe me, there were many) it was not enjoying it and letting the complexity and drama turn me negative. Negativity will affect everyone – most importantly you. You two will fight. You two will experience a lot of stress. But take a deep breath and try to enjoy the experience as much as you can. Remind yourself why you’re going through it. You two love each other and are excited about spending the rest of your life together. It’s so easy to forget this point when fighting about invitation liners.

Carefully Consider Invite Lists – I can almost guarantee you will upset people with the invite list. Be careful who you exclude with friends, family, and co-workers. I made some decisions on the invite list which I regret. Invite who you want but be comfortable with hurting those who you will hurt. If hurting them isn’t acceptable, find a way to invite them.

Beware of The Knot and Pinterest – I never really went on either site but my fiance did. Both provide amazing amounts of suggestions. Don’t let yourself drown or get carried away by the torrent of options.