I like living in a townhouse. For our little family, it is the perfect place to be. One of the great advantages of a townhouse is that it is low maintenance. It is easy to keep clean, easy to cool and easy to heat. The backyard, in theory, is low maintenance too. It really just consists of a small strip of lawn and a couple of garden beds. How hard could that be to maintain?
It turns out, if you are me, very hard.
Read more “From Wasteland to Toddler Oasis – The Beginning of the Backyard Transformation”
I like to think that I’m a fairly frugal kind of guy. I take pride in finding a deal and getting things as cheap as possible. Over time, I have learnt that this often means avoiding the very cheapest product available, as poor quality inevitably leads to premature failure and greater overall expense.
These days, I search high and low for the products that sit in that happy place between cost and build quality. I spend time reading reviews and, if I can, looking at the product in store to determine build quality. And if I see a bargain, I jump on it quickly.
Food Processor – a Necessity or Luxury?
Some things sit in the grey area between ‘necessary’ and ‘luxury’. One such kitchen appliance is the food processor. I had lived 30 years of my life just fine without one, so to call it a necessity is a stretch. However, like the dishwasher, once acquired it has proven to be a valuable tool. It is especially useful now that we have Hannah, as we try hard to provide her with as much home-made, natural food as possible. When our original (and very cheap) food processor died recently, I had to find a quality replacement, and quickly.
The Search for the Right Food Processor
I learnt that food processors come in two forms – Cheap and nasty, and expensive and good. While some of the cheaper versions looked okay, a multitude of bad reviews for each and every one that I looked at quickly turned me off them. I had already owned a cheap food processor, and while 4 years of service may be reasonable for the price that I paid, I now wanted something that could give me a solid decade of use.
As for the top of the range, I just couldn’t justify spending over $400 on a moderately used piece of equipment. To put things in perspective, that is what I recently spent on my new oven!
After much searching I finally stumbled upon a possible unit – The Breville Kitchen Wizz 8. This unit seemed to be based on the highly rated Kitchen Wizz 11 Plus, but with a few corners cut in order to reduce cost. The main differences appeared to be less metal and more plastic components, although on first glance it appears that the quality is still there where it matters most.
I was slightly hesitant to buy this unit, as a thorough search of the internet returned zero user reviews. I still can’t figure out why that is and it concerned me slightly. However, after comparing it side-by-side with its more expensive cousin, I was game enough to give it a go.
The Primary Purpose of a Food Processor
The main purpose of a food processor in my kitchen is to shred large amounts of vegetables, and to finely chop ingredients. The Kitchen Wizz 8 appears to be well-equipped to carry out these tasks. The direct-drive motor should be powerful enough for most tasks that I throw at it, while the shredding disk is solidly constructed. A stainless steel “Quad Blade” takes care of the chopping side of things and it seems sharp and robust. I plan to put each of those components through their paces shortly. I will report my findings in an in-depth review shortly.
Every appliance these days comes with secondary purposes. These are usually gimmicks, and I would never recommend buying a product based on these gimmicks. The Kitchen Wizz 8 is no different. It has a couple of attachments that I never would have sought out, and that certainly weren’t a part of the buying decision. But now that I have them, I’m keen to give them a go, if for no other reason than for novelty’s sake.
The first of these attachments is the blade. For many people, this may be a primary piece of equipment. But for me, I’ve always cut by hand. I have a set of high-quality (very sharp) knives and I enjoy using them for food preparation. I never once used the slice blade on our previous food processor. But the blade on the Kitchen Wizz 8 intrigues me. It is adjustable from just 0.3mm thick, to 6mm. If it is able to chop consistently and more finely than I am capable of doing by hand, it may well become a more heavily used component.
The other two ‘gimmick’ components are far less likely to find regular use. They are a dough blade and a potato peeler. I can count the number of times that I have made home-made dough on my nose (that’s once, for anyone unsure of how many noses I possess). As for the potato peeler, we will see. It has very specific instructions for how to optimise its use. They include specifying the exact shape and size of the potato. That goes against my newly-found potato-buying morals, so we will see if I’m willing to sell out for the sake of this contraption (my money is on yes). It would only really be useful and worthwhile if one had a significant amount of potatoes that needed peeling, so I believe it will end up rarely used.
A Blender Too?
I purchased the model with the blender attachment. We have never owned a blender, so I’m unsure how to properly utilise that bit, but as I could buy it for just $30 more (the unit was on sale at the time of writing), I decided it was worthwhile. The blender part appears to be similar to the Breville Kinetix Light and Mighty, which retails for $69.95, so I’m happy with the price. It is, however, worth noting that the food processor base only has two speeds (as well as pulse), which gives you less control than a stand-alone blender. The upside is that having two contraptions that use just one base saves room in my compact house. Time will tell if this was a useless upsell or a moment of genius.
I found the Kitchen Wizz 8 Plus in Myer, with a sale price of $199.20. The regular retail price is $249.
There are some downsides to compact family living. Obviously, sacrifices need to be made for a family to occupy a smaller footprint than that of the traditional family home. Often, that sacrifice is most felt in the backyard. That’s where the local park becomes vitally important.
When I think back to my childhood (perhaps through rose-tinted glasses), the backyard was very much a key feature. We were lucky enough to live in houses with expansive areas (at least from my tiny perspective) in which to play and explore. I spent countless hours playing with balls, toys or mud. Sometimes we used nothing more than the combined imaginations of my brothers and me to make our own games.
At our townhouse we have a small backyard, but it’s really not conducive to the running around and exploration that I had as a child. I don’t want Hannah to miss out on those experiences either, as I believe they were such a fundamentally important part of my formative years. I want Hannah to develop a love of the outdoors and a desire to explore and experience all the things that nature and life has to offer.
The local park – Ideal replacement for the family backyard?
Since Hannah has been mobile enough to gain enjoyment from outside play, we have made it our business to get to know all of the parks in our immediate vicinity. Each one offers something different and none of them are perfect. But, together they offer the opportunity to somewhat replicate the ‘backyard’ experiences of my childhood.
The little toddler playground a few blocks away offers well-maintained play equipment that is very suitable for Hannah’s age. She can easily navigate her way to the top of the slide and on to the platforms. It also has some equipment that she is not yet able enough to use, so there is scope to continue to ‘grow into’ the little playground. It doesn’t offer much in the way of nature though.
Other playgrounds within easy walking distance offer equipment that is more suitable for older kids. For Hannah, these are still very much interesting places to explore. If nothing else, she enjoys sitting in the wood chips or digging through the mud. She seems happy enough to spend a full ten minutes picking up handfuls of wood chips and letting them drop through her fingers.
Other areas offer nothing in the way of play equipment, yet they provide grass and trees, and shrubs. Some even offer small creeks. They are the places that will come into their own as Hannah grows into a little toddler who wants to run, hide and explore. They are an attractive ‘blank canvas’, on which Hannah and her friends will be able to imagine up all kinds of games and experiences. These wonderful strips of green in suburban Sydney will be the backdrop to the great mum/dad and daughter moments – learning to kick a ball, to ride a bike, to catch a tadpole.
The downside of a small backyard
Of course, there are downsides to not having a large backyard. Hannah will require constant supervision for many years to come as she uses these facilities. I can’t yet even imagine the day that she asks to go to the park by herself, or with a friend. To be honest, the thought fills me with a mild panic, even at this very early stage.
We have to travel, even if it’s just a couple of minutes walk down the road. Sometimes Hannah is reluctant to sit in her stroller, so that means being carried to and from the park. It can also put us off making the effort if the weather is looking a little questionable. That’s something that is not an issue when you have your own backyard – just play until it rains!
The benefits of the local park
But there are many, many benefits too. Hannah has already begun to benefit from the social interactions that the park provides. As an only child with no cousins, regular play and interaction with and around other children is vitally important. It is something Hannah just wouldn’t find in her own backyard. Hannah consistently shows that she finds great joy in other kids. I definitely see it as my responsibility to ensure she has ample opportunities.
The lack of a large backyard also means less maintenance for Emma and me. A large backyard requires a large upkeep. That is time that would have to come from somewhere, and that somewhere would be our play time with Hannah. Our small strip of grass takes a matter of minutes to run a push-mower over. Every now and then, the plants need a few minutes with the hose. When we want a larger piece of grass on which to play, some kind council worker has already put in the hard yards of maintenance. We just have to turn up and enjoy it.
The final benefit of fully utilising the local parks around us is that it gets us out of the house. It is far too easy for me to become comfortable within these four walls. Despite living what I regard to be fairly modest life, this townhouse contains so many things that can entertain me and consume me. If I’m not careful, I could easily go for days without seeing sunlight. The knowledge that I need to get Hannah out to a park (almost) every day is a wonderful motivating factor.
And as soon as I step out into the fresh air and am surrounded by the trees and grass and people and bird-life, I’m reminded of why these experiences are so important. It is good for the soul, it refreshes and energises, it relaxes and helps me to regain perspective. When I go to the park with Hannah it takes me away from all the other stresses and strains of grown-up life, and it places me wholly within that moment. It forces me to be fully present and to enjoy the shared experiences with Hannah.
Sydney’s best parks and playgrounds
I have begun a mission to find Sydney’s best large parks and playgrounds. These are the ones that I will review regularly as part of my Family Fun in Sydney section. I began with the amazing Carss Bush Park – very much worth a day trip! Check back regularly as Hannah and I uncover more great parks. Also, please leave any suggestions for our next place to explore in the Sydney area.
I’m addicted to coffee, and my French press is my enabler.
When I wake up in the morning, it’s one of the first things that I think about. If I miss my morning cup, I have an awful headache by mid-day. I function much better after my morning brew than I do before it.
It doesn’t have to be fancy. I drink my coffee black, without sugar because I like the taste of it. I can’t stomach instant, but I don’t see the need for shiny, expensive equipment to produce a quality morning beverage.
The French Press
That’s where the French press comes in. It is a concept that is remarkably simple, yet, it produces as good a long black coffee as any other method. According to coffeemakerpicks.com:
Coffee purists praise the virtues of a French press, claiming that it produces the finest coffee flavour. A French press captures more of the coffee bean’s flavour and essential oils…
The French press fits my guidelines for inclusion in This Compact Family Life perfectly. It is small, cheap to purchase, economical to run and maintain, and produces a good quality coffee. It is the epitome of value.
The French press takes up no bench space. It is small enough to easily tuck away in a cupboard when not in use. In a townhouse or other compact kitchen, where bench space is at a premium, that is a big plus. While an imposingly large, chrome espresso machine may look spectacular, it is just not an essential enough piece of equipment to justify the permanent allocation of countertop space.
At my favourite local café, a long black costs $4. On average, I drink about 2 cups of coffee each day. That’s $2920 in a calendar year. By contrast, a 200g bag of good quality coffee from the supermarket costs $8 (up to 30% less when on special). Assuming approximately 4g makes one cup, then that’s 16 cents worth of coffee per cup.
Add on the cost of heating the water, the cost of washing the cup and the cost of buying the French press, and you’re still well in front. I would estimate a total of no more than 25 cents per cup. Twice per day, that’s $182.50 per year. I you are like me, every dollar saved counts. $2737.50 per year is no small amount.
A Home espresso machine would certainly go a long way to saving some cash, but it’s still a larger outlay than a French press and it requires more than double the amount of coffee to be used per cup.
I recommend using a good quality pre-ground coffee. The purists amongst you will have just spit your morning espresso all over your screen in disgust at that statement, but the rest of you, stay with me.
I don’t deny that coffee tastes better from a freshly ground bean, or that the local café makes a better brew than I do. But the reality of my daily life is that I don’t have time to freshly grind my beans each morning and, as I get up well before anyone else in the house, the sound of an automatic grinder would surely be enough to wake everyone and spoil my ‘me’ time.
The quality pre-ground stuff is good enough for me to enjoy on a daily basis, without feeling like I’m missing out on some great coffee experience. And on top of that, on the occasions when I do order a coffee at my favourite café, or after dinner at a nice restaurant, I really enjoy it – it’s something special, something different to my every day.
As for my every day coffee – It tastes good. I enjoy it. End of story.