What to Look for When It’s Time to Buy a New Refrigerator

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My Fridge Saga

My first fridge was bought for me in 2001, as a housewarming gift by a friend, for the price of $60, from her neighbor, who had upgraded years ago and was eager to get it out of his garage.  This circa 1990 Maytag beauty, complete with faux wood grain drawer panels, lasted nearly seven years, through two moves.  When it gave up the ghost, evidenced by it leaking water from the bottom, I foolishly turned to craigslist for a replacement.  I purchased a seemingly newish Maytag for $325, in the side-by-side behemoth style, which to move took three skilled men (who expressly advertised their expertise in moving side-by-sides, yet still managed to break off the corner guards as they jimmied it through my kitchen door.  Once installed, this fridge worked swell for about two weeks.  When the entire back wall crusted over with ice, I called a repairman who charged $375 to replace the thermostat and informed me that whomever sold it to me surely knew it was broken.  So much for the honor of craigslist, wait, there’s no such thing, and so I vowed the next fridge would be new, from a store, with a warranty.

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Time to Appliance Myself

Finally, after spending in repairs approximately three times the amount I paid for it, the Maytag had to go.  With full disclosure, I offered it on craigslist to the first person to haul it away, presumably for parts.  Then I began researching a new fridge.  I also decided it would be a good time to do a mini makeover my entire kitchen, with the fridge as a centerpiece.  So looks were important in my decision.  I also wanted a fridge that fit my lifestyle, so I came up with some must-haves for my next fridge.  My short list included the following: an ice maker, cold filtered water dispenser, large drawers for produce, fingerprint resistant, and automatically regulated temperature.

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The hardest decision was the freezer.  My mom told me her friends with the freezer drawer on the bottom loved it.  My cousin said she hated hers.  A friend of a friend said it was the best thing ever. The online reviews were also mixed; mostly in favor of the lower drawer.  It seemed it was one of those things I would need to find out for myself.

Slated for Success

I went with the GE French Door Refrigerator in Slate finish. As advertised, “this ENERGY STAR-rated refrigerator offers style, quality and accessibility, in an energy-efficient package.”   I was especially attracted to GE’s chic and very popular Slate finish, which promised to be fingerprint-resistant (perfect for families with children).  Its modern styling with rounded corners made easy to blend into any kitchen décor, complementing my eclectic kitchen, accented with original bright yellow and green tile, a coved ceiling and arched doorway, and a vintage Wedgewood stove.

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So far, I am very pleased with this fridge.  Its 33”-girth (measurements 1/2 in x 32 3/4 in x 34 7/8 in, and total 22.1 cu ft) fit perfectly in the space between my cabinets and dishwasher.  Though it jutted out further into the room, it did not prevent the doors from opening fully, even in my narrow kitchen.  It offers a huge interior with three adjustable shelves, two that are split and one full-width.  A major enhancement from my old fridge, this one features five gallons of storage in three adjustable door bins: three adjustable and two fixed.  The bins are sturdy, and I don’t have the fear that they will tumble down, as my old door bins did often, when filled with heavy items.  Also a huge improvement, this fridge has two spacious fresh food drawers, and one shallow drawer, all with clear fronts, so I can see what is in them.  The best part is that the drawers do not frost up like my old fridge drawers, which destroyed fruits and veggies before their time.

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Frozen Under

As for the freezer, the jury is still out.  I have a bad back, so bending down to forage through the frozen food is not ideal.  There is one large wire basket in the bottom, and it does not easily lift out or raise up, and there are no dividers — nor would there be room for them, so frozen goods must be stacked or otherwise laid in the drawer, often one on top of the other.  The small wire baskets above the main compartment are handy, but they are not large enough for anything except small items.  I ended up using them for frozen OJ canisters and ice packs.

KODAK SMART LENS Camera

The filtered chilled water dispenser is on the inside in this fridge, which makes for a sleek exterior; but it does mean the door must remain open while water is dispensed.  The factory-installed icemaker automatically creates ice, and the digital display temperature controls are upfront for easy access and visual checking, for both fresh food and freezer sections.  The interior lights are bright and ample, though the warning beeper when the doors are held open too long is rather annoying, but it has saved me a few times when one of the kids left the door slightly ajar.  The good news is that the alarm can be overridden with a push of a button if desired.   One other point of annoyance is that both doors must be opened to access the drawers, which are just a tad bit too wide to pull out with just one door open.

Take Aways

Overall this is a great fridge for the modern healthy family that stocks lots of fresh foods and fewer frozen foods. The best advice for those looking for a new fridge is to examine your family’s lifestyle to determine if you can spare some freezer space in exchange for more fresh food storage.  If so, then this style of bottom freezer with a single large bin might work for your household. Other bottom freezer styles feature two baskets, but this requires a fairly large kitchen to accommodate a wider and taller refrigerator.

The hidden-away water dispenser is a great idea as it leaves more door bin space, which is usually dedicated to icemaker cubbies in fridges with exterior water dispensers.  The icemaker does not crush ice or dispense it, but this is not a deal breaker for most households.

Digital temperature controls are the way to go for low maintenance and peace of mind.  Bottom line, this fridge accomplishes its main job of cooling and freezing food perfectly, and it looks fantastic doing it.

KODAK SMART LENS Camera

*Note:  This model, the GE® 22.1 Cu. Ft. French-Door Refrigerator, is no longer being manufactured, but it is available at Home Depot (sale priced $1,529.20) and other major appliance retailers including Best Buy, Lowe’s and Sears, with rebates for recycling your old refrigerator from select municipalities.  Check with your local dealer for details.  Find retailers at GEAppliances.com.

8 Rules to Manage Kids’ Media Over the Holidays — From a Media Expert and Father

The holidays are a wonderful time for families to gather together, but in between those hours spent with loved ones, there will be many, many hours of down time.  Many school breaks are over three weeks long, so what will kids do with all of that free time?  In most households, kids will be consuming lots of media — TV, moves, video games, and apps.

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On average, kids will have more than 300 hours over winter break to fill until the New Year. Despite the best-laid plans, more than 100 hours will end up dedicated to screen time, if not checked.

Dan Olschwang, a former advertising executive and veteran of the digital media world, has spent years researching and working with top pediatric experts from Harvard to find ways to help parents navigate the digital parenting realm.  The result of his efforts is the Dawn app for parents.  The app serves as a tool to help parents customize their unique child’s screen time.  Parents can use Dawn to easily rate and identify fitting, constructive children’s apps and games. With crowdsourced ratings, Dawn help parents chose media that will benefit their children’s educational and developmental processes.screen568x568

Over the holidays, Olschwang offers these tips to parents to help regulate their children’s media consumption, and hopefully form good media habits for the New Year and beyond.screen568x568 (3)800

Tips:

  1. Limit the length of each media sessions – Keep each session of media consumption limited to an hour and have
  2. Bundle all screen time and explain why – Screen radiation damages brain and eyes when viewed for long stretches, as well as interferes with proper balance of hormones and vitamins.
  3. Let the child decide, with some guidance – Guide them to physically active choices, but give them freedom and variety. Offer and alternate between a variety of choices, rather than dictating a specific activity. Legos, reading, outdoors – if they constantly gravitate toward the same activity – insist they choose something else at the next break.
  4. Provide positive alternatives in media – When they are online or on a mobile device, find exciting apps, games movies that can substitute the negatives they might be gravitating towards.
  5. No media before bed time – End all screen time five hours before bed time and minimize the adrenaline rush towards the end. Exposure to less exciting, less suspension, less scary when finishing screen should be advised. Calm content should be viewed last.
  6. Talk to them as if they are adults – First, get yourself informed so you can explain to you child your consideration. Then start a dialog and explain your reasoning and where they come from. The “because I said so” line doesn’t cut it.
  7. Talk to them about their media consumption – Take the time to know what are the watching or playing. What is the take away lessons? Why is it right or wrong, does it reflect your family values? What is different from real life experiences/behaviors/attitudes from what they are seeing on the screen?
  8. Remember, you are not your child entertainment squad – Believe it or not, being bored is important!! It forces them to use their imagination, creativity and find ways to entertain themselves. Being passively entertained constantly, inhibits the development of many important skills like resourcefulness, curiosity, etc.

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    Dawn app creator Dan Olschwang

More information on Dawn is available at www.magicalis.com.

10 Kids Gifts to Make this the Best Christmas Ever

Every year parents make the mad rush to the mall or spend hours surfing online to find the latest toys for holiday gifts.  Here are some of the best parent-tested toys that are sure to make this holiday season full of fun.

Never-ending Fun

It’s inevitable that parents give into their kids playing video games at some point, but parents need not fear, as there are actually great, ingenious games that fuel imagination, like Disney’s Infinity.  It has many of the basic elements of popular video games, like earning “currency” and leveling up, but holds endless possibilities for building and creating unique worlds.  Choose from several starter sets with different characters, such as the new Disney Infinity: Toy Box Starter Pack (2.0 Edition), ($59.99) with Merida from “Brave” and Stitch from “Lilo and Stitch.” The beauty of Infinity is that it can keep growing and changing with new Toy Box Game Discs and characters, like the latest Disney Originals figures, including Donald Duck, Tinker Bell, Maleficent and Aladdin, as well as Hiro and Baymax from “Big Hero 6.” Rated E-10+. Available at retailers nationwide.

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Goggle It

Kids can go into stealth mode with the Covert Ops Vibrasonic Binoculars ($49.99).  .  Featuring a head-mounted video camera so they can see over walls and around corners while remaining hidden,  kids can wear these hi-tech military style goggles to go on missions using five vision modes, including night vision and simulated thermal vision as well as video recording and photographing capabilities. Ages 8 and up. Available at Toy R Us and toy retailers nationwide.

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Extreme Fun

Dare devils can live out their extreme fantasies with the MXS Ultimate Stunt Ramp ($29.99). The adjustable ramp can be used with all 1:16 scale MSX bike and riders using the included stunt clip for all kinds of freestyle motocross stunts just like the pros. Ages 5-7 Available Walmart and other major toy retailers.

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Got Night Game

Just because the lights go out, the basketball fun does not have to end.  Pro Mini Hoop Midnight ($34.99).  has the look and functionality of a pro-grade basket with the added fun of a glow-in-the-dark hoop and ball, so kids can keep the game going in the dark. The shatterproof polycarbonate durable over-the-door hoop can hang in the home, office or dorm and features a foam-padded protective backing for quieter play.

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Three’s a Charm

An outfit is not complete until it is accessorized, and Charmazing Color Me Up! kits ($14.99) are designed for those fashionistas who love to add color and charm to their style. Each come with a colorful rainbow of options from three inspiring themed collections: Seaside, Seasons and Heart. Each features six charms, energy cards and beads to make three different bracelets designed for that individualistic flair.  Ages 8 and up.

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Tag You’re It!

 

You never know who might be a secret double agent!  In the fast-paced board game Spy Tag ($16.99), kids take off on an exhilarating race to spot and tag the spies before time is up. Players draw spy cards and match them with their teammates agent cards. It’s a race against the clock, and anyone caught with a match when the timer goes off, draws from the secret pile to find out who is safe. Ages 5 and up.

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Going Round in Circles

Creating colorful patterns is easy with the Spiral Designer ($13.50)This classic art-making kit enables artists to create endless combinations of different patterns by simply selecting a disc, inserting a sheet of paper between the drawing frame and templates and rotating the discs to form patterns that create spectacular art. Ages 6 and up. Available at toy retailers nationwide.

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Puzzle Me 3D

 

Puzzle builders can construct a model of a New York’s most famous landmark with Ravensburger’s Empire State Building Night Edition ($36.99).  The 216 precision-cut curved and hinged numbered puzzle pieces join together to create a dazzling 3D building complete with a light and an LED rainbow of red, orange, yellow, green and purple colors.  Ages 12 and up. Available at toy retailers nationwide.

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Rev Up

Kids’ minds will race as they build their own electric Mercedes-Benz and “steer” their way through nine science-based activities with Science X Fueling Future Cars ($44.99).  This new high-revving automotive engineering kit comes with all the tools young scientists need to learn about fuel cells and other alternative energy sources for powering vehicles as well as automotive engineering. Ages 8 and up.  Available at toy retailers nationwide.

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Dew You Scooter

The green graphics of Mountain Dew have been seen at many athletic events and competitions where Mountain Dew has been a sponsor, and their logo and colors will adorn sporting goods, like the Mountain Dew Blazer Scooter ($38) featuring an aluminum deck; soft, non-slip grips; easy-roll wheels so riders can do flips, jumps and spins while blazing their own scooter trails. Available now in select Walmart stores.

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Cerveteca Downtown LA’s Menu Offers a Melting Pot of LA Cultures and Tastes

CervetecamenuGuest post by Stephanie Houfek

Just open a month, Cerveteca Downtown LA is bustling on a Friday night like a trendy and happening spot that’s been around for years. Other than a few newbie servers still learning the ropes, the place seems settled in like the artsy-techie neighborhood’s mainstay it is destined to become, serving up delicious Mexican comfort food blended with modern style, straight from the generations-old recipe box of the Hermosillo family owners.
Operations Manager Yvonne Garcia says the restaurant is a family affair. She works the floor along with her brother, who is one of her fellow business partners, along with her two strikingly handsome grown-up twin sons. Her mother, known as Chef Mama, is busy getting prepped dishes out of the kitchen, with the help of a cousin.

cervetecainteriorThe eatery’s signature family inspired dishes include the La Puente Backyard Original, a fat and tall burger dressed with a thick cut of pork-belly bacon — just like Mama used to make on the grill; Pescado a la Veracruzana, a red snapper heaped with castelvetrano olives, capers, tomato and garlic with arrozajillo; and the restaurant’s already famous Hangover Spicy Soup, a mouth-enlivening concoction of shrimp, clams, fish, chayote squash and carrot.
Other specialties on the menu include appetite-whetting starters called Chicano Cheese Pots, a trio of like a trio of stringy cheesy dips with mixed with corn and spices, served with guac; and sides like grilled plantains with a mild sour cream; and healthy options like Quinoa ‘n Kale, tossed with roasted corn and spiced cashews.

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Like the surrounding ‘hood and the city center in which it resides, Cerveteca is a melting pot of LA cultures and tastes. Its inspirations include Mexican and Asian fusion and Greek and Peruvian influences. The restaurant also pays homage to its predecessor, R23, a Japanese restaurant that occupied the 923 East 3rd Street site for nearly two decades, by repurposing the sushi bar with a marble-top raw bar offering a changing menu of ceviche, oysters, and other raw fare. The desert menu includes Mama’s homemade bread pudding, flan and the Cerveteca sundae.

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The eatery’s hardwood floors and brick-walled interior remain intact, but the entranceway off of the alley has been altered to bring the outdoors into the dining space, which seats nearly 100.
Cerveteca Downtown LA is part of the Hermosillo restaurant family, joining its sister restaurant Cerveteca in Venice, which also features some of the elements from the new restaurant, such as the charcuterie and cheese, crafted beers and wines carefully selected by wine director and partner Norma Alvarado, but also with distinctions, such as the fully stocked raw bar with a wide variety of ceviche, and a daily happy hour from 3-7pm with the unbeatable deal of $1 oysters.

“Personally, I think there’s wonderful and similar creative and cultural energy between Venice and Downtown’s Arts District,” said Hermosillo. “The richness and artistic qualities of the two neighborhoods are connected, so being in both locations make perfect sense for Cerveteca.”cheesetrio