Category Archives: Kitchen

Got A Lot of Produce? There’s a Gadget for That!

Based on the subjects of my posts, many of you probably think I spend my entire life in the kitchen. Although that sometimes feels that way, I assure you I do spend time in other places of my house. However, the kitchen is where I find myself needing the most adaptations. It makes sense if you think about it; the kitchen is probably the most dangerous place in my house. There are so many sharp, heavy or hot items in the kitchen, if that doesn’t kill me, the things that come out of it just might.

Summer is the most challenging time of year for me in the kitchen, not because I am doing a lot of cooking, but because I loathe cooking in the summer. It’s far too hot to have the stove running, the crockpot is best for creating winter type foods, so I am forced to use the stove. I hate the stove; it spatters and spits and that is not ideal for someone with a startle reflex or questionable balance to begin with. Needless to say, I don’t do a ton of cooking in summer. But the main reason summer in the kitchen is a rough is because of what my husband is bringing into it.

See, my husband loves his garden. He loves to plant things, loves to watch them grow and relishes in eating food from his garden. But it’s that middle part between the harvest and the eating that eludes him, and that’s where I come in.

The garden is probably bigger than what two people actually need, resulting in hoards of food from about mid- June through September. This year our planting was late and so was our harvest, but last night my husband appeared from the back yard with an armful of produce.

Unable to consume it all before it spoils, and not keen on canning, I end up freezing most of it, which means there is a lot of chopping. This is where I break out my Ninja to do the hard work. The Ninja is a great little gadget for processing foods. I love to make smoothies in my Ninja, but I primarily use it for chopping up all those veggies my husband brings in so I can freeze them in convenient portions.

As for slicing, my Slice-O-Matic just doesn’t cut it for large quantities of produce. Although it works nicely for one or two cucumbers, or a zucchini, slicing a dozen or more is a chore. I have made the executive decision to purchase an attachment set for my Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer that will automatically slice and shred my veggies. I have not tried it yet, but my Kitchen Aid Stand mixer was a life and time saver when it came to baking for all those potlucks and Graduation Parties this summer. So I have high hopes for this great little attachment.

Now, does anyone have any clue what I could make with about three dozen Chile Peppers?

Simple Switches

There is an old county song by Alabama that reminds me of my husband. You have probably heard it, even if you don’t listen to country. The chorus goes something like this “I’m in a hurry to get things done. I rush and rush until life’s no fun. All I really gotta do is live and die, but I’m in a hurry and don’t know why.” My husband is always early, and he is always in a rush; which I find humorous considering that I am one of the slowest people I know. This difference of pace can sometimes lead to mutual frustration, especially first thing in the morning and around dinner time, when we both seem to be at our crankiest.

In an effort to keep our morning and evening hours as zen as possible, I have adopted many time saving switches that speed us up, plus keep him from pacing while trying not to stress about the clock. Today I am talking specifically about time saving switches for your kitchen; after all, the kitchen if full of time suckers.

The number one time sucking and frustration inducing object in my kitchen are those stupid twist ties they put on bread bags. Not only are the infuriating, they are dangerous for small animals. So I have replaced them with these nifty little clips. The green ones are the perfect size for bread bags or for closing little bags of snacks for lunches. They are reusable and much less likely to show up in a litter box if you misplace them.

The second switch not only saves you time, but also space. When cooking, I never use nestled measuring cups and spoons. Instead, I use a 4 cup measuring cup and a mini measure. These make cooking much easier for me since they require less fine motor control to avoid spills, which allows me to move faster. They also speed up the cleaning process because you are only washing one cup!

My final switch might seem hard to justify for some because of its price, but for me, it is worth it. Cooking vegetables is a huge time sucker; part of this is because my stove takes quite a while to heat up, and microwaving them tends to leave veggies a little mushy. So instead, I spring for the veggies that you can steam in their bag. They always come out perfect and can go from the microwave to the plate! But what about the delicious fresh veggies I am growing my garden? These Zip and Steam bags work perfectly for those too!

These time saving switches really make the kitchen run much smoother. They may seem like small things, but a minute or two here and there can feel like an eternity when you are late for work, tired from a long day at work or just plain old HUNGRY!

Got Too Much Stuff? Donate it– UNlimiters Style!

imagesA few weeks ago my husband and I got a new couch. Well, it wasn’t really new, but it was “new to us.” Unlike our many other pieces of “new to us” furniture, this was very gently used. I love it. Of course, since I use the furniture and the walls to get around my house, we had to make sure that everything was positioned just so; but now that everything has been arranged it looks lovely.However, there is one small problem, and by one I mean two, and by small I mean rather large.

See, despite the fact that our trash company had agreed to take the old couches away for $10 a piece, they are still sitting in my basement, along with the two couches we were using before them. That’s right; I now have four used couches in my basement. Why? Well, that’s a logical question, and if I had an answer there would not be four couches in my basement. I cannot move the couches, so my husband has to do it, and he says that he cannot move them because he needs someone to help him. To date, he has not asked anyone and no one has spontaneously volunteered.

This is seriously enough to drive a woman insane. Fortunately, I have found a way in which I can get rid of some of the other stuff that seems to accumulate when you are a home owner, without needing my husband to help. Donate Stuff is an organization that accepts donations of gently used clothing and household items. The best part? They will pick them up for you on a scheduled date and time. The items you donate will go to a local charity and the pick-up is absolutely free. In my area, the items picked up by Donate Stuff goes to my local Purple Heart, a charity that supports military veterans and their families. It is really easy to schedule a pick – up, you just go to www.donatestuff.com and enter your zip code, then follow the instructions. If pickup is not available in your area, Donate Stuff will send you pre-paid UPS bags to mail in your clothing donations, for free.

Unfortunately for me and my couch situation, Donate Stuff does not pick up large items; they only take items that can be moved by a single person. But they will take clothing, small furniture, small appliances and other household items, which make them a great resource when you clean out your closet at the end of the season, buy a new coffee maker or your child suddenly decides that trains are for babies. You can donate these items knowing that they will be going to new families instead of filling up a landfill or your basement.

So when I look at those four couches sitting in my basement, I remember to be grateful that it is only couches, and not the hundreds of other items I have been able to donate to a good cause. I just keep hoping that someday soon a magic fairy, or a very large man, might come and take them a way.

Home Alone? Tips on Staying Safe and Sane.

My husband is an avid outdoorsman. He likes to hunt, fish, camp, and go for long walks in the woods. A few times a year, he goes on what I call a “man-cation.” I call it this because, generally, women are not welcome on these trips. Not that I want to be invited. Spending a few days cooped up in a cabin with no access to running water and sleeping in close proximity to a bunch of snoring men does not sound like my idea of a good time.

He really enjoys these trips; getting some time away from the daily grind in good for him. However, this also means that I lose my primary source of transportation while he is gone; which means we have to plan for what I will do while he is away.

Generally, I try to plan my own trip, or have a friend come stay with me while my husband is away. This is as much for boredom as it is for peace of mind. But if the timing doesn’t work out and I do have to spend a chunk of time alone, I always make sure that my family knows when he is leaving and when he will return. My Mom and in-laws are just minutes away in case of an emergency. Additionally, I like to set up a “check –in” schedule with them; this way we can check in with each other once a day, and if I cannot be reached they come over to the house. This might seem like a silly thing for an adult to do, but because I don’t use an aid, this is very important in case of a bad fall or something similar.

Besides making sure that I have someone on hand in case of an emergency, I also like to stock up on easy meals. Spending half an hour to an hour cooking for one just seems silly to me. I like to buy frozen skillet meals, because they taste better than the microwavable ones and I usually end up with left-overs. Also they are really simple to cook, with no chopping or measuring; just put in the pan for seven minutes and you are good to go.

The last thing I do when facing a week alone is make sure that I have a project and a nice long book to keep me entertained. I have just started the Game of Thrones series which I heard from a friend is “epically long.” Of course, I love Stephen King, but his novels tend to not be the best when home alone, though some of his less scary work would be a good choice. My favorites include Heart of Atlantis, The Green Mile and The Long Walk. My project of choice is of course sewing, but being without my husband for a few days is also a great reason to get some organizing done, or trying a DIY project seen on Pinterest. The best part? No one is around to her you swear.

 

Garlic Lovers, Rejoice!

I am going to share a bit about me that isn’t a secret; I love garlic. I am Italian on my father’s side, I blame this obsession entirely on those roots.  I love garlic the way my husband loves catsup, I put it in almost everything I eat. Whenever there is a chip, potato, sauce, dip, or bread that has garlic in it, I am first in line to try it. I love only two foods more, cheese and wine. Wine is food right?

One thing I don’t like about garlic is the preparation. I know I am not alone in this, plenty of people have complaints about prepping garlic; but having cerebral palsy, where fine motor skills are not a strong point, I find the peeling, chopping and the mincing utterly infuriating. Before you mention it, I know there is pre-minced garlic in stores, but I just can’t do it. I am sure it is perfectly fine, but I personally find those jars of pre-minced garlic to be a little off putting. I prefer to used fresh garlic.

So what is a garlic loving ceep to do? You buy a garlic zoom and a garlic peeler of course! These two tiny gadgets are proof that big things really do come in small packages. They completely changed my life. The Garlic Zoom is my favorite kitchen appliance of all time. It was given to me by one of my favorite people, and fellow garlic lover, as a wedding shower gift. She showed me how to use it and my mind was blown. You just put your peeled clove in the zoom and then roll it on the counter like you’re back in kindergarten with the matchbox cars (Get it? garlic zoom!)

I love it. I can’t live without it. In fact, when my husband accidently destroyed  the first one in the garbage disposal, then tried in vain to piece it back together, I went out and bought a new one the same day. After all, how was I to make dinner?

Of course you still have to peel the garlic. And that is where a garlic peeler comes in handy. I know it doesn’t look like much, but this garlic peeler works similarly to the Garlic Zoom. You simply place the garlic inside and roll it on the counter. You will hear a crackle when the skin separates, then you just slide the now naked clove out of the peeler and into your garlic zoom.

Or course, if you want to peel a whole head of the stuff, the bowl method is the way to go, not only can you peel a whole head of garlic in ten seconds, you can also release a day’s worth of frustration.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0d3oc24fD-c&w=560&h=315]

The best part about these two products, other than the fact that they are budget friendly, is that they are not just for people with disabilities. Anyone can benefit from these time saving gadgets, plus they are safe for children to use, which is great if you have a kid that loves to help out in the kitchen.

So, what’s for dinner?

Rediscovering A Blast From My Past

Because I acquired my disability shortly after birth, I have spent my life using adaptive equipment and assistive technology. Some of these items I still use today, like my crutches and my bath chair. Other items, like my leg braces and adaptive writing utensils, I no longer use at all. Every once in a while though, one of those long ago items will become useful again and I then wonder why I ever stopped using it in the first place.

Recently, I have been struggling with things that slip; like my feet on the kitchen floor, the cutting board on the counter, my ruler on my cutting matt, my butt on the chair in my sewing room. All of these things are frustrating at the very least, and have the potential to be very dangerous. I’ve tried to come up with various solutions that didn’t involve spending a small fortune on non-slip rugs and rubber coated kitchen supplies. I have put blue tape on my ruler and my cutting board. I even considered the possibility of rubber cementing the bottoms of my most used kitchen supplies to see if that would help. Then I had a flashback to my first grade classroom, where my teacher, Ms. Hart used to put prices of blue rubber sheeting under my paper so it wouldn’t slip when I wrote.

All it took was one quick post to a CP forum I am part of to discover an item called dycem; big plus side is that it is available online. Dycem is great; it is tacky on both sides and will stick to nearly everything. It can be cut to any size so I can use it on the floor under my feet, on my chair under my butt, under my cutting mat and ever under my ruler when I am cutting fabric. I can even use it under fabric when I need to trace a template. But that’s not all, dycem is not only good at preventing all manners of slippage, is also great for adding grip to items. It can be used to open jars and bottles, or strips can be added to handles, pens or even a toothbrush to supply a better grip.

Dycem has a million possible uses. And it is not just for people with disabilities. Dycem can be useful to anyone who is sick of having their stuff slide around; I can even see it being a great tool for mothers with young children. Dycem is also reusable and washable, so one small roll can last quite a long time and be used for several different applications. If you find you are regularly putting Dycem under certain items regularly, it can be permanently adhered to any surface with a little superglue. I think I might glue some to the back of a clipboard so that I can finally carry papers around the office without them sliding off my lap. What do/would you use dycem for?

The Perfect Solution….Or Not

We’ve all been there. We’ve all seen a product on television, or in the store, and thought to ourselves, “This is the greatest thing ever! I must have it, and together we will achieve so much.” So we buy it, filled with possibility, and then we use it only to discover we have been duped. The product is a total failure.

I am no stranger to this scenario. Often, I think I have found something that is perfect for me, only to find out it doesn’t work the way I need it to at all. In an effort to be kind, and perhaps save you a bit of money, I thought I might share some of these failures, along with the products I replaced them with.

This first item might come is a bit of a shock. In fact, most people probably find this item very useful; but as a left handed person with fine motor issues, I just cannot recommend it. It’s the mandolin slicer. These things are supposed to cut through veggies like butter, slicing items for salad and other recipes with ease. I’ve used mine exactly three times since purchasing it, three years ago. It is the most frustrating piece of kitchen equipment I have ever owned. First, it is hard to set up, then you have to get just the right rhythm going in order for the blade to go all the way though the veggie without catching, then you have to keep re-adjusting the guard. By them time I slice one carrot, I am tired, frustrated and usually bleeding, no matter how careful I try to be.

I ended up replacing it with this slicer instead. It’s a little noisy, and like with most slicers you may have to cut the larger veggies into smaller chunks first; but the set up and cleanup is much easier. Plus, there is little chance of slicing off the tip of your finger by accident.

The second thing I bought that didn’t work out was the Pasta Boat; many of you probably saw the infomercial. Well, I fell for it hook, line and sinker, and my dear husband bought me one. I was so excited. As an Italian, I eat a ton of pasta, as a diabetic, my husband does not. I thought the Pasta Boat would be safer and easier to use, especially since I was only making pasta for one. After the first use, I knew I had thought wrong. The pasta did not cook in the time listed on the instructions, and when it finally did cook through, I opened the door to find that water was all over my microwave.

As of now, I have not found a successful mechanism for my pasta cooking dilemma. I do want to find something that would prevent me from handling boiling water and I am considering trying this; though I am still a little weary of infomercial products. Has anyone tried it?

For the Wine Lovers

I love wine. I am not much of a drinker though; or at least I haven’t been since my college years, which barely counts. After all, college is kind of like the Vegas of life: what happens in college stays in college. Wine, in my opinion, is like coffee; it is a social drink. One that you sip with friends over important conversations, like whether or not you should go on a real life date with the guy you met online,  what non-food item your dog managed to eat that day, or the recent ER trip to get the bean removed from your son’s ear. Of course, wine, like coffee, is also good when you are alone. Only instead of helping you start the day, it can help you wind down and relax at the end of the day. Additionally, wine is delightful when cooking; the Italians are especially fond of it, I should know, I’m Italian. Then again, isn’t everyone when it comes to good food?

One thing I don’t like about wine is that it’s not what I’d call a “CP friendly” beverage. First off, it is complicated to open unless you get the super cheap stuff, which isn’t worth drinking in the first place. I simply do not have the dexterity or the stability to work a manual corkscrew; and my husband, bless his heart, is such a non-drinker that the whole process is completely beyond him. Luckily for me, electric wine openers exist. These things are just amazing. They require very little strength or dexterity to work. You just place the wine opener over the top of the bottle, press the button, and like magic the cork is removed. Did I mention how amazing they are?

Once the wine is finally open, there is the issue of the wine glasses themselves.  I don’t know about you but I find wine glasses difficult to hold and easy to knock over as they are top heavy. Also, I cannot tell you how many times I have smacked the stem of the glass on the edge of the table when reaching over to put it down. I prefer stem less wine glasses, which are a fairly easy solution. Of course, if you want to be super spill proof, think red wine white dress, someone has invented a wine glass sippy cup.

Lastly, since I don’t usually finish a whole bottle of wine at a time, I usually need to store my wine in the fridge. I can never get the cork back in the bottle, and I find that most wine bottle stoppers that create a seal are overly complicated. (I have watched many able bodied people struggle to get these stopper on just right.)  I found these bottle stoppers which just require a flip of the plastic top to create a seal. While it might be an extra cost, it is so much easier than wrestling to get the cork back in the bottle.

At UNlimiters, we’re always looking for products that help us live more independent and easier lives. Have you found a product that has improved your life? Let us know in the Shout section of our store and we’ll try to add it to our selection.

Coffee Anyone?

Sometimes you discover the solution to some of your most annoying problems when and where you least expect it. The other day, for instance, my husband and I were watching a show called Mountain Men. It is one of those “reality shows” that depicts the life of men who live in remote areas and survive off the land. It is ridiculously staged, it drives me crazy, but my husband likes it and sometimes a girl has to make sacrifices. Anyway, during one episode, this guy’s wife brought him a cup of coffee in this mug with a wide base and a narrow opening at the top. I immediately shouted, “That coffee mug is CP proof! I must have one.”

Because of my CP, I spill things a lot. I prefer to drink out of bottles or cups with straws in order to avoid unnecessary spills. Finding a solution to avoid spilling hot beverages has been hard; travel mugs keep my coffee too hot for too long, and you have to wait forever to drink it. Normally, I just take my chances with a traditional mug by trying to leave a little space at the top. Despite my efforts, I still manage to spill my coffee at least once a week. I thought the narrow mouth mug would be the perfect solution to the problem, if I could find one.

The next day, I was out shopping with my Mom and her boyfriend and I told them about the mug. My mom had never seen one, but her boyfriend had, he said he would keep his eyes open. We were at the Salvation Army when he found this little gem.

It is not exactly like the mug I saw on the show, the mouth is a little wider, and it is more angular, but it is still awesome. It is exactly the solution I hoped it would be.

This mug allows my coffee to cool at a normal rate, and the tall narrow mouth keeps me from spilling anything. It also has a slip proof bottom and a good sized handle, which I like. It doesn’t look like it, but it holds a full eight ounces of coffee.

Of course now that I have one, I would like to get a few more; perhaps one for work, and a few for my friends with similar disabilities when they come to visit. I know I probably won’t get as lucky as I did the other day, so I have been looking online and I found several that were almost exactly like the one I saw on TV. This one is for home use and this one even has a lid so you can take it with you!

In what unexpected places have you found a solution to an everyday problem?

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