Dishwasher Resurrection

A bit of housekeeping:  if you are unable to see all my posts, click on the “home” button above.  Now, back to business.

The water where I live in Vacaville is sooo hard!  It wreaks havoc on my electric kettle, and I can only imagine what goes on inside my water-using appliances (I prefer not to think what it does to my hair color).  Last fall my dishwasher was, basically, a mess.  It’s a nice Kitchen Aid dishwasher, maybe five to seven years old, nothing fancy, but it wasn’t cheap, either.  However, dishes were coming out of the dishwasher sludgier than they went in.  My glasses had a haze on them, and there were little bits of…stuff…on everything. The stainless steel inside was all white and kind of crusty, and little tubes of hard water deposit were sticking out of the holes in the spray arms.   It was even starting to get kind of stinky. It was icky. It was time for a new dishwasher.

Financially,  it was a lousy time to buy a new dishwasher.  But I am not a fan of hand washing dishes.  My husband doesn’t mind it—it’s sort of therapeutic for him.  For me?  Not so much. My motto is if it fits in the dishwasher it goes in the dishwasher (my other motto is that if I’m in a sleeping bag it’s not a vacation, but I guess that’s neither here nor there right now) .  So a useless dishwasher needed to be remedied.

I started poking around on line, reading about dishwashers and detergent for hard water.  And I found out some interesting things. One site talked about how many dishwashers are sold each year, and how so many of them would not be needed if people had ever heard of Dishwasher Magic (and no, it wasn’t the product website).  It is my new favorite product, and I use it once a month.  It stops hard water buildup, and even cleans off the old buildup.  It comes in a plastic bottle that you put upside down in the cutlery rack, and then you run the dishwasher empty. The first time I bought it I got two bottles and used it twice to give the dishwasher a good dosing.  I was amazed at the change!  Truly, after the first two doses, it was like a new dishwasher.  The stainless is shiny and clean again, and all the hard water buildup is gone.   I use it once a month now, to keep everything up to snuff.  I believe you can purchase it in Wal-Mart, but I buy it on Amazon.com, several bottles at a time.

Once my dishwasher was all pretty again inside, I stopped using liquid-gel dishwasher detergent. Apparently it makes the sludginess worse.  Instead, I now use Cascade Complete, which comes with a blue and green swirl of dish soap and rinse aid (I guess), as well as powder detergent, all combined into one little cube-like pac.   They are kind of expensive, but if you buy them in Costco it’s much more cost-efficient.  Again—excellent product.

The last thing that I found is by Finish (they also make dishwasher detergent that I’ve never tried), and it is called Glass Magic.  You pour about a quarter cup in the bottom of the dishwasher every so often, and it really keeps the glasses sparkly.  You can buy Glass Magic on Amazon.com, but I’ve been getting it at Pacific Hardware here in Vacaville.

Now, a new dishwasher comparable to the one I have was going to be more than $700.  That will buy an awful lot of Dishwasher Magic, Cascade Complete, and Glass Magic. Before I tried these products, I had to scrub the dishes and glasses with an SOS pad before we had company.  Every day the dishes had to be checked, front and back, as they came out of the dishwasher, and we had some nasty surprises involving lettuce. In short, it was a total pain!   I know it sounds a bit loony to be so excited about products like this, but they saved me a huge amount of annoyance and money.  Now, thanks to Dishwasher Magic, Cascade Complete, and Glass Magic, when I take the dishes out of the dishwasher they are really clean.  It’s delightful!

And, no, sadly, I am not a paid endorser.

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Rainy Days and Mondays…

It’s a beautiful, rainy February day here in Vacaville.  It’s a misty, drizzly day that needs soup.  Nothing too dead-of-winterish, but rather something a bit more refined.  Leek and Potato Soup is easy, pretty cheap, and, most importantly, delicious.  If you don’t have any leeks, you’ll have to go buy some.  And while you’re at the store, get a loaf of fresh, crusty bread.  Dinner’s ready!

Leek and Potato Soup

3 large leeks

1 lb. potatoes

1 onion

1 clove garlic

4 Tbl. butter

2 Tbl. flour

3 pints chicken stock

1 cup heavy cream

Salt and white pepper to taste

Fill a large bowl two-thirds full with cold water. Slice the white and pale green parts only of the leeks into 1/8” thick slices.  Place slices in bowl of water, working the dirt out of the pieces with your fingers as you go.  Let the dirt and grit settle to the bottom of the bowl.  Let the leeks sit in the water for a few minutes.  Meanwhile, peel and chop the onion, peel and mince the garlic.  Melt the butter in a large pot.  Remove the sliced leeks from the water with your hands, being careful not to disturb the dirt on the bottom of the bowl, shake off the water (they don’t need to be perfectly dry), and place them in the pot with the melted butter. Gently sauté the leeks, onion, and garlic for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Do not  allow vegetables to brown.  Peel and dice the potatoes and add them to the pot.  Salt and generously pepper the vegetables, then dust them with the flour.  Stir all together.  Add the chicken stock to the pot, increase the heat, and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes.  Remove from heat.  If you have an immersion blender, now is the time to puree the soup.  If you do not have an immersion blender, let the soup cool for about 20 minutes then puree it in batches in a conventional blender.  When soup is pureed, return it to the pot (if you used an immersion blender, you are good to go already).  Add the cream, stirring well.  Reheat the soup gently, but do not let it boil.  Taste for seasoning. Serve warm, garnished with some fresh chopped parsley (if you have any).  Serves 6

P.S. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Music to Make You Dance Around the House

Cover of "What's New Pussycat"

Cover of What's New Pussycat

Sometimes I get down.  Really down.  And I think that I just want quiet and to be left alone.  Time and again I am proven wrong, showing an appalling lack of self-knowledge.  The very best thing for me is to put on some music, turn it up, and I can’t help it—I start dancing.  If the kids are home I try to bust my moves perhaps slightly less enthusiastically than I would if home alone.  Some of these songs are newish, some are really old.  Now, you don’t have to buy the whole albums (although I do like owning hard copies of my music), you can just download them off of iTunes or Amazon.com (I prefer Amazon).  So here are some songs that make excellent dance-around-the-house music (I have lots more, but I didn’t want to overwhelm you).

1.        Start off with “Always Loved a Film” by Underworld.  How can you not love a song that has the line “the rhythm of an engine, deep and throaty”?  You will feel like you are 17 and beautiful again (not that you could pay me enough to actually be 17 again, however), with every possibility in the world in front of you.  Put this on. Turn it up.  Trust me.

2.       Next go with “Beautiful Day without You” by Royksopp.  One of my most favorite songs ever.  A little mellower than “Always Loved a Film,” but it’s a good time for it, since you’ll be all out of breath from dancing so vigorously to “Always Loved a Film.” Well, I’ll be all out of breath.  I guess I can’t speak for you.

3.       Now put on “Feel It in My Bones” by Tiesto (featuring Tegan and Sara).  Just fun.

4.       Okay, “She Will Always Be a Broken Girl” by She Wants Revenge.  It starts off a bit slowish, but then it picks up.  This is a song I would have loved as a teenager, sitting on the floor by the stereo in the living room, singing along, reading the words off the inner sleeve of the record album.  Yes, a record.  I am old.

5.       “Too Young” by Phoenix.  You will not be able to resist this song.  It’s so happy, it just gets you going.

6.       “Empire Ants” by Gorillaz (featuring Little Dragon).  Be patient. Again, use the time to rest. Well, I’ll use the time to rest. About 2 minutes in, you won’t be able to hold still.  Fantastic.  Turn it up louder.

7.       “My Little Red Book” by Manfred Mann. This is the song in the nightclub scene in the 1965 movie “What’s New Pussycat?”with Peter O’Toole and Peter Sellers,  and it makes you want to go to a nightclub back in the early sixties, when everyone dressed up and drank things like scotch and water.

8.       “Tombstone” by Midnight Juggernauts.  Again, give it a minute.

9.       “Hong Kong Garden” by Siouxsie and the Banshees.  This is in the Sofia Copolla movie “Marie Antoinette,” when Marie Antoinette and her friends sneak out to go to a masked ball. This is the music they are minuetting or gavotting (or whatever dance it is) to.  Sooo good.  Quite the toe tapper.

10.   Finally, something a little mellower again, “Rise” by Samantha James.  A little more grownup than Siouxsie Sue.  This is the kind of music I listen to most of the time.  I love it. It’s upbeat, sexy, sunny.

Music is so important to me. It can change your entire outlook on life, even if just for a day, and sometimes that’s all you need. If you don’t feel like dancing around the house, put it on the car stereo and turn it up.  Try not to drive too fast—it has that effect.  And on top of it all you got two movie recommendations (“What’s New Pussycat?” and “Marie Antoinette.”)  It’s one-stop shopping!

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