I'm not sure why, but recently small appliances have been making me happy. Perhaps there is some sort of latent homemaker / housewife lurking below the surface, even if the concept of being one fulltime is definitely not on my to-do list. Or perhaps it is just my love of gadgets and efficiency that makes such items so very appealing to me. Either way, I have two new things that make me quite pleased.
First off is an electric can opener - a simple object, yet one I haven't had before. We've made do with a hand opener, as in the past we have rarely opened cans, but with the change in Phoebe's diet to include canned pumpkin the frequency of use has gone up. Also, I am apparently completely incapable of operating our hand can-opener with any sort of reasonable success. It doesn't seem to matter how I try or how others show me, I always wind up with it skipping two parts that are perfectly across from each other, thus making opening the can safely incredibly difficult. So a few weeks ago, I went to Bed Bath and Beyond and picked up an inexpensive Hamilton Beach electric can opener, and apart from an overly short cord it is wonderful. I can attach a can, push down the top, and do another task while it happily whirrs away and opens the can for me. Then it's a simple matter of grabbing the can, removing the cut top from the magnet, and all is well with the world. Sure, it's not the fanciest (oh how I drooled over the stainless steel $50 one) and it doesn't do the "no-cut" edges, but it does the job and it makes my life just slightly easier, and that is always a good thing.
The other life-changing small appliance is a new rice cooker, specifically a Zojirushi NS-LAC05 that I picked up to replace my broken Cuisinart one. The old cooker was a simple one that used a weight sensor to determine when to go from "cook" to "warm," made no distinctions between rice types, usually boiled over, and always had a crust of unusable rice at the bottom. People on Ars always rave about the fuzzy logic Zojirushi rice cookers, so after I broke the first one (manually taping the lever in the "cook" position is not good, apparently) I decided to pick one up with some gift money. Reviews on Amazon indicated that this model was excellent for two people, and our local Japanese grocery store Uwajimaya had them in stock when I went - yay instant gratification! In addition to the multiple rice type settings, the unit is sealed with a small vent so that it acts much like a pressure cookier, meaning there is no boilover and no cleanup of the unit itself apart from the bowl. The bowl itself is much thicker and nicer than the old one, and in the three uses so far there has been zero rice loss due to a crust, with the rice perfectly cooked through from top to bottom. There is even a timer function where you can set everything up and tell it to be done cooking at a certain time. Finally, you have to love Japanese technology - the new rice cooker SINGS! It sings "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" to start cooking, and sings another song I don't know to signal the end of cooking. It is totally irrational and very kawaii, but I love it just the same. So far we've made oatmeal and two kinds of rice in the new cooker, and the rice has been utterly perfect and I'm sure now that I know the proportions the oatmeal will be perfect next time.
Sometimes, it's the little things that make life easier that are truly wonderful.