Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Around the house to do

It seems like the house work never ends.  Now that we're 100% officially unpacked there's a whole new set of things to do.  We're never those people to let unpacked boxes sit around for months (or years?).  We got it all done in the first week.  I couldn't live like that.  It probably could have been done faster if it wasn't for the stifling heat.  

Since I'm technically without job I'm finding ways to spend my days around the house NOT spending money. With lots of Pinterest ideas it can be hard.  When I'm not looking for jobs online I make impossible long term lists.  Note: the only one I've checked was "add storage to shower".  I had a quick, easy and free solution for our awkward shower set up.  Hint: it involved zip ties!


  • unpack
  • organize rooms
  • get rid of moving boxes - Thanks Craigslist free section!
  • window treatments asap
  • get ac fixed - fixed is a gentle word; replaced is more true.
  • get sump pump fixed - again 'fixed' is a gentle word; fiddled with so it operates albeit not up to code or anywhere near any design any engineer (or regular person) would think is normal, is more like it.
  • get rid of dishwasher mold
  • get rid of basement mold (the subcontractors are here today!)
  • yard work responsibilities (post weeding & 1st landscaping photos)
  • extra city trash can - technically it's not here yet but our new 'super can' will arrive when they get more in stock
  • recycle bin - big check since not recycling anything just felt wrong.
  • internet hooked up
  • replace temp shades with blinds
  • DIY a roman shade
  • get new desk(s?) for office
  • rugs for bedroom & office
  • clean all windows - inside and out
  • clean basement
  • transplant lirope to side deck
  • see photo for more to do's

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Hurricane Lessons

These are things we'll take with us after surviving hurricane 2K11.  Everything seems to be a learning process around here lately.  Moving to Virginia has been stressful!  Things we've learned from Hurricane Irene:
  • Bake food before a hurricane hits
    • cookies, muffins, cakes, granola etc
  • Take hot shower before a hurricane hits (although we had hot & cold water throughout the power outage luckily)
  • Do laundry before a hurricane hits
    • Stock up on stuff you can eat cold - bread, bagels, peanut butter, fruit, vegetables, nuts, chips, salsa, even stuff like soup, canned tuna, waffles, beans, leftover potato gratin casserole...
    • Don't stock up on perishable items before a hurricane hits
      • Why the heck does everyone buy milk?  What good will that do you in a summer hurricane?  You'll have to drink it right away or it'll all go bad.  Unless you have a babe I strongly don't get it.
    • Eat before the power goes out!  Duh.  We got hungry for dinner right when our power went out at 5pm.  Sillies.
    • Don't wait until the power goes out to look for all the candles and matches - plan ahead.  I still haven't found a bag of IKEA candles that got lost in the move.
    • move your car away from under a giant tree
    • charge all electronics - phones, computers, ipods etc
    • Move important items out of the basement before it floods
    • Don't buy a house that was built in 1930 (side note: one window has a leak and destroyed our blinds)
    • Live in a place with a gas stove and gas powered water heater
    • Live in a place where the windows can open!  Ours still can't but 2 and we have just 1 temporary screen. Again living without AC sucks; luckily it wasn't 96 degrees like move in week and only in the 80's.
    • Have plenty of towels on hand just in case
    • Be prepared to meet your neighbors.  Put on your friendly face.
    Although we're not planning on becoming home owners anytime soon this is just one more thing that makes us grateful for still renting.  The de-molding sub-contractor guy is coming today to assess the damage in the basement.  So glad its not my $$$ to pay him.  There was mold before the hurricane too so it was needed.

    Also we're taking away a few lessons that we both personally feel strongly on.  We will never buy a really old house.  We have no desire for a house with a basement.  We want the washer/dryer to be up to code (is that so much to ask!?).  We want gas powered appliances.  

    Lets hope after an earthquake and hurricane in the same week there are no more natural disasters for awhile.  

    Also if you know the answer to why people stock up on milk in the summer before a hurricane please leave a comment.  I don't get it. 

    Monday, August 29, 2011

    Meals for the week - August 29th and Hurricane update

    I've been way behind on posting our menus/meals for the week lately.  Partly due to moving and such and more recently due to stress with Irene.  This week's menu which I just made is a jumble of stuff.  I had gone grocery shopping and also made some food when the hurricane hit.  

    Thankfully the house and us made it through fine.  We were without power for 28 hours and now amazingly have power restored!  Yay Dominion power!  Our neighbors were not all so lucky.  There were many trees down on neighboring streets & houses and some fell on primary, major power lines.  Yikesters!  Lots of road closures and down power lines.  Our basement did flood about 8" where luckily we didn't have many of our personal items.  The only things in the basement were Cornelius's litter box, our Christmas tree and some cleaning supplies.  Oh and the washer, dryer, all the utilities, water heater and some painting supplies left by the owner.  We got our stuff out and dried off but someone is coming to check the rest of the basement (hopefully today).  We had hot water through the black out which was nice since we have gas for our hot water heater and the pilot light was above the flood level in the basement.  

    Our new fridge handled the black out pretty well!  I was personally very surprised.  We opened it a few times to get various things but amazed how cool everything inside was the whole time.  We didn't loose any food due to spoilage - yay!  We're hosting some friends' food since their power has yet to return.  



    The party on Sunday was cancelled due to the hurricane and we had to make due with cold food like PB&J and leftover soup and such that day.  Somehow a Chinese restaurant was open nearby (generator?) so we grabbed some of that too.  Yes we broke our no eating out rule but it was... 'an emergency'.  Wish I had snapped a photo of our local grocery store we visited Sunday.  It was open and partially lit with only non perishable items for sale.  They were carting away all the now warm frozen food in carts (wonder what they did with that - I bet some people would have taken that stuff).  


    mail that the mail person thought it'd be okay to leave outside
    not in our mail slot.  Then the hurricane hit and it got destroyed.


    drying our fake Christmas tree day after the hurricane
    It got soaked when the basement flooded.


    my feet underwater and the floating kitty litter box in the 4" of water in the basement.
    Also: I can't believe I stood in that water!  It was disgusting!  Probably full of bugs, dirt, mold,
    kitty litter, paint, bacteria & chemicals.  Gross.  Also it was cold, and felt nasty.

    Hope everyone was safe and happy menu planning this week!

    Wednesday, August 24, 2011

    New home, new budget

    Since quitting our jobs, packing up and relocating to Richmond there have been some changes.  One big obvious change is Tony isn't working but in full time grad school.  CRNA programs = expensive & not allowed to work.  I have to be the sole bread winner for the family.  Yes technically I don't have a job yet but gimme time (ps anyone know anyone who's hiring in RVA?).  Cutting our income by more than half requires little more than a lean year.  


    We've had to cut back on some of our expenses to afford living in the place we do.  We love our apartment and while it was in our budget (and very underpriced!) we know we could have gone cheaper; not happily though. We appreciate our huge kitchen, dishwasher, central air, parking spots and 2 bedrooms.  To afford living here we have to make some cuts.  First up?  Cable tv.


    We cut cable tv from our budget and now just have netflix on our roku box.  Honestly I don't mind it.  I found I we were mindlessly spending too much time in front of the tv before.  Now we watch madmen or spend time together.  Not sure if we'll change our netflix account due to the price increase but we'll see.   With the digital cable and DVR of our old apartment we're easily saving something like $42/month (probably more I could never figure our our bill). 


    Next savings - groceries!  Going vegetarian at home saves lots of money to start.  I also save $$ on groceries by making my own detergent, cleaning spray & other cleaners (natural & cheaper) and shopping at a new discount/salvage grocery.  I know they aren't an option for everyone but if you can find a scratch n dent grocery you'll save a ton!  Our old tiny one in Raleigh closed.  Ours here in Richmond is huge and even has great produce and frozen food (must take photos next time).  We meal plan every week after we get home from the grocery store to make sure to not waste anything or be tempted to eat out.  Savings of lots of dollars/month!


    I also participate in survey/sampling sites - I get paid to test products or get free samples.  It saves on bills when I get free full sized products like tissues, shampoo, contact solution and kitty litter!  I'm planning on updating my list of sites I am an active member of on the blog soon.  Since we've moved I'm looking for more research studies I can be a part of, perhaps at VCU.  Savings... depends each month.


    Other changes to our budget - as mentioned before we're going lean.  Eating out is off limits, as is buying new things like clothes, make up, furniture etc.   Sightseeing or travelling is off limits unless free.  Even gift giving is drastically reduced.  If we love you you'll get baked goods and homemade cards from us for the next 2 years.  Selling things we already own is okay (like a printer).  Unless its related to Tony's school (for which there are loans) like an ear piece, lab coat or dress shoes we are not spending money.  Random items I know but all true.  With a small budget comes creative ways to use what we've got and make the best of it.  So far we're enjoying everything and look forward to the challenges ahead!

    Sunday, August 21, 2011

    New house - bathroom no. 1

    We have an awkward bathroom set up going on in our new house.  I can't blame the renovators for trying their best - but still it's a little awkward.  First to start off there are 1.5 bathrooms.  Both of them are practically next to each other in the main hallway of our apartment.  Not off the main hallway, in the main hallway.  One has is a full bathroom with a shower/toilet/sink.  The other is a half bath with just a toilet/sink.  The full bathroom is small while the half bathroom is bigger.  The full bathroom has almost no storage or space while the half bathroom has tons of storage.  See the dilemma?

    Anyway, imagine those (no photos yet).  Here are some images from the full bathroom; of specifically the shower.  We had a couple storage solutions in our previous apartments' bathrooms and they worked fine like normal bathrooms do.  We have this tension rod shower shelf thing as well as a hang from the shower head shelf thing.  Both very normal and nothing special (actually very rusty).  I tried to install them at our new place and fail.  See...


    The tension rod thingy needed a flat ceiling in the corner of the shower to stand properly.  As you can see (hopefully) the corner of the shower has a vaulted/angled ceiling.  Pretty, but not great.  I've set it up on the only flat piece of ceiling which isn't in the corner.  These shelves are triangular for a reason.  They just look stupid where they are.  I'll probably leave them since we're cheap right now but it's a bummer our corner shelves can't fit in the corner.  Notice all our semi organic shampoos?  These and the trader joes ones plus a product I failed to mention before and (we both) love - Origins face wash.  


    Next fail shower system: a hanging shelf.  We each brought things to our house when we got married last year, then we had 2 full bathroom so we kept all the gear.  Now with 1 shower we probably don't need both systems.  This (if you can see) is something that hangs on a normal shower head.  We do not have a normal shower head.  This fancy smacney shower doesn't accommodate storage baskets.  LAME.

    "Hi, I'm a super fancy shower head, just try to get that shower cady to fit"
    sideways shower cady = fail

    We gave the 2nd shower shelf unit to goodwill.  The awkward corner not so corner shelf is staying.

    Up next: more organic food cooking, menus, ice cream, the neighborhood and more. We're finally settled in and now back to blogging!

    Tuesday, August 16, 2011

    Cool Summer Drink

    Now, the last few weeks we've had a lot of free time on our hands. Between Tony's school not starting yet, and me not having a job yet (any leads you may have are welcome...) when we're not busy fixing up our new place, killing bugs, or exploring Richmond together, we have had a few hours on our hands. We have spent an embarrassing amount of this time watching Mad Men on Netflix instant!  While nothing exciting ever seems to happen this show is so addicting, and despite some crazy political incorrectness, these people make retro seem cool. Between Mad Men and our visit to Bourbon and Branch, a speakeasy in San Francisco, it seems like cocktails are becoming more & more popular.
    http://styleredux.blogspot.com/2010/03/mad-men-fashion.html
    Tony's brother & dad visited us in Richmond this past weekend. Inspired by a cocktail that we saw (but didn't taste) at a vegan restaurant called Ipanema Cafe, we wanted to make our own summer cocktail. What made this whole thing even cooler was that we got all the ingredients (except for the gin) from a local grocer called Fresh to Frozen. This place sells stuff WAY less than you'd pay at a regular store, but a lot of it is about to expire or has damaged packaging. This = gianormous savings. Take a look at our last receipt:
    So on to our drink. We named it the "Sterling Cooper." Even if you don't like gin, this drink's worth a shot (get it?). You could replace the gin with any number of spirits, or omit it completely. It's very refreshing, and you can really taste the cucumber. After trying several combinations, we settled on the following ingredients:


    1 oz Gin
    1/4 Lime (plus a slice for garnish)
    3 or 4 Slices of Cucumber
    Ginger Ale
    (optional) Sparkling Water to taste

    1. Start by muddling (aka smushing) half of the cucumber slices and the lime in the bottom of your cocktail shaker.



    2. Fill the shaker with ice, and add the gin and shake it



    3. Fill a cool cocktail glass (or a mason jar) with ice, and pour the gin mixture over top the ice. Then add ginger ale to the top. If you like it a little less sweet, add sparkling water to taste.

    4. Garnish with lime and cucumber & enjoy while watching Mad Men


    Monday, August 15, 2011

    How to get rid of mold in your dishwasher

    When we moved into our brand newly renovated apartment we expected to find conditions sparkly new and pristine.  For the most part that was true.  Some aspects although were left a sloppy, irresponsible mess.  Like the dishwasher.  While we have a brand new (almost) never been used stainless steel dishwasher... yet it wasn't clean.  It appeared as if the construction workers had used it once or twice to store their fast food giant gulp plastic cups.  Dirty plastic cups with remnant coke + weeks in an inclosed space = mold.  

    Both dishwasher racks were covered in mold.  Check out the gross before photos.  All photos untouched. 

    the black mold

    bright shiny new from the outside 
    gross cups we found left inside when we moved in
    I googled on how to get rid of the mold myself (since the property management was not so much in the picture at this point).  We needed to do dishes stat.  I wasn't about to wait for them to get around to it, and hand washing was getting old fast.  I doubted actually using the dishwasher with mold wasn't a good idea.  Mold + eating surfaces = bad.  Not sure of the health implications if it could transfer but I figured not test it.  There is a lot on the internet about mold in dishwashers.  Mostly about how to stop getting in the future if you have it.  Things like clean the seals and checking water pipes from preventing mold from growing more.  Bogus to us.  

    We found a way to clean all the mold easily and quickly.  The answer - SOS pads.  Those little steel wool pads were a lifesaver.  Originally we tried to clean the mold with soap & water with a toothbrush and sponge.  That was super slow and not very productive.  The SOS steel wool pads had an amazing cleaning product that combined with the steel wool took the mold off instantly!  

    It still took about an hour to clean both top and bottom rack but 10x fast as the soap, water & toothbrush.  We pretty much had to wipe down every inch of the dish racks and they had so much surface area that had mold.  It took about 3 SOS pads for both racks.  The more we cleaned the more tinier bits of mold we found.  In the end we got it all.  After the SOS steel wool we ran the washer with a 1/2 cup of vinegar sitting in a cup on the top rack at the highest heat setting during 1 wash cycle.  After that it was clean and ready to go!

    wear medical gloves for protection


    A clean after shot below.  See no mold?  See only dirty used dishes?  A great success so now we can actually cook and clean in our own brand new (rented) kitchen.   This didn't cost us anythings since we owned the SOS pads to start with.  Big problem with an easy solution.



    Friday, August 5, 2011

    We've made it to Richmond! pt. 2

    (continued from part 1

    The first night we stayed in a Days Inn Express that welcomed pets.  IDK if you’ve ever spent the same night in the same room as your cat’s litter box, but it’s not exactly pleasant.  But at least we had air conditioning there! The next day my family helped us unpack, but then escaped the heat back home.  Over the next 24 hours, we learned that the reason why we had no AC was that the unit was stolen from outside… likely an inside job as the person neatly clipped the cord and tubing like a professional.  We also heard rumors from the maintenance men that the management company for our apartment may have known about this before we even moved in… WTF people?  Okay, okay, let’s not jump to conclusions.  It was close to $100/night after the pet fee to stay at the hotel for a night… I wonder how much window units cost?  $100-200 for a single room?  Yes please.  Next stop: Target!
    This wasn't even the worst of it.  It was high as 93.2 F.  
    After picking up the essentials (like temporary vinyl window blinds @ $5 each!) to block the solar onslaught of heat) we found an 8000 BTU window AC unit- perfect for a large room.  No there were no window treatments that came with the house, or screens.  We took our new baby home and opened the box to find… it was dented, and wouldn’t seal with the window.  Cuss!  Okay, nobody panic, it’ll be okay… well maybe it wouldn’t, seeing as the only window that would even open was in the kitchen and was not near any wall outlets.  What is up with this place, is it even up to code?  (We would later learn, no, no it was not; despite being a newly renovated place).  Back to Target.  And Walmart.  And Lowes.  No luck.  A call to Home Depot the next day did land us a 5000 BTU (small room) unit ($99), as well as a ‘select-a-size’ screen ($5) for the kitchen window that had no outlet.  The maintenance man helped us open a window in our bedroom, which had apparently been nailed AND painted with about a million coats of paint shut.  Is this the poor-man’s version of a security system??  That night, we installed the unit ourselves and even though it was our third day here, we slept for the first time in less than 85 degrees in our own home.

    After finally getting a 2nd window open - our cheap temporary 'screen'.  Cat stays in; bugs stay out.  
    cuss - its broken
    The roller coaster did lead us in a happier direction when we discovered an awesome treasure down the street from us: Parkside CafĂ©, an eclectic American/Mexican/Indian restaurant with reasonable prices, as well as Crossroads Ice Cream & Coffee.  This place was awesome!  Not only did they have DELICIOUS ice cream, with flavors like Basil, and Espresso Oreo, but they also sell beer and have live music!  Tony foresees much time in the future studying here for school.  Then maybe drinking a beer (which they serve free pistachios with!) afterwards.  Another highlight of the moving weekend was meeting two of Tony’s classmates, Jeff and Kristen.  We helped Jeff and his wife move into their house the same weekend, in the same neighborhood.  They seem like great people and we can’t wait to get to know them better.

    The final slap in the face on this grueling, hot, tiresome weekend came when we tried to do the laundry.  Upon the rinse cycle, the sump pump kicked on.  What?  Why?  What’s a sump pump?  Well, at our household, when the basement washer drains its water, it goes directly to the sump pump hole, which should in theory pump it up and out of the house to the sewage or whatever like normal.  According to the maintenance man, this is not normal.  Or usual.  It just, is.  Did an engineer even design this?  In theory, yes this idea works fine… if you have a functioning sump pump, which is there to protect against basement flooding, not for draining your laundry.  But I digress.  However, issues can arise when the pump neglects to turn off, leading to a slightly off-putting, electrical burning smell, accompanied by a nervous loud noise reminiscent of a vacuum that has snagged a shoelace and continues to run.  According to the maintenance supervisor, we should try to ‘let it run all night, and if it doesn’t shut off call them back.’  Did we not mention that the burning started after about 5 minutes of running?  We did?  Okay then.

    Despite the hiccups, we LOVE the new place.  We are almost all the way unpacked, and are excited to blog about the good things to come.  Just give us a few days so that we may do it in the air conditioning.  (It hasn’t been replaced yet  It was just replaced today!).

    Here's some more photos from move in week:







    Tuesday, August 2, 2011

    We've made it to Richmond! pt. 1

    We finally moved to Richmond! Our move has been anything but boring, in fact it’s been a roller coaster of ups and downs; one big hot, sweaty roller coaster. Let’s start at the beginning:

    Two days before the big move we get a call from the Budget moving truck people- the 24’ truck we reserved isn’t there, would we like a 16’? Um, no we would not, but it’s too late to find a bigger truck with that short a notice, at least not without breaking our budget. Take a deep breath, can we fit all our stuff into a 16’? According to penske’s “What Size Moving Truck Do I Need?” online calculator, yes. Yes we can.
    -
    We picked up the truck at 5pm… well, more like 5:30pm after we waited half an hour for service. No sooner had we pulled our 16’ truck into rush hour traffic when the ‘check engine’ light blinks on… too late to return it, we called and demanded a replacement first thing the next morning.

    The next morning we picked up a new, functioning (still 16’) truck, and started what amounted to a 12 hour day of packing, hauling down 3 flights of stairs, and filling EVERY NOOK AND CRANNY of the truck (sorry no photos, but got to admit it was impressive!). We slept on our couches, which hadn’t been loaded. We saved the heavy lifting for the morning, when we hired a lone mover to help for 2 hours ($65, Robert Broughton) - this guy was awesome & we actually managed to fit EVERYTHING we planned on filling the 24’ into the 16’ foot with his ingenuity. We actually got done early, and Tony left for Richmond by noon, while I waited for my dad to arrive at the airport at 2pm.


    We also hired 2 movers for 2 hours ($105) on the Richmond side of things. Since we were ahead of schedule, we contacted them, and they showed up early! The roller coaster is really good at this point… the only dip is that my dad’s luggage didn’t follow him to Raleigh. In fact, we were so early that we were able to return the truck on time (we weren’t planning on making it originally) since unloading only took an hour!
    But then… the coaster veered off track and into rough, uncharted territory. 

    The apartment is gorgeous - just how we remembered it.  However it did feel um, warm? Scratch that, downright hot.  No, scorching.  Had no one turned on the AC?  Anyway we started to unpack, and the lack of circulating air was not lost on any of us, including our cat Cornelius, who was actually panting about 60 times a minute with his mouth hanging open… we’d never seen him do that before.  We knew we wouldn’t be able to stay the night at this place if the air didn’t kick on soon.  It was 100 when we left Raleigh, and close to it in Richmond, and it was 93 INSIDE our apartment!  Quick, someone open a window!  Wait, what?  They don’t open?  Well how about a door?  Oh yeah, we don’t want our cat to escape; also there are hornets.  Hmmm, let’s call the leasing office… someone should be out... tomorrow?  Okay, we’d better find a pet-friendly hotel, and fast! 

    (to be continued…)

    some beauties to check out:  






    You'll definitely want to hear the rest of this story.  Check back soon.  

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