Attending Child Care

It has now been almost 2 weeks since Little J started child care. Needless to say, it breaks my heart to leave him there every morning before I go to work, and to get through the 8-9 hours at work thinking about him. I still remember, barely 6 months ago, I was so overwhelmed with being a new mother and taking care of a newborn that I secretly wished I was back at work instead of staying at home all the time. Yes, taking care of a baby is not easy, I now have a new respect for full time moms who take care of kids and do housework without any help. Trust me, it is much more tiring than a full-time 9-to-5 job. At least, with a 9-to-5 job, you know your job will come to an end after 5 everyday. But with a mom, there is no end. The job is 24/7 and it doesn’t even stop when you are sleeping because you would be lying down worrying if your kid is warm enough on his bed, if he is going to wake up in the middle of the night crying, if he is hungry, etc.

Anyway, since we are not going to change the fact that I’m going back to work, I will take a different perspective and look at the pros of sending a baby to child care. Little J is not quite 6 months yet, so I consider him starting relatively early at the child care. In fact, I believe he is the youngest one at the centre. Don’t get me wrong, I feel bad and guilty all the time for having to send him there and missing out on his growth, but sending a child to a centre is not all bad. Here are some of the good points that I keep reminding myself about whenever I feel bad:

1. Handling Crowds/Strangers

Ever since he was born, Little J had not been out all that much, simply because I found it too stressful to bring him out on my own during weekdays. So the only time we went out was during the weekends, and even then it was mostly for grocery shopping which was quite boring. Therefore, he didn’t have quite as much chance to meet with new people or interact with them. Sometimes, when a stranger came up to him and ruffled his head or talked to him, he would get startled and break out in a cry. It was worse when we attended gatherings with many people around, and every one tried to play with him or cuddle him. He just wasn’t used to the crowd. But after putting him in child care, I was amazed at how well he handles crowds now. He doesn’t seem to mind being left there in the mornings, and he smiles at all the girls who work there! I guess it helped also that he was sent there so young, as opposed to, say, when he’s 1 year old. If he’s older, he might start recognizing people and might not be too happy about being left there with strangers!

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Little J at the child care

2. Social Skills

While I love spending time with Little J alone during the day, I know I can’t provide the same level of fun that other kids would to him. It is somehow different, the kind of fun you enjoy with your parents and that with your peers. Many parents that I know have second or third babies just for this reason – to provide a companion or play buddy for their first child. Well, since I don’t plan to have a second one in the near future, the next best thing would be to provide play buddies for my little one in the form of friends. And there are plenty at the child care, you can be sure of that. Little J is still too young to recognize or play with friends, but the early exposure of him to many other kids will make socializing easier for him once he gets older. Apparently, this will also help in their transition to school later on.

3. Stimulating

I try to make play time at home as fun as possible with Little J – I like placing him on the play mat, putting him on tummy time, singing songs to him, attracting him with different toys or play peekaboo with him. But I guess at some point, I will run out of ideas on how to stimulate him or he might get bored with looking at the same toys every day. LOL! At least at the child care, there are many different carers who would take turns playing with him, and they definitely have many more toys too. So I guess this helps to stimulate his cognitive senses a bit more.

4. Immunity

This can be a good or bad point, depending on how you look at it. Being in a centre with perhaps more than 10 kids around, it is inevitable that a baby will get sick easily since his immune system is not quite matured. Also, exposure to more kids also means exposure to more germs and viruses. This eventually leads to more sickness, especially during the first few months at the child care. Now for a working mother, that is a bad point because it means that you would have to take care of a sick baby instead of being at work, since the child care centres usually don’t encourage sick kids to be there to avoid spreading of germs to the rest of the kids. It means that we, as parents, would have to take days off work and nurse the kid back to health, with the hope that he doesn’t pass the sickness to us! But the good thing about that is this accelerates the building of the kid’s immune system, so that he is less likely to get sick in the future instead. Little J has been at the child care for 2 weeks now and he’s finally got a bit of a runny nose yesterday, which I’m hoping will not blow up into something bigger, fingers crossed!

5. Independence

I have heard about this from other mothers that I talked to at the office, that kids who go to child care end up being independent earlier than those who stay at home. Citing an example of feeding during meal times. Apparently, many mothers struggle with feeding food to toddlers because they just wouldn’t sit still or would get distracted and end up taking a long time to finish their meals. Some mothers are even seen running around the house to chase the toddler just to feed him. A colleague of mine who sent her kid to child care said that she actually had no problem feeding her son. In fact, when she tried to feed him, her son pushed her hand away because he wanted to feed himself! I guess when you’re at the child care and are exposed to kids of all ages including older ones, you tend to look at what the older kids do and would sort of get influenced by them? In a way, this teaches them to be more independent and more disciplined, because when they see what the ‘big’ kids do, they want to do the same too.

I’m sure there are many good or bad points about sending a kid to child care, and the argument can go for ages. But the fact remains that I’m a full-time working mom and this is the choice that I have to make. Instead of feeling bad about it and letting it affect my life, why not look at it from a different perspective and embrace the benefits of sending a kid to child care?

On another note, Little J has started teething and has got his first tooth out at 5 months. :)

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 First tooth at 5 months

Our New Year’s Eve 2013

Can you believe it? 2013 has come and gone, some might say in a blink of an eye, but to me, it has been a fruitful one. It was one where Little J was born and brought into our world, making it more lively and happy with his wide grins. Sure, with the little one around, many of our activities are limited and revolve around him. Heck, he even dictates when I can go to the toilet or bathroom, or our lunch and dinner time, and most importantly, our shopping time. When I say shopping, I don’t mean shopping for clothes or window-shopping – no, we certainly don’t have that luxury anymore. When I say shopping, I meant shopping for groceries and necessities, things we need to survive like food, toiletries, nappies, etc. And even so, we have to multitask so that we can go out and come back before he starts getting cranky for his nap time.

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Our bundle of joy

On the day of new year’s eve, we spent it like any other day. I have started training Little J to drink using the bottle since I will be starting work next week (:() and I wanted to make sure that he would drink from the bottle when he’s at the child care centre. Saucer has been doing the father duty of feeding Little J, but sometimes, the little one gets curious and holds his own bottle. It lasts only a few minutes at a time though, before he gets distracted by something else (like his feet) and decides to grab those instead. LOL!

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Drinking from the bottle

While Saucer helped with the feeding, I decided to do some baking myself. We had some leftover taro/yam from making bubur cha cha a few days ago, so I decided to make some use out of them. What better way to use yam than to make yam cake? It was my first time making it and honestly, it’s not that difficult. In fact, I made the yam cake twice in two days, to get rid of all the remaining taro that I had in my fridge. The preparation took about half an hour or so, and the rest was leaving it to steam. But after all the hard work, it felt so good to taste home made yam cake!

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Yam Cake

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Served with chilli sauce

Saucer is a fan of yam cake and adored my version to bits! We gave some away to our friends and relatives so we didn’t have much left for ourselves, which explained why I decided to make the second batch on the next day. Now I still have less than half a tray in the fridge and I’m treating it as my treasured possession. LOL!

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Strawberry milkshake

Saucer got me a milkshake maker for Christmas and he made me a really nice and cooling strawberry milkshake on New Year’s Eve! I used to love chocolate milkshake as a kid, but now my favorite flavor is strawberry. I guess it’s just less rich and cloying compared to chocolate? Anyway, it was the perfect  beverage for a hot summer afternoon!

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New Year’s Eve potluck dinner

Our neighbor and Saucer’s cycling buddy hosted a new year’s eve dinner in the form of potluck. Being understanding, they started dinner early so that we could be done before the little one’s bed time. There were 3 families, all from different countries – the hosts were from Australia and New Zealand, serving appetizers of chips, salad, crackers and dips, and the famous Australian BBQ and rolls. The other couple was from South Africa and served their version of a sweet trifle-like dessert, which was made with everything starting with ‘C’ – cookies, cream, custard, condensed milk – yum! And us, being Malaysians, decided to serve our famous Nasi Lemak! I was surprised that they took it quite well, considering the sambal was quite hot, even for my standards. Of course, the cucumber slices proved to be a saviour. :) Dinner started at around 6pm and we left after a quick dessert around 8.30pm. It was indeed a great meal with a good conversation, even though we didn’t stay long enough to watch the fireworks.

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Happy New Year 2014!

As usual, Little J dictates our bed time too, so when he started getting cranky, we had to quickly rush back, changed and fed him before putting him to bed. By 10.30pm I was already exhausted from the day’s work of baking and cooking that I went to bed at 11pm. No, we didn’t manage to stay til midnight to welcome the new year, but our little boy certainly was happy to welcome the new day with us early next morning. Happy New Year to everyone and may the new year 2014 bring lots of joy and happiness!

A Christmas Feast 2013

Merry Christmas! Can’t believe the year 2013 is coming to an end already! I don’t want it to end so soon because it has been my favorite year so far, with the birth of Little J and the amazing time I had being a temporary stay at home mom. The start of the new year will also mark the return of my working routine and sending Little J to the child care. I feel terrible just thinking about it and I know it’s going to be dreadful for me. But looking on the bright side, it gives Little J the opportunity to socialize and mix with more kids instead of just being a hermit! :)

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Christmas feast

Last weekend, my aunt invited us to her place for an early Christmas dinner with her family. It was our first time celebrating Christmas in Sydney since we were back in Malaysia this time last year. We looked forward to spending this festive season with them since we never had a proper Christmas dinner with a Christian family before. We were also told that there would be exchange of presents for the kids so we got excited! My only worry about going out of house for a dinner event was how Little J would behave. He’s usually happy and cheerful during the day but cranky and restless during the evening near his bedtime. And this being a dinner that would only start at 7pm, I knew he would kick up a fuss in a matter of time. Anyway, there was nothing I could do except to just go with the flow.

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Bacon and mushroom quiche

Before leaving for the dinner, I spent about 2 hours preparing some food to bring over. I wasn’t sure what was appropriate so I came up with 2 dishes – a Bacon and Mushroom Quiche and Baked Eggplant Parmigiana. The eggplant dish took longer to prepare since I had to grill them on the pan first before arranging them on the baking dish. Couple that with Little J who decided to wake up early from his nap and I was running all over the kitchen trying to multitask. Thankfully, he decided to give in and nap just after I put the dishes into the oven.

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Baked Eggplant Parmigiana

At around 6.30pm, Little J woke up just in time for his feed before we left for dinner. When we reached, we saw the table laden with various dishes! It had been ages since I had a proper dinner with more than 2 different dishes! With the arrival of Little J, dinner has always been quick and easy fixes with a maximum of 2 different dishes. So when I saw the different variety on the table, I instantly got hungry. LOL! There was the customary Christmas ham, potato gratin, soy sauce chicken, Panang curry chicken, spring rolls and my baked eggplant and quiche.

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Christmas Ham

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Soy Sauce chicken

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Spring rolls

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Panang curry chicken

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Potato gratin

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All the dishes for dinner

He was happy for the first hour or so, even allowed both Saucer and I to have a peaceful dinner with the rest. It was actually more than I could hope for. Some time near 9pm, he started to get cranky and wailed for attention. By then we had already finished dinner and were just chatting with my aunt and the family. When his cries got more and more frequent, we decided that it was time to go home. They had not started exchanging presents yet but since we were leaving, Little J got his first Christmas present from his aunt Sue. At least it managed to distract him for a good few minutes before he started screaming again.

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Little J’s first Christmas present

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Christmas presents for all of us

When we reached home, Little J started to settle down and eventually went to sleep. Once he was down, it was time for us to open our presents. Aunt Sue was so generous since she got both Saucer and I presents too when initially we agreed to get presents just for the kids! Her presents are also so thoughtful, especially the checkered picnic rug that folded into a bag. We can foresee lots of use out of it once Little J gets bigger and we have more picnic outings!

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Our Christmas gifts

How was your Christmas celebration like? Hope you had a great one just like us and we wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and a fantastic New Year 2014!

Rolling Milestone

At around 3 months plus, Little J had the tendency to always roll to his side. At first, I thought it was because I had the TV on, since he always ended on the side facing the TV. Later on, the rolling to his side sort of evolved into rolling from one angle to another. Very often, I would place him in the same position, i.e. head facing the top of the cot and feet at the bottom, but when he woke up from his nap, I would find him shifted 90 degrees with his body across the cot.

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Little J on his side

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Mastering the rolling to his side while sucking his fingers

Later on, I realized it wasn’t just because of the TV, because he started rolling to both sides regardless of whether the TV was on or not. His method of rolling was quite smart, I thought. He would lift both of his legs up, then let them fall to the side. Depending on which side his legs fell, his body would follow suit. So he was in fact using the weight of his legs to drag his body along. How brilliant! Due to this method, every time he’s on this side, his body would form a 90 degrees angle. And when he tried to straighten his body by kicking his legs, his body would move 90 degrees away, making his body slowly rotate around. That eventually explained how he always ended up in a different position in his cot.

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Another shot of him on his side

Just a few days after he turned 4 months old, he started doing a lot more of this rolling to the side, but this time, he was trying to flip himself over to his tummy! I discovered that one day when I placed him on his play mat as usual and I went out to collect my laundry. Once I was back, I heard him wailing, which was unusual, so I quickly went to him to find that he was on his tummy! Unfortunately, he wasn’t someone who liked being on his tummy and since he didn’t know how to flip himself back, he started struggling for help. I was surprised and a little upset that I missed the first time he did his rollover, so I was adamant to stay and watch him do it the second time. Finally, I managed to catch him doing it on video after he attempted it for the 10th time or so. Bravo! If there’s one thing I learnt, it is that Little J is one determined little fella. He kept on trying and trying even after many failures, until he got what he wanted. And if you noticed, he even started each attempt with a smile! :)

Little J rolling over

They say there is such a thing as sleep regression, where babies start to sleep less or out of pattern due to a development phase or the learning of a new skill. True enough, Little J’s sleep was all over the place a few days before he mastered the rollover, probably because he was still trying to figure out how to do it. Once he got that figured out, his sleep slowly went back to normal, but we were faced with another new problem. He started to rollover in the middle of the night when he’s awake! Needless to say, he wouldn’t be happy with that position for long before he started wailing for help. I can’t tell you how many times I was awaken by him crying out loud just because he flipped himself over to his tummy. And the problem was I couldn’t stop him for doing it over and over again. He must have been excited learning the new skill and wanting to try it out whenever possible but it was certainly taking away my much-needed sleep in the middle of the night.

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“Look mommy, I’m on my tummy again!”

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“Hehe, woke you up, didn’t I?”

The rolling over in the middle of the night happened for a few nights in a row, until I was so exhausted having to wake up at 2/3/4/5am just to roll him back. Finally, on one morning, I was just too tired to wake up and surprisingly the crying stopped after a few minutes. When I finally woke up, I peeked into his room to find out that he, too, was too tired to cry for help and gave in to sleeping on his tummy. Hooray! Little J had never been able to sleep on any position other than on his back, so he eventually developed a bald spot. Now that he learnt to sleep on his tummy, it would give the bald spot a chance to grow his hair. Plus, he wouldn’t have to scream out for help if he flips himself over in the middle of the night again. Double win.

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Sleeping on his tummy

It has now been 3 weeks since he turned 4 months old, and yes, the rolling over is still happening. The good news is that he just started to roll himself back to his back now! Gosh my boy is becoming more and more mobile by the day, and more independent too. I look forward to documenting his next major milestone!

Which Freezer Should I Choose?

From my dishwasher post, lets move on to another kitchen appliance that we can’t live without – freezer! Here is a guest post on how to choose the perfect freezer for your kitchen.

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There are two types of domestic kitchen freezer available, upright and chest freezers. Both types come in four sizes: Compact (5 cubic feet), Small (six to nine cubic feet), medium (twelve to eighteen cubic feet) and large (eighteen+ cubic feet). For a typical family of four, a compact or small freezer will usually suffice. However, when choosing a suitable freezer for the family home, there are a number of other factors that should be taken into consideration as well as just size.

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Chest freezer

PRICE

A compact freezer will often start at around $150 whereas top of the range large freezers can set you back almost $2000. The average freezer for a family home typically costs between $400 to $800 dollars – slightly less for a chest freezer. More expensive freezers usually come with extra features such as frost-free or automatic defrost.

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Chest freezer is slightly cheaper than upright freezer

STORAGE

Upright freezers typically come with four or five racks and sometimes with extra storage in the door. Chest freezers take up more floor space and have a lid that opens upwards. Upright freezers allow you to organise your food on separate racks whereas chest freezers have baskets or one large space. If you don’t want to rummage around, then upright freezers are a better storage option.

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Upright freezer for better storage

LOCATION

Because they take up less floor space, upright freezers are more suitable for smaller kitchens. If you have extra storage space such as a garage, plus a large family or wish to freeze and store a lot of food, then go for a chest freezer.

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Upright freezer takes up less space

ENERGY USE

Although they are often larger, chest freezers tend to use less energy than uprights. This is because more cold air escapes from an upright than a chest freezer when it is opened. Because cold air falls rather than rises, there is much less time for it to escape from a chest than an upright freezer. This said, all models should come with an energy efficiency rating, so read up on these and study a range of freezers carefully in store to see how they compare.

So, in summary, think about how much you wish to spend, how much food you store and consume, how much floor or storage space you have and consider energy consumption. Happy freezing!

My Dishwasher

I love cooking. I just hate cleaning up afterwards. I used to pride myself in being able to keep the kitchen in a spotless condition, and to always keep the sink empty of dirty plates or cutlery. With Little J around, however, I had started to cut myself some slack and dishes are sometimes left in the sink for a few hours being they’re being tended to. I still don’t like the sight of dirty plates around but what’s a girl to do? During dinner, thankfully Saucer would be around to help with washing up. But I don’t know if it’s the same with all guys, I always felt that he wasn’t thorough enough in cleaning. I know he’s being kind and helpful around but maybe he can’t help it if his cleaning standards are not up to mine. Therefore, my best friend in this case is the dishwasher.

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My dishwasher

When we moved in to our new place last year, we were surprised to find that the previous owner did not remove the dishwasher from our kitchen. It looked pretty new and clean, definitely didn’t look like a broken dishwasher, so I was more than happy to welcome this addition to our kitchen. I always thought that using a dishwasher would waste more water and electricity, especially when there’s just the 2 of us around. But I was surprised to find out that you can save energy by just loading a dishwasher more than half full. Think of it like a washing machine, surely it is more energy efficient to be using the machine than to hand wash if you have a load of laundry to do?

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Wine glasses with wine stains and finger prints

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Wine stains

One of the things that Saucer doesn’t clean very well is wine glasses. I guess it’s due to the fragile nature of the wine glass that he doesn’t dare to spend too much time washing it, in case he breaks it. So most of the time, he would just rinse it with water and let it dry. This, of course, is not enough especially if it is used for drinking red wine. Over time, the wine stains would accumulate and cause the wine glass to have a reddish stain at the bottom. Since I was going to use the dishwasher, I decided to load it with all our wine glasses for a good rinse.

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Finish products

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Inside the dishwasher

If you live in Australia, you would most certainly have heard of the brand Finish. In fact, Finish is so well-known in the dishwashing category that it is synonymous to Tupperware being the plastic container brand. I was sent some Finish products to try out the other day, and I thought it would be a great opportunity to really test if the product is worth its weight. So one night after dinner, I decided to load the dishwasher with all the dirty cookware, pot, plates, cutlery and wine glasses that were stained. I used a tablet of the Finish Powerball together with the Finish Protector that would give additional shine to glassware.

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Finish Powerball

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Finish Powerball dishwashing tablet

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Just place it in the dishwasher compartment

Using the Finish Powerball was so easy. Each tablet was ready to use, just pop it in the dishwasher compartment without any mess. The Finish Protector looked like a diamond, and was supposed to give extra shine especially to glassware. According to the packet, it would also last up to 50 washes! Using this was easy too – just clip it on the bottom rack of the dishwasher as recommended on the pack.

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Finish Protector

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Clip it on the bottom rack

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Dishwasher fully loaded

Finally, my dishwasher was fully loaded and ready to go. Pressed the button to start and I went on performing my motherly duties – aka feeding Little J and coaxing him to sleep at night. Having the extra time from not having to do the dishes also meant I could play with him a little longer before bed time. Win-win situation. :)

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Fresh from the dishwasher

The next morning, I opened the dishwasher to a clean rack of plates, bowls and glasses. It might have been psychology but the plates were spotless and super shiny. The wine glasses were free of stains too, impressive! I was very happy with the results, and how sparkling clean everything looked! :)

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Shiny wine glasses

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Spotless wine glass

In fact, just out of curiosity, I compared the cutlery that was cleaned with the dishwasher to a hand washed one – it was obvious how the hand washed cutlery still had water spots and streaks on them, while the one from the dishwasher was flawless. I know it’s just a small detail but if you have good and expensive silverware, you wouldn’t want their shine to be compromised, would you?

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Top – dishwasher, bottom – hand wash

I guess this experiment just shows how handy a dishwasher is and how Finish products have proven their worth. If there is one downside to using a dishwasher, it is probably the long turnaround time to complete the washing (more than an hour). So, if I have less than half the dishwasher load to do, it would still be more efficient doing it manually. Otherwise, I would be more than happy to start the dishwasher – having guests over for dinner would also be a breeze!