Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Peanut Butter and Jelly - In Depth

A few months ago, a friend made me grilled cheese sandwiches in a way that changed my own cooking method. She simply cooked it with a lid over the pan, but this made the cheese melt thoroughly and greatly improved the quality of the sandwich - more than I would have expected. I feel like I should pay that tip forward and provide my own tips for making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Like using a lid when making grilled cheese, this is quite simple but ends up solving all of life's problems. To avoid soggy sandwiches in packed lunches, put peanut butter on both pieces of bread. Yes, it's that simple! This keeps the jelly from soaking into the bread, which in turn keeps the sandwich presentable and your hands clean.

There's one little caveat, though: When making a sandwich to eat right away, only one piece of bread should be peanut buttered. When both sides have peanut butter, the jelly moves around more when you bite into the sandwich. I.e., more jelly oozes out the sides and makes a mess. If you are going to eat the sandwich right away, the jelly soaking into the bread isn't really an issue. In fact, the slight bit that it does soak into the bread helps it stay in place and reduces jelly spills.

Do you have any simple tips for the kitchen or life in general? Pay this tip forward (and back at the same time!) by leaving a comment!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

New Lawn Mower

You may recall that I talked of getting a new lawn mower about six months ago. Or that I talked about it a year and a half before that, or nine months before that. Yes, I do sometimes agonize over fairly minor decisions.

Well, I finally got a new one! No, it wasn't the 36V cordless from my most recent lawn mower post. I went with this 20" corded Homelite mower instead. I had originally planned to get this 18" Black and Decker model because The Home Depot site said that it was available in store and the Homelite was only available online. It turned out to be the opposite once I got there. I prefer the wider cutting width, so this is probably a good thing.

I've used it once so far, and I like it overall. It was pretty easy to unpack and put together without tools, which was a pleasant surprise. It started right up and was about as loud as a box fan, as people had commented in the reviews of various electric mowers. I briefly considered getting just a 50ft extension cord, but I'm very glad I got the 100 ft. 14 gauge cord instead - I don't think the 50ft range would have been enough.

The mower itself only has two design flaws that I am aware of so far. First, the height adjustment selector only has labels on the lowest (1.5") and highest (4") settings. There are seven settings, which means you can change it in slightly-less-than-half-inch increments, but it's not entirely clear if those increments are exactly equal. Second, the rear flap is really stiff and will sometimes catch on the ground and make turning difficult. That's not a huge issue, and the flap might loosen up in time.

Most of my problems with the first mowing were related to the composition of my yard. My yard is not a nice even layer of grass. Instead, it has clumps of dense grass that I will eventually have to kill (getting the yard entirely green is my first priority!), which the extension cord gets caught on. There's also a former garden area that has an extra inch of soil that creates an annoying ridge.

The cord was a bit of a hassle, but I think I just need to get used to it. I couldn't immediately figure out a good way to consistently and gracefully step over the cord as I turned, and I need to cut the side yards separately because the cord doesn't stay out of the way around corners as easily. Next time, I will try draping the cord over a shoulder, cutting the yard in five sections instead of three, and seeing how things turn out. Even if things don't improve at all, my annoyance level with the cord was pretty low. Switching from a self-propelled mower to a push mower was definitely a more significant change.