Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘being a home owner is terrible’

We went on a little vacation over the long Independence Day weekend. And my in-laws are in town. And I’ve been dealing with Assorted Birthday Stuff. So the days kind of melt into one another and I am not really sure where I am or what I’m supposed to be doing. I think, it being Tuesday, I should be setting up a Dinners This Week post. But I haven’t even planned my meals this week, yet. (We are going out to dinner tonight, so I can delay that chore another day.) Plus, I have other things on my mind.

Did I tell you that we have new neighbors?

Deer 1

These are the Cute Neighbors.

Deer 2

They are very cute indeed. They do lots of frolicking. And they seem to see in Carla a kindred spirit because whenever she is in the living room, looking out at them from the sliding glass doors, they take great interest in her and often come up quite close to the glass.

Many new neighbors.

Skunk

Still very cute, but more worrisome. Especially because she has at least THREE babies in her condo under that step. Yes. The step that is directly adjacent to our living room.

Unrelated — surprisingly — to skunks: today, I am also preoccupied with The Smell. My husband woke me up with a loving kiss, as he does every morning, and, instead of saying, “Good morning, my darling,” he whispered, “I think I smell something bad.” Just the kind of affectionate phrasing I most enjoy in the wee hours, let me tell you.

I couldn’t smell it; couldn’t smell anything, really, because my nose has been, of late, CLOGGED TO THE MAX. I’m pretty sure I have a sinus infection; my forehead is tender, as are the circles under my eyes; my head is in a constant state of achey-ness; my nose, as mentioned just a second ago, is thick with YUCK.

But Carla leaped out of bed – she wakes up the instant anyone else is awake, unless she wakes up first; in summers, she has been “sleeping in” until six thirty or so, which is lovely – and chimed in from her room, “I think I smell it!”

I don’t know if it was the power of suggestion, but I thought – after copious nose-blowing – that maybe I, too, could smell the underpinnings of something foul.

My husband and I tossed around the idea that maybe it was the aftereffects of some roasted broccoli we had last night. Broccoli, delicious as it is, has a bad habit of releasing a pungent fart perfume that lingers in its absence. Carla wondered if the flowers we have in vases throughout our downstairs might be causing the stink, but they all look relatively fresh and the vase water is clear, and passed The Sniff Test, so…

So I did what anyone might do when confronted with Something Smelly: I cleared out all the garbage cans, sprayed the insides of the cans with bleach, cleaned the toilets for good measure, ran a load of laundry (although none of the laundry baskets had a noticeable smell), ran the garbage disposal, wiped down the counters. I questioned Carla closely about whether she’s taken any food upstairs (this is verboten in our house, and I don’t know that she’s ever done it before… but you never know). (She looked at me with wide-eyed shock that I would even ASK her such a thing. Dost she protest too much? Hmmmm….) (I smelled each corner of her room carefully, but we have already established that we cannot trust my nose.) Then I took Carla to camp and went for my usual four-mile walk.

The Smell greeted me when I returned.

Sigh.

It’s steamy outside, but I have dutifully opened all the windows and doors, in hopes of coaxing The Smell to leave. I dumped baking soda in each of the kitchen sink drains, filled one side of the sink with a mixture of hot water and vinegar, and ran the disposal as I let it drain; that’s the best way I know to really CLEAN the disposal. I’ve refreshed the flower water, just in case that’s the culprit. I am running the dishwasher, in case I didn’t rinse last night’s dishes thoroughly enough. I’m not really sure what to do next. Toss the week-old Gerber daisies, I suppose. They still look fine, but maybe they’re not.

Now I need to shower, because I don’t want to add my own Eau de Post-Workout to the scents inside the house.

The abiding worry, of course, is that some animal has crawled in between our walls and died there, memorializing its life in a legacy of odor. I wouldn’t even know where to BEGIN dealing with that, should that be the case. But let’s try everything else, first.

What else have I overlooked? What are the likely stink culprits in your home, when you’ve eliminated “trash smell” and “bathroom smells” from the list?

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Well, it is FRIDAY. Spring break looms! I am looking forward to READING. Here’s some randomosity for you.

We replaced our water heater. Our old one was small-ish – you couldn’t have two people take back-to-back showers and expect for the second person to have hot water – and in the past couple of months, it had begun knocking every time you even washed a spoon. The water heater’s death knell, if you will. It was nearly 10 years old anyway, and supposedly water heaters only last 7 to 10 years. So it was an anticipated replacement, and we were glad to upgrade to a larger tank and happy to end our game of Will It Leak chicken. Our plumbing company is excellent, and I have never had a bad experience. But when the plumber wheeled the new tank in, he pointed out that it had a dent in it. “Ding,” he called it, which seems so flimsy and insignificant a thing. But to me, it looked like a DENT.

Water tank 1

Ding or dent?

He assured me that it was cosmetic only and reminded me that their warranty covers parts and labor should it turn out to be NON cosmetic, which is less reassuring a comment than perhaps he thought it might be. And he would chop a few hundred bucks off the cost, he said. He would be happy to swap it out for a new one, he said, but there was no guarantee the next one would be ding free; these things get bumped and banged around on trucks and he sees dings ALL the time! Some even worse than ours! And he wouldn’t be able to tell if the new one had a ding in it until he took it out of the box. Plus, he didn’t have another one on his truck, so he’d have to leave and go back to the shop. But it was really up to me. Then he looked at me expectantly. I said, okay, go ahead and install it. But inside, I was yelling, no! Don’t give me a dented water heater!

Listen. When I buy a thing, I want it to be Pristine. Maybe a scratch in a refrigerator door or a ding dent in a water heater has no impact on the functioning of said appliance. I don’t care. Part of the reason for getting a new thing is that it is new. No one has put their grubby ketchup-covered hands all over it or rammed it with a broom handle or knocked a ladder into it. My oven has a permanent stain around one of the burners and some scratches from being careless when removing the cast iron grates when cleaning it. The door handle of my freezer is kind of wobbly because the shortest member of our family insists on leaning on it despite repeated requests to the contrary. Our kitchen table is stippled with the wounds of a fork being jabbed into it repeatedly, not to mention some ballpoint pen marks that refuse any attempt to remove them. These things happen. Normal wear and tear. But when a thing is NEW, part of the fun – nay, part of the very thing I am PAYING FOR – is the fresh, clean, lack of marks-and-scrapes-and-dingsdents.

When we got our dining room table and chairs and our barstools from Crate & Barrel many years ago, ALL of them had issues. A couple of the barstools were wobbly – which the delivery person tried to blame on my uneven floors (which are not uneven, thank you) and some of the very expensive, all-wood dining chairs had scratches in them. I made the person take them back and get us new ones. (I think it took more than one re-delivery to get non-scratched dining chairs, OMG.)

I always worry that I am being overly picky. The people who are trying to get you to accept the scratched/dingeddented items certainly make it out like I am being wholly unreasonable – it’s just a little scratch! You can still sit perfectly well in a chair with a deep vertical gouge in one of the legs! And maybe I am being unreasonable, I don’t know.

Whatever. The dinged dented water heater leaked so the plumber had to get a new one anyway.

Water tank 2

El Dento before it was hooked up and began to leak and was then summarily removed.

I have a Shrimp PSA for you, Internet.You may be aware that shrimp have a “vein” on their backs, yes? And that you should remove it before eating? (It’s not a vein; it’s the shrimp’s digestive tract or something equally gross.) Well, when I buy shrimp, I try to get it shelled and de-veined so I don’t have to deal with disemboweling the things before I cook them. (Or deal with looking at their creepy bug eyes and legs and exoskeleton.) (Why do I eat these things?) Well, the other day, I was prepping the shrimp for the shrimp scampi meal I love to eat, and I noticed that there was a long, dark stripe on the underside of the shrimp. Maybe the de-veiner missed one, I thought. No, ALL of the shrimp had it. I painstakingly removed one gruesome string after another. Ew. I looked at the bag the shrimp come in. It said clearly that they are DE-VEINED. Well! I was going to for sure call the company and complain.

Turns out that shrimp (I learned after Googling, fortunately not after yelling at some poor shrimp customer service rep) have TWO “veins.” One is the digestive tract and the other is the circulatory system. A de-veined shrimp has been relieved of the former; the latter remains. Apparently you can eat the circulatory stuff just fine. But… EW.

So now I am weighing my preference for shrimp over chicken against my preference for not removing a creature’s circulatory system. I really don’t like being reminded AT ALL that the shrimp I am about to devour was once a living creature. It’s bad enough that I have to remove their tails; I do not want to do anything else. But now YOU can make the decision BEFORE shelling out $20 for a bag of veiny shrimp.

Do you think other omnivores and carnivores feel this sort of squeamishness about their prey? I mean, not cats. Cats are sadists (and I say that with love, because cats are my all-time favorite animal). What other explanation is there for a) toying with a mouse until it is nearly dead with fear and b) leaving the bones and fur of one’s meal on the threshold between one’s human’s bedroom and the hall in the spot most ideal for being stepped on by said human and c) gleefully presenting one’s human with the innards of a mouse as a gift?

Do you think bears are happiest when they are eating berries, and, although they recognize that creatures are probably higher-yield in terms of nutrition, get all yicked out when they have to catch a writhing salmon in their bare teeth? Do you think owls squeeze their eyes shut as they swoop down to grab a mouse for dinner and say, “Eeeesh, I really wish this thing didn’t have whiskers”? Do you think lions are all, “If only my zebra came de-hooved!”? I, for one, want my meat to be as far removed from Living Thing as it possibly can be. Ground beef does a great job at looking Not Alive. Same with a fillet of, say, tilapia. Anything with bones gets a little too close for comfort. Down this road vegetarianism lies, I know, but I really am not capable of giving up tacos.

I have a new favorite kitchen gadget! My husband got me this amazing can strainer, which I LOVE. I make lots of things with canned black beans and chickpeas and kidney beans, and it is such a pain to get out a big unwieldy strainer to strain and rinse one or even two cans of beans. The strainers take up so much room in the dishwasher, and their handles get in the way of other dishes and it’s just so annoying. And then I have to do the weird dance of rushing the rinsed beans over to the pot on the stove, dripping water all over the counter and the floor. So when I received this can strainer as a birthday gift a few weeks ago, I was DELIGHTED. And it works very well! It’s small, so I can just put it on the top rack of the dishwasher, and it takes up very little room. My only complaint – and it’s really more of an observation – is that it seems to take longer to rinse the beans than it does with the strainer; they are more crammed together in the smaller confines of the can than in the roomier strainer. But otherwise, it’s wonderful. Plus, it’s cheap: the one I have is selling on Amazon for under $4. Or there is a stainless steel option that’s under $8.

Can strainer

Photo from amazon.com

There is a particular kind of lentil soup I am obsessed with. It comes from my local Lebanese restaurant, and it’s light and lemony and soooooo good. It is also $5 a bowl, which is reasonable as a treat but not on a day-to-day basis. So I have tried to make it at home and continue to fail.

This recipe is quite good – Lemony Lentil Soup from Gimme Some Oven – but the restaurant version doesn’t have any carrots in it. So, seeing as I really detest cooked carrots anyway, this is not going to cut it as a substitute.  This Middle Eastern Lentil Soup from BBCGoodFood is closer, and I really like the bright note that the turmeric adds, but it’s still not right. There is definitely no turmeric in the restaurant soup. Cumin, maybe… but even that I’m not sure of.  I don’t know what else to try, to get it closer to the restaurant soup. Any ideas? Based off of… nothing, since you aren’t eating the same soup I am? Still – I am hoping you will know exactly which spice will make it taste right. And I am willing to experiment. Lentil soup is GOOD.

Lentil Soup

My attempt to make the Middle Eastern Lentil Soup with a few add-ons. Good but not right. Also, the restaurant tops its soup with crunchy little pita wontons. And that makes ALL the difference. So yummy! But I could not get my hands on any pita wontons the day I made this soup.

Well, that’s all the randomosity I have for you today, Internet! What’s going on in your neck of the woods?

Read Full Post »

Windows! Windows! Windows!

I have a sharp pain pulsing just above my right eye and that’s what it’s saying.

Last summer, driving with my parents on a two-lane highway through one of the great forests of the north, we passed a giant sign propped up against the pines at the end of a narrow gravel driveway. You couldn’t see the house, but you could clearly read the sign, which was made of several plywood panels nailed together, and stood probably six-feet by eight-feet, if not even bigger. Someone had scrawled “DON’T BUY BLEEFBLORP WINDOWS” in angry spray paint letters across the wood. On both sides, I noticed when we made the return trip. (I can’t remember the actual window company named.) It made me laugh, at the time. But I am beginning to understand what drives a person to make such a sign.

It feels possible that I have mentioned this before, but I am too lazy/window-fixated to check. We had an energy audit performed on our house a few months ago (which was really, REALLY cool. If you are interested in making your home more energy efficient and have $50 or so to spend, you may want to see if your local utility company provides an energy audit.) which was fascinating and informative. The auditor sealed up our doors, set up a blower, and produced a light vacuum inside the house so we could walk around and find places where air was coming in. Guess what had the most leaks? ALL THE WINDOWS.

It’s not terribly surprising to me, that they are SO LEAKY. They are nearly 30 years old, after all. And it’s clear to me that some of them need replacing anyway, beyond the leaky-around-the-edges stuff; the seal between the panes of several of the windows has begun to fail, which produces unpleasant condensation that you cannot remove. So. We need new windows. Our utility company will give us some money back on each window we replace ($25 a window, I think?), up to $1,500 (we don’t have that many windows), as long as we replace them within a year from doing the audit. So, great, let’s do it.

I have been doing plenty of Window Research, and I feel fairly well-versed in the difference between vinyl and wood and aluminum. I understand U-factor and R-value and I know about double-pane vs. triple pane, and argon vs. krypton in between the panes. My husband read up on sneaky sales tactics to avoid, and so I feel good about spotting and avoiding those, too.

But nonetheless, it is A PROCESS and I am tired and annoyed and I am strongly in favor of just MOVING TO A NEW HOUSE where someone ELSE has made all these ridiculous window choices and let the next owners deal with this window madness themselves.

What’s driving me so crazy, you ask?

1. Sales tactics. Even the companies that SWEAR up and down that they don’t go for sales gimmicks are still trying to sell you on their company and their windows. As they should. So they are still using sales tactics. And sure, some of them are less in-your-face than others. But you still have to meet with someone and go over all these options and hear them pitch their windows and talk about how much better they are than their nameless competitors.

And I kind of think that the less in-your-face tacts are just… more sleazy and manipulative. This one guy from a company that prides itself on being a No-Sales-Pressure, No-Gimmicky-Tactics company was so laid back I thought he was going to fall off the barstool at my counter. Yet, despite his air of “hire us or don’t, we don’t care,” he was also clearly deploying very typical sales tactics. Like, he made this big deal about how, with him, “the price is the price,” and that other companies who offer One Day Only! sales or Act Now! discounts are really only able to offer those prices because they are jacking up the non-sales price from the getgo… But then he also slid in there, “If you’re looking for the lowest price windows, I might as well leave right now. That’s not what you’ll get with us.” We are all conditioned to think that priceyness is representative of quality, right? And, especially combined with his assurance that discounts and sales are representative of sleaziness, he’s clearly Being a Salesman and manipulating me! It just rubbed me the wrong way.

And YES, I know they need to make to money. I know they use sales tactics because they are effective. I know that we make a million choices a day based on overt or invisible manipulation by savvy marketers. I KNOW. I used to write sales copy! But that doesn’t mean that I like it. And I like it even LESS when I’m being assured that I am NOT being Sold To.

2. Choosing an installation company. I am only calling the companies in our area that are rated highly by Angie’s List, with tons of positive reviews… but still. You don’t really KNOW if they are a good company. And I am so irritated with the sales tactics that I find myself suspicious of EVERYONE.

One guy was here in my house for TWO HOURS, pitching his windows. He seemed very nice. But he was so completely focused on building up his credibility that he talked and talked and talked himself right out of my good graces. When he really does seem like a good guy! A person who built his company from scratch and really works hard and knows his stuff and cares about his product. But all I can think about is how the installation will take ten times as long as it should because he won’t be able to stop talking!

But also when I remembered that I hadn’t asked about U-factor, and said something like, “Oh! I almost forgot that I should ask you about the windows’ U value!” he gave me a simpering smile and said, “Did your husband tell you to ask that?” and I said, “No, I researched it.” And then he couldn’t even TELL ME. Well. A) MADDENING and B) Not good, Pete.

3. The windows themselves! Not only do you have to make sure you’re choosing a good company, but you have to make sure the WINDOWS are good. The company who sells the windows is going to make them sound like the world’s best windows, and they’ll have all sorts of awards and stamps and seals of approval to make you think they are super great. But then, you look up the manufacture online, and they are NOT GREAT. Maybe I need to work backwards, and start with the windows… and then find out who installs them?

4. The minutiae. Listen, I just want as close to the same thing we have as possible. Just… new and better quality. While others may care deeply, I do not CARE if my window latches are brushed silver or brass. I do not need internal shades in my sliders. (Especially not for an additional $800.) (Or an additional $450, depending on which company I ask.) I do not care if the latticework is flat or contoured. And when I choose, “white,” please do not then tell me, at length, about the different color options, for an additional $250 a window. If I say I want the standard handle on my slider, please do not tell me how easy the other $60-additional-cost handle is to operate. When I say, very clearly, I just want double paned glass because from what I read it’s FINE for our moderate climate, I do not want to hear how much better the U-factor is with triple-paned glass, and how much of a scam krypton is. I have already made my choice. And there are so very many choices. Latticework or no. Double-hung or picture window. Tempered glass or no (not required except in special cases). Half screen or full. And on and on and on before you are seriously considering boarding everything up and living in darkness for the rest of your life.

5. The price. I had steeled myself in advance that our 13 windows and two sliding doors would cost somewhere around $10,000 to replace. But being prepared to see that on a quote is quite a different thing to being prepared to PAY that amount. And! Some of the quotes are for MORE THAN $10,000!

6. The endlessness of it all! At what point and I going to feel like I have enough information to make this decision and actually BUY the windows? How will I ever decide between these window companies and the windows they sell and the pricing? HOW? I feel like I am ALREADY SO TIRED from researching potential vendors and calling these places and scheduling the meetings and listening to sales pitches… How will I know when I’ve done my due diligence? Hopefully before I DEFENESTRATE MYSELF.

I am ready to give up, is what I’m telling you. But I have two more companies coming to give me sales pitches, and we obviously still have all our very leaky windows from the 90s, so I must endure. And take some window-related Advil.

Read Full Post »