Sunday, December 29, 2013

Dreaming of Stand Mixers

I have been baking by hand since ... forever.  We do have an old Betty Crocker hand mixer that I sometimes break out, and my Mom gifted me a Bamix that likely sees more use than the hand mixer.  But mostly I mix up ingredients with either a wooden spoon or with my own bare hands.  This has worked, but there are recipes I avoid because they would either be impossible or just too difficult.  Lately I've been lusting for a stand mixer.  You know, those contraptions that sit on your counter, taking up enormous counter real estate.  With a flip of a switch they stir your ingredients for you, usually much more efficiently and much quicker.  Of course, there's a price to having this luxury which has made me think about if I really need one.  While I ponder that, I started researching the various stand mixers available on the market.  You know, just in case.

What Do I Need a Stand Mixer to Do?

Since I'm capable of making cookies, cakes, muffins, pie and bread dough by hand, in these areas I'm looking to see a time savings.  Instead of working on dough for one loaf of bread I want a stand mixer that can let me do 3-4 loaves at once in a shorter time frame.  I want to be able to whip up egg whites or whipping cream without the walls around me (along with myself) getting splattered.  I'd like a stand mixer to have a shredder/slicer attachment so that I can make coleslaw, French fries, hash browns, slice vegetables and fruits for the dehydrator, and slice apples for pies.  It would be nice to have a machine that was strong enough to mix batters smooth - a velvety cheesecake would be a dream.

At the stores around my area I have access to Kitchenaid, Cuisinart, Breville, Hamilton Beach, Sunbeam, Bodum, Kenwood, and Ankarsrum stand mixers.  There is also a local distributor for Bosch stand mixers (although these must be ordered on-line).  A few of these stand mixers have fairly limited use - if all I want to do is whip some egg whites or mix a cake the Sunbeam, Hamilton Beach, or Bodum would work, but for more difficult tasks, such as heavy cookie batters and bread dough, they would fail.  So, I immediately excluded them.  The Breville should work, but several tests have shown they can't handle bread dough.  Another dropped from the list.  That leaves the Kitchenaid, Cuisinart, Kenwood, Ankarsrum, and Bosch to consider.


You see Kitchenaid stand mixers everywhere.  They have so many different models (and colours) that it can be difficult to know what you are seeing, and what each might be capable of doing.  I learned that the Costco Kitchenaid was a slightly different size and most of the extra attachments that Kitchenaid offers wouldn't work with it ... so even though it's a good price it wouldn't be a good choice.  I learned from the many articles and reviews I read that Kitchenaid stand mixers aren't great for lots of bread making - bread making really taxes the motor and often will shorten it's life considerably.  There are many stories of people fixing their KAs several times before moving on to different makes.  Price range:  $189.99 (on sale) for the Classic, a 4.5 quart 275 watt machine to $699.99 for the Professional, a 6 quart 575 watt machine.  All come with whips, paddle, and dough hook.  Some come with bowl shields.  Other attachments cost extra.


Another make you see a lot of in the stores is the Cuisinart stand mixers.  Not as much variety as Kitchenaid - there's a 5.5 quart and a 7 quart.  The 7 quart only comes in silver, the 5.5 quart comes in silver, white, and black (for some reason the white is always priced the highest).  Both provide 800 watts of power.  Although they seem to handle dough-making better than the Kitchenaid, some say it likes to dance across the counter while doing so.  Also, not as many attachments.  It does have a timer which many say is useful.  Price range:  $279.99 (on sale) for the 5.5 quart (silver) to $444.99 for the 7 quart.  Both come with whips, paddle, dough hook, and bowl shields.  Other attachments cost extra.


There are two models - the Chef (KMC010) and the Chef Major (KMM020).  The Chef is a 750 watt machine with a 4.6 litre bowl while the Chef Major is a 800 watt machine with a 6.7 litre bowl.  They come with a glass blender and a 5-cup food processor as standard.  There are additional attachments to get.  People who have them say they last.  Price range:  $499.99 (on sale) for the Chef to $799.99 for the Chef Major.  Both come with whips, paddle, dough hook, bowl shields, glass blender, and food processor.  Other attachments cost extra.


This is a Swedish made stand mixer that has been around since 1940.  They have that hip factor, but perhaps a bit too unique for North American sensibilities?  They come with 600 watts and a 7 litre bowl.  Price range:  $799.99 for the standard package which includes lid, dough roller, dough knife, scraper, spatula, cookie whips, dough hook, and a double beater/whisk with a 3.5 litre extra bowl; for $1,174.99 you also get a meat grinder, blender, citrus press, grater, strainer, cookie press, and pasta discs.  Other attachments cost extra.


This is a German engineered, built in Slovenia machine that has been around for a long time.  Although Europeans and Asians have access to a wider selection, we North American's only have two choices - The Universal Plus and the Compact.  The Universal Plus (model MUM6N10UC) is a 800 watt machine with a 6 1/2 quart bowl capable of handling 15 pounds of dough (this series has been in production since 1950).  The Compact (model MUM4405) is a 400 watt machine with a 4 quart bowl capable of handling 6 pounds of dough.  Price range:  $199.99 for the Compact and $439.99 for the Universal Plus.  Other attachments cost extra.

Which Would I Choose?

I'm drawn to the Ankarsrum and Bosch stand mixers.  Quality, longevity, and the hip factor are big drawing points for me.  The Ankarsrum is just too expensive ... which makes me lean towards the Bosch.  But which one - the Universal Plus or the Compact?  I've been reading lots of reviews and watching the videos.  I'm really struggling here.  I love the size factor of the Compact.  It would fit so easily on almost any counter top.  But the bowl size?  Slightly too small.  If it had been 5 quarts I'd buy it immediately.  4 quarts means doing more work for extra batches of baking.  I'd like to be able to get through more batches quickly so that I can have time with Walter and Manuel.  The Universal Plus is so big, but perhaps it's the more sensible choice?

And, of course, do I need one?  No, I don't.  I can bake with what I have.  My reasons for considering one are to let me make more healthy, homemade products for us to consume while freeing up more of my time.  I'm thinking I can save us money by making our own baked goods, and letting me process more of those fruits and vegetables we get in such abundance.  I think I could recover the cost of one of these machines within 1-2 years ... maybe even less time if I plan carefully.

Do you have a stand mixer?  Which one?  What made you choose it and would you choose it again?

Monday, December 23, 2013

Craigslist - Final Results

Back on November 15 I posted about how I create a Craigslist post, and even gave an example to hi-light some of the points I made.  Then, a week later (on November 23) I gave you an update on how things were going.  I think it's a good time for a final check-in to see how things have gone.
  • Triumph Bike Trailer Holds 2 Children - $55
    - Sold in 7 days, sell price $30 (54.5% of asking price)
  • Summer Extra Wide Extra tall Bedrail - $20
    - Sold in 7 days, sell price $15 (75% of asking price)
  • Combi Stroller - $55
    - Sold on December 19, 25 days - sell price $45 (82% of asking price)
  • Wooden Radio Flyer Rocking Horse - $75
    - not sold, no emails/calls - dropped price to $45 since there are a lot of wooden horses for sale at Christmas time
  • 1989 Honda Prelude - $1750
    - lot's of interest, several people have come by, continued to get intermittent calls and queries beyond the initial two weeks, and finally sold today after 29 days - sell price $1750 (100% of asking price)
That means a total take home of $1840.  4 out of 5 things have sold within the month.  Only the car had many calls/queries, and several test drives (and came with a few low-ball offers).  The rest of the items sold to the one and only interested caller.

We've put $1000 into our household account to pay for the upcoming yearly city utility bill.  Walter got $90 (I'll try to build in some spending/saving lessons with it).  The remainder we split between us adults to do with as we see fit.  I'll likely use mine for Christmas groceries and last minute stocking stuffers.

I have to say selling on Craigslist isn't always so successful.  It can take a lot of patience and waiting before you see results.

I'm actually feeling a sense of loss for the Honda.  It was the car Manuel drove me in on our first date.  I guess I was more attached than I realized!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Catching Up, and Choosing a New Cell Phone

It's been awhile since my last post.  At the beginning of November I got the flu shot, went away for the weekend and came back with .. the flu.  Ugh.  I ended up being off work for a week, and then spent several more weeks with a rough cough.  It really put me behind at work and I spent a fair bit of time getting caught up on projects, and coming home bagged at the end of each day.  Just as the cough was nearly gone I got a cold and spent this last week again at home.  Recovery has been much easier this time, but once again I'm behind with work projects.  All this to say my life has been trying, and tiring, and busy, busy, busy.

It's only a few more days before Christmas and I'm off work for a couple of weeks - a chance to rest and recuperate.  I love Christmas and hope to enjoy this time home with friends and family.  It's going to be our first Christmas in our new home - a chance to build on family traditions in a new setting.

Before I got my flu shot and subsequently got sick (not, of course, from the flu shot - that was just a weird coincidence), I was doing research on replacing our cell phones.  This research had it's origins almost 2 1/2 years ago, shortly after Manuel and I signed up for corporate cell phone plans with Telus. We both received Nokia E72 cell phones - we'd decided having the same phones would make it easier to share chargers, and make it easier for me to support Manuel (I'm the techie in this household).  I really like Nokia cell phones - they work well, the quality is quite good, and I love-love the world-wide maps that are free and don't require data plans to use.  Unfortunately, Manuel's cell phone took an untimely swim which damaged it enough to make it inoperable (within a couple of weeks of ownership).  Luckily, we had several older cell phones that he managed to use for the next couple of years.  Fast forward to this fall when the last available extra cell phone died.  Now, we were paying for a cell phone plan that didn't come due until April 2014 and no phone to use for Manuel.  I started researching.  I learned we could re-new our contracts early and get upgrades.  I also learned we could buy cell phones from almost anywhere as long as they were capable of communicating with the Telus network.  We weren't sure we wanted to go for another contract (we are considering going pay-as-you-go).  That meant we could buy used, buy a pre-paid, or even buy outright a contract phone.  I was a little leery of buying a used cell phone.  I've noticed a general trend with cell phones of good usage with a sudden, quick degradation before dying.  I didn't want to buy something used that was almost at the end of it's life cycle.  Buying a contract phone outright was expensive.  If we could avoid data plan requirements the full cost was sometimes worth it ... still, $400-800 was a lot of money.  That left pre-paid.  With pre-paid you aren't getting the top of the line.  These are either older models or entry level phones.  If you don't need the latest, zippiest, wow-level they can be a great option.  Next, I needed to consider the operating system (the OS).  I really didn't want an Apple phone.  They are too expensive, with built-in obsolescence, and require you to commit to iTunes ... another money grabber.  I just didn't want to go there.  That left Android and Windows as possible OS choices (I didn't even consider Blackberry - there just wasn't enough positives to consider it a serious contender).  Manuel has a Samsung Galaxy S3 at work (Android OS), and I have an older Android tablet (Archos 43).  Manuel has a Windows 8 touch-screen laptop at home while I work with Windows 7 at work and on my home laptop.  The more I learned about the Windows cell phones the more intrigued I became.  Manuel was ambivalent ... but it seemed he'd accept whatever I decided.  Telus was selling the Nokia Lumia 520 pre-paid for $150, so I decided that I would try it out and if it seemed OK we'd get Manuel one.  It was very simple - the London Drugs person simply cut my SIM card down (most SIM cards have now become micro-sized), and I was ready to go.  I even used Bluetooth from my old Nokia E72 to copy over all my contact information and text history in less than a minute.  Amazing.

The experience with the Nokia 520 has been incredible.  I was a little worried that the entry-level display would leave me wanting, but my old eyes haven't had a problem with it.  I'm loving the tiles - I've organized everything exactly the way I like to work with things.  I've downloaded free apps (although there's a complaint that the Windows Store doesn't have as many apps as Google does for Android, comparing 200,000 to 900,000?  How many does any one person need?).  I've set up a Kid's Corner with games and applications that I feel are appropriate for Walter - this means he can play on my phone without inadvertently calling the Queen.  And those Nokia maps?  Better than ever.  I don't need a data plan or even WiFi access to use them.  They work from my cell phone - using triangulation to find me.  And it's way faster than my old Nokia E72.  I downloaded maps for several Canadian provinces, US states, as well as a couple of European countries.  Not only do I have regular map viewings, but also satellite views.

Manuel now has his own (bought on sale for $89), and a co-worker got one too after seeing mine.  We're all happy Nokia Lumia 520 users now.