Are Any Fancy Toilet Features Worth the Money?

iStock
iStock

If you haven't bought a new commode in the past decade (or ever), the toilet aisle of your local home improvement warehouse may come as a shock. Today’s potty is an engineering marvel of fecal diversion, with LED lights, warmed seats, and bursts of cleansing water. Are any of these bells and whistles worth the price tag?

Before you worry about amenities, your first concern should be how well the fixture performs under duress. Toilets that use a pressure-assisted flush system are usually able to stand up to too much toilet paper or foreign objects, but their noise level (think public bathroom gurgling) can be an annoyance. A better solution is a high-flow system, which utilizes gravity and wide-mouth flush valves to let more water in and out of the toilet during a flush.

One example of the high flow system is the American Standard Champion 4 ($199), said to be able to handle waste volume up to 70 percent larger than the average. In less delicate terms, it can move a lot of poop without wasting water on multiple flushes. (Government regulations limit new toilets to 1.6 gallons per flush.) Some models also offer a dual-flush option, which further conserves water by letting the user select a partial flush for liquid waste.

Once you’ve established your toilet can perform its essential function—preventing a back-up that could ruin your day—you can consider luxuriating on it. Newer models offer a comfort-height seat that raises the lip of the toilet from the standard 14 or 15 inches to a more chair-like 17 or 19 inches, making it easier to get on and off.

Touch-less flush mechanisms can minimize the spread of germs, and heated seats can make cold winter mornings a little more comfortable. In the toilet industry, these car-like amenities come at a cost. Kohler, for example, offers “smart” cleansing seats with LED lighting for easier nocturnal pooping starting at $399—but that doesn’t include the actual toilet. If you’re happy with your current model, however, upgrading might be a viable option.

Before making a final selection, make sure your new fixture will fit in the space allotted. Elongated seats can add to a toilet’s dimensions, and some models may not fit perfectly over existing floor bolts. Measure from the wall to the floor drain to make sure you can accommodate the toilet's depth.

If you’re handy, you may be able to make the switch yourself, but remember that old toilets are heavy and any improper connection to the waste drain could mean a mess later. Consider enlisting a plumber to help ensure years of worry-free time on the throne.

[h/t KTAR News]

You Can Now Order—and Donate—Girl Scout Cookies Online

It's OK if you decide to ignore the recommended serving size on a box of these beauties.
It's OK if you decide to ignore the recommended serving size on a box of these beauties.
Girl Scouts

Girl Scouts may have temporarily suspended both cookie booths and door-to-door sales to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be deprived of your annual supply of everyone’s favorite boxed baked goods. Instead, you can now order Thin Mints, Tagalongs, and all the other classic cookies online—or donate them to local charities.

When you enter your ZIP code on the “Girl Scouts Cookie Care” page, it’ll take you to a digital order form for the nearest Girl Scouts organization in your area. Then, simply choose your cookies—which cost $5 or $6 per box—and check out with your payment and shipping information. There’s a minimum of four boxes for each order, and shipping fees vary based on quantity.

Below the list of cookies is a “Donate Cookies” option, which doesn’t count toward your own order total and doesn’t cost any extra to ship. You get to choose how many boxes to donate, but the Girl Scouts decide which kinds of cookies to send and where exactly to send them (the charity, organization, or group of people benefiting from your donation is listed on the order form). There’s a pretty wide range of recipients, and some are specific to healthcare workers—especially in regions with particularly large coronavirus outbreaks. The Girl Scouts of Greater New York, for example, are sending donations to NYC Health + Hospitals, while the Girl Scouts of Western Washington have simply listed “COVID-19 Responders” as their recipients.

Taking their cookie business online isn’t the only way the Girl Scouts are adapting to the ‘stay home’ mandates happening across the country. They’ve also launched “Girl Scouts at Home,” a digital platform filled with self-guided activities so Girl Scouts can continue to learn skills and earn badges without venturing farther than their own backyard. Resources are categorized by grade level and include everything from mastering the basics of coding to building a life vest for a Corgi (though the video instructions for that haven’t been posted yet).

“For 108 years, Girl Scouts has been there in times of crisis and turmoil,” Girl Scouts of the USA CEO Sylvia Acevedo said in a press release. “And today we are stepping forward with new initiatives to help girls, their families, and consumers connect, explore, find comfort, and take action.”

You can order cookies here, and explore “Girl Scouts at Home” here.

Can't Find Yeast? Grow Your Own at Home With a Sourdough Starter

Dutodom, iStock via Getty Images
Dutodom, iStock via Getty Images

Baking bread can relieve stress and it requires long stretches of time at home that many of us now have. But shoppers have been panic-buying some surprising items since the start of the COVID-19 crisis. In addition to pantry staples like rice and beans, yeast packets are suddenly hard to find in grocery stores. If you got the idea to make homemade bread at the same time as everyone on your Instagram feed, don't let the yeast shortage stop you. As long as you have flour, water, and time, you can grow your own yeast at home.

While many bread recipes call for either instant yeast or dry active yeast, sourdough bread can be made with ingredients you hopefully already have on hand. The key to sourdough's unique, tangy taste lies in its "wild" yeast. Yeast is a single-celled type of fungus that's abundant in nature—it's so abundant, it's floating around your home right now.

To cultivate wild yeast, you need to make a sourdough starter. This can be done by combining one cup of flour (like whole grain, all-purpose, or a mixture of the two) with a half cup of cool water in a bowl made of nonreactive material (such as glass, stainless steel, or food-grade plastic). Cover it with plastic wrap or a clean towel and let it sit in a fairly warm place (70°F to 75°F) for 24 hours.

Your starter must be fed with one cup of flour and a half cup of water every day for five days before it can be used in baking. Sourdough starter is a living thing, so you should notice is start to bubble and grow in size over time (it also makes a great low-maintenance pet if you're looking for company in quarantine). On the fifth day, you can use your starter to make dough for sourdough bread. Here's a recipe from King Arthur Flour that only calls for starter, flour, salt, and water.

If you just want to get the urge to bake out of your system, you can toss your starter once you're done with it. If you plan on making sourdough again, you can use the same starter indefinitely. Starters have been known to live in people's kitchens for decades. But to avoid using up all your flour, you can store yours in the fridge after the first five days and reduce feedings to once a week.

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