5 Kitchen Counter Must-Haves

By Emily Creswick of Zillow


Source: Julians Interiors

Innovative countertop elements streamline the cooking process and boost overall organization of kitchens. Additionally, these elements add a touch of style and character to the highly-functional space.

Review these five countertop must-haves to optimize kitchen functionality and aesthetics.

1. Toaster
Ensure breakfast staples including toast, bagels and pastries are cooked to perfection by including a great toaster. The market is inundated with modern toasters models with special features including bread warmers, defrosters and sliding trays. If high tech gadgets don’t appeal, choose a contemporary style in a bright color such as turquoise or tangerine.

2. Coffee Machine or French Press
Like toasters, coffee machines come in many shapes and sizes. Popular models include the standard drip-style and single-cup coffee makers. Drip coffee makers are available in 4 to 12 cup capacities, making them ideal for busy households and entertaining. Pod-style coffee makers are generally smaller, equipped to make single servings for individuals. Alternatively, avoid cords and a bulky machine by using a French press to make the morning coffee.

3. Blender
A blender is a year-round appliance with many uses. Create fresh fruit juices and smoothies in the morning. In the evening, blend vegetables and stock to create hearty soups. Entertain friends and family with blended beverages and frozen cocktails on the weekend. Choose a size that best suits the kitchen and amount of expected use. A large blender is ideal for a busy family, whereas a personal blender with interchangeable travel mugs is perfect for singles and couples on the go.

4. Induction Cooktops
Induction cooktops use electromagnetism to heat pots and pans faster than gas and electric versions. Designed in Europe, induction cooktops are energy-efficient, helping reduce the cost of monthly energy bills. The cooktops don’t get hot, allowing owners to touch the surfaces without burning themselves or inquisitive children. The warm plates are also easy to clean because foods and sauces don’t burn and stick.

5. Hidden Outlets
Reduce visual clutter in kitchens by removing outlets from walls and replacing with covered versions. Mount a multi-outlet strip discreetly under counter overhangs or hide outlets inside cupboards or cabinets. Kitchens with limited counter space benefit from dock or popup outlets. These styles are designed to retract from the countertop when not in use.

Staple appliances and innovative countertop updates are sure to benefit the look and function of the kitchen. Such updates are appealing and practical for residents, and, when it comes time to sell, attract buyers searching for homes. Enjoy the benefits now and reap the rewards in the future by ensuring the finest kitchen counter appearance and function.

This post is brought to you by the folks at Zillow.com. I was not compensated to share this information. 


Pittsburgh Tip: Aamco of Zelienople

Disclaimer: I just HAD to write about our experience at Aamco of Zelienople. We got a deal through Living Social and paid for our services. This is not a compensated post, just a post about good service and hoping to help pay it forward. As usual, all opinions are 100% my own.

We are a family who loves our deals, and with two cars needing registered, inspected, and oil changes all by the end of July, I simply couldn’t pass on a deal found on Living Social this week. For $21, you could pick up an oil change and PA State Inspection through their deal. (psst…interested? You can still get the deal until Monday night 7/22!) We had to add The Emissions being from Allegheny County and some extra oil for Greg’s guzzler of a Durango. How could I pass that up? For just around the price of one Inspection plus Emission, we got both cars up to date and running clean.

Okay, at first I would admit that I second guessed it before buying. Zelienople is about 30 miles from Tarentum and would mean both of us driving there. We also have to take the turnpike, so that took about another $10. Greg and I talked about it, and decided it was totally worth it. We didn’t really have plans for Saturday, so he called to see if he could get an appointment.

I wasn’t around for the appointment making call, but just from sitting in the waiting area, I assure Brad (the Center Manager) delivered superior service on the call. Next thing I knew, Greg texted that we had both scheduled in for 8:30 AM and we were good to go.

On the way there, I did get us lost in a GPS trap. If you are coming from the south, I advise taking the Evans City exit if it tells you to go to the Zelienople one. Then come to 19 and head south, it’s literally right there near a shed company.

We fully expected to sit in a hot, greasy room off a shop; however, it was quite the opposite. We were treated to a gorgeous space with hardwood floors and no window to the shop. Noise and fear of “did it pass” stayed outside. An ADA Accesible bathroom will all the details (soft toilet paper, automatic soap dispenser, and paper towels that actually dry your hands) is off the waiting area. Good thing, because the Center includes a Keurig and water cooler for your refreshment. Other amenities include plugs, free WiFi, magazines, decent chairs, space, and a board with transmission parts to explain what they may be repairing for you. (They don’t just do oil changes and inspections, you can come here for a/c tune-up, diagnostic testing, and transmission needs, too.)

During our stay, we witnessed interactions with other customers and were told stories of how they went above and beyond for some out of state folks who broke down and came to them.

While it may be a distance from us, I can definitely say the service and support (as well as the great Luvung Social deal) made Aamco of Zelienople a huge win in our books. My advice? Stop in and see what Jim, Brad, and the team at Aamco of Zelenople can do for you.

Check out http://aamcozelienople.com to see what they have to offer and what others are saying about their work. I think you will be glad you did. 

Aamco Zelienople
Source: Aamco of Zelienople’s Facebook

Combat #Review and #Giveaway

Last summer, we had a small outbreak of ants, but we were pretty lucky this summer. I can say thanks to Combat for keeping us ant (and probably other bug) free!

This summer, we tried out two Combat products — Source Kill Max Ant Gel and Source Kill Max Ant Bait. The two combined lead to an ant-free summer and have our seal of approval.

The Gel is great for quick attacks, the kind when you see them and know it’s an issue. Simply squirt this gel wherever you see (or suspect) ants have been, and trust. The gel works fast, but also gives the “domino effect”–killing ants back in the colony as the gel’ed ants feed nest before they die. I like to use this in the “cracks” of the cupboards and where the cabinets meet water or electric pipes because it guarantees no ant will make it through. Two other things I love? The gel works in as fast as an hour up to 1 month and it can be used inside or outside. Next year, I am putting a perimeter of this around my strawberries!

The Bait is like a ‘lil house that the ants enter, feed on the bait, and take it back to the nest. Probably my favorite of the two because I don’t worry about the kids getting into the gel. You plop the house down and let it go to work. This can also be used outside, but I preferred to put them on top and just under the fridge and under the baseboard near our garbage drawer. We also have a plant on our toilet, so one behind the toilet is a wise idea, too.

Combat wants to make sure you are protected from ants this summer, too. They’ve offered one lucky reader the chance to get a box of Combat Max Ant Bait. This giveaway will be quick–you only have until Wednesday evening to enter, so enter quickly!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Also, you can enter to win a chance to win $1000 from Combat by clicking here and entering some quick information.

Disclosure: Combat provided me with a sample of their Ant Bait and Ant Gel so I could review them; however, all of the opinions expressed here (and dead ants) are my own.

Purex Complete Crystals Giveaway

A few weeks ago, I was accepted to be a Purex Insider (a nice name for people who get to test out Purex products and provide reviews). Lucky me, this means I will occasionally be sent products to test and review here on the blog. Lucky you, this means I will be hosting some giveaways from Purex! Just to be clear, the opinions below are mine (and Greg’s). We were not paid to be part of this program and the only “reimbursement” received was in the form of product to test. Purex has also graciously provided for a giveaway for you, our readers! Enjoy.

I am sure you have been in my shoes before. There you are standing over the washing machine, waiting for the rinse cycle so you can toss in just the right amount of fabric softener. Your time is wasted in waiting, so you decide to buy a “fabric softener ball” that automatically dispenses the liquid for you. There’s the one time you forgot to add the ball and the time release won’t work. Or the time the ball failed and didn’t release at all. Or, all the sudden, you have overfilled the ball. There is fabric softener all over your hands, your clothes that haven’t been washed (or just came out of the dryer), and creating little rust spots on your washer lid.

Not wanting to waste any more time, I gave up on fabric softener a few years ago when I was pregnant with Ari. Since she was born, I haven’t been able to use fabric softener on her clothes because she has sensitive skin (and frankly, I am still lazy). When Greg became a full-time SAHD, he took over doing the laundry and never asked about fabric softener. Now that we are a few years removed from using the liquid, I was excited when I was selected by Purex to review their new product, Purex Complete Crystals Softener.

This new softener comes in three great scents–Fresh Spring Waters, Lavender Blossom, and Tropical Splash that are sure to complement your favorite laundry detergent. I love the Fresh Spring Waters we tested because it reminds me of the smell of springtime in the mountains.

It is a 92% natural product that comes in a crystal form–not liquid. That means it is not oily (I hated the way other softeners would leave a “film” on my washing machine and clothes) and is better for you and your family. While I haven’t tried it on Arianna’s clothes, yet, I am fairly certain her sensitive skin won’t even notice a difference–mine doesn’t. Ok, I lie a little. My skin notices that my clothes are softer, and for days longer. As I wrote this, I was wearing a PJ shirt for the third night in a row and not only was it still soft, it still smelled like it was fresh out of the laundry! That’s because, according to Purex, the Crystals are “infusing fabric with freshness” and help clothing maintain a “naturally soft feel”.

As a mom, I love that it is safe for all clothing–even babies. It doesn’t harm the flame retardant materials that Evan’s clothes are made of and keeps even our toughest denims feeling fresh. Even our “running gear” and my PumpEase don’t loose their wicking ability because there isn’t that oily leftover. I also love that is reasonably priced (from $3.99-$5.99 depending on your stores), and available where I shop.

So, how does it work? Remember I mentioned waiting for just the right time to throw the liquid in the washer? Well, with Purex Complete Crystals Softener, you don’t have to! You just put the crystals in the washer with the clothes, start the cycle, and forget about it! When you are done, you are left with clothes that smell fresh and feel soft for days longer than the competition.

Ok, I admit, I didn’t benefit from the time saving or get to smell the laundry FRESH out of the washer, but Greg (my SAHD/Husband) did, and here’s his take on the new Purex Complete Cystals Softener:

“It gives your clothes a light, airy fragrance that sticks with your clothes. It was very self explanatory, just pour the Crystals to the allotted line on the bottle and added my clothes and I was done. An instant soft freshness. I may be wrong, but the clothes did feel softer when I took them out, even from the washer.”

Well, babe, you are right. Our clothes are softer and fresher, indeed. We are hooked and will definitely be buying more Purex Crystals Complete Softener!

Want to scoop up some Purex Crystals Complete for yourself? Enter my giveaway today! Follow the rules below and I will hook 2 readers up with a gift from Purex and me!

Purex Crystals Complete Softener Giveaway Rules:

1. There will be 2 winners of the contest. Winners will be selected at random using the number generator from www.random.org. Contest runs through Monday, March 28, 2011 at 11:59:59 PM EST. I will notify winners via e-mail of the prize won and will send it to you. No purchase or obligation necessary by you to participate.

2. Mandatory EntryYou must comment below. Please include your name and e-mail address (the e-mail stays hidden) so that I will be able to let you know you won.

3. Optional entry: Follow me on Twitter (@mrsgregwillis) and comment below. If you already follow me, comment!

4. Optional entry: Share this post on your Facebook or Twitter (one entry per service per day) and let me know you did so by commenting below. Use the buttons or this text: “I want to win the Purex Crystals Giveaway by @mrsgregwillis on 3/28! http://wp.me/pZH8r-7n”

Good luck!