Wednesday, January 30, 2013

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday

I have neglected to show you the project Princess Sassy (with Prince CuddleBunny's help) did the day after having a positive pregnancy test...when things are SO exciting, but it's SO LOOOOONG to wait.  You may have noticed the extra decoration across the room in previous posts of Christmas, etc...

The paper-chain countdown to Baby:


And speaking of the princess and, lately and often, of ovens, the bun in her oven is growing!  :-D

I told her she might want a nicer background next time!

You can see by the date on the photo (Jan 26), that she's nearing 17 weeks.  That means the 20-week ultrasound is 3 weeks away... And Princess Sassy and Prince Steadfast are almost counting the minutes until she can see who's in there and what gender he or she is!  Then naming and sewing can begin in earnest.  :-)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Some Little Dents in the Road

I thought I was going to introduce you to my new oven today.  But things being... things, at least for me in terms of ovens, they didn't run smoothly.

As they were unwrapping my new beauty in the truck, I noticed dented/crunched areas around the bottom of the oven.  I grabbed my camera to document the problems before it was moved at all or unloaded.  The delivery guys were glad to let me do that, so it was obvious they hadn't done that while moving it into the house.

It was my appliance salesman's day off, so I wasn't sure what to do.  I didn't feel comfortable going ahead with installation, since the manual states clearly that it shouldn't be installed if there is any visible damage.  So I started emailing photos to the store and distributor for input about the seriousness of the damage, and, of course, the issue was documented on the delivery forms.  

I had a phone call from store management by evening, but it was only to let me know they were working on my situation, since it was too late to get input from those who would make decisions.  Today my salesman was back in the store, and he was able to talk to all involved. They believe the area involved is not crucial in the performance of the oven.  

They offered to come to retrieve it, and try to straighten the dents and plug it in at the store. They also OK'd our trying to straighten the metal in order to fit it into the cabinet.  It seems like the more moving around it goes through, the more likely negative things might happen to it.  So Hubby, with help from strong princes in moving the heavy appliance, will carefully try to straighten the areas, as needed.  There was mention of some compensation for our troubles, but I don't know what that will be yet.

Meanwhile, the mostly lovely, but rather large beast occupies the aisle in between the oven cabinet and the island.  I have a new appreciation for the, usually, nicely functional traffic flow of our kitchen!

The Road to Number 7

As I said in Ovens Divided into 2?, it was only after lots of communication, back and forth with my very helpful appliance salesman, and with him communicating with management and distributor reps on my behalf, that I decided on my latest oven.  I was honest about my oven history, my baking methods, and my concerns.  I asked a lot of questions and wanted assurance of support.

I'd thought about the other brands that I'd narrowed to and considered before, but hadn't had in my kitchen yet, specifically, Miele, Electrolux, and Gaggenau.  

Electrolux Oven
Recently popular and highly regarded
The least expensive on my list, choosing an Electrolux oven would've meant money remaining in my pocket from the Wolf refund.  It may not be fair, but the popularity of Electrolux ovens is pretty recent, and I'm not sure, at this point, that they're manufactured to last for the long haul.  When I built my kitchen, I had the next 30 or 40 years in mind, including in my appliance choices.  Naive, maybe, but that's what I was after... A "forever kitchen" with forever appliances.  But I'm not sure Electrolux is in the built-like-a-battleship category. Time will tell, but we're not there yet.

Miele MasterChef wall oven

Miele has had some mixed reviews in the last few years, and their previously long-time, stellar customer service has occasionally come into question by those with problems they don't feel have been remedied.  But I also have consulted very credible, discerning bakers who have Mieles, who are very happy.  Also, Hubby and I were most impressed with the Miele construction quality, and the company's reported close scrutiny over the build process, when we first looked at ovens 6 years ago.  It was my "if money was no object" choice for a long time.  But a new Miele would have been $1000 or more over my Wolf refund.  I'd hate to spend $1000 more and have any doubts.

Gaggenau ovens are pretty generally considered to be the top of the heap with their German engineering and construction. --And their prices sure reflect that!  



When I got the list of prices in an email from the appliance salesman, and noted that a new, double Gaggenau would be $3200 more than my refund from Wolf, I knew it was out of contention.  Faaaaaar out.

It was after receiving this price list that I started to look at the combinations of steam and single ovens that I'd mentioned in a previous post.  If I was going to have to spend $1000 more, I figured I might as well consider something new and different.  Thankfully, as those numbers and assurances weren't coming out much better, my appliance salesman contacted me with some intriguing and potentially very exciting news...

He found an open-box Gaggenau oven in the warehouse of one of their other stores, and was able to offer it to me for only $500 more than my Wolf refund.  Not that $500 is nothing, but it was more economical than some of my other options, while being my best bet, many felt, in my quest for my 20+ year oven.

You might not all know that Gaggenau ovens open to the side instead of downward.  The best configuration for our kitchen would have been to have the doors hinge on the left.  This oven has its hinges on the right, but for the $3200 savings, I'll be glad to "make do."

Monday, January 28, 2013


My kitchen became work shop yesterday, as my wondrous Hubby worked tirelessly to craft the oven cabinet for Oven Number 7.  

But before we get to the current photos, let's review the cabinet appearance over the last 5 years....

2008, Oven #1.  Fisher & Paykel. :

2009, Oven #2.  Fisher & Paykel.  The same size as #1, so no change needed:

Later 2009, Oven #3.  GE Monogram.  Taller than the F&P ovens, so we reduced the size of the drawer underneath, for easiest adjustment's sake.  But didn't quite get a new drawer made, so it had an open space underneath, where we kept racks and broiler pans:

2010 to present for Ovens #4, #5, and #6.  Wolf.  A little shorter in height than the Monogram.  Rather than rebuild and regain my nice, deeper drawer, we just built up in between the drawer space and the oven cavity.  And since we were certain this would be the oven to stay, we added a shallower drawer, but the front never was finished.:

Now for Oven #7.  

This oven is about 14" (!!!) taller than the Wolf.  There was no way to fit it into the same spot with only minor adjustments. 

Even if the cabinet hadn't been adjusted so much already, this is such a major size change, that it meant redesigning the whole unit.  We wanted to re-use as much of the cabinet as possible, especially doors and drawer fronts, so that figured into my design calculations.

We'll regain the deeper bottom drawer, but lose the cabinet just above the oven, that had the lift-up door.  That 'door' will be repurposed and become the drawer front underneath the oven.  (I'm pretty certain I have the original drawer front somewhere, but it seems to be invisible at the moment!)

With the oven, the existing upper doors and door/drawer front, we had just under 3" extra.  I hate to waste usable space, but it wasn't worth the expense of new doors and the required painting and installation work.  For now it's open space above the oven where I might store an extra rack or the pizza stone.  I have major doubts that anything will fit, or if it does, we won't be able to reach in to access it.  In that case, we'll just trim over it instead.  

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Ovens Divided into 2?

After crossing commercial alternatives off my list, I wondered about other residential specialty ovens, and if they might work to do the job for me.  This came about, particularly, when an e-friend suggested searching for an oven without a porcelain coating.  Since both steam ovens and speed ovens offer stainless interiors, I focused some research in those directions.

A popular speed oven by GE: Monogram's Advantium.
Based on great reviews, the one GE oven I might consider.
Speed ovens, offered now by several manufacturers, combine microwaves with other baking methods, which I wasn't sure was the right functions for pizza baking.  I know it can offer some cool features for varying types of items, and I'd be glad to have one if space and money were no object (objects?), but its biggest claim seems to be speed -- no surprise, based on the name.  But speed is not my priority.  It can microwave, as well as the combo of convection and microwave, but I didn't need the overlap in the function with the more affordable microwave we already have.  They are expensive for the size... up to $3000.  Frankly, I didn't thoroughly investigate these, as I got distracted by steam ovens, an old temptation, instead. 

Steam ovens combine varying levels of controlled steam and convection to bake/cook/warm without drying.  Miele and others offer steam ovens, but I had been especially intrigued by the Gaggenau Combi oven when we were building our house, and strongly considered planning one into our kitchen.  But in one conversation with my then-favorite appliance guy, and he talked me out of it for 2 reasons.  1) It is a relatively tiny size for preparing dishes for a family of 10, and 2)...the $7000 price tag was outrageous for our budget.  But ever since then, I've read a number of glowing reviews by people who own them; most of them saying that they use them more than their regular oven.  

from Purcell Murray Blog 
I also had the chance to see one recently at a Gagg distributor's showroom.  They are bigger than they look, as they can hold a baking half-sheet, but back to front, rather than side-to-side. The rep's explanations, citing her own personal experience with one at home, had me lusting for one.  But she confirmed that one of those units cost almost as much as a double wall oven... And she meant, their more-expensive-than-all-the-rest double wall oven!  That's a LOT.  I had to walk away... again.

Wolf steam oven

The Wolf steam oven is pretty new.  I was reading through a couple of Gardenweb Appliance forum discussions about them (here and here), and looking into details on the Wolf site, getting excited about what it might do, and what it might mean, in particular, for the texture and tooth of pizza crust and artisan breads - Soft and chewy inside, and crispy outside... Perfect!   It's less expensive than the Gaggenau version, but still pricey at $3800, MSRP. 

Truthfully, I was thinking that even though it costs the consumer that much, it doesn't cost Wolf that much, so maybe they'd do something special to help me through my Wolf oven issues. It couldn't hurt to ask...

Wolf Steam Oven over Wolf Single E-series,
as shown on
$3800 over $4200 = $8000.  OUCH.
Since Wolf seemed to think that it might be my pizza baking that probably caused my porcelain the most trouble, I started by inquiring as to whether I was right in thinking it might take on the pizza task, while I got a Wolf E-series single for my baking done with more moderate temperatures.  

Not only did they not 'bite' in offering to swap my double oven for the combo of single and steam in order to outfit me with Wolfs that would suit my baking style better, but the customer rep's initial reaction indicated doubt that the single oven would hold up to my frequent baking, even without the pizza baking.  She responded again later, rethinking and deciding it would probably work, and assuring me that they would stand behind the single if I made that move and had problems again.  But no offer of financial help on the switch, even when I said the $3000 gap between the refund and the purchase price of the 2 new ovens was too much for me to leap. Especially since such a buy would be based on some reservation and doubt, I was ready to move on. 

Turning from Wolf to search greener pastures was made even easier when my current favorite appliance guy had come up with a suggestion I could get (guardedly) excited about...

After getting answers to my questions that put me as at ease as I can be with his suggestion, I forged ahead and my new oven arrives Monday.  I'll tell more about it after that!

Previous discussion on this most recent oven drama:


For past oven issues, see posts under the tag of 
oven saga

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Oven, Oven, Who's Got the Oven... I Need?

If 3 Wolfs and 2 Fisher & Paykels can't seem to stand up to our baking frequency and use, and a GE Monogram can't bake consistently, then is there an oven in existence that can do both for me?

A lot of people suggested trying a commercial oven, or commercial pizza oven.  Both of those things are made for restaurants, and presumably, for heavy use and the full range of temperatures.  It seemed like a reasonable option and great suggestion, so I started some research. Unfortunately, after checking into it, there are big downsides to any restaurant oven for home use.

The size (all deeper than 24"), lack of heat protection, and clearances would mean major rearrangement of cabinetry in the kitchen.

Commercial appliance dealers are hesitant to deal with homeowners, delivery is curbside, warranties for home use are absolutely not possible, and service may be difficult.  Plus, every pizza oven I looked up, if I was able to find reviews at all, were not that great.  

Lack of positive reviews, no warranty, and no service?  Sounds like a possible nightmare, in addition to imagining that my kitchen may get to about 160 degrees.

So... Next?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday

Prince CuddleBunny is (literally) into cabinets!

August 2005

November 2009

January 2013

Monday, January 14, 2013

I Know You're Waiting...

I promised more on the oven saga, but things have been buzzing around here.  I haven't had time to sit and write about oven options, but thought I'd fill you in on why:

 - Of course, we had to take time out to sit on the edge of our seats, sometimes groaning, sometimes cheering, then, after the exciting go-ahead score with only about 30 seconds to go, ultimately yelling in disbelief as our Seahawks ended their quest for the SuperBowl yesterday.  :'-(  It seems forever away, but next year will be here before we know it, and with the amazing and underrated Russell Wilson at the helm of the strong, young team Pete Carroll's built, we should be watching them in the play-offs again.

 - Hubby and I, with the help of a trusted financial adviser, are reconsidering our life insurance, and possibly other insurances.  This means meetings, research, phone calls, and will also mean the requisite physicals.  We are arranging part of our savings into longer term "vehicles" that we hope will help us out in the future, while staying partially available if at all necessary for major, unforeseen emergencies.  This requires learning some new terms, like "annuitize" and "single-premium life policy." We will keep some for more likely and smaller unexpected needs, and it's hard to know how much that should be. 

What Is An Annuity? Find Out More

 - We are refinancing our home from a variable rate to a fixed-rate mortgage.  It seems the worst part of any refi is the appraisal, which is today.  It's always 'fun' to have a stranger come and walk through the house, especially when their job is to judge the value, which, of course, looks less impressive if cluttery or less-than-pristine.  Why am I sitting here instead of cleaning?!

 - Prince Go-for-It has had quite a few diving meets in the last couple of weeks.  Because of one, 11-dive meet, he qualified for "leagues," so I run him from the junior high to the high school for daily practice for an additional 2 weeks.  That OK.  We're proud of him for trying this new sport and giving it his all.  I am thankful, though, that the junior high has its own track team, so he'll stay put after school in the spring.  

 - Princess Artiste took her drive test at the driving school on Saturday, instead of at the DMV, which is a new process in our state.  But we can't avoid the DMV completely, so this week we get to brave the afternoon wait there to do the paperwork (and pay more $$, of course) for her official license.  

 - I need to make sports physical appointments for Artiste and Go-for-It before their respective track seasons, and many of us are behind on dental appointments.  
 from Free Coloring Page Site
It's bad when the 8-year-old needs to remind me to call the dentist.   It's probably because he likes to go!

 - Tomorrow, the phone company will be updating our DSL lines, requiring a new modem, which means being without internet for part of the day, followed by the installation of a new modem... by moi.  Then we will have to reconfigure all our devices to recognize it.  Not being a computer whiz, tasks like this seem to take me major time, as the 'instructions' are sorely lacking and these things never want to go smoothly.

 - The Wolf oven also leaves tomorrow.  Hubby doesn't seem to have any idea when he'll have time to adjust the cabinet for its replacement.  Prince Go-for-It's 15th birthday is this weekend, for which he'll want a cake, and probably, pizza.  With no oven?  Hmm...

Oh!  And I haven't printed and sent my Christmas letter yet.  I guess now it's a Start-the-Year letter!

OK, so in the time I've written about all of this, I could've probably written about ovens.  Oh, well. There are also things to share regarding garage progress and Princess Sassy's baby-building, but those will make their own posts on another day.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Oven Saga Continues :'-(

It doesn't seem to end, or, at least, hasn't yet.  But I have hope, I really do... I think.

In just a few weeks I will have my 7th oven installed in the less-than-5 years we've lived in our home.

I've done previous posts on this sad and ridiculous oven saga, but will recap a bit.  

I started with a Fisher & Paykel oven.  I loved it.  --Loved how it looked and especially loved how it baked.  But eventually, the porcelain began to chip and pit.  They nicely sent F&P number 2, which was a brand new model.  I wasn't a fan of the new modern look, but it baked, if anything, even better than the first.  However, there were problems with operating the buttons from the start, and its porcelain started to show signs of problem, too.  They had challenges finding me service in our area so they bought back the 2nd oven and we parted ways.

My next move was to a Monogram ZET2 oven.  The original F&P had been a fully warrantied open-box model, so a 'good deal.'  The Monogram was also a display model, but meant spending about $1300 more.  It was larger than the F&Ps, so Hubby had to make major adjustments to the oven cabinet for it to fit.  Great look, and wonderful, although space-hogging, ball-bearing glide racks that could stay in during self-clean.  I never had a bit of problem with the porcelain, but the inconsistency in temperatures, from use to use, and from side to side of the oven during any use, was awful to bake with.  I took photos and recorded temperature problems and discrepancies.  Thankfully, after a lot of communications and lengthy wait times, unlike others who weren't so fortunate, GE agreed to buy it back.  I was so glad to see that oven leave our house.

We adjusted the oven cabinet again, this time to fit a Wolf E-series double oven.  This was supposed to be my best bet at getting the best quality oven money could buy. -- Made in USA, boasting years of good history with the technology, and high marks for build quality, their extensive testing, and customer service.  Even though it, too, was a floor model, it meant spending about another $1000 than we had for the Monogram.  
 Wolf's Dual Convection.  I'm a believer!

It was the best baker yet.  I'd never been so impressed with temperature accuracy and the efficiency of convection modes.  I loved that oven, and we never regretted the extra expense to 'get it right this time.'  

Sadly, at about 13 months in, I noticed porcelain issues across the bottom and in the corners of both oven cavities.  After seeing the photos I sent by email, Wolf quickly arranged for a new oven, and I was only inconvenienced by losing a morning of baking when they made the switch.  I was happy.

But only 6 months later, I was wiping crumbs out of oven #2 and got a shard of porcelain in my hand.  That oven, also, was developing issues with the porcelain at the front corners.  I again sent photos and got a quick phone call from Wolf, apologizing that I'd had to deal with this twice, and assured it was unusual for this to happen.  Again, there was a pretty quick oven switch, and I was happily baking again...

For only 5 months this time.  In early November I noticed crazing in the porcelain at those infamous front corners, and by Thanksgiving, I could see bare metal and had the loose shards of blue porcelain again.  

This time Wolf is throwing in the towel.  They think that my weekly, 500+ degree pizza baking, plus my frequent baking for our large family, puts me in a category outside the norm for which their ovens are designed.  I'm blown away by that, frankly, as I don't think I'm using the oven in such an extreme way, and they are quick to agree that I am not abusing it in any way, just using it... A lot.  

They gave me 2 choices...  Keep the oven, for which they'd pay $500 for me to keep a problem they considered to be cosmetic, or refund my money in full and take the oven.  If the porcelain was letting go in the corners in the first half year, I have no idea what it will look like a couple years in, or 10 years from now, and wasn't willing to keep it under those circumstances.  In addition, I didn't consider it just a cosmetic issue, but also a cleaning and safety issue, so decided they can have it back.  

I will miss my Wolf oven.  I know how it works, and know what modes I like for what.  Using it has become 2nd nature to me now, and it's been a valuable tool in successful baking projects. Using the probe for bread and rolls was a Eureka! moment for me, and it's technique I love and have come to count on.  The oven, overall, does a phenomenal job performing just how I expect it should when it comes to the baking and roasting aspects.  I'm so sad to see it go.  

And now what?!  If Wolf ovens can't stand up to my baking, what can?  I feel like I am definitely running out of options.  I'll discuss the ones I've considered in a future post.

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