Eggs-actly Perfect

Eggs-actly Perfect Hard Boiled Eggs

Sure, sure hard boiling eggs seems like a fairly simple task. Boil, peel, and eat. Until, that is, you discover they are almost impossible to peel with the shell taking chunks of the white flesh with it. Or the yolk is unappetizingly undercooked or has an unsightly greenish edge.  All equate to big fails when trying to make deviled eggs where the white is a beautiful vessel for luscious filling.

There are hard-boiled eggs in my house at all times. Not only do they make an easy (and transportable) quick breakfast, but they are also a healthy, low-calorie snack full of protein, and tasty addition to salads. (We eat a lot of salad in the summer when I just can’t bear heating up the kitchen.) Plus, whipping up a batch of deviled eggs to bring to a spontaneous picnic or cocktail party is a breeze.

After boiling literally hundreds of eggs over the years, I’ve [finally] found a method that produces eggs with perfectly firm whites, creamy yolks that are a lovely consistent shade of pale yellow and, most importantly, easy to peel.

You’ll need:

  • six to 12 large eggs (older eggs ultimately peer better than fresh ones)
  • a pot – large enough to hold a steamer basket – with a lid
  • afore-mentioned steamer basket
  • a large bowl filled with ice and water
  • a timer

Pour and inch or two of water into the pot, insert the steamer, and add the eggs. Heat over high. When the water begins to boil, reduce to medium, cover, and cook for precisely 15 minutes.

While the eggs are steaming, fill your bowl with ice and add water. Your bowl should be large enough to hold all the eggs and allow them to be fully submerged in the ice water.

When the timer goes off, immediately transfer the eggs from the steamer basket to their ice water bath. Then walk away. Let the eggs soak for at least 15-20 minutes so they cool completely – right to their core. Once cool, drain and either refrigerate for later use or peel.

If you plan to use the eggs immediately, fill your now empty bowl with cool water. Peel the egg while it’s submerged. You can also peel under running water, but results are consistently better with the dunk. The shell should separate from the white of the egg in nice big pieces leaving the egg unblemished – perfect for your deviled eggs.

Deviled Eggs

Whether you choose a pretty platter (best for home use) or a  practical platter with lid (best for transport and storage), choose the number of eggs right to fill your plate. Mine has 12 indentations, so this recipe will be for a half dozen eggs yielding a dozen deviled eggs.

Deviled eggs usually call for a dash of Tabasco sauce, but I prefer the less spicy, but zestier horseradish sauce. The addition of softened butter – thank you Julia Child – adds a wonderful, rich silkiness to the yolky filling.

Traditional garnishes include a sprinkle of paprika, a slice of pimento-stuffed olive, chopped chives, or a sprig of dill, but you can kick your garnishes up to a whole new level by adding a small piece (about one inch or so) of crispy bacon, crisped prosciutto, or crisped chicken skin (pictured). These crispy bits add a lot of textural interest, flavor, and visual appeal to your eggs.

The Parts

The Procedure

Cut the eggs in half length-wise and gently scoop the yolks into a bowl or a mini food processor. Place the whites on your platter. Blend the yolks with the remaining ingredients either in a small food processor, or mash together with a fork.

For a fancy finish, use a piping bag or a zip-lock bag with the corner cut out to pipe the yolk mixture into the whites. For a homemade look, simply spoon the filling into the egg whites. Garnish.

Don’t you just love it when things turn out eggs-actly perfect? And you can enjoy your hard-boiled ot deviled eggs without egg on your face.

 

Go Bananas For Banana Bread

My fella loves bananas. But they have to be just so. Not too firm, but not soft or squishy. They must be just this side of green, and definitely without any black spots that inevitably appear as the fruit ripens. Tired of tossing that last one of the bunch that ripened a day too soon, and not wanting to attract fruit flies (read what do if those pests appear here), I started freezing them. And what a difference that made in my banana bread.

Like so many people, I turned to the kitchen to stay busy during the COVID lockdown. With plenty of bananas in the freezer, my mission was to find the BEST recipe for banana bread. I tried eight or nine different recipes, then honed in on the one we liked best, tweaking until it was (modestly speaking LOL) perfect. The winning recipe is based on a recipe for Smashed Banana Bread from Food & Wine. As you can imagine, we ate a lot of bananas and a lot of banana bread in 2020. (Really, we ate a lot of everything during COVID to avoid going stir crazy.) So here is our favorite. Here’s hoping you enjoy it as much as we do.

A couple of notes first:

  • Thaw the bananas in a bowl in the fridge overnight, or for about an hour on the counter. Reserve the liquid they release.
  • If you can find it, get the banana liqueur. It really adds to the banana-y flavor, and also tastes great poured over a bowl of good vanilla bean ice cream. I like Bols for the flavor and pretty bottle, but the Dekuyper is about half the price.
  • Sour cream or full fat Greek yogurt work equally well.
  • The bread tastes the most amazing after it cools when the edges are still a bit crispy.
  • You’ll need a baking sheet, metal loaf pan, parchment paper, nonstick cooking spray, and a cooling rack.

Pieces & Parts

½ cup pecans, chopped

1½ cups flour
¾ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp baking soda
¾ tsp fine sea salt

2 large eggs
4 frozen bananas, thawed, and their liquid
¼ cup + 2 tbsp sour cream or full fat Greek yogurt
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp banana liqueur or dark rum

5 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar

Confectioner’s sugar for dusting (if desired)

Process

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  2. Grease the loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray
  3. Line the pan with parchment paper, allowing two inches of overhang on the long sides
  4. Toast the pecans on a baking sheet in the preheated oven for about seven minutes until fragrant. Cool.
  5. Whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  6. In a large bowl, beat the eggs with the bananas, the banana liquid, sour cream, vanilla, and banana liqueur until combined.
  7. Using a stand or hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar at medium speed until fluffy, about two minutes.
  8. At low speed, gradually beat in the wet ingredients until just incorporated, then beat in the dry ingredients until just combined. Do not over mix. Fold in the pecans.
  9. Scrape the mixture into your prepared pan, and bake in the center of the oven for about an hour and 30 minutes. Because some ovens can bake more quickly than others, check the bake at 60 minutes and again at 75 minutes by inserting a toothpick into the center of the loaf. The bread is done when the toothpick comes out clean.
  10. Set the pan on a cooling rack and rest for 45 minutes.
  11. Turn the bread out of the pan and cool for 30 minutes more.
  12. Dust with confectioner’s sugar if you like.

Store

Wrap in cling wrap and store at room temperature.

More

We always fight for the end piece as soon as it’s ready to eat (those crusty edges!), but wind up sharing that slice ’cause we like each other. My guy loves to slather the bread with softened butter; it’s also great toasted (and buttered).

I recently brought this banana bread to a friend’s breakfast party. She served eggs, bacon, sausage, fruit, and toast – a bounty! But the six of us still managed to devour an entire loaf of my banana bread on top of everything else in that one sitting. Just sayin’.

I hope that now you look at overripe bananas as a bonus instead of a waste, and go as bananas for this bread as we do.

 

 

‘TIS THE SEASON: FRUIT FLIES

‘TIS THE SEASON: FRUIT FLIES

Summer is just around the corner bringing with it a bounty of fresh produce. Vine ripened tomatoes. Peaches. Melon. Berries galore. Makes one’s heart glad as we dream of fruit pies, caprese salads, or just a bit bite into a juicy nectarine. Buyer beware, however. Pesky fruit flies may be hitching a ride into your home via fruits and veggies purchased at the grocery or farmer’s market and what better (or worse?) way to ruin your pie ala mode than to have a teeny fruit fly buzzing around your head and your home?

And although they are tiny, they are mightily challenging to get rid of once they’ve crashed your kitchen. Worse yet, they reproduce at a rate that can only be described as astonishing: According to Orkin, a pest control company, female fruit flies lay hundreds of eggs in a very short time, commonly on moist foods like overripe fruit and vegetables. Then, within 24 to 30 hours, those eggs hatch into larvae, or maggots, that feed on the food source on which they were laid. Within about a week those larvae become sexually active and not more than two days later, start the cycle over again — leaving you with way too many fruit flies to stomach. Eww, gross!

So, Virginia, what is one to do? Blame the landlord? The neighbors? The market? While you can cast blame wherever it suits you, it won’t help get rid of these little pests. Fortunately, there are simple and effective ways to banish these freeloaders from your kingdom. All you need is some supplies you probably already have on hand (don’t you just love that?), persistence, and some patience.

FIRST: Why Are There Fruit Flies In My Home?

Our friends and pest experts at Orkin advise that  fruit flies are attracted to ripe, rotting or decayed fruit and produce, as well as fermented goods like beer, liquor and wine, but they can also inhabit trash cans and garbage disposals if sufficient food is present. Ahhh, that explains the struggle around the kitchen sink! To cut off fruit flies from their food source and prevent them from entering your home,take these preventive measures to avoid getting fruit flies in the first place.

  • Keep all kitchen surfaces spotlessly clean
  • Throw out overripe produce the moment it becomes overripe (those bananas!*)
  • Store fruits and veggies in the fridge
  • Wash produce as soon as you get home to remove any potential eggs or larvae
  • Take out the garbage regularly
  • Clean up spills ASAP, especially fruit juice or alcohol

If, despite your best efforts, these wee invaders declare war on your household, defend yourself with simple homemade remedies or traps available in stores and online.

SECOND: How Do I Make My Own Fruit Fly Trap

Prepare yourself to be astonished how little time, effort, or money this will involve. Below you’ll discover several DIY traps you can make right now.

Apple Cider Vinegar + Plastic Wrap

    1. Pour a bit of apple cider vinegar into a glass. It’s sweeter than white vinegar and will attract fruit flies faster.
    2. Cover the opening with a bit of plastic wrap and secure it in place with a rubber band
    3. Poke a few small holes in the plastic so the fruit flies can enter
    4. Dump the mixture every few days because seeing dead fruit flies floating is, well, unappealing

Paper Cone + Vinegar + Old Fruit

    1. Pour a generous glug of apple cider vinegar into a glass or jar and a chunk of very ripe fruit
    2. Roll a piece of paper into a cone and stick it into the jar with the narrow opening down. A piece of tape will help hold the cone’s shape.
    3. Discard the vinegar and fruit cocktail when there are dead flies and begin again

Vinegar + Dish Soap

    1. Pour a generous slug of apple cider vinegar into a small bowl or glass
    2. Add three drops of dish soap (it will make the flies sink and drown)
    3. Mix with a fork
    4. Leave uncovered
    5. Clean out and refresh as needed

Old Beer or Wine

(wait, is there such a thing?!?)

    1. Fruit flies are attracted (like so many of us), to the smell of wine
    2. Leave out a bottle of wine or beer with just a few unfinished sips left in the bottle
    3. The bottle’s skinny neck will trap the flies inside
    4. The Old Farmer’s Almanac recommends adding a couple of drops of dish soap to either the beer or wine dregs for surer success.

THIRD: I Hate DIY! Where Can I Buy A Trap?

You can spend a little ($6.00) or a lot ($60) on a fruit fly trap. Why not spend a little and take one of the top two recommended traps out for a spin?

 

 

 

 

FOURTH: Don’t Play The Blame Game

No matter how clean you keep your home, and how properly you store your summer bounty of fruits and vegetables, chances are that you may still see a fruit fly this summer (as I have already. UGH).  If you do, don’t beat yourself, your neighbor, or your landlord up. Simply clean like a maniac, keep your produce in the fridge, and keep a bottle of apple cider vinegar at the ready. Wishing you a pest free summer!

* Don’t toss those bananas that are a bit too ripe! Instead, toss them in the freezer. Read our next blog to learn how to turn overripe bananas into The Best banana bread.

Resources: Good Housekeeping, Old Farmers Almanac, Orkin, Bon Apetit, FDA

The Art Of The Hang II – Hanging Artwork

The Art of Hanging Art II – Methods

 

So. You’ve assembled all the beautiful things and are ready to get them up on the walls. What are the next steps? How can you ensure you hang art without damaging your walls and/or your pride? What tools will you need? We’ve got you covered.

If you are a renter, be sure to check your lease, your community rules, or with your landlord or management company to make sure it’s permissible for you to affix items to your walls.

    • Determine the material of your walls.
    • Most common, and easiest to work with, is drywall aka sheetrock.
    • Plaster walls can be a challenge as a regular nail hammered into plaster will crack it badly. Learned this lesson the hard way. There are nails especially designed for use on plaster walls.
    • Exposed brick walls are beautiful but tricky. If you’re a renter, don’t even think about pounding a hole into the brick or the mortar because 1) it’s hard to do and 2) it’s almost impossible to repair. Let’s not risk your security deposit! Instead, use a product you can use to hang items on brick without causing any damage – Aieve Brick Wall Clips.
    • Best to avoid trying to hang anything on tile walls unless you are using a product like Command Strips (which are also an excellent solution if your landlord says no to nail holes), and are readily available in big box, hardware, and grocery stores.

Gather supplies. Besides a hammer, measuring tape, level, and pencil, you’ll need the following supplies to hang art on plaster or drywall. Consider a tool kit which contains everything you need!

    • Weight-appropriate nails or picture hanging hooks
    • Wall anchors and screws for heavy pieces; these are super easy to use, but you’ll need need a small, lightweight drill and/or a screwdriver – ideally that has changeable flathead and Phillips tips
    • Good-quality, low-profile adhesive hooks for hanging on tile or glass
    • Brick clips for hang on brick

Decide on Placement. Most installers recommend arranging the art on the floor first, below the wall where you intend to install it, and creating a composition you find pleasing before transferring the arrangement to the wall. The ideal spacing between frames depends on the number of pieces of art and the size of the wall, but should generally be between one and a half and three inches. The vertical and horizontal spacing doesn’t necessarily have to be the same.

Now for the Art of the Hang. You’ve already decided on the placement – hopefully with the help of our The Art Of Hanging Art I – Placement. To be exact, the center of a framed piece of artwork should be 57 inches above the ground (that being the average human eye level, and the height galleries and museums use to decide where to hang pieces). Mark that height using a pencil, then measure to find the middle of the wall (from side to side), and mark where the two points meet. That’s where the middle of your artwork should go! Now, measure the distance between the middle of the piece and where it will catch the nail (either where the wire hits when bent to bear weight, or where the saw tooth hanger is. Measure that difference from your mid-point mark on the wall—that’s where the nail (or picture hanger, or wall anchor, or brick clamp) goes. If you’re hanging a super-heavy piece, first use a stud-finder to locate a stud and see if it’s in a logical location for your nail to go. If it is, hammer a big nail in and be done. If the stud is in a weird location, use the anchor-and-screw method instead: Drill a pilot-hole, tap the plastic anchor into it, then screw a screw into that, leaving it to protrude just enough that you can loop the wire or saw tooth right over it the same way you would with a nail.

Hanging Alternatives

  1. If you’re not up for hammers and nails, just lean it. The laziest way to display art is also best for anyone who is afraid of putting nail holes in the wall: lean the frame against the back of a chair, or the wall, or on a shelf somewhere. (Even homes with lots of art hung up on the walls take well to a few casually leaned pieces—it actually looks very intentional!)
  2. If you’re always re-arranging, consider a picture shelf. If you’re into the whole leaning thing and want to formalize a place for such activity, consider adding a shallow picture shelf in one of your rooms. It’s a perfect solution for those with constantly changing styles (or the rearrangement bug).

And a gentle reminder – if you are a renter, be sure to review your lease, rules and regulations, or ask your landlord before you start hammering nails or drilling holes for anchors. Now go and make your home Instagramable!

 

Resources: ApartmentTherapy.com, StudioMcGee.com, ArchitecturalDigest.com, NYTimes.com, HomeStarStaging.co

Naturally Dyed Easter Eggs

Dyeing Easter Eggs The Natural Way

It’s An Easter Eggstravaganza!

Easter is on April 17 this year – late enough that spring bulbs will be in full bloom, flowering trees will be in bud, grass will have turned a vibrant green, and perennials will be pushing their way through the soil. Days will be milder, and hopefully we’ll see much more of the sun. Spring is surely a time of year to appreciate nature and natural things. So why not invite the beauty of nature into your kitchen and make natural dyes for your Easter eggs? It can be a great science experiment for your kids (and the kid in you), and a wonderful afternoon project on those inevitable April showers days.

Eggs are colored with items you probably already have in your home, and you can adjust the brilliance of the color by lengthening the time of the soak. And the result will be a satisfying basket of richly hued eggs instead of a bowl of artificially colored ones. Are you game?

You’ll need perfectly hard boiled eggs, white vinegar, water, and materials from the below chart depending on the colors you seek.

Beet, Cabbage & Onion Dyes

Place prepared ingredient in bottom of large pot. Cover with one inch of water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover; reduce to a simmer; and cook for 30 minutes, or until you’ve achieved the desired color.

Turmeric Dye

Add four cups of water and 4 tablespoons of ground turmeric to a pot. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover; reduce to a simmer; and cook for 30 minutes. Not familiar with turmeric? Click here to discover the benefits.

Coffee Dye

Brew four cups of strong coffee.

Red Wine Dye

Use an inexpensive bottle of red. No vinegar needed. Soak until the eggs are the desired color, but do not use the oil to finish as per below.

Before You Use Your Natural Dyes

  • Strain out the solids. Add one tablespoon white vinegar to every cup of strained dye liquid. Allow the dyes to cool before using.
  • For every dozen eggs, plan on using at least four cups of dye liquid.
  • Add the room-temperature eggs in single layer in a baking dish or bowl or coffee mug and carefully pour the cooled dye over them. Make sure the eggs are completely submerged.
  • Experiment with dying white and brown eggs. Soak for 30 minutes to three hours for lighter colors; overnight for brighter colors.
  • Transfer the eggs in the dye to the refrigerator and chill until the desired color is reached.
  • Carefully dry the eggs, and then massage in a little oil to each one. Polish with a paper towel. Store the eggs in the refrigerator until it is time to eat (or hide) them. NOTE: hard-boiled eggs outside of the refrigerator won’t last for more than two hours, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), so plan accordingly,

Keep in mind that results will vary depending on the number of eggs, the color of the eggs, and the length of time the eggs soak. Typically, you’ll soak for a shorter time for lighter colors like pale pinks and blues and longer for darker, richer shades like royal blue and gold. Start with a soak of 30 minutes and leave as long as overnight. If you’re soaking overnight, soak in the refrigerator. For richer color, you can also give the eggs multiple soaks in the dye, being sure to dry them between soaks.

If the thought of doing all this makes your head feel like it is about to explode – like an overcooked cracked hardboiled egg – there are always the traditional egg dye kits like the grocery store PAAS kit (reminiscent of my youth) or the inexpensive Spritz kits from Target. For something greener and organic, Eco Kids has a kit that even grows grass. However you decide to dye your eggs, we here at Fath Properties wish you an Easter Eggstravaganza worth remembering.

 

RESOURCES: TheKitchn, Good Housekeeping, Martha Stewart, Rocking Point Wines, Wide Open Eats, Simply Recipes

 

Cleaning As DIY Preventative Maintenance

Cleaning as DIY Preventative Maintenance

It’s never any fun when stuff in your home doesn’t work the way it should. Of course, if you live in an apartment, there’s maintenance service to handle any issues. However, there’s still a certain degree of effort on your part – making the call, taking time to be a home (if you are uncomfortable having maintenance in your apartment when you’re not there), and securing pets. If you own your place, it’s finding a trustworthy contractor, scheduling service, taking time off to be at home, paying the bill, and the inevitable wait for service. But if doing some simple things around your home could prevent future hassles, why not incorporate cleaning as DIY preventative maintenance into your routine? Today we’ll review some simple, easy, and effective things you can do to save yourself from future maintenance headaches.

Freshen Dishwasher

Are hard water stains, greasy deposits, or drainage issues plaguing your dishwasher? Follow these easy three steps every three months to ensure your dishwasher smells nice and works effectively.

  1. To deep clean your dishwasher, remove any foreign material you find from the drain.
  2. Place a small, dishwasher-safe bowl full of white vinegar on the top rack and run a complete wash cycle on the hottest setting.
  3. Then sprinkle a handful of baking soda across the bottom of your dishwasher and run for a short hot water cycle.

Dust Fridge Coils

Condenser coils help cool refrigerant as it flows, maintaining the refrigerator’s temperature. If the coils get coated in dust and dirt, it becomes difficult for them to do their job, forcing the condenser to work harder to cool the refrigerant. When this happens, you may hear the refrigerator making noise as the condenser runs constantly. You may also notice these additional problems:

  • Extra energy usage and higher utility bills
  • Refrigerator doesn’t cool sufficiently
  • Condenser malfunctions

It’s recommended that you clean condenser coils every 6 months (more often if you have pets). Here’s how to clean refrigerator coils with the right methods and equipment.

  1. Unplug the fridge.
  2. Locate the coils. They are typically located on the back of the refrigerator or in the front behind a base grille or kick plate.
  3. If the coils are in the back, move fridge away from the wall. If there’s any resistance, don’t force the fridge to move as you may damage vinyl flooring.
  4. Use the hose attachment to vacuum in around the coils.
  5. Vacuum any loosened dust from the floor.
  6. Plug the fridge back in and push back into place.

Check HVAC Filter

Dirt and debris in your filter can obstruct airflow, increasing the workload of your system. By replacing the filter regularly, you can reduce wear and tear on your air conditioner while allowing the free movement of air for improved indoor comfort. To make sure your furnace and air conditioner run smoothly, check the filter periodically especially if you have shedding pets. Signs your filter might be ready for a change include:

  • Your AC is cold enough
  • Your electric bill has increased
  • There’s more dust near your air vents
  • Your HVAC closet is dusty

When vacuuming or dusting, don’t forget to dust your air vents and cold air returns.

Check For Leaks

When cleaning your apartment, be sure to watch for water around the toilet and under sinks which may indicate a leak. Do call your leasing/management office if you see any water where it doesn’t belong so the leak can be addressed before it becomes serious. If you own your place, now’s the time to find a reliable plumber or handyperson.

Fix Slow Drains

Don’t you hate it when you’re showering and the water starts backing up around your ankles? Then when the water finally drains, there’s a soap-scummy mess left to clean up. Most of the time, a slow bathroom sink drain or tub drain is a result of soap scum build up and/or hair clogs. Preventative maintenance is these areas is quick, easy, and inexpensive. Simply follow these steps:

  • Let the hot water run for a minute to warm up pipes
  • Pour about ½ cup of baking soda down the drain. If you have a pop up drain closure, use a funnel or a piece of paper to guide the baking soda into the drain.
  • Pour in one cup of white vinegar. It will fizz up like a science experiment; if you have kids (or are a kid a heart), they will love to watch this process.
  • Let sit for about 10 minutes.
  • Rinse with hot water.

Perform this preventative maintenance once every month or so to keep your drains flowing.

Clean Kitchen Filter

Whether you have a range hood or microwave above your stove, it’s important to clean the buildup of cooking grease on a periodic basis to keep the vent or microwave fan working properly. If you’ve never cleaned it, or haven’t cleaned it in a while, be forewarned: it won’t be pretty. Greasy buildup is, well, gross. Here’s how to get rid of the yuck:

  • Remove the filter
  • Fill your sink with boiling water
  • Add a generous squirt of de-greasing dish soap, like Dawn, and add ¼ cup baking soda. Swish with a wooden spoon or something with a handle so as to not burn your hand.
  • Submerge the greasy filter
  • Soak for about 10 minutes
  • Scrub with a non-abrasive scrub brush adding more dish soap if needed
  • Rinse thoroughly in hot water
  • Dry with paper towels or a clean cloth
  • Replace the filter

If you cook a lot, especially on the stove top, cleaning your vents once a month is a good maintenance strategy.

Garbage Disposal

When your disposal is working well, it’s such a great convenience. When it’s not, it’s a real pain. Using your disposal properly can prevent the headache of a backup.

DOs

  • Keep a steady flow of cold water during and after every use
  • Clean periodically by running a small amount of ice through the unit
  • Grind lemon peels to keep the disposal smelling fresh

DON’Ts

  • Don’t use hot water when actively using the disposal
  • Don’t fill the disposal before running. The unit will operate more efficiently if you add small amounts of food at a time.
  • Don’t use any harsh chemicals or cleaning products in the unit.
  • Don’t put anything in the disposal besides food

FOOD DON’Ts

It has been said that you shouldn’t put items in your disposal that you cannot eat. You know, like bones. Or paper towels. But there are some foods that will wreak havoc if you try to get rid of them in the disposal. Never put the following foods in your disposal:

  • Fruit pits
  • Fibrous veggies like asparagus, corn husks and celery
  • Coffee grounds (instead, sprinkle a thin layer of coffee grounds in the garden)
  • Starchy foods like potato peels and pasta
  • Grease and fat (a great way to get rid of grease and fat is to place in a bowl in the fridge. Once it hardens, you can pop it out of the bowl and into the trash.)

Now look at you, you are now on your way to becoming a DIYer with simple cleaning as DIY preventative maintenance. Feels empowering, right?

 

Neighborly Neighbors

Neighbors Meeting Neighbors

I’ve lived in many places over the course of my life. I’ve lived in many kinds of places, too. Apartments, condos, and single-family homes both in urban and suburban neighborhoods. I’ve lived in these places as single person, with a roommate, and as part of a family. In the suburban neighborhood in which I currently reside, a place I’ve called home for three years, neighbors are folks I wave to and occasionally have a brief conversation with – usually about the weather. I know what kinds of cars they drive, if they have kids and/or dogs, and if they do their own yardwork. It’s fine, but there’s no real sense of community, of belonging. It can be a bit lonely, especially if my partner is travelling, and my friends are busy.

I hadn’t thought about it too much, until I learned the story of a friend’s daughter who moved from her city apartment in another state to her childhood home in the suburbs to settle her father’s estate. She’d not lived in the house for a decade, and many of the neighbors had changed since she lived there last.  She was there alone, but within months, knew all the neighbors, their kids, and their pets by name. And she could count on several of these neighbors to give her a lift somewhere (being a city girl, she’d never learned to drive), check for packages left on the front porch, pet sit her dog, keep an eye on her house when she traveled, or join her for a glass of wine. And she would babysit their kids and watch their pups. Before heading back to her city apartment for the holidays, she delivered homemade treats to all these new friends.

Which kind of neighbor are you? Do you know your neighbors? Do you want to know your neighbors? After comparing my most recent neighbor experience to that of my friend’s daughter, I found myself a bit envious. Although I am an introvert, the idea of having people nearby who could do more that nod their head in passing has great appeal. According to NPR’s Life Kit podcast, a 2018 Pew Research study found that roughly a quarter of adults under 30 report that they don’t know any of their neighbors. So I am not alone!

Research says that there’s a sense of comfort and safety that can come with knowing your neighbors — and building a safe and caring community is a valuable way to stay connected to the place you live. So how exactly does one go about becoming neighborly?

Say More Than Hi

Get out of your comfort zone and make an effort to learn the names of your neighbors, what they do for a living, if they have kids or pets. Not only is this a great first step in getting to know them, it a great frist step in know how to be the kind of neighbor they will appreciate. You’ll know if there are times you need to keep the volume down because of their work schedule or baby’s sleep schedule. And if you are respectful of their needs, they will probably reciprocate.  If you feel comfortable, let them know that you’re there to help, if they ever need another hand.

It doesn’t take a lot of money or a grand gesture to be a good neighbor. You don’t have to show up with a fresh apple pie (although that would be awesome). It’s truly as simple as saying hello, introducing yourself and asking an open-ended question. If all your neighbors have been around for a while, this may feel like an awkward activity, but can be easily resolved with a simple conversation opener like, “Hey, neighbor! We’ve shared a wall for months, but I don’t even know your name. I’m John; what’s your name?”

Practice Small Kind Gestures

Life Kit suggests that another way to take care of your neighborhood, and to show your neighbors that you care, is by making small acts of kindness a daily practice. Even apartment dwellers can get in on this concept by picking up litter, cleaning up missed pet poop, or bringing your neighbor’s package up from the mailroom. Maybe you can offer to pick up mail, walk a dog, or pick up milk and bread for a neighbor who is ill, or a new parent who is harried.

Being Connected Feels Good

Life Kit goes on to say, “It can feel so easy to just go home, close your door and turn on the TV without having to make small talk, but connecting with others is worth the effort. As nerve-wracking as it is, reaching out to new people can actually boost your mood in the long run. According to an article by Emma Seppälä, “social connectedness … generates a positive feedback loop of social, emotional and physical well-being.”

This can be the first step in the concept of Paying It Forward we’ve all heard about. Marta Zaraska, who is the author of Growing Young: How Friendship, Optimism and Kindness Can Help You Live to 100, shares that once in 2013, “there was an instance in Winnipeg at a local Tim Hortons, where one driver decided to pay for the meal or the coffee of the driver behind him at the drive-thru. And that driver was so grateful, he decided to pay for the driver behind him.” According to reports on this incident, the chain of kindness went on for more than 200 drivers! This phenomenon continues onto this day. How can you incorporate this idea into being a better neighbor?

Expand Your People Horizons

It’s easy to stay within our comfort zone, keep our heads down, and avoid interaction with those who live near us. As kids we’re taught about “stranger danger”; perhaps mistrustfulness of folks we don’t know is a carryover from our youth. But taking the initiative to know your neighbors can have so many benefits. It can open the door to easing conflicts such as loud music, stomping, barking dogs, etc. as these kinds of issues are always more easily resolved with a friendly conversation than getting management involved. It could also lead to making new friends.

Check Your Bias

Looking out for your neighbors is an important part of creating a sense of community. But, as Life Kit points out, “before you go all “neighborhood watch” on someone, if something is making you feel unsafe, take a deeper look at the power dynamics at play: Why do you feel like someone doesn’t fit in?” If you are inclined to report someone to management, or call the police, ask yourself why you feel uncomfortable and unsafe, rather than putting the blame on your neighbors. Getting to know your neighbors and taking care of your community are valuable ways to feel safer in your community. Even if your goal is not to make friends with those who live around you, it’s important to treat everyone with respect and care.

And you never know, new friends and better neighbors can be right next door.

 

 

The Art of Hanging Art I – Placement

In a past work life, I staged model apartments. While there was a ton of legwork (shopping, assembling, searching for perfect accessories to complement the furnishings, spending someone else’s money LOL), there was a great sense of satisfaction in creating an environment that showcased the best features of the home and making it desirable for the prospective renter while ensuring that person felt so at home, they’d be inclined to sign a lease. During those years, I learned that not only is artwork like the frosting on a cake, there’s also an art to hanging art.

“HUH?” you ask. Let me explain. When my daughter was a preschooler, we went to the home of a classmate for a play date, Bethany. As we walked down the hall to the living room, my neck craned upwards to look at a series of framed pieces of art. All were the same size, nicely framed, and evenly spaced. But something felt so…off. Wait! I was looking up while standing up. These prints were hung just a foot below the ceiling. I don’t know what Bethany’s mom was thinking (or not thinking), but this was not good. How could anyone enjoy artwork if doing so gave one a crick in one’s neck?

Doing some research, I learned that this is one of several mistakes that you can make when hanging wall décor in your space; mistakes that will not make you or your guests feel at home and at ease, but rather feeling a bit discombobulated.

Mistake #1: Hanging Art Too High

See what I mean? Hanging art too high is number one on the ApartmentTherapy.com mistake list! So what, exactly, is too high? This will be different for every home based on where the art is going, what it will be hanging above, how high the ceilings are, and what the room is used for. In other words, there’s no one-size-fits-all formula that can tell you exactly where on your wall an art piece needs to go. But fear not; here are some easy guidelines.

  • 60” is a measurement to remember. Although different homes can require different placements, 60” on center is a great starting point. This means to place the center of your art piece 60″ from the floor. Then step back and see how that looks and feels. When hanging two art pieces, treat them as one and still hang them 60 inches from the floor to the center of the grouping. This rule also applies to groups of three and four. Make sure they are spaced only a few inches apart, so they look together and not disconnected.
  • Eyes on center is another consideration. What will you most likely be doing in the room – sitting or standing? If in a hallway where everyone is standing, you’ll want to hang art higher (but not a foot from the ceiling!) than if you’re in a room where you’re sitting most of the time. Place the art so your eyes rest on the center as appropriate in the room. Consider where your eyes rest when you walk into the rooms you use the most, including the foyer, living room, and primary bedroom. Common sense must prevail here, however. If you are 4’10” or 6’10” eyes on center may not be the best placement methodology for you.
  • Let your furniture guide placement. For a sofa or a headboard, start with 4″ to 8″ between the top of the furniture and the bottom of the art. This method will depend on how big the art piece is, and how much space exists between the furniture piece and your ceiling. Start here then step back to see if it looks right. NOTE: If the art is going above a sofa or console, the piece or group of pieces, should be approximately 2/3 width of the furniture.
  • The buddy system is also a useful method. Ask someone you trust to hold a piece of art up against a wall while you instruct them to move it up and down an inch or so at a time until it looks right. Then change places to see if you agree.

Mistake #2: Not Realizing Size DOES Matter

A tiny piece of art on a small wall will look and feel just as awkward as a huge piece in a small space. Why? The wrong size art makes the entire room – and its furnishings – seem out of scale and out of balance.

If you’ve fallen hard for a piece that’s too small, consider creating a collage wall. Two ways to achieve a successful collage wall are:

  • Use prints and photos with a similar theme and consistent frames. They could be black and white photos, botanicals, sketches, vacation pics, etc. Mixtiles is a great, inexpensive way to have fun with same size and shape photos. An added advantage is that they stick to the wall, so no nails needed, and the photos can be moved around easily.
  • Go with completely different pieces in mixed frames for an eclectic look. Hang large and medium pieces 2-3 inches apart, and smaller pieces 1.5-2.5 inches apart.

Other options for your too small art piece are to reframe using a larger frame and mat to make the piece seem larger. Or, you can paint (or hang) a solid square or rectangle of color or a beautiful piece of wallpaper behind the piece to make it seem larger. But don’t worry about achieving perfect proportion when hanging art, just remember the “go big or go home” attitude: If you’re going to do something out of scale to the rest of the room, make it obviously out of scale with the room, either way too big or way too small, so it seems intentional.

If you find you’re staring at a long, cold expanse of barren drywall, that’s usually an ideal place to hang a favorite artwork. A short wall that is sometimes obscured by an open door may not need anything.

Mistake #3: Not Enough Variety
When I moved in with my fiancé, there were Thomas Kinkade prints in every room, in every size, all framed in heavy, ornate gold frames. Kinkade’s are not really my thing, but he had a sentimental connection to this collection. So we compromised by creating The Kinkade Room – a guest bedroom filled with the entire collection. While the Kinkade’s in every room were overwhelming, they look great in The Kinkade Room.

When you hang the exact same type of art on every wall in every room of your home it’s called the Art Gallery Effect. It’s also called as “boring.” Mix unframed canvases and framed art. Hang tapestries or quilts. Display a collection – farm tools, decorative plates, masks, old printing stamps – and group on the wall. Your wall can tell the story of who you are and what you love.

Mistake #4: Improper Hanging
I used to report to a fellow who, upon entering any room, went about straightening crooked artwork. His actions drive me nuts, so I quickly got in the habit of checking for crooked artwork every day. This has become a lifelong habit (just like making sure the seams on all lampshades are turned to face the wall). Crooked artwork lends an air of “no one cares” to the space and is easily avoided by:

  • Using two nails spaced a couple of inches apart (depending on the size of the piece) instead of just one.
  • Adding small rubber bumpers to the corners of the piece will prevent your art from moving about.

Mistake #5: Not Leaning
Like an attractive person leaning up against the bar, leaning artwork can lend visual interest to a room. Consider leaning a tall mirror against the wall in a bedroom or hallway, or leaning a piece of art placed on top of your sofa, dresser, desk, or TV stand.  Not only does this trick add visual interest, it also adds textural interest to your place.

Well there you have it. You’ve decided where to hang all the beautiful things in your home. Next step? The actual hanging. Tune in next week for tips on the handyperson part of the process – The Art of the Hang.

 

 

 

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.

 

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

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

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.

 

The Easy Way to Clean a Dirty Oven

If there is one chore no one enjoys doing, it’s cleaning the oven.

But it really doesn’t have to be all that difficult. Yes, there are tons of products out there for cleaning your oven but they can often be harmful to your oven’s interior finish as well as harmful to breathe in. A self-cleaning oven option is a great feature. However, if you don’t have that option, cleaning the oven doesn’t have to be difficult or harmful.

Taking a dirty oven and making it a clean oven can be done in less than one hour and without any harsh chemicals!

Check out this quick video for a super easy way to clean a dirty oven.

 

Step by Step Instructions:

  1. Mix about 3 Tbsp baking soda, a bit of water and some vinegar in an oven safe dish until it forms a paste.
  2. Dab the dirtiest areas with the mixture.
  3. Sit the remaining mixture in the oven safe bowl in the center of your center oven rack.
  4. Turn the oven to around 212 degrees fahrenheit.
  5. Leave the mix in for around 45 minutes.
  6. Turn the oven off and allow to cool for a bit.
  7. Wipe down the oven and remove all the build up easily!

Be sure your oven is cool and hasn’t been used recently before beginning this process.
Do not do the cleaning process while the oven is in use for baking.

If you ever have questions about cleaning your oven, best products to use, or how it operates, give your leasing office a call and we will be happy to send a maintenance technician to your home or answer any questions.

How to Keep a Squeaky Clean Shower

Need some tips and tricks on keeping your shower or bath squeaky clean? We’ve got ’em!

 

Showers can be a hot bed for mildew and soap scum if not properly cleaned on a regular basis. Here are some tips to keep your shower fresh and clean.

Do these daily:

  1. Squeegee water off walls, floor and door. This will prevent mildew growing in the warm water left behind.
  2. Wipe all areas with a dry towel of any remaining condensation.
  3. Run a vent fan during your shower or bath and up to 30 minutes afterward. This will help remove any humidity remaining in your bathroom.
  4. Leave the shower door or curtain slightly open to release any remaining humidity in the shower and to help dry moisture.

Regular, weekly cleaning with ensure a clean shower and bath. You can use a gentle cleanser that can be purchased at most stores. However, be sure to check the bottle to make sure it is okay to use on your surface. A list is also provided in your move-in packet to all our residents at Fath Properties. If you need a copy, please contact the leasing office.

If you want an easy, non-toxic cleaner, try this. Mix white cleaning vinegar and a few drops of tea tree oil in a bottle. For every 2 ounces of vinegar, add one drop of tea tree oil. The vinegar helps to remove soap scum and slime while the tea tree oil fights mildew and mold. Vinegar can be found at numerous grocery stores while tea tree oil can be found at organic retailers like Whole Foods or online at Amazon.com. To use this vinegar-oil cleaner, simply spray on all walls, doors and floor and let it sit for 20 minutes. Rinse off with warm water. For hard to clean areas, apply baking soda and scrub with vinegar to the problem area, and let sit for 20 minutes before rinsing. Repeat as necessary.

Other tips and tricks:

  • Clogged shower head? Tie a baggy filled with white cleaning vinegar around the shower head. Leave on overnight. Remove the bag and run the shower to remove built up particles. This also works well on faucets in the kitchen and bathroom that may not flow smoothly.
  • Don’t sit bottles on the floor. Often times water can get stuck under the bottles and create a slime or mildew on the floor. Always keep bottles and other products in a shower caddy or shelf off the floor.
  • Magic erasers works wonders. If you have a hard to clean area between grout or in corners, try using a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser or similar product. It’s a non-toxic product and can even be used while you’re in the shower.
  • Funny colors appearing? If you see colors like pink, orange or yellow appearing in your shower, check your products. Some shampoos, conditioners or soaps have dyes that will leave residue in your shower.
  • Drop the bar. Go for gel. Bar soap will often leave soap scum and build up in your shower. Switch to a shower gel which is far less likely to result in similar build up.

Following these simple tips and tricks will keep your shower and bath clean and fresh!

As always, if you ever need assistance or would like a maintenance technician to check out your shower, feel free to call the leasing office or put in a service request online. We are happy to help!