Category Archives: Home & Kitchen

Welcome Me to the Green Thumb Club – FINALLY!

MiracleGrow Aerogarden 71j7cfahexl-_sl1000_


Pros: Fool-proof results           see my photos at the end of this review

Cons: My dill stopped growing after my first harvest, but it could have been my fault since the basil and parsley are over-the-top happy.

My “green thumb” leaves a lot to be desired. Since early childhood, my efforts to make things grow were met with rotting roots, brown leaves, or nothing at all. My daughter got me a “lucky bamboo tree” nearly ten years ago. It lost one of its three trunks about four years ago and is only now starting to look less like an ICU patient. The orchid plant she bought me about 18 months ago now sports dead blooms and one new leaf (the new leaf is courtesy of an ice cube watering trick). The bright blue hydrangea she bought me this Mother’s Day shriveled within a couple of days. Up until now, the only exception to the death toll has been my cactus plants grown from seeds.

This year my son bought me an Aerogarden hydroponic garden by Miracle Gro for Mother’s Day. The kit includes three seed pods, a three-ounce bottle of Miracle Gro plant food, and the contraption (for lack of a better word). When I thanked him for the gift, I asked him if this was to encourage me to grow medicinal pot. His response was “yeah, sure.” This is his “Mom thinks she’s funny” reply, the point of which is to pretend he didn’t know I was joking. That’s okay. My sense of humor never impressed my husband and kids.

Set up was fairly easy. I picked a logical place for the garden – the raised counter that surrounds my sink and separates the kitchen from the living room. I cleared off my decorative things, placed the Aerogarden on the counter, filled the chamber with water, poked the seed pods into the three cradling holes, plugged it in, and waited. Actually, I didn’t really wait so much as left town. The day I set up the Aerogarden, was the day before we went to Las Vegas for the State Democratic Convention. I had no idea if the water chamber would stay filled enough while we were gone. I just took it on faith.

I made a couple of mistakes when I set things up. My first mistake was not noticing that the plant food should have been added to the water when I first filled the chamber. The second one was thinking that something was wrong with the LED grow light or the electrical outlet I used. When I read that the light goes on and off, I thought the instructions referenced the “add plant food” light, which lights up when it’s time to feed your plants and has to be reset to light up again in two weeks. After seeing the LED grow light go out twice, I called the service center. An incredibly sweet woman explained that the LED grow light simulate night and day by being on for 16 hours and off for 8. Once she explained it, I realized the instructions said the exact same thing. Reading further, I discovered that the light can be set to match one’s day and night. I prefer letting it be on at night and off during the day. In addition to facilitating photosynthesis, it serves as a nightlight.

Does it grow plants? Absolutely! When the seed pods are first inserted, they need to be covered with a clear plastic dome to create a little greenhouse effect. Since my son asked me what seeds came with the Aerogarden, it’s apparent that the company encloses random boxes of seed pods that should be compatible with each other. My Aerogarden came with basil, parsley, and dill. I was overwhelmed when we returned from Las Vegas four days after starting the Aerogarden and found seedlings waiting for us! The dill came in first, then the basil, and finally the parsley. At the end of this review, I posted photos I took on a weekly basis during the first couple of months.

Within a few short weeks, I had to trim the herbs so they wouldn’t block each other’s light. I now add basil to my pasta sauce and can’t wait to have home-grown parsley on our Seder plate next Passover. I can’t describe the feeling of using regular scissors to cut a few basil leaves off the plant and snip them over roast chicken and various sauces. The aroma when the leaves are cut off suggests a number of Italian dishes. The dill, which grew the fastest, didn’t last very long. I took the trimmings and used it in a pickle recipe. I added too much kosher salt, but the dill still had a good, strong flavor. I think the basil just crowded it out. The parsley looks so delicate that it can fool you into thinking it won’t last, but leaves keep coming in on a near daily basis.

One of the features of the Aerogarden is the telescoping mast that supports the LED grow light. It telescopes from about three to nine inches. It should be kept as close as possible to the growing plants, so it only needs to be raised when the plant touches the LED grow light.

I thought of getting another box of seed pods and starting a new dill plant, but the instructions don’t include anything about replacing one plant. However, there are detailed instructions for starting over with three new plants. My instinct is to wait until it’s time to replace all three plants.

My verdict: If I can grow a viable herb garden with the Aerogarden, anyone can!

Weekly Photos taken from May 10, 2016 to July 13, 2016
Week 1



Week 2

Aerogarden on counter

Week 3


Week 4


Week 5


Week 6


Week 7


Week 8


Week 9


Week 10


KitchenAid Artisan Stand Mixer: The Future Was Then

KitchenAid Artisan 5-Quart Tilt-Head Stand Mixer in White



Pros: Capable of performing the tasks it claims.  Multiple beater choices come standard.  Tilt-Head locking mechanism.  Power-take-off accepts attachments for juicing, pasta creation and other kitchen chores.

Cons: Weight may make it difficult to move for some.  Excessive motor noise and gear-clash annoying.  Dated styling and moderate footprint make countertop storage an issue.

The Attrezzi was sleeker and quieter - and it never had a chance.
The Attrezzi was sleeker and quieter – and it never had a chance.

For the past decade, I have had a successful bread-making relationship with the Jenn-Air Attrezzi stand mixer.  Also known as “Maytag’s Last Gasp”, this streamlined Italianesque small appliance was axed in April of 2006 when Whirlpool Corp. acquired Jenn-Air’s parent company.  With KitchenAid also beneath the Whirlpool umbrella, there was no need for the established brand to compete with an acquired inter-corporate rookie.

Mid-30s Moderne

The original KitchenAid Model K was produced by the Hobart Corporation and dates back to the Art Deco age when Raymond Loewy was the King of Industrial Design.  Though Loewy has been dubbed “The Designer of Everything” (including the Coca Cola bottle, automobiles and locomotives), the Model K was actually a creation of Egmont Arens – whose realm of design includes the ice cube dispenser and Electrolux vacuum cleaner.

Sensational in its day was the original Model K. [Image: Cindy Funk - Flickr]
Sensational in its day was the original Model K. [Image: Cindy Funk – Flickr]

Introduced in 1937 at a suggested retail price of $55.00, the Model K has been tweaked over the decades, but its appearance is essentially unchanged.  Though laudable for its longevity and basic form-and-function, the updated Model K shows its age when conspicuously placed in a 21st century kitchen.

Sensory Perception

The Artisan and crew get ready to mix-it-up.
The Artisan and crew get ready to mix-it-up.

The degree of Artisan drab becomes moot when the mixer is activated.  In the lower range of its ten available speeds, the motor spins with a growl and clash that startles and rankles.  While whipping fresh cream for a strawberry shortcake, several conversing guests fled the nearby counter stools – due to their inability to hear or be heard above the Artisan’s din.

To its credit, the Artisan has survived numerous kitchen challenges for more than a decade with a motor that sounds as if it’s been ready to fail since day-one.  Conversely, the Jenn-Air is handsome and quiet, but is fitted with a sloppy tilt-head lock that is inferior to that of the Artisan.


The Artisan with its standard equipment attachments and pour shield.
The Artisan with its standard equipment attachments and pour shield.

What KitchenAid delivers is variety.  Included as standard equipment are the wire whip, batter paddle and dough hook.  A clear plastic pour shield fits atop the 5-quart bowl to discourage flour waft and contain spatters.  Should an attachment make contact with the stainless steel bowl while in operation, a screw located on the underside of the tilt-head will adjust the attachment up or down.

A power-take-off shaft on the front of the mixer will accept more than a dozen optional attachments.  A juicer, food processor, meat grinder, grain mill and an assortment of pasta gadgets prevail.  Though I currently own none, the optional ice cream maker is the most tempting potential acquisition.  But how long will I have to endure the motor noise before chowing-down on the resulting frozen delight?

Work In Progress

Planetary action makes quick work of this Toasted Coconut Cake batter.
Planetary action makes quick work of this Toasted Coconut Cake batter.

The Artisan‘s planetary action spins the attachment in the opposite direction of the head – this all-inclusive dual orbit minimizes the need for continually scraping the bowl.  As a result, be aware that whipping heavy cream or egg whites to a desired consistency requires much less time to accomplish vs. a conventional mixer.

While kneading bread dough, the motor doubles-down on gear gnash, but its growl belies its durability.  I’ve never trusted the Artisan to a double-dose of dough, though there are those who do without apparent consequence.  Both the dough hook and batter paddle wear a plastic coating and are dishwasher safe – as is the 5-quart stainless steel bowl.  Due to its aluminum base, I always hand-wash the wire whisk.

Even when cornered, the Artisan lives large.
Even when cornered, the Artisan lives large.

Dependability was for decades the Maytag motto, but it also applies to the KitchenAid Artisan through corporate acquisition.  Its versatility, ubiquity and legitimate (though strictly utilitarian) retro heritage – along with a competitive price and variety of vivid colors – make it the current king of kitchen clamor.  Every kitschy cookhouse should have one – and probably already does.

My Toasted Coconut Walnut Cake awaits the oven.

KitchenAid division of Whirlpool Corporation
Customer eXperience Center
P.O. Box 218
St. Joseph, MI  49085

All images generated by the author unless otherwise noted.

Sauder’s “Multimedia Storage Tower” Is Well Worth 40 Bucks

Sauder Multimedia Storage Tower, Cinnamon Cherry



Pros: Price (about $40 including shipping). Capacity. Ease of assembly. Satisfactory appearance.

Cons: Back panel’s permanent “fold marks.”

Last March I was in the process of completing my collections of (mostly) “racing” video games for the PlayStation 2; GameCube, and original Wii systems. I’d decided to segregate those older games from my flagship Xbox 360 console’s compatible games (kept in an adjacent billiard/games room), and so I ordered this Sauder Multimedia Storage Tower [from for slightly over $40], and I installed it in my home office’s 6’ x 6’ walk-in closet.

According to Amazon, this product’s “assembled measurements are 32.50 inches wide by 9.375 inches deep by 45.375 inches tall.” However, those numbers pertain to the maximum exterior size of the product, not its usable shelf space. Accordingly, prospective consumers should note well that the actual shelf width and depth (per my hands-on measurements) are 32.2 by 5.5 inches.

As for the usable height of each shelf tier, well, using some of the manufacturer’s predrilled holes (for which insertable little metal “supports” are provided), I’ve adjusted four (of the six included) shelves such that there are five tiers (not counting the top of the cabinet), each measuring about 8 inches high. [This assumes you want each tier to accommodate conventional “DVD” cases, like those originally included with most PS2, GameCube, or Wii video games.]

According to the manufacturer, this “storage tower” can hold 426 CDs or 280 DVDs. In actuality, I filled this tower with only 265 “DVD” cases, as follows: 150 PS2 games; 62 GameCube games; and 53 Wii games. [Sure, I could’ve shoehorned another four or five such cases, but that would’ve made for an annoyingly tight fit.] Now, on the one hand, I wish the shelves were each several inches wider (which would’ve let me display my entire collections of PS2, GameCube and Wii titles). On the other hand, I recognize that any amount of increased width would’ve likely engendered significant warping of the composite-wood shelf boards after several years. [Thus I’m philosophically content to compromise by storing my least significant game titles in a nearby chest of drawers.]

After about five months of use — with all shelves fully loaded with video game discs in DVD cases — there’s no noticeable warping. However, at least one other online reviewer has reported that after a year or more of use, a tolerably slight amount of warping has indeed begun to occur with his specimen. Considering the low cost of this product, I’m not unduly concerned about that issue. Besides, at some point in the future, I could easily invert each shelf board (after applying some dark Minwax stain to the presently unfinished underside), which should effectively reverse any such warping.

By the way, since inverting the shaped top piece of the cabinet would not be an option, I strongly suggest that you don’t place any weighty objects atop this product. [I myself have (primarily for display purposes) placed just five games there that I selected for their cases’ particularly attractive front-cover art. And since I’ve got that handful of featherweight objects positioned “face-forward” near the back edge of that top piece (where at least a modicum of additional support is provided by the thin, nailed-on back panel), I don’t anticipate any perceptible warping in my unit’s top.]

Regarding color, the manufacturer calls it “Cinnamon Cherry.” The actual specimen that I received looks pretty much like a somewhat reddish version of dark walnut. (My specimen looks a bit darker than the above product image.) Although I could’ve used a somewhat lighter hue (to more closely harmonize with a preexisting dark-oak closet shelf on which I’m displaying a six-foot-wide row of original PlayStation [PS1] games in standard “CD” jewel cases), I’m more than satisfied with this product’s somewhat darker color, and I certainly would prefer it to more extreme alternatives like “ebony” or “light oak.”

If you look carefully at the above (click-twice-to-enlarge) product image, you’ll notice that the woodgrain back-panel piece has two vertical “creases” running from top to bottom; this reflects the fact that that panel was packed folded, and only when you unfold and nail it to the rear of the cabinet’s edges does the back panel flatten out. (Actually, as you can see in the photo, it doesn’t quite completely flatten out; indeed, at those points where a videogame case is directly in front of a back panel crease, the case is effectively pushed a fraction of an inch forward. Fortunately, the degree of such discrepancy is slight enough to be scarcely noticeable.) Though the back panel’s permanent “fold marks” will scarcely matter for most installations, they could prove annoyingly conspicuous if much of the shelf space isn’t sufficiently filled with media or whatever.

Though this rock-bottom-cheap product obviously can’t match the hardwood custom cabinetry in my house’s featured books-and-music “library” rooms, it’s plenty good enough for displaying the aforementioned older videogame collections in my home office’s walk-in closet. In fact, this easy-to-assemble/move Sauder unit wouldn’t look half bad in many an apartment living space– especially if you’re not pernickety and/or must make do on a tight budget.

Function A-Plus – Now About the Rada Whisk Handle

Rada Handi-Stir Whisk with Aluminum Handle

[Rating: 4/5]

Pros: lightweight, unique design, whisk works great, easy to clean

Cons: handle finish, not dishwasher safe

I always enjoy receiving kitchen gadgets.  They are fun to try, and who knows when one will become a favorite.  A relative gave me this Rada Handi-Stir Whisk with the aluminum handle as a gift.  It is the handiest whisk, and different from other whisks I own, but there is one drawback.


End to end, this Rada whisk measures about 9 1/2” long.  The handle is constructed from solid brushed aluminum with a satin finish.  The business end is made from a 300 Series high nickel grade Stainless Steel, and has a Stainless Steel spring in a U-shape at the very end.  Note:  This is not dishwasher safe.  (This product also comes with a resin handle, which is listed as being more “dishwasher tolerant”.)  The whisk is made in the U.S.A.

My Experiences

A relative presented me with an assortment of Rada kitchen gadgets as a present.  I have been using this Rada Handi-Stir Whisk for over six months.

When I first removed the whisk from the packaging, I was delighted with the sleek design of the whisk.  It has impressive appearance that gives it that more expensive look.  The rectangular handle fits well in my hand, and the whisk has good balance.  I also like the unique design of the whisk head.

There is a U-shaped piece of Stainless Steel that holds the whisk, which is essentially a Stainless Steel spring.  The spring can be removed from the end of the whisk for more thorough cleaning if desired.  This clever design allows the whisk to reach into bowls and pans, the U-shape neatly fitting into corners for a more complete mixing job.

I primarily use this whisk to whip egg mixtures and have used it in a variety of mixing bowls with happy results.  It is also good for stirring gravies or sauces.  I would not use it for heavy-duty mixing.  For instance, it does a terrific job whipping eggs before I add them into batters to bake bread, pancakes, and other food.  It also works well to blend water with drink mixes or to mix gelatin.

Where this Rada product let me down is with the handle.  The brushed aluminum is not dishwasher safe, which is fine for me.  I prefer to hand wash my whisks.  I use a soft sponge and liquid dishwashing soap.  The liquid soaps I have used include Method or Palmolive.  At first the handle was fine.  But over a few months of hand washing, the handle finish has degraded, making the handle look older than the utensil actually is.  The Stainless Steel parts are fine and clean well.  The whisk is very easy to keep clean.  However, I’m disappointed the handle doesn’t keep its finish, despite my gentle care.


I’m torn with how to rate the Rada Handi-Stir Whisk with the aluminum handle.  Functionality is great.  The design is terrific.  This is the first whisk I reach for when blending eggs.  However, I feel the handle should maintain its finish.  I would not give this as a gift for that reason.  I’m pleased to use it though.

I hope you found this review useful.

Enjoy your day,

Copyright 2015 Dawn L. Stewart

Click image to view on Amazon great items in my kitchen:

Zak Design Mixing Bowls               Kitchen Aid Measuring Cups
Wearever Ceramic Cookware               Blackout Hefty Trash Bags


Gorgeous Coppery Beauty

Iris germanica Copper Classic


Note:  while i do not find Copper Classic on Amazon, I do find many other varieties


Pros: easy to grow, lovely, hardy, returns year after year, does not need a lot of care or attention

Cons: My favorite flower; wish blossoming time were year round

Botanical Name for this lovely Iris germanica : Copper Classic.  One of the Tall Bearded Iris varieties, Copper Classic, is a stunning, welcome, member of the sunbeam toned Iris I have growing in my golden hued planting pocket.

Over the years since moving to the Kansas Oklahoma border region I have done my best to eliminate grass from the yard surrounding our house and develop a number of planting areas filled with Iris and Lilies and some perennial cultivars to assure as much colorful blossoming as possible.

Some beds are color toned, and others are diverse shades and would be hard pressed to say which I prefer.

Blooming from mid to late spring this cultivar produces blossom stalks standing about 35 inches tall from a fan of green spiky leaves atop a thick hearty Rhizome.  While well drained loamy soil is preferred; iris tend to be pretty tolerant of a wide range of soils.   The thick muck of this clay muck in our yard, and ancient sea bed according to history books has been accepted by most of the iris I have set into it.  I continue adding mulch, leaves and etc each season, however I do not expect to ever see any true loam suddenly appear at the base of the corms.

I am happy neither Bambi, Ardillo the squirrel nor Hasenpfeffer show any interest in this Deer Resistant cultivar.  I like every Iris I have ever seen from Dutch and Louisiana, however my all time favorite is the German, Bearded Iris.

Perennial Hardiness  in Zones 4-9 is optimum, however, I plant Iris wherever I go and have yet to have any refuse to thrive.

I find partial sun to be a good site for my more delicate toned blossoms,  full sun is tolerated most years if summer does not blast into hot too quickly.  These beauties offer a mingle of melony,  coppery russet, and ginger shades with the standards, upright petals showing more melon and the falls, downward drooping petals presenting more of the ginger.   Foliage comprised of verdant, sword-like fans of firm upright leaves will experience some dying back in colder climates during winter.

I trim blossom stalks when blossoms are spent and cut the leaves into short straight topped fans during fall, detritus is added to compost pile for adding to soil come spring.

I find excessive heat,  rain  and/or shade will reduce or prevent flowering.  Good soil drainage is essential to prevent rhizomes from rotting; this year has been an excessively rainy one here in the middle of the continent.  It has been an uphill battle to keep rhizomes in good condition.   Raised beds at least 6 inches high to aid proper drainage may have to be considered for future.   The tight clay soil has been keeping rhizome very wet despite organic matter integrated to develop better drainage.

Iris blooms materialize in an extensive spectrum of colors from white, yellows, pinks, reds blues and very shade in between; with new types being introduced yearly.  Avid aficionados of Bearded Iris try their hand at producing a new color, ongoing.   Most bearded iris flower in the spring, and the lovelies are showy for a while and disappear all too soon.  I am excited that some of the newer cultivars are beginning to re-flower in the summer or fall. While the second flowering may not be as profuse as was the spring display it does serve to prolong the blossoming into the fall.

As an added plus; many re-blooming iris are fragrant.  Rhizome clumps should be lifted and broken apart for replanting every 3 – 4 years.

Bearded irises are classified by height: miniature dwarf – height 8 inches or less, and having 1 to 2 inch diameter flowers, standard dwarf -height 8 to 15 inches, intermediate -height 16 to 27 inches, miniature tall -height 16 to 25 inches, border -height 16 to 27 inches, and tall – height 28 to 38 inches.

The shorter Iris blossom first, followed by the intermediate, and finally the taller cultivars.

I like to fill my planting beds with many fans having blossom stalks of varying height to assure as much blossom display as possible.  As I begin a new planting area I like to place taller Iris varieties as the focal point of the display along with taller daisies or other sturdy complimentary cultivars or against a wall where pummeling wind will not cause so much damage.  While the blossom stalks are sturdy nothing much can withstand the winds here in tornado alley whether during tornado season or not.

I use a variety of wire devices for holding stems upright and I like to center my taller blossom stalks to assure they will not break during wind events.  I find placing shorter specimens around the taller ones too helps to keep the taller stalks upright and blossoms safe.  Nothing can save fragile blossoms should hail accompany the wind.

While really strong winds and/or tornados tend to appear during times other than Iris blooming time; as a rule I begin an Iris/Lilly bed near trees or bushes as an added safety measure during all wind.

On the whole I place rhizomes with a part of the crown of the corm showing and roots spread across amended soil below. I cover roots and lower portion of the tuber with deteriorated compost material, potting soil, wood chips and the like.  NOTE: often should Rhizomes be planted too deeply they will  tend to produce abundant foliage, however they may not blossom well.

Iris germanica Copper Classic is available from a variety of online sites, Brecks is one, as well as from garden shops and stores offering rhizomes during season.  Rhizomes are shipped at the proper time for planting in the particular planting zone from which it is requested.

I find that while rain does not cause much damage to blossoms; pounding wind or hail will do a good bit of damage particularly if the planting bed is in the open without some sheltering of buildings or trees near by.
Happy to recommend this full-bodied, dazzling and sunny tone Tall Bearded Iris, Iris germanica  Copper Classic.

Lightweight — Trudeau Two-Tone Mixing Bowl Set

Trudeau Two-Tone Mixing 3-Bowl Set

[Rating: 5/5]

Pros: extremely lightweight, non-skid material on base, space-saving bowls nest inside one another

Cons: sizes not marked on the bowls

I do a lot of baking and decided another set of mixing bowls would come in handy.  I have an older set of Trudeau mixing bowls, which I love … so I thought ordering a second set of Trudeau bowls would be great.  I wasn’t expecting the Trudeau Two-Tone Mixing Bowl Set to be a completely different product.  Overall, I am delighted with the newer version mixing bowl set, but there are a few things I would change.


This set of mixing bowls comes with three sizes: 2 quart, 3 quart, and 4 quart.  Each bowl is a different color: red, green, blue.  The “two-tone” description comes from the bowl exterior and interior being different colors.  The three bowls all have a white-color interior.

The bowls are constructed from durable polypropylene, which feels like a very lightweight plastic.  The manufacturer states the bowls are non-skid and that they have scratch-resistant bases.  Each bowl has a molded handle on one side and a pour spout on the opposite side.  They can be used in the microwave and are dishwasher safe.

My Experiences

My older Trudeau mixing bowl set is heavier and constructed from melamine.  These bowls have seen years of consistent use and still look virtually new.  I love them.  So I was surprised when the new bowls arrived and they looked like a lightweight plastic, constructed from polypropylene.  Another difference was that the new bowl interiors were white, while the older bowls had the same interior and exterior color.  I think I was so focused on the Trudeau name and that three mixing bowls were in the set that I didn’t clue into the differences.

Having used the new mixing bowl set for several months now, I can report that I love them.  The bowls are super-lightweight.  Easy to carry and use.  When heavier batter is in the bowl, the lighter bowl is easier to carry and maneuver than a heavier mixing bowl.

The bottom of each bowl also has a bit of non-stick material adhering to it.  The coating is enough so that if the bowl is full, and I nudge it, the bowl stays in place.  The non-stick coating is also nice for when I slightly tip the bowl on the table or counter to mix the batter at an angle.  However, the non-stick material is not powerful enough to “glue” the bowl to a flat surface.  The bowl will tip or move given the right push or pressure.

Each bowl has a molded “ear” for a handle.  For me, the handle is not 100-percent comfortable, but I’m sure others will probably feel it works fine.  The handle is not quite shaped right for my hand.  The pour spout is excellent.  It has a nice well-defined groove to guide poured ingredients.

At first I was nervous of the bowls having white interiors.  I thought they would show stains.  However, so far the bowls look great, and the white interiors still are stain-free.  I have not gone out of my way to use these bowls with food items I know could be risky such as using them to mix ingredients containing tomato sauce.  I have also not used these bowls in the microwave since I’ve never had to.

Even though these bowls can be washed in the dishwasher, I always hand wash them.  They are so easy to clean.  It is simple to set the bowl in the sink with some water and liquid dishwashing soap inside and then to rinse the bowl clean after I’m done.  I let the bowls air dry.


The Trudeau Two-Tone Mixing Bowl Set has a great advantage in being lightweight and easy to use.  The bowl material is durable and looks new, holding up great to frequent use.  If I had to pick one thing to suggest to the manufacturer, it would be to mark the bowl size on the bottom (ex: 3-quarts).  There are times I need to know the size of a bowl, and I don’t want to have to remember the size of every bowl, pot, or pan I own.  I would buy this mixing bowl set again.

Enjoy the day,

Copyright 2015 Dawn L. Stewart

Click to view these other Trudeau bowls on Amazon:


Just The Basics Laundry Detergent: Living Dye-Free

Just The Basics 2x Concentrated Liquid Laundry Detergent – Free of Perfumes and Dyes – in the 100-Ounce Bottle



Pros: Contains no dyes or perfumes.  Works well.  Great sale price.  Made in the USA.

Cons: CVS house brand products may pose an availability issue.

Clean, fresh-smelling clothes will always prevail when using dye and perfume-free detergents.
Clean, fresh-smelling clothes will always prevail when using dye and perfume-free detergents.

I enjoy a clean residential environment – but the pathway to such a laudable goal puts a serious crimp in my dedicated fun time.  For aesthetic reasons, I would prefer to wash windows than either dishes or floors – though “none of the above” would more often get my vote.  Aside from having comprehensive laundry facilities on-site, I have amassed sufficient clothing, sheets and towels to provide for those extended periods of washday procrastination.

Suds ‘n’ Duds

Clean jeans are hard to find, since they are the wearable paper towel!
Clean jeans are hard to find, since they are the wearable paper towel!

When the mood arises (or unexpected visitors are due), I can go on a cleaning jag that’ll put things right in a hurry.  Since laundry doesn’t fit this “quick fix” profile, the eventual lack of clean socks will work wonders upon my motivation toward laundrification.

I, Allergen

I’ve become so sensitive to a strong fragrance that a simple stroll down the laundry aisle will have me in respiratory discomfort.  Add this plus dye to my clothing in the laundering process and my allergies become a totally tactile experience.  During a visit to my local CVS Pharmacy, I was compelled to purchase Just The Basics dye and fragrance-free Laundry Detergent.  Several brands of “free and clear” laundry products exist, but none are priced on-sale at less than a dollar per quart.

Just The Facts

Low-sudsing HE detergents rinse thoroughly and reduce wash times.
Low-sudsing HE detergents rinse thoroughly and reduce wash times.

Just The Basics 2x Concentrated Laundry Detergent is the generic house brand sold at CVS.  As described, it is absent of irritants such as artificial dyes and fragrances.  None of the problematic petrochemicals are listed – rather, the appearance of “Anionic and/or Nonionic Surfactants” act to lower the surface tension of wash water to facilitate the removal of foreign substances from clothing.  Containing biodegradable cleaning agents and no phosphorous makes for a septic-friendly detergent whose hypoallergenic properties double-down on happy.

Some towels become unbearably clean using Just The Basics.
Some towels become unbearably clean using Just The Basics.

Just The Basics is recommended for all high-efficiency machines.  The 100-ounce bottle supplies enough product to wash 64 loads – as per the directions provided.  An internet search poses the question as to which manufacturer provides the product to CVS, but furnishes no definitive answer to same.

The retail price for the 100-ounce bottle is $4.99 (US).  On-sale for $2.99 at regular intervals, the (reduced) price-per-wash load is approximately 4.6 cents.  The Swanson Healthy Home hypoallergenic laundry detergent – which uses plant-based surfactants – costs nearly 12 cents per load.  Both detergents have compatible claims, do not irritate the skin or respiratory system and clean clothes to an equal degree.

In The Field

Even the filthiest sock bottoms come clean with a standard wash and Just The Basics.
Even the filthiest sock bottoms come clean with a standard wash and Just The Basics.

Just The Basics works well in my front-loading Samsung washer – its low-suds claim is consistent with the HE labeling.  Due to the comfort of my home’s in-floor radiant heat, I go about the house in stocking feet throughout the winter.  As expected, this custom creates a challenge for any detergent when it comes to the discoloration that occurs from even the cleanest floors.  After a run through the wash with either detergent, my white crew socks return to like-new condition when laundered on the standard wash cycle.

Cleaning Up

When the sales run, I usually stock-up – who knows when CVS will wise-up and price their product accordingly.  When compared to the name brands, Just The Basics does the same job at one-third the price.

The CVS policy is one of “Satisfaction guaranteed or your money back”.  In my experience, they have always maintained a courteous and hassle-free return policy in this regard.


Distributed by:
CVS Pharmacy, Inc.
One CVS Drive
Woonsocket, RI  02895

Made in the USA

All images generated by the author.

Excellent Cooking – Cuisinart Classic Stainless Steel Saucepan with Lid

Cuisinart Classic Stainless Steel Saucepan with Cover – 2 Quart


Pros: heats well, pour-spout on pan, vent holes for steam or straining, glass cover

Cons: sometimes the handle is warmer than I like

I wanted to purchase another saucepan to supplement my cookware.  I also thought stainless steel would work well for some items I cook that might stain another pan.  On my wish list: I did not want a coated nonstick pan, I did want a glass cover (preferably with holes to release the steam), a pour-spout on the pan would be a nice bonus.  The Cuisinart Classic Stainless Steel Saucepan with Cover delivered all this and more.


This Cuisinart stainless steel saucepan is in the 2-quart size.  The pan is a nice shape, slightly narrower at the bottom than the top.  It has an aluminum base.  The manufacturer describes the stainless steel interior and exterior as having a mirror finish.  It has a riveted cool-grip handle with a hole at the end for hanging the pan, if desired.

The top of the saucepan has a pour-spout.  The glass lid has a stainless steel rim with deep stainless steel sides.  There are two sets of holes on opposite sides of the stainless steel sides.  One set of holes is smaller (three short rows of holes), the other set of holes is larger (two short rows).  The cover also has a riveted U-shaped handle on top.  The saucepan is dishwasher safe.

My Experiences

I’ve been using this Cuisinart saucepan for six months and love it.  The pan is easy to use and care for.

Primarily, I use the 2-quart saucepan for heating vegetables, sauces, and soups.  The pan is a terrific size for the quantity I cook, and I like that the aluminum pan bottom evenly heats.  The saucepan bottom has not discolored, either.

A great feature is the pour-spout.  This is the only pan with cover I own that has a pour-spout.  It makes it easy to empty liquid or sauce from the pan without slopping it.  The lid also has steam holes along the deep stainless steel sides.  When I need to drain only the liquid from the saucepan, these holes make great built-in strainers.

The lid is designed so that the small or large holes can be placed at the pour-spout opening.  This position allows the holes visibility, which also allows steam to escape the pan.  In case it matters to you, the cover fits well atop the saucepan.  The deep sides fit inside the pan, and the lid is a smidge smaller than the pan diameter so the deep sides don’t scrape the pot.  However, there is a bit of looseness between the cover sides and the pan so that the cover doesn’t form a seal.

Most of the time the pot handle is cool to the touch.  There was only one time when I grasped the saucepan handle and released it thinking too warm to hold.  It wasn’t burning hot, but it was also not comfortable to hold with the warmth.  It only happened once, but now I’m cautious.

I have cooked carrots and tomato-based sauces in this stainless steel pot.  The carrots often leave an orange residue in my other pots, and tomato sauce usually coats a pan in red, which can be a pain to clean.  This Cuisinart pan is a cinch to wash.  Even though the manufacturer says the saucepan is dishwasher safe, I hand wash the pan using liquid dishwashing soap and then set it in the dish drainer to dry.  It usually only requires a swish of the sponge to clean, and if needed, I soak the pan with some liquid soap before washing.


After six months of consistent use, the Cuisinart Classic Stainless Steel Saucepan with Cover still looks like new.  The mirror finish looks sharp in the kitchen, and so far has resisted scratching.  The glass lid allows me easy visibility so that I can keep tabs on the contents.  I appreciate the two sizes of holes to vent the steam, plus the holes double as a strainer to remove liquid from the pan.  This saucepan is super easy to clean, too.  I would definitely buy another one.

Enjoy the day,

Copyright 2015 Dawn L. Stewart

More items from Cuisinart.  Click image to view on Amazon.



Recycled Fiber

O Cedar® Cotton Deck Mop


deck mop


Pros: well made, inexpensive, easy to use

Cons: the string ends will fray with use

O Cedar® Cotton Deck Mop featuring an innovative design  fabricated of absorbent 100% cotton, 99% of which is recycled material is constructed to the product standards regarding quality, durability and usefulness.

Most floors in our rural  farm house are painted cement; a wiser choice for us, one easier to keep clean than carpet in a house shared with several rescue critters and set on an acre surrounded by pasture.

I find daily mopping to be the quickest method for keeping floors tidy and free of cat hair, mud walked in or other debris as might be expected in a rural setting.

Cotton string, wire wound, provides a head permanently attached to a 48 inch metal handle having a hang up end for easy storage when not in use. I like that the mop can be used on various flooring including wood, laminate, vinyl and painted cemented.

The strings themselves are crafted of strong four-ply filament for durability, wear resistance and absorbency.

String mops, also known as wet mops are designed to be used by dipping the mop head into a bucket or other container of water to which cleaner, I use Pinesol®.

I like the ‘cut end’ method of attachment, wherein the strings of the mop head hand loose rather than looping back to the head. Laundering is not recommended for cut end mops; the mop head cannot be removed and the handle prevents placing the mop in most machines.   On the other hand I find rinsing well, dipping into a solution of bleach and water keeps the mop head clean and does not lead to mold or unpleasant odor.

Wet mops can be used for cleaning floors and for applying floor finishes, oil or other water based material to flooring to protect the surface.

Because the mop head is permanently attached to the handle, the head cannot be replaced; on the other hand the mop is inexpensive and replacing the whole things is not a problem. I find the metal handles are easily removed from the worn head, a small metal saw does the trick quickly.   The handles work well in the garden as support for climbing morning glory or other vining cultivars.

I recommend this highly, for those who  want a good mop, and are not into all the gizmos and etc. of modern technology.

I find O Cedar products listed on Amazon site and on other online sites as well.  On the other hand when I need a new mop I stop at a small local grocery store, Marvin’s in Dewey, Oklahoma and pick one up.

As always I like to know something of the products I use and the company making them.

Reading company information on the O Cedar site I find: The Channell Chemical Company commenced as a producer of waxes and wood polishes, which were sold door to door in the early 1900s.

One of the main elements in the polish was cedar leaf oil, leading to the product being called O-Cedar Polish.  Over time brand awareness grew as the company expanded, and the name became synonymous with the products.

O-Cedar Makes Your Life Easier!® has been the business motto for years as the company continues to provide a wide array of cleaning products to make like easier for those who will be using products for household and business usage.

O Cedar Parent Company, FHP is a division of the Freudenberg Group headquartered in Weinheim, Germany. The company’s Household Products Division is a major transnational producer of branded materials including cleaning products, laundry care products, and household cloths.

The Freudenberg Household Products Division employs about 2,300 employees globally and is best known in the US for its O-Cedar® brand and signature tagline “O-Cedar Makes Your Life Easier!®”

I appreciate that O-Cedar®, is committed to green manufacturing and eco-friendly products including the use of recycled materials. O Cedar states that the company is committed to the use of recycled and sustainable materials that create less waste and require less energy and water during manufacturing including the 72 million plastic bottles recreated into 2 million pounds of broom bristles and biodegradable cotton mops crafted of 99% recycled post-industrial materials.

Happy to recommend O Cedar Cotton Deck Mop


Product Details and Shipping Information  found on Amazon Site

Shipping Weight: 3.1 pounds

4.2 x 47.6 x 6.1 inches




O Cedar

2188 Diehl Road

Aurora, IL 60502

Homedics Zen Springs Tabletop Fountain: You Zen Me

HoMedics Envirascape Zen Springs Tabletop Indoor Fountain  WF-ZEN (Non-Illuminated)



Pros: Asian design influence.  Composite material has weight (stability) and features bronzed highlights.  Quiet operation.  Doesn’t leak.  Small footprint.

Cons: Those alleged “soothing sounds of cascading water and falling rain” were omitted from my Zen.  Water pump must remain totally submerged to maintain quiet operation.  The Zen‘s peace and harmony statement is one of near total invisibility.

It’s often humorous the gifts that well-meaning friends bestow upon us.  When I first received the Zen Springs fountain, my initial reaction was “What the bleep am I going to do with this?”  My busy suburban location was one where sirens and non-stop traffic comprised the daily audio soundtrack – the Zen‘s tiny trickle of tap water wouldn’t amount to a drop with its promised “relaxation meditation”.

Aside from producing “soothing sounds”, HoMedics also states that the Zen Springs Fountain “humidifies naturally and improves concentration”.

Can You Say Feng Shui?

Trickle-down... Zen style.

The art of Chinese Metaphysics (pronounced fung shway) represents the science of favorable positioning of inanimate objects in the human environment.  Due to the demure personality of the Zen Springs fountain, I placed it before a south-facing window so as to better detect the tinkling effect of its relaxing trickle.

Best Of Both Worlds

Despite the fact that the Zen Springs went completely unnoticed by visitors, I soon began to realize a better overall outlook coupled with a modest monetary gain that enabled me to become a future denizen within the home of my dreams.  Here in my quiet rural locale, I can better absorb the Zen Springs experience – though a close proximity is still required to fully disassociate the sound of its mystical stance from that of a well-equipped fish tank.

The Magic Within

Will the metaphysical Zen assist my Jeep in becoming a meta-mechanical marvel?

The HoMedics EnviraScape Zen Springs Tabletop Indoor Fountain has a 6 x 4.5-inch footprint and stands 9-inches high.  Its inscrutable self resembles oiled and hammered bronze – though in reality it appears to be constructed of a composite acrylic material.  The Zen‘s base resembles that of my table saw, with its canted legs and significant wrap-around apron.

The inner plane of the removable cylindrical top features a stack of horizontal arms at staggered lengths to empower the mini-cascade.  A 6-foot power cord (with in-line on-off switch) connects the Zen-master to its Class 2 Transformer.

A tiny water pump is attached to the underside of the tank cover and is removed by lifting the top section.  To adjust for evaporation, water can be added to the slot in the cover, which acts as the cascade’s perpetual return to the tank.

Zen Springs Eternal

The cat caught "improving his concentration".
The cat caught “improving his concentration”.

Though my initial reaction was one of $%@#!, I have now been enlightened by the true meaning of the Zen Springs effect.  More than a decade has passed since the Zen‘s bestowal, and this sovereign ode to re-giftable items is still available for purchase through multiple vendors.

Three stars for the Zen Springs Tabletop Fountain – due to the fact that it has lived well beyond the term of its limited warranty.  Another star is affixed to satisfy the item’s needless and weirdness factors; respectively.

Made in China

All images generated by the author.