If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

August Interviews

8/5 Lucy Burdette, The Key Lime Crime

8/12 Maggie Toussaint, All Done With It

8/19 Julie Mulhern, Killer Queen

8/26 Debra Goldstein, Three Treats Too Many

August Guest Bloggers

8/8 Leslie Wheeler

8/15 Jean Rabe

August Interviews

8/22 Kait Carson

8/29 WWK Authors--What We're Reading Now


Congratulations to our two Silver Falchion Finalists Connie Berry and Debra Goldstein!

Paula Gail Benson's "Cosway's Confidence" placed second and Debra Goldstein's "Wabbit's Carat" received Honorable Mention in the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable 2020 short story contest. Congratulations, Paula and Debra!

Susan Van Kirk's Three May Keep A Secret has been republished by Harlequinn's Worldwide Mystery. The WWK interview about the book can be accessed here. We're so glad another publisher picked up this series.

KM Rockwood's "Burning Desire," and Paula Gail Benson's "Living One's Own Truth," have been published in the anthology Heartbreaks & Half-truths. Congratulations to all of the WWK writers.

Please join Margaret S. Hamilton's Kings River Life podcast of her short story "Busted at the Book Sale" here. Congratulations, Margaret!

Look Margaret S. Hamilton's short stories in the new Mid-Century Murder by Darkhouse Books. Margaret's story is titled "4BR/3.5BA Contemporary."

Grace Topping's second novel in Laura Bishop staging series, Staging Wars, was released by Henery Press on April 28th. Look for the interview here from April 29th.

Annette Dashofy's 10th Zoe Chambers mystery, Til Death, will be released on June 16th. Look for the interview here on June 17.


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Facing Head-on the Challenge of New Appliances

Usually I muddle along contentedly with what I consider to be an amazing array of modern conveniences, although I have to admit that most of them are horribly outdated.

But every once in a while, something comes up and I need to buy something new. Then I’m forced to confront just how out of touch I am with the present world.

We’re having the kitchen remodeled. It was never in particularly good shape, even when we bought
the house—the cabinets were fiberboard with some kind of plastic veneer that came off when I tried to clean them, even with just mild soap and water. The fiberboard would absorb water and swell. I’m far from a fanatical cleaner, so I can’t even imagine what would have happened if someone had tried to scrub them with a strong detergent.

Actually, maybe I can. The cabinets and their doors would have dissolved years ago and I would have had to do something about them then, instead of installing magnets to keep the doors sort of closed and trying hard not to spill much on them. As it was, some of the doors wouldn’t close and the plastic veneer was totally gone in a lot of places.

I’ve been saving for ten years toward a kitchen renovation. This year, when a friend who is very handy (and a perfectionist) got laid off, we discussed him handling the job. He does excellent work and comes up with ideas that would never have occurred to me in a million years.

Along with the paint, new floors, new cabinets, etc. we decided to splurge on new appliances. To tell the truth, the only one that still worked right was the refrigerator, and at first I was inclined to not replace it. Refrigerators are expensive. But as I spent money hand over fist I entered this “Devil may care” zone and decided to get a new one. Armed with Consumer Reports and some notes, we headed out to look for what we needed.

First appliance we had to select was a dishwasher. We had a dishwasher in one place we lived, well over twenty years ago, but otherwise I’ve had very little experience with them. This kitchen had never had one. Vivid in my mind was the experience of one of my sisters, who had planned her kitchen to the last detail. She even got two dishwashers. The original reason was because they entertained a lot for business, and when they had to clean up after a party, two dishwashers made sense. As it evolved, though, she discovered that having two dishwashers meant you almost never needed to empty a dishwasher. Just set the table from the clean one, put the dirty dishes in the other one, and every once in a while put away the piece or two that haven’t been used.

Her big problem, though, was that whatever high-end dishwasher she bought beeped when the cycle was done. And every ten minutes thereafter until someone opened the door. Meaning that after they cleaned up after a late party and tumbled into bed, the dishwasher would awaken them and continue to beep all night long until somebody got up to unlatch the door.

So I bought a basic dishwasher that didn’t beep continually. I was greatly puzzled by the set up for putting the utensils in this basket-like thing with a top, until someone explained to me that it was designed to stick the handles of the utensils into slots on the top. This prevented spoons from nesting and similar phenomena. The instructions are confusing, but so far we just set it on “normal” and run it. It works fine.

Next was a refrigerator. I was amazed at what was available. I knew I wanted a bottom freezer. Years
ago, my first mother-in-law had a refrigerator with a bottom freezer. It was so much easier to find things than in a top freezer. And huge hunks of mystery meat don’t fall on bare feet when you remember, at 11 at night, that you need to get something out of the freezer for dinner tomorrow.

What I don’t remember were all these baskets to hold things, most of them a half inch smaller than the packages I’m trying to insert.

Since one of our big problems in this kitchen was always traffic jams at the refrigerator door as people tried to go by, we decided to get a counter depth one. For some mysterious reason, counter depth refrigerators, which are smaller than regular depth ones, are lots more expensive.

They all seem to have icemakers and cold water dispensers. I’ve had my share of “stale” ice from automatic icemakers over the years, as well as a few stories of the peril of owning them. They can leak. All over the freezer and the floor. And in one unfortunate incident, the icemaker malfunctioned, continuing to make ice in voluminous quantities until the ice pushed the freezer door open. The ice continued to spill out on the floor.  The owners were on vacation for a few weeks, and came home to find the refrigerator running continuously, huge amounts of ice piled on the floor in front of it, and even huger amounts melted into water and leaking through the kitchen floor.

We also have very hard water. People who live around here complain that they need to replace those tiny supply lines often. And in our case, the refrigerator is across the room from the water supply. We decided no icemaker and no cold water supply. Of course, we couldn’t find a refrigerator without those features. We had to settle for one without a faucet in the front door to supply the cold water, and have the icemaker removed. I have it carefully stored in a box in case we ever change our mind. Ha.

The other thing I marveled at was refrigerators with a screen in the door.  The advertising booklets said, “This refrigerator lets you mirror your Smart TV, stream music, share from your mobile device, and even check out what's in your fridge from the Wi-Fi-enabled 21.5" touch screen built right into the door.”

Huh? I don’t even know what a “Smart TV” is. I don’t watch much TV. I did watch the Kentucky Derby, but since I don’t know how to turn on the TV, I had to wait for someone else to find it. And since we don’t get very good cell phone service, we don’t have smart phones. Or I-pads. Just Trac phones we can use in an emergency, if we hike or drive to the top of the hill, or, if conditions are just right, climb up on a big stump out by the road.

And how, exactly, does it know what’s in the refrigerator. That sounds like a nice feature, but I have a sneaking suspicion I’d have to somehow tell it what I’d bought, and then remember to tell it when I used something. Or does it have magical powers to let me know I have two outdated containers of strawberry yogurt sitting behind that suspiciously green hunk of cheese?

But the kitchen range was my downfall. I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted, and I knew it would be expensive. Since we are not on a gas line, we went for electric.

Our old wall oven had seen its best days years ago. It had a self-cleaning feature. But when we used it, the oven door never released. The oven itself cooled down, thank goodness, but the special latch that keeps you from opening it while the oven is cleaning just refused to open. Eventually we managed to get it open by undoing the hinges, but that had the unfortunate effect of leaving us with an oven door that came off if you weren’t careful. In several layers. We carefully put the several layers together with duct tape. Perhaps we should have bought new duct tape—all we had was bright red, and it called attention to the fact that the door was not exactly standard.

One Thanksgiving, my sister went to check on the turkey, and almost burst into tears when she ended up with the door in her hands. We reassured her, and put the door back—there was a trick to how you had to insert it and give it a twist to make it stay—but she never came back again for Thanksgiving.

I’m not entirely sure how a broiler element breaks, but ours did. When I tried to get a replacement for
it, I was told that the oven was so old no one stocked replacement parts for it, although the store tried to find one. I suspect they were contacting junk yards. We discovered it’s not too bad to live without a broiler, especially if you can grill things outside. It does mean the first thing you have to shovel out after a snowstorm is the grill, but it works.

The old cooktop was a bit idiosyncratic. The plastic control knobs had all broken, and my search for replacements ran into the same problem as the broiler element. No one seemed to stock any replacements. We could make do with needlenose pliers, although it was very difficult to tell where the dials were set and I was always checking to make sure all the burners were actually off.

We decided to get a one-piece range. I went with my list of “must-have” and “gee-wouldn’t-it-be-nice” features. I debated a smooth top vs. burners. Since I never canned much, and haven’t canned at all in the last few years, I decided to go with the smooth top. (I didn’t realize the manufacturer would recommend against using cast iron cookware, and I’d have to get new pots.) I also wanted two ovens, since it seemed like we were always pulling one thing out of the oven and changing the temperature to finish up something else. Two ovens would eliminate a lot of juggling.

There, in the store, sitting in a place of honor, was my dream range. It had two ovens, both of them with convection features, a warming oven down below, a smooth top, and it was on big sale! The sale brought the price down to where it was very competitive with lesser ranges.

I was smitten. I did a quick check of Consumer Reports and we ordered it, along with the dishwasher and the refrigerator. I cringed at the total, but what had I been saving for, if it wasn’t to get the range of my dreams?

I should have paid more attention to the fact that the wording on the control display was a bit wonky. What kind of manufacturer would instruct the user to select an upper or lower “cavity,” rather than oven? I admit it made my teeth hurt a bit, but I figured I’d get used to it.

Then the appliances were delivered. The instruction book for the range was disturbingly thick. The wording there was a bit wonky, too. I sat down to try to decipher it. And discovered that I had bought something way out of my class.

You can turn on the heating elements with your cell phone. Assuming you have a cell phone. And there’s some kind of a probe to stick in your food. I guess it will tell you when the roast is the right temperature. I haven’t quite figured it out, but it may turn the oven off at that point. The smooth top has a whole variety of settings that I haven’t mastered yet, so I’ve been heating things up in the microwave. So far, I haven’t tried to bake much, partially because the kitchen is still not finished (the new counters are coming on Monday!) and partially because I’m intimidated by the range. Eventually I suppose I’ll learn to take advantage of its features. Or burn the house down trying.

Meanwhile, it’s dinner time. I have to wrangle a frozen pizza from where it is wedged in its slightly too small drawer in the new bottom-of-the-refrigerator freezer and heat it in the upper cavity of the range. If I can manage to figure out how to turn it on and get it to the right temperature.


Jim Jackson said...

Good luck mastering your “conveniences,” KM. We don’t do smart appliances. Up north, we use propane for cooking and refrigerating; electric appliances are hard on the battery bank and would cause the generator to run too frequently. Down south our appliances are just old enough to avoid all of the high tech, and still young enough that they haven’t broken down – fingers crossed.


Margaret S. Hamilton said...

We replaced our 20 year old appliances in 2009. I Xeroxed the instruction pages for cleaning the oven and resetting the clock on it and the microwave, and taped them inside a nearby cabinet door. We kept the refrigerator and turned off the ice maker and front door water and ice dispenser (in Atlanta a malfunctioning door unit flooded the kitchen).

Good luck!

Gloria Alden said...

When I moved into my old house 27 years ago, my son and I had gutted it and what a job it was especially for him to rewire the house and to put new walls in. When my other house sold, all the kitchen cabinets were in the living room waiting to be installed. I got water from the
bathroom sink to put in a dish pan to wash my dishes for at least two or three weeks. I had to replace the old stove that came with the house and the refrigerator, but at that time none of those appliances were hi-tech. I've had to replace a microwave, too, and had a hard time figuring out how to change the clock. When I replaced my refrigerator four or five years ago,
I didn't get ice makers or water dispensers, just a simple appliance.

Shari Randall said...

How I long for the old appliances that worked without being programmed. Microwaves are the toughest - I still don't know how to get the one in our rental kitchen to work beyond 30 second increments. Does anyone really use all the bewildering "features" on these new appliances?
The thought that someone might hijack my "smart" appliances struck me as funny - yes, please hijack my laundry! - until I read about thieves who stole phones and used them to override security to smart houses.

Grace Topping said...

Kathleen, I feel your pain. We are facing having to get new appliances soon, and the prospect frightens me. I once read that only a small number of features (on a multi-feature appliance, etc.) are used. Which is a shame when you think that manufacturers are charging premium prices for all those features. When we looked at dishwashers, we only wanted basic features. However, we ended up buying a more expensive one because it was supposedly quieter. We're caught in a vicious pull between wanting simple and finding it.

Shari Randall said...

I love what Grace said - Wanting simple.

KM Rockwood said...

Jim, I think they are more like "inconveniences."

Margaret, I have a drawer in my desk with all the instruction booklets, etc for pretty much anything we've acquired that comes with an instruction book. I am appalled when I look at how things have "evolved."

Gloria, the guy who is working on my kitchen (and, much to my dismay, been called back to work full time, so now he's pretty much only coming on Sundays)never left me without a working sink and stovetop, such as it was. for a while there, the sink was in the middle of the kitchen--and I do mean in the middle, four feet away from any wall, but it worked. I really appreciated that.

Shari, I agree with you. And it's an evolving process. I remember when my mother had to replace her 30 year old washing machine. She complained that the newer ones had plastic parts instead of metal, and would never last as long. I got some kind of a deal on a five year extended warranty on the appliance "package," and I quite frankly expect them to all die the week after it's expired.

Good luck, Grace. I have to admit I never thought about sound levels with dishwashers. Since we didn't have a mechanical one, the only problem would have been the dishwasher singing too loudly as he/she worked. But the new one doesn't seem to be all that loud.

Kait said...

You'll get the hang of it, Kathleen, at least the parts you use! I think they overcomplicate things these days to a certain extent. I don't want to start supper with my phone before I leave my office. But if I grew up with the feature, I would wonder one could ever survive without it! Learn the bits you need, the rest will come when you're feeling adventurous, or someone comes into your house and says, "Oh, don't you just love the way you can have the range do your laundry too!" then you can ask for a lesson, and boom, you'll have the stove doing the washables in no time!

Warren Bull said...

How much convenience can anyone stand?

KM Rockwood said...

Kait, I'll keep that thought in mind!

Thank you.

Warren, I've passed my threshold.