Let’s Get Spicy

 

The Spices of Life

Perhaps you’ve just moved into your first apartment (congrats!). Or maybe you’re sick of eating carry out and frozen dinners (I feel ya!). Or, maybe you want to add a little spice to your culinary life by creatively seasoning your food (now we’re talkin’). These are all great reasons to invest a bit of time, energy, and money into adding spices to your pantry, or your kitchen cabinet, or wherever. Let’s chat about which basic spices to purchase, where to buy, how to store, and shelf life. In other words, let’s get spicy!

 “Spices are the friend of physicians and pride of cooks.”
—  Charlemagne, first emperor (800–814) of what was later called the Holy Roman Empire

Basic Herbs & Spices

Online searches for a list of basics does not provide a definitive list as taste is deeply personal based on your preferences – do you like spicy? Herbal? Heat? So this list is also personal – my preferences. I am admittedly a spice junkie with some 75 containers on stepped racks filling an entire three-shelf cabinet, so the list below is what I’d consider necessary if stranded on a desert island (with a full kitchen LOL).

My spice obsession certainly did not come from my mother-in-law, who only had seldom-used salt, pepper, and paprika in her kitchen. We never looked forward to eating at her place because the food was so bland and so boring. My mom has a decent selection of spices, but she still has containers she got when she first married in 1952. Some of her are so old, it’s like adding dust to food. No, my passion is self-curated.

Salt

A must have. Kosher salt is less salty than the iodized version, so it’s easier to control the salty taste. It does not, however, contain iodine, which is essential for good health (in moderation). Iodine does not taste great, so get it from something other than your salt. Sea salt comes in many varieties and can be very nice for finishing. Think chocolate chip cookies dusted with sea salt. YUM.

Pepper

There’s a huge difference in taste and freshness between the pre-ground stuff you find in pepper shakers everywhere and freshly ground pepper. Invest in a pepper grinder and never look back. There are many varieties of peppercorns; start with black peppercorns, preferably Indian Black Tellicherry. Some black peppercorn jars include their own grinder, perfect when you’re just starting out, and until you decide to go big. Try freshly-cracked pepper crusted steak for a restaurant experience at home.

Crushed Red Pepper Flakes

Oh, how I love the punch red pepper flakes add to just about everything. I once brought a large bag home from an adorable little market in Siena, Italy (pictured above) and made little gift pouches for my favorite cooks. All it takes is a pinch. Crushed red pepper flakes will lose their heat over time, so add just a bit and then add more if you’d like more heat.

Cumin

Can’t make a pot of chili without it! But there’s so much more you can do with cumin. Toss some wedges of sweet potato with salt, pepper, cumin, and olive oil and roast until crispy for an excellent, healthy side.

Cayenne Pepper

Use the tiniest bit when making buffalo chicken wings and chili to add a different kind of peppery kick.

Chili Powder

Also a must have for chili. Smokey and spicy, Chili powder is commonly used in traditional Latin American dishes like enchiladas and tacos. But a spoonful also adds a welcome kick to grilled meats, stew, soup, a pot of beans, and vegetables.

Paprika

While fairly tame compared to other pepper-based spices, paprika adds warmth and earthiness to a dish. You’ll find that there are many different versions, some with a smokier or “hotter” flavor than others. This spice adds vibrant color to any dish. It can be sprinkled as a garnish over deviled eggs or potato salad, or used as a flavoring for meat rubs. It has a sweet pepper flavor, without any heat. Smoked paprika is delicious.

Cinnamon

Cinnamon mixed with sugar on buttered toast (heaven!) is not the only use for this spice. It’s great sprinkled on your latte, and an excellent addition to certain savory dishes such as chili, tomato sauces, and other savory dishes as well as in sweet treats like gingersnap cookies or banana bread.

Ground Ginger

If you like to bake or enjoy Asian or Indian foods, ground ginger is great to have on hand. It’s the predominant spice in gingerbread and gingersnap cookies and is also used in many sweet spice mixes like pumpkin pie spice. Ground ginger is also used in savory applications like spice rubs, tagines, and marinades, and is part of the Japanese spice blend shichimi togarashi. A note here: for use in savory dishes, buy a knob of fresh ginger and finely mince it or grate it on your microplane. (TIP: peeling fresh ginger is a snap using a spoon.) It’s hot and spicy in every good way.

Garlic Powder

Garlic powder is a recent addition to my spice larder. I absolutely prefer fresh garlic, but the powdered version can quickly add a garlicky flavor without the harsh bite of fresh.

Thyme

Thyme may be my favorite herb. It’s woodsy, lemony, and can be used in so many dishes. It’s wonderful to use either fresh or dried. And paired with chicken? Sublime.

Basil

Dried basil is delicious in sauces, like tomato sauce or pizza sauce, and as seasoning on chicken or other meats. Basil is an herb that tastes best fresh if using in uncooked dishes like caprese salad.

Rosemary

Dried Rosemary is a must for French and Mediterranean cooking. It is earthy, woodsy and piney. Rosemary can be an acquired taste for some, but it does give your dishes a one-of-a-kind flavor that helps them stand out from the crowd.

Oregano

Nothing says Italian quite like Oregano does! A little dried oregano will give your tomato sauce a real Italian vibe, and it’s great sprinkled on pizza. It can also be a pungent add in for Greek and Mexican dishes. Oregano is one herb I prefer dried over fresh.

Nutmeg

Just a dash adds so much flavor in both sweet and savory dishes. It is a must for bechamel sauces and other cheese dishes. However, you’ll probably use it most often in sweet treats that contain cinnamon. Buy the seeds whole as they last forever; but you’ll need a little grater. If you’d rather not stock your kitchen with specialty tools, you can use your microplane grater instead (a kitchen essential!).

Okay, this is a good start! While these herbs and spices will be a nice start for your spice cabinet, base your selections on the flavors and foods you most enjoy. No sense buying something you’ll never use. Then slowly expand your spice collection and add more flavors so you can enhance the overall taste and profile of everything you cook.

Spice Library

When you’re just getting started, it won’t matter so much how you organize. Once you have a larger collection, however, think about the best way to organize so it’s easy to find what you seek. My cabinet is currently organized by type – herbs, spices, seeds, specialty blends, baking and, quite frankly, it’s a hot mess. Perhaps alpha order would be a smart rainy-day project.

SMART STORAGE

There are almost as many ways to store your spices as there are spices! Stepped spice racks, pull-out units, and lazy susans work great for in-cabinet storage. If you have an extra drawer (is that an oxymoron?!?), jars can be laid down or – if you label the lid tops – lined up inside. There are wall shelves, fridge magnet storage, and wheeled storage. Figure out where you have room and how much storage space you’ll need, then organize away!

SAFE STORAGE

Jars of spices over the stove might sound convenient, but because herbs and spices deteriorate when exposed to heat, light and moisture, it’s not the most ideal place to keep them.

The best storage temperature for herbs and spices is one that is fairly constant and below 70 degrees Fahrenheit. This means your herbs and spices must be kept away from the furnace, stove, and the heat of the sun. Temperature fluctuations can cause condensation and eventually mold. If you store spices in the freezer or refrigerator, return them there promptly after use.

A good storage system keeps herbs and spices dry and in the dark as well. Amber glass jars with airtight lids are ideal. You might also keep them in a cupboard or drawer. Cover the jars with large opaque labels or use a cloth to cover them when not in use.

In summary, store your herbs and spices in clean, airtight containers, away from heat and light and handle them thoughtfully.

SHELF LIFE

Be Proactive

Write the month and year on the label every time you add an herb or spice to your collections. Some spices in particular have a tendency to outlive others. Frequently used spices are exposed to air more frequently and will need to be replaced sooner.

Use Your Sniffer

Don’t just look at ‘Sell By’ dates. Take the cap off and smell it. Since some expiration dates can be arbitrary or confusing, it’s OK to use your best judgement by using your senses: sight, smell and touch. The spice itself should be bright and fragrant. If it doesn’t have any smell, it likely isn’t strong enough to flavor your food. If stored in a cool, dark place, a spice should be OK to use as long as it holds its vibrant color, too. However, a spice stored in an area that gets a lot of light will show discoloration much more quickly and lose its flavoring power.

Ground or Whole?

Pre-ground spices might be more convenient but whole spices last the longest because the essential oils are kept inside and that’s where the majority of the flavor is. Whole spices can last three to four years, which will ultimately save you money. Once spices are ground, however, there is more surface area and they will quickly lose their “chemical compounds” that make them such great flavoring agents. In general, ground spices may last one to two years maximum, while dried herbs can last up to three years. But how does one grind spices you ask? You can purchase a small spice grinder, or get a mortar and pestle.

WHERE TO BUY

Thankfully, herbs and spices are readily available in grocery stores, big box stores, on line, and in specialty stores. When buying new additions for your cabinet, consider the container size. When I’m trying something new, or something that I may use only occasionally, I rely on Penzy’s Spices online store. They offer little jars and have an amazing variety. They also offer big bags of items you may use a lot of, like salt and pepper.

 

“He who controls the spice controls the universe.”
Frank Herbert, Dune

Now go add some spice to your life and enjoy every moment.

 

How to Clean Tile and Grout and Keep It Clean

woman cleaning shower

I dread doing many household chores. My least favorite has to be cleaning the tile and grout in the bathroom. It never ceases to amaze me that a place we use to get clean, and that’s filled with soap and water daily, can get so dirty. UGH. Because I loathe it so much, I have embraced a preventative measure – a cleaning routine.  An ounce of prevention – in this case less than two minutes a day – is worth a pound of cure – 30 minutes or more of scrubbing. Think of it as protecting your tile and grout instead of rescuing it.

My easy-peasy method utilizes a squeegee and a rinse-free daily shower cleaner. After each shower, before I even grab a towel, I do a quick dry with my squeegee. Then a quick spray of rinse free shower cleaner to keep everything sparking clean in between “big” cleans. When those faint pink blotches just start to appear, I dive in for a deeper clean usually once a week. Those pink stains are not mold; it a form of water-borne bacteria. ARGH!!

HOW TO DE-PINK

Make a Cleaning Solution

Mix one-half cup of baking soda with one tablespoon of dishwashing liquid or all-purpose cleaner. The resulting paste will be runny. Make a double or triple batch depending on how much tile you need to clean.

Protect Yourself

Do wear rubber gloves, protective eyewear, and a mask to protect yourself from exposure to the bacteria.

Prep the Area

Since the pink slime (it’s bacteria!) can grow on plastic and fabric surfaces, you should wash your shower curtain and liner. Toss washable curtains and liners in the washing machine and wash in warm to hot water with your regular laundry detergent. Dry fabric curtains following the care label instructions but air dry, or replace, plastic liners.

Scrub

Dip a nylon-bristle scrub brush in your baking soda solution and scrub away! Start at the top and work your way down.

Rinse

Rinsing is a pain if you don’t have a hand-held shower spray. You can rinse with a towel or by using a large water-filled pitcher or measuring cup.

Disinfect

In a spray bottle, mix a 50:50 solution of warm water and chlorine bleach. Use caution with the bleach mixture as it will remove color from any fabrics, towels, or rugs if you accidentally drip or overspray. Or, you can use a bathroom disinfecting spray.

Now we’re having fun, right?

Tips to Prevent Pink Goo Growth

  • Keep surfaces dry (use your squeegee after every shower!)
  • Close your shower curtain after bathing so it will dry quicker
  • Clean your tile with a bathroom cleaner weekly
  • Use your bathroom exhaust fan or crack a window (if you have either) every time you shower

CLEANING DIRTY TILE AND GROUT

“The best way to clean heavily stained or aged grout is to maintain a cleaning schedule. Do not allow stains and soils to build up over time,” said David Mowery, a business manager of Tile and Stone Installation Systems for the MAPEI Corporation. “The sooner you address grout stains, the better.”

What tools are needed?

How long will it take?

For a full-size shower, the entire process can take 15 minutes or longer depending on how much tile you’re trying to clean and the severity of the stains.

What kind of stain is that anyway?

Bathroom tile and grout stains caused by mold or mildew thrive in the damp corners of a bathroom shower and the porous, concrete-based grouts that are commonly found in between bathroom tiles.

These stains respond best to alkaline or high-pH cleaners like Tilex Mold & Mildew or StoneTech Mold & Mildew Stain Remover or Scrubbing Bubbles.

The other common source of staining in a shower is rust or lime buildup. Hard water deposits can stain the porous tile and grout in your bathroom. Rust has a reddish-brown tint, while lime scale usually has a chalky-white or pale green color.

To deal with these kinds stains, use a cleaner with a lower pH such as Bar Keepers Friend More Spray and FoamZep Grout Cleaner and Brightener, and CLR Brilliant Bath .

Cleaning the tile

Apply the cleaner by directly spraying it on the wall or onto a damp sponge, cloth, or brush. Let the solution sit for a short period, and then scrub with the brush, making sure to get the bristles into the grout itself. Rinse thoroughly and let the area dry.

No No’s

To avoid damaging your tile or grout, do not use the below items which can scratch tiles or chemically damage grout.

  • Wire brushes or steel wool
  • Abrasive cleaners like Borax or Comet

Okay, that wasn’t so bad. Now promise me you’ll keep your tile and grout clean because bathing in a dirty shower is gross and kinda counterintuitive.

 

 

Resources: Wirecutter.com, TheSpruce.com

Roommates, Part 2. Conflict Resolution.

When Conflict Happens

 

You did your homework, or so you thought. You carefully reviewed the pros and cons of sharing a living space with another human, found the perfect roommate, and took all the appropriate steps to ensure living together would be nirvana. Yet there’s trouble in paradise. UGH. Now how are you going to resolve the conflict that has arisen with your roomie? You may feel like this is the worst, but rest assured there are tales about roommate conflicts that will make your issue seem like a walk in the park.

Conflict happens. Suddenly two people who thought nothing could ruin their friendship find themselves struggling to communicate about even the smallest things. Speaking up about things that bother you before that bother festers is tough; most people try to avoid unpleasant conversations at all costs. When living with a roommate, it’s critical to maintain a good and cordial relationship with that person. Here are some tips on ways to resolve conflict regardless of the cause of the trouble.

How To Share Your Feelings Without Starting A Fight

While you may have discussed who will pay what bill, rules pertaining to guests, and how clean you want to keep the apartment, most of us learn the importance of these conversations after a few bad experiences. If you haven’t communicated your preferences with your roommate, they probably have no idea that they have certain behaviors that drive you nuts. Moreover, you’re probably driving them bananas, too.

When an issue arises, communication is key to successfully solving the problem. Most roommate conflicts are the result of miscommunication or, in some cases, a total lack of communication. If you can communicate effectively, it will be much easier to develop a comfortable living environment for yourself and your roommate. Avoiding an uncomfortable conversation won’t make issues go away, and will only increase your level of frustration.

  • Don’t be passive aggressive by leaving sticky notes, sending emails, or texting when you probably see your roommate every day. Instead, ask if you can have an in-person conversation.
  • Start the conversation by letting your roommate know that you care about them and about your home, and you want living together to be the best experience possible for both of you.
  • Don’t approach your roommate when you’re angry as that’s going to put them on the defensive, and they’ll be less likely to consider your concerns if they feel attacked.
  • Don’t accuse your roommate of anything. Instead, use “I” statements like, “I feel really frustrated when I wash the dishes and then I come home and there are dirty dishes in the sink. I would really appreciate it if we could come together on how to keep the kitchen clean.” By using “I” statements, you’re expressing how youfeel instead of placing blame on the other person.
  • Practice active listening by maintaining eye contact, nodding your head, and showing that you are listening. Carefully listen to what your roommate says instead of becoming defensive.
  • Acknowledge your roommate’s point of view by saying something affirming like “I can understand why it’s difficult for you to wash the dishes when you work late and are tired.”  Making your roommate feel heard can really help to diffuse anger or frustration. Everyone wants their feelings to be acknowledged, and this is an important step in resolving conflict.
  • Don’t complain about your roommate’s behaviors before having an open discussion with them.

After you and your roommate have discussed the problem(s), work together to agree how to move forward. In a shared living space, you can’t expect the people you’re living with to acquiesce to all of your preferences. Instead, you need to work out a compromise you can all live with.

If, for example, the issue is something small like doing the dishes, it’s unrealistic to expect a messy roommate to suddenly become neat overnight. If having a messy kitchen makes you anxious, you may be able to agree that the messy person is responsible for a chore you don’t like while you do all the dishes. Understand that you both will have to give a little in order to create and maintain a peaceful living environment. The most important thing to remember is that letting minor issues accumulate and build up could result in one of you unleashing anger that doesn’t match the situation or living in an environment full of resentment.

While everyone appreciates honesty, presentation is everything. Before having that comversation, think about how you’d feel if that person asked you to change something about your own habits and behaviors — and how you’d wish to be spoken to, in the face of a situation like this.

  • Try to be careful about the frequency of discussing your roommate’s behavior.
  • Try to be fair and balanced.
  • Aim for a compromise that works for your both.
  • Respect your roommate’s views and try to understand their backgrounds.

Imagine a situation where your roommate brings over their significant other during a designated day over the weekend, but that’s also the only day you have to prepare for your next week’s work.

A potential solution may be to work out a reasonable schedule or timeframe, where quiet time is set for you and an alternate time is set for your roommate to entertain.

Remember that a well-constructed relationship is where both people involved are examining what’s needed on their end. If a common space is being shared, then you’re both equally liable to take ownership of what goes on in that space. Oftentimes the best roommates are the ones who are simply capable of being respectful and courteous to one another!

 

Roommates, Part 2. Before You Roommate.

meeting of the minds after discussing sharing an apartment

Hello, Roommate!

Roommates II – Before You Roommate

 

In our last blog post, we explored the pros and cons of sharing an apartment with a roommate and you’ve decided a roommate is right for you. Congratulations! Now, how can you ensure that you and your roomie will see eye-to-eye on life in the same space and prevent misunderstandings and conflicts during your time together (‘cause ain’t nobody got time for that)?

Here are some topics you and your roommate should discuss before you sign that lease agreement.

FINANCES

Rent

How will you split the rent? Will you share 50/50 or will one of you pay more for a larger bedroom/better view/attached bath? Click here  to explore these and other considerations.

Are you both going to pay the property owner separately (is that even permitted by your landlord or management company), or will one person pay and reimburse the other each month? If so, will you issue a receipt for payment?

Utilities

Some apartments may include a few utilities in the rent, such as trash removal, but for many, you and your roommate will be paying for utilities like electric, gas, water/sewer, cable, internet service, premium TV channels like Hulu and Netflix. You may wish to share some expenses and keep some separate. Here are some useful guidelines along with available apps to keep everything organized.

It may seem unimportant now, but talk about your preference in apartment temperature. One of you, like my brother-in-law, may like their space to be like a freezer box, while the other prefers not to have to layer up in the summer. And, are you willing to pay more to keep the apartment uber cool or toasty warm? My current housemate likes much cooler temps than I do, so I keep pretty throws in the living room and on my bed.

Schedules

Review your daily schedules – when you work (especially important if you work remotely), when you like to get up, and your target bedtime. My dad was a very early riser and hated to be alone, so he expected the entire family to get up with him…at 5:00AM. A roommate sleeping in is no big deal unless they require absolute quiet. Earplugs can be a game-changer as can a sleep mask.

When do you each prefer shower time? If there’s just one bath in the apartment, you’ll need to plan not only when you shower but for how long.

When and how will you eat dinner? Will you share cooking and clean up responsibilities or will your schedules or meal preferences mean you’ll each be doing your own meal prep and clean up? My daughter’s roommate is a vegan chef with food allergies. While these two often dine together, her roommate’s cookware cannot come into contact with foods that make her sick. Fortunately, the two of them made a plan to keep their own cookware in designated cabinets, and dine together only when they eat foods they both can enjoy. Another roommate-from-hell person lived with them for a short time and was a constant source of frustration because she ate food she did not purchase, used dishware and cookware that was not hers, and never cleaned up after herself.

Consider how you will divvy up refrigerator space as well. You do not want to come home with $50 worth of groceries only to discover your roommate has not left an inch of space in the fridge or freezer open.

Guests

Decide in advance when guests may visit your apartment, if there should be a limit on the number of guests, if you prefer advance notice of any guests coming to visit, and if you are okay with overnight guests.  What will you both do if one roommate becomes involved in a serious relationship and wants that significant other to move in? Will the SO share in the expenses and household chores?

Quiet

Are you an introvert or an extrovert? What about your roommate? While introverts and extroverts can certainly live together in harmony, you’ll need to come to an agreement about shared activities, social time, and quiet time.

Pets

If neither of you has a pet, your lease permits them, will you both be amenable to adding a furry friend to the household? If yes, be sure to discuss what happens when the pet owner can’t be home to feed or walk the dog, who cleans up any messes, and what happens if Rover chews up the belongings of the person who is not the pet owner?

Sharing

Decide in advance what will and won’t be shared and how to share what must be shared. For example, sharing grooming supplies may be among the things you absolutely do not wish to share, but you may be willing to share clothing if requested in advance, whereas sharing the remote may not be a big deal at all. Sharing plans can address:

  1. Household Supplies
  2. Food
  3. Personal Property
  4. Kitchen Items
  5. TV
  6. Music

Cleaning

How will you divvy up cleaning responsibilities? You each can be responsible for your own bedroom and laundry, take turns cleaning the living room and bathroom, and clean the kitchen together. Talk frankly about your personal preferences as a clean freak living with a slob can create a lot of friction.

Courtesy

Courtesy and respect will go a long way in creating a pleasant home environment. Topics to consider include:

  • Smoking – will smoking (of any kind) be permitted indoors?
  • Alcohol – will there be limits on consumption?
  • Copies of keys – will you share copies of keys with friends and family members?
  • Parking – if limited designated parking is available with the apartment, how will you determined who gets the reserved space?
  • Parties – are spontaneous parties permissible or will you need to plan party time in advance?
  • Privacy – what spaces in the apartment are off limits to your roommate? Do you both want to share what goes on in your personal life or not?

Once you and your roommate become like minded about this myriad of living together topics, consider a formal Roommate Agreement so you have everything in writing – just in case things head south at any point. To get you started, ApartmentGuide.com has created a Roommate Agreement Template. Your agreement should also include language on what will happen if one of you needs to break the lease, and how you will handle any conflicts which may arise.

Now, go get yourself some boxes, pack up your stuff, and get ready to embark on a new adventure of living with a roommate.

Roommates, Part 1. The Pros & Cons.

To Roommate Or Not To Roommate

 

Over the course of my life, I’ve lived with roommates and lived on my own. Friends and family have asked which I prefer – it’s really hard to say as there are distinct advantages and disadvantages to both living styles. If you’ve decided to get a new place and have thought about getting a roommate, let’s explore the pros and cons.

ROOMMATE YEA

There are many good reasons to say, “YES!” to sharing a space. Consider:

Loneliness

After the last year and a half living with COVID, loneliness was a big problem for many. My mom, who lives alone, really struggled – especially at mealtime. We’re all okay with eating a meal in the company of a good book or the TV from time to time, but almost every meal cooked or ordered in, and eaten alone can be rough. Sure, you can dine with friends and family from time to time, but you will undoubtedly eat alone most of the time.

Even if you’re not close with your roommate, just having someone else around and someone else to talk to makes a body feel less isolated.

Convenience

It’s so convenient to have a roommate about. For example, if you have different schedules, a roommate can feed your pet or water the plants when you’re not at home to do it. If you go out of town, your roommate will be there to keep an eye on your place and accept packages for you. My daughter was called out of town unexpectedly for weeks. Thank goodness her roomie was there to save her plant collection (and to keep up with the dusting).

Savings

A roommate will help you save money, and who doesn’t want that? You can rent a larger apartment – say a two-bedroom instead of a one-bedroom. A two-bedroom in a typical apartment community will not be double the price of a one-bedroom, so each of you will get more room and more value. For example, at Park Lane Apartments in Cincinnati, a one-bedroom/one-bath is $920 while a two-bedroom/two-bath is available for just $225 more. You and your roomie will split utility bills and can share the cost of groceries, and other apartment expenses. When it comes to cooking/eating in, it is less expensive to cook for two (or more) than cooking for just one. There will also be savings on cleaning supplies and other household items.

Help

When I shared and apartment with a good friend, I worked a regular 9:00AM to 5:00PM schedule while she had a job that required her to attend frequent evening meetings. She loved coming home to dinner on the table, and I let her OCD keep our place tidy. Think about the possibility of half the housework, half the cooking, half the responsibility of shopping for groceries and household supplies! Or, your roommate can do the chores you dislike and vice versa. Win, win! Sharing errands and chores helps lighten the load for both of you and gives you more free time to enjoy the fun things in life.

ROOMMATE NAY

Hmmm…that all sounds great, but what about living alone? Downsides to share a space include:

Privacy

Naturally, when you live alone you’ll enjoy considerably more privacy than if you share a space. You can do what you want when you want. Have guests over, throw a party, get home late, and leave early without having to worry about disturbing a roommate. Go ahead, leave your socks on the floor!  Hang out in your undies!

Conflict

Living with another person isn’t always that easy. My freshman year in college, I had a difficult roommate. At first, everything was great. We’d agreed on room décor (posters and bedding), and got along great. Then she started using my perfume (instead of bathing – UGH!), and wound up using it up without ever asking permission.  She also helped herself to my clothes despite having so many clothes her parents shipped her a new trunk seasonally. The final straw came the day I had a big date. My best friends had helped me pick out the perfect outfit which we laid out on my bed. Later that day I saw my roommate wearing the outfit to class. Grrrr.

Conflicts are almost inevitable when sharing a home with someone else whether that person is friend, family, or relative stranger. There’s a plethora of issues that can create tension in your home. Lifestyle conflicts (a roommate who likes to play guitar while you need quiet to work from home), financial issues (a roommate who can’t or won’t pay their share of the rent and expenses), cleaning conflicts (one person is tidy, the other is a slob), or respect issues (your roommate uses your personal things – like your perfume! – without asking permission). Living alone is the only way to guarantee that none of these problems ever arises.

So as you consider whether to room with someone, let me leave you with this parting question: are you an over or an under person? You know, with the toilet paper roll. I am typically an over (although the TP roll isn’t something I lose sleep over). When my mom recently came for a two week visit, I discovered she’s an under person. I’d put on a new roll (over) and she’d switch it. This went on daily during her stay.

Neither one of us said anything about it, but I giggled every time I noticed she’d switched it. So if you can live with the toilet roll upside down, you’re probably good roommate material (read our blog next week on things you can do to ensure a good roommate relationship). Otherwise, you might want to think hard about that one-bedroom apartment.

 

Apartment Gardening

 

My daughter went to college in New York, and has lived there ever since, in a variety of teeny tiny apartments. Affordable apartments in New York (wait, is that an oxymoron?) are not only small, but often times are in older buildings or homes converted into rentals; floor plans can be … strange. One of the things she learned along the way has been that despite using half her income on rent, she can dress up her place and make it look warm and welcoming with houseplants. Plant shops (also miniscule) are in every neighborhood, so many city dwellers are on the same page as she and her roommate.

Besides the beauty of houseplants, there’s also distinct health benefits.

Health Benefits

  • Improving your mood.
  • Reducing fatigue and sharpen your attention.
  • Lowering stress and anxiety.
  • Improving office performance and focus.
  • Boosting healing and pain tolerance; recover from illness faster.
  • Minimizing the occurrence of headaches by improving air quality.
  • Easing dry skin and respiratory ailments due to dry air.
  • Working with plants can be therapeutic.

Wow! That’s a lot of benefits. So, how does one get started turning an apartment into a green oasis?

Start With Sunshine

First things first, learn the light in your home. Observe the light in each room and determine how it fits in these categories:

  • Full sun: six or more hours of direct sun a day.
  • Partial sun or partial shade: four to six hours of direct sun a day.
  • Full shade: less than four hours of direct sun a day.

Once you know the light in your space, you can shop for plants. Seek out sun-loving plants, and those that prefer partial or full shade. Houseplants are usually tropicals and can take some heat, although not always direct sun. While most herbs prefer a sunny window relief from late afternoon sun in the form of shade is usually welcome.

No sun, no problem! In my office building, there are plants thriving in an interior hallway who receive light just from overhead fluorescents.  If your apartment has small or few windows, choose plants that are happiest in low light areas such as:

* Toxic to kids and pets if consumed

Where to buy?

If you are fortunate enough to live near an IKEA, you can shop for live plants and containers there. The selections are not huge, but the plants are healthy and cheap. The Home Depot has houseplants, but there’s usually a better selection at Lowe’s. Check out your local garden center as well! All these will carry containers; most will also carry potting soil. Target also has some cute containers, and some of their newly redesigned store also carry live plants!

Containers

Make sure the containers you plan to use are compatible with the growth habits of your plants. Make sure they have adequate drainage as well. If you live on an upper level, be mindful of the weight of the materials you’re carrying to your garden space. Choose lightweight containers (look for self-watering planters if you travel or forget to water), potting mix in small bags and plant caddies to conveniently move planters when it’s time to rotate; a caddy will also help protect a carpeted floor.

Soil

Use a potting soil specifically designed for containers. Potting mix is light and fluffy, efficiently circulating air and water to keep roots healthy. It’s also fairly sterile, so you won’t have to worry about bringing diseases into your apartment.

All purpose potting soil will work for most houseplants, but use cactus potting soil for cacti and succulents which prefer a very quick draining soil. An added bonus of potting soil is that it will contain fertilizer. Make sure all planters have enough drainage provided by holes in the bottom. Add a single layer of rocks or chards from a terra cotta pot to the bottom of the planter to avoid blockage of drainage due to compacted soil.

Water

No matter the plants you choose to get started gardening indoors, it’s imperative you follow a watering schedule based on each plant’s needs. Many people water their plants on the same schedule, which can lead to overwatering. Each plant has unique needs and water requirements.

Soil in terra cotta pots will dry out more quickly than plastic or fiberglass containers. A water meter is an excellent inexpensive investment to prevent over-watering. Or test the soil by poking your finger an inch or two below the surface. If it feels dry, you need to water.

Humidity

If you are growing your plants on an indoor windowsill, you might need to provide some extra humidity, especially when the heat is on. Spritzing the plants with a fine mist can help, or you can place the plants near a tray of water.

Feeding

Feed your plants on regularly according to their individual growing requirements. Adding a water-soluble fertilizer when you water is usually the easiest method. Also, note whether your potting mix has fertilizer already in it, as this typically will delay the need for you to feed your plants.

Tools

Essential tools and supplies for apartment gardening include gardening gloves, pruners, soil, water, containers for your plants and a watering can. ​

Problems

Pests and diseases have a way of finding plants no matter where you grow them, and there are no natural predators for insects indoors. Inspect your plants for problems whenever you water them or harvest. If you spot signs of pests or diseases, such as discoloring or holes in the leaves, move that plant away from the other plants until the problem is resolved.

Here’s to a healthy and beautiful home! See you at the garden center; I’ll be the one with dirt under my fingernails.

 

Resources: ApartmentList.com, The Home Depot, SustainableJunglr.com, Chatelaine.com, SwansonNursery.com, Healthline.com

Clean! Cook! Drink! Bake!

… Clean! Cook! Drink! Bake!

 

Lemons, lemons, lemons! Despite their reputation as being pucker-inducing and sour, lemons are a glorious fruit you can use in cooking, to make kid-friendly and/or adult beverages, and to replace harsh, chemical cleaners. A bowl of lemons can also add a pop of color to any room. Here are some of my favorite lemony things.

Freshen The Garbage Disposal

When my garbage disposal smells funky, I have an easy remedy to make it smell fresh. Pour white vinegar into an ice cube tray, and drop a small chunk of lemon into each section, then freeze. Drop a few of the frozen vinegar cubes into the running garbage disposal with a stream of cold water. The ice will help keep the blades sharp and clean, and the lemon helps to deodorize the disposal. Repeat the process once a week or so to keep things smelling fresh. For a quick refresh, just add lemon rinds to the disposal and grind away.

Brighten Shower Doors

Glass shower doors are like magnets for hard water stains and stubborn soap scum. You can spend loads on glass door cleaners or use a lemon to help you scrub them clean. Dip half a lemon into a small dish of kosher salt, and get scrubbing. Then stand back and admire the shine. Alternatively, spray lemon juice on the glass then scrub with a sponge dipped in baking soda.

Clean Your Place

Cover cut lemons or lemon scraps with white vinegar and steep for about a week. Using cheesecloth, strain into a clean spray bottle. This spray will clean linoleum kitchen counters, sinks, shower, toilets, bathtub, tile, stainless steel appliances, inside the fridge, and other durable, sealed surfaces; don’t use on granite, natural stone or hardwood floors or furniture. This lemony vinegar will also remove odors and flavors from cutting boards.  You’ll love the way they cut through dust and grime, as well as the invigorating lemon scent they leave behind!

Keep Bugs Out

Use lemon juice to repel pesky insects in your home. Squeeze some lemon juice into holes and cracks where you see ants coming in, and they’ll avoid the area in the future. A lemon and water spray will repel spiders, and a clove-studded lemon will keep flies away. Who knew?

Beverages

Lemon Water. Did you know that drinking lemon water everyday may decrease stress, enhance immune function, help prevent anemia, reduce your risk of kidney stones, and protect against several diseases? Squeeze a half lemon into a cup of water and start enjoying its benefits.

Lemonade. What says summer better than a tall cold glass of lemonade? Click the link for a five-star recipe to make your own.

Limoncello. Have you even tasted this Italian lemon liquor? It’s sweet and tart and the perfect little sip after a nice meal. Traditionally, it takes three weeks to make a batch of limencello, but the link contains a recipe that takes just two hours. By the way, homemade limoncello in small cute bottles makes a great gift or party favor! I’m such a fan, I even have a Limoncello T-shirt.

Sweet Treats

Lemon Rolls. I am not a baker, but during the COVID shutdown, me and about half of Americans tried our hand at baking. This recipe for lemon rolls with cream cheese frosting was a clear winner in our house.

Lemon Bars. Who doesn’t like lemon bars? And who doesn’t like Ina Garten? Ina’s recipe for lemon bars is divine and will be a smash hit at your next pot luck.

Lemon Meringue Pie. I am not a pie person (unless it’s my mom’s – she makes the BEST crust!), but a good lemon meringue pie is hard to beat. This recipe has five stars from 3,037 ratings, so it’s got to be good!

Savory Eats

Lemony Shrimp and Bean Stew. On the menu for dinner tonight. This dish also has a five star rating from over 4,100 folks. I’m going to serve it with the easiest homemade loaf of crusty bread and a simple salad of arugula, olive oil, lemon, and Parmesan – an Italian classic!

Lemony Orzo with Asparagus. For my vegetarian friends (any my sister), a delightful light orzo with lemon, asparagus, garlicky breadcrumbs, and Parmesan. In the words of Ina Garten, “How bad could that be?”

Time to run. A new Trader Joe’s just opened near me and they sell lemons by the bag. Pucker up, buttercup!

 

 

 

Staying Safe in Summertime Heat

Hot summer sun causing heat wave

Hot Sun in the Summertime

Unlike Sly and The Family Stone’s Hot Fun In The Summertimea heat wave is no fun. The extreme heat of this summer can take all the fun out of the season if we’re not careful. Let’s chat about staying safe in this summer’s heat.

But first, some background. I grew up in a small ranch-style house in northern New Jersey without air conditioning. On hot summer nights, my brother, sister, and I would sleep – or try to – on folding lounge chairs on the back patio; sometimes our friends from next door would join us in a make-shift pajama party. The huge oak tree next to the patio made us feel like we were under a leafy cathedral ceiling. We used pieces of cardboard to fan ourselves while trying to find the Big Dipper and the North Star until we finally dozed.

My folks had a box fan in one of their bedroom windows, and dad had it set to pull the hot air out of the room. To keep their room as cool as possible, their door was kept shut and the curtains were pulled. Drapes were drawn in rest of the house too, and the windows kept shut to keep out the heat and hot air. Hot summer days in the house were dark, close, and still; hot summer nights were dark and still as well and the quiet was disturbed only by the drone of mosquitos and rhythmic call of katydids.

My 87-year-old mother has lived her entire life in homes without air conditioning, and actually has trouble adjusting to air conditioned environments. But, with the extreme heat the entire country is experiencing this summer, she’s here with me in my air conditioned Kentucky home.

Despite the access to AC, this unprecedented heat wave presents other challenges to keeping our cool and enjoying the summer. What do we watch out for, how do we keep safe, and how can we still have hot fun in the summertime?

What to watch out for

 Health risks associated with heat exposure can range from milder conditions such as heat cramps to heat strokes, which can be fatal. Let’s get familiar with the symptoms of heat-related illnesses to head off potential problems.

  • Mild dehydration and heat cramps — muscle pain or spasms — may be early signs that your body is not reacting well to the environment, said Matthew Levy, an associate professor of emergency medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
  • Heat exhaustion symptoms are more worrisome. These can include heavy sweating, elevated heart rate, nausea and vomiting, headaches, dizziness, fatigue and generally feeling unwell. Some people who are experiencing heat exhaustion might also faint. “This is where things are getting dangerous fast,” Levy said.
  • If heat exhaustion is left untreated, it may progress to heat stroke, which means the body’s core temperature has reached the point where cellular damage may start to occur.
    • The key feature of heat stroke is central nervous system dysfunction – confusion and possible seizures.
    • Another sign is lack of sweat. A dry person who’s not thinking clearly is at big risk and should seek help ASAP.

 How to stay safe

  •  Keep cool and hydrated.
  • Stay in spaces with air conditioning. If you only have a fan, experts recommend misting yourself with a spray bottle of cold water.
  • Spend time at indoor public places such as malls or libraries.
  • Go to a park, which can be five to 10 degrees cooler than indoor space.
  • When outdoors, dress in loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing and protect yourself from the sun with hats, sunglasses and sunscreen.
  • Drink plenty of water, but don’t guzzle it; drinking too much water could cause a potentially fatal condition known as hyponatremia.
  • Don’t drink excessive amounts of alcohol or caffeine, both of which can be dehydrating. A good way to know whether you’re adequately hydrated is to pay attention to the color of your urine. Dark yellow is not good; very pale yellow or clear is ideal.
  • Limit outdoor exercise to less intense workouts, and do them early in the morning or in the evenings.

 Who is at increased risk?

 Although anyone can be negatively affected by hotter temperatures if they’re not careful, certain populations are more vulnerable, including the elderlyyoung childrenathletespeople who have chronic medical conditionspregnant people and those who may be struggling with mental health issues.

If you know anyone who might be at increased risk, check in on them during heat waves and make sure they’re equipped to stay safe.

  • Invite an elderly relative to stay with you (like me and my mom!).
  • Help someone get to a community cooling center.
  • Stop by people’s homes to make sure their air conditioners are working or to bring them cold drinks.
  • NEVER leave young children or pets in cars on hot days, even if the windows are open.
  • Pets are at risk, too! Click here for tips on keeping your pet safe in the summer.

 What to do if you or someone else is sick from the heat

  •  Get into a cooler environment — preferably some place with air conditioning — as quickly as possible.
  • Lower the body’s core temperature by removing clothing and wetting skin with cold water.
  • Hydrate with cold fluids, such as water or electrolyte drinks.
  • For more severe problems like heat stroke, seek medical help immediately.
    • While waiting for assistance to arrive, it’s critical to take action. Get the person out of the heat and either into air conditioning or shade. The fastest way to cool someone down in an urgent situation is cold-water immersion — the colder, the better. If that’s not possible, pour cold water on the person’s head and clothing.

Ideas to have fun despite the heat

  • Go to a pool in your community if available. Bring water in non-glass containers.
  • Visit your neighborhood library or indoor shopping mall
  • Go the movies
  • Visit a local museum
  • Stay inside and read a good book
  • Eat ice cream
  • Go bowling
  • Try an escape room

Above all, remember that cool fun in the autumn-time will be here before you know it.

How about another shameless plug for our hard-working team of Fath Properties service professionals who are always there to keep your place cool so you can Love The Place You Live?

Resources: Washington Post, CDC

Smooth Sailing

Smooth Sailing Into the Sunset

The Jersey Shore. Perhaps you’ve heard of it? If you’re not from Jersey, you probably know of it from reality TV. (As a native Jersey Girl, I can attest that the show is not reality to the vast majority of folks who live or vacation there.) As an aside, everywhere else along the east coast the sandy strip which separates the ocean from towns and cities is called a beach. In NJ, people do not go “to the beach”; they go “down the shore”.

I spent this 4th of July holiday weekend near the shore with my brother who owns a home on Bay Head Harbor. We spent a great deal of time sitting on his deck overlooking the water and chatting about all things water and boat related. Because Bay Head Harbor connects to the Atlantic Ocean, there is almost always an interesting array of boat traffic. From large fishing boats to speed boats to luxury ocean-going vessels to large party boats to tiny one-person “sunfish” sail boats, there’s always something interesting to watch on the Harbor.

This trip I learned that the Harbor is part of the Intracoastal Waterway, a 3,000 mile inland waterway along the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts of the United States running from Boston, Massachusetts, southward along the Atlantic Seaboard and around the southern tip of Florida, then following the Gulf Coast to Brownsville, Texas. Amazingly, most of the harbor near my brother’s home is only four to five feet deep outside the main channel.

My brother pointed out one particular boat that had him drooling. He explained that the finishes on the boat were luxurious – lots of polished brass and inlaid teak – that the engines were powerful, and the cost of the vessel was exorbitant. He did not mention, what for me, is the most important feature of any boat – a bathroom. Now I’m not trying to take this tale the way of pre-teens giggling over potty talk, but seriously folks, how can one enjoy oneself for long without the comforting knowledge that a restroom is nearby?

Do you know that a bathroom on a boat is called a “head”? While my brother has been around boats all his life, he did not know why the bathroom has such a strange name. Thank goodness for Google. There I found the Index Journal with all the answers I needed, and more.

Turns out, the “head” is a nautical term that goes back to the day of the old sailing ships. The very back upper-most rear of a ship, typically known as the stern, was called the poop deck. The ship’s wheel was located in the rear of the ship near the rudder to reduce the number of pulleys and ropes needed for steering. The poop deck was elevated so the captain and pilot would have a clear view over the front of the ship. While the term “poop deck” can remind us of grade-school conversations, the name is actually quite elevated coming from the French word for the stern, “la poupe.”

When sailing, the wind ideally comes from the rear to fill the sails and propel the ship forward. During stormy and windy weather, the foam and spray from rough seas with high waves behind the ship would leave the poop deck and the captain soaked. And as you can imagine, after a day of steering in bad weather, the pilot was “pooped.”

At the front of the ship was the figurehead: often times a beautifully carved wooden figure or bust fitted on the bow of the ship. Since the wind was blowing from the rear to the front, the “head” (or front) of the ship was the best place for sailors to relieve themselves. So when the shipmates went to the toilet, they went to the head. So there you have it.

So now you (and my brother) know all about the head on a boat. Here’s hoping all your boat rides are on a vessel with a head. While most of us spend little time on the high seas, we can all agree that having a bathroom close at hand on a ship – and at home – gives one peace of mind.

As this blog is intended to focus on various aspects of apartment living, you’re probably wondering about the connection to this article’s topic. Well, it’s a shameless plug for all the hard-working service personnel at our apartment community sites who consider the smooth operation of your commode a priority – even when it gets them out of bed in the middle of the night to repair a naughty potty (if it’s the only one you have). These are the guys – and gals! – who ensure it is all smooth sailing in your Fath Properties apartment.

 

Resources: IndexJournal, Wikipedia

Summer Safety for Furry Friends

 

Some areas of the USA are experiencing record-setting high temperatures this summer while others have more rain than they can handle. Me thinks Mother Nature is a wee bit perturbed with the way we treat Mother Earth. That is a story for another day. Today we’ll talk about pet care and safety tips for the summer heat.

The news is loaded with ways to keep us humans safe during a heat wave, but what about our furry friends? We think of them in human terms as well, don’t we? Yes (emphatically), we do. But our fur babies can’t cool off by sweating like we do. Below are some summer safety tips for our furry friends.

Car Rides

“Wanna go for a ride?” is like music to most pup’s ears. But summer rides can be deadly. Watch veterinarian Ernie Ward show how quickly temperatures rise in a parked car. YIKES. Never, ever, EVER leave a pup in a parked car. Not even for a minute! Not even with the car running and air conditioner on. On a warm day, temperatures inside a vehicle can rise rapidly to dangerous levels. On an 85-degree day, for example, the temperature inside a car with the windows opened slightly can reach 102 degrees within 10 minutes. After 30 minutes, the temperature will reach 120 degrees. Your pet may suffer irreversible organ damage or die.

Although Fido may be miffed at being left at home and may munch on your favorite kicks in retribution, do it. He’ll get over it, and you wanted to buy a new pair of shoes anyway. If you’re driving with your dog in the car, bring water and a portable water dish (or this nifty water/bowl combo) and take Gus with you when you leave the car.

Download the Humane Society’s PDF for more information.

Paws

You’ve heard the phrase, “It’s hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk!” Yep, concrete sidewalks, asphalt, and metal can get blisteringly hot. Try to keep Moose off hot surfaces; not only can it burn paws, but it can also increase body temperature and lead to overheating. And please don’t drive around with your dog in the bed of a truck. It does not make you look cool and the hot metal can burn paws quickly. Worse yet, your dog can fall out or be injured or killed in an accident. See? Not cool. Avoid walking pups in the heat of the day and walk them on the grass. If outdoor walking on hot surfaces can’t be helped, consider some stylin’ booties or paw wax to protect those sweet Fritos-scented feets.

Water and Shade

Bring a portable doggie dish and plenty of water available to avoid dehydration. Relax in the shade as much as possible or bring your own.

Pet Sunscreen

Even very furry dogs can also be prone to sunburn if their nose, ears, belly, and other sensitive areas aren’t covered with pet sunscreen. Hairless breeds must be protected when outdoors, as they are more susceptible to sunburn and skin cancer. Never use human grade sunscreen on pets as it is toxic. Opt for a sunscreen suitable for pets.

Protective Clothing

Putting Cookie Crumb in a shirt may seem counterintuitive (but adorable!) when it is hot outside. However, some doggie clothes can help keep Ollie cool and shaded. If Rascal has short fur, light colored fur, or is hairless, you can opt for sunscreen clothing for pets. Dogs that are sensitive to the sun’s rays might enjoy doggles, or pet sunglasses.

Haircuts

Should you shave your dog’s fur or hair? WAIT! If you have a double-coated breed like a Golden Retriever, Border Collie, Aussie, Sheltie, Newfoundland or Bernese Mountain Dog, the answer is NOPE. Ready all about it here. For other breeds, read this before giving FiFi a new do.

Cookouts & Picnics

They will beg. They will plead. They will droll. So much. While dining al fresco is loads of fun, the food and drinks offered can be bad for dogs. Keep Lily and Poppy away from alcohol and foods like grapes, onions, and chocolate and other foods Taxi should not consume.

Fireworks

Many dogs are fearful of loud noises, especially fireworks. The dangers are obvious – pets are at risk for fatal injuries and painful burns if they are allowed to run around freely when fireworks are being used. Some fireworks also contain chemicals toxic to pets like potassium nitrate and arsenic. And remember, their hearing is many times better than ours. Don’t believe me? Try whispering, “Chicken?” and see what happens.

Keep Chester indoor with the TV or music playing to lessen the disruption. Your vet can also recommend something that will calm your pup if he’s very, very afraid.

Indoor Fun

Those days when it’s just too dang hot to go anywhere, perhaps a game of the Invisible Food Challenge could be fun?

So while you are enjoying Hot Fun In The Summertime, keep Peanut Chillin’ In The Summertime.

 

Resources: Humane Society, Pet Health Network, Shiloh Veterinary Hospital, ASPCA, 5 Points Animal Hospital, Pets WebMD

Home Office 2021 Edition

Designated Home Office Space

“I get to work from home in my jammies?!? Hurrah!” That’s what you were thinking when your company sent you home to work because of the 2020 Pandemic, right? It’s what we were all thinking. Here we are over a year later and you have to admit – the thrill is gone. While many of us are back to work, many of us are still working remotely full-time or part-time. We miss our co-workers, lunches out, happy hours after work, wearing something other than sweats, and being able to just work without all the distractions working at home bring. And the guilt. You know, “As long as I am home, shouldn’t I prepare a great meal for dinner this evening? Why am I behind on my laundry? Where did all this dust come from?”  We feel you, and hopefully can help.

HAVE A DESIGNATED SPACE

Keeping your “work” space separate from your “living” space really helps when you work from home. If you’re renting a new apartment and know you’ll be working from home, look for one that has one more bedroom, a den, a larger living room or a cozy nook than can become your office. Having a designated space will allow you to feel like you’re at work, while also making it easier to “turn off” at night and maintain a strong work-life balance. Investing in a decent chair will really helps to avoid the inevitable fanny fatigue you’ll suffer from sitting in a dining chair. If a  new chair is out of reach, a chair pad can make all the difference (plus you can take it on road trips!).

TAKE BREAKS

Sitting at a desk all day can drain your energy and motivation. Set up intervals where you can take quick breaks, even if it’s just to get up and stretch your legs or make a coffee. Taking small breaks every 90 minutes or so actually increases productivity, so don’t be afraid to step away from your work to help you focus better and keep your sanity while you’re at your desk.

SCHEDULE YOUR DAY

Working at home means working on your own more often. This cuts down on the distractions that tend to happen in an office environment, but it can also be difficult to keep yourself on track with no one else around. Planning your day and following a solid task list is a great way to hold yourself accountable. While completing a task, try not to take phone calls, answer emails, or shift from that task until it is finished.

KEEP A ROUTINE

Having a regular routine will help you stay productive. This extends outside of your work hours to include a regular bedtime, wake-up time, and work time. Choose a time that you will start work each day, and stick to it. Plan everything else around it, including your meals. Take time to get ready each morning and take a lunch break every day just as you would if you went to an office for work. And wear something nice to work at least once a week. Give your jammies a rest.

 

 

 

Don’t Be Them

Frowning Mom and Son Sit on Couch with Closed Eyes and Plugged Ears from Upstairs Noise

What’s Going On Up There?!?

As an apartment dweller, you share at least one wall with another resident. And, you probably hear your neighbor from time to time. It’s to be expected. Have you ever seen the video Everyone’s Upstairs Neighbor? Back when it was created, The Washington Post wrote:

            Chances are what’s causing the movements of humans above you to sound like a giant’s conga line is a thin or poorly-insulated ceiling. But when the thumping begins at all the wrong times, you know you can’t help but wonder: are they doing that on purpose?

The experience is universal enough that when comedy writer Matt Moskovciak pretended the answer was yes, it’s on purpose, he created the most successful online video of his career.

Of course the video is hilariously exaggerated, but it does make one wonder: “Is that how I sound to my neighbors?” Yikes.

Keeping that in mind, strive to be the neighbor you wish you would always have.

  • Offer a smile and a wave to your neighbors when you see them.
  • Step outside your apartment and listen to the volume of your music, TV, gaming, etc. If you can hear it, bet your neighbors can, too. Consider using headphones after 10:00 PM and before 9:00 AM if you like to pump up the volume.
  • Planning to throw a party? Let your neighbors know what to expect and for how long – and perhaps extend them an invitation to join in the fun.

These simple steps can go a long way toward shared enjoyment of life in your apartment building and apartment community.

On the other hand, what can you do if it’s your neighbors making too much noise and commotion on their side of the wall? The simplest (though not always easiest) solution is to knock on their door and ask them to keep down any noise that they can control (electronics, a barking dog, etc.). You can explain you need your sleep, that you’re working from home, etc. A heart-to-heart with your neighbor will always be better received than getting management involved. But if you are faint of heart, another option is to contact your management company and ask them to issue a general email to all residents about noise. This keeps you (or your neighbor) from being singled out, but ideally will get the message across. If that fails, you can have your management company contact your neighbor directly, without implicating you. A good set of ear plugs and a white noise machine or app on your phone can also work wonders.

Be a great neighbor and get one in return. Without the bowling balls.