Category: Home Sweet Home Spice


Daily Spice

Come on Spice Sisters, post something already! I’m all alone here, typing into the vast universe from my lonely outpost hundreds of miles away….can anyone here me? Does anyone have anything to say to me? To entertain me? Educate me?

Anyway, here is just a brief post to tell you all that I am a complete convert to paid home cleaning service. Amazing. It’s like a whole new apartment. They even emptied my dishwasher and figured out where to put the dishes!! And changed my sheets and threw the old ones in the wash before leaving! I’m sure I’ll find some other amazing clean corner of my apartment that has yet to reveal itself to me. I would never be able to get this place this clean on my own…I can’t explain what a joy it is to have this place so lovely and sparkly. Worth every penny.

Come visit! I want to show off my sparkling clean apartment!!

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The Perfect Cover

I like it cold on the outside, warm and cozy on the inside…. sleeping temperature that is.  And lately, the warmer temperature has just left my down alternative comforter undesirable.  I avoid opening windows because the double decker Big Apple tour bus passes by every ten minutes and I don’t need to hear anymore about the UN nor do I need to ingest the dirty fumes from the bus.  In the summer, my apartment’s 30+ year old central air conditioning doesn’t quite cool but just keeps it not too hot.   I knew I had to get some alternative bedding before it gets any warmer and a quilt seemed like the perfect solution.

Is it just me or are most quilts on the stiff side?  That’s what I thought when I did some touching at conventional bedding places like Bed Bath, Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, even checked out TJ Maxx.   Although I know its the  traditional type, but all those patchwork quilts makes me feel like I need to sleep in a log cabin with Abe Lincoln.  While the floral ones (usually pink) made me feel like I had to be 80 years old and wear perfume that smelled like roses ( no offense to those that do).

Cabin Lodge Mini Quilt Set from Overstock.com

So my wants are simple: soft, modern, vibrant colors but too girly, as requested by he who shares my bed, machine washable and ready for my bi-monthly washings.

I spent hours online, Garnet Hill, The Company Store, Layla Grayce, Overstock.com, but either the price, pattern, color, or inability to touch led to no winners.  Finally, one day I went West Elm for some touching and it sure was pleasant! West Elm, definitely has the softest quilts I’ve felt, especially their “Hand-Block” varieties and the Ruffled-Circle.  (Though the Bubbles Quilt, not so much.) However, I was skeptical of the quality, the threading looked like it will come loose after two washes, barely lasting me through the season.

Ruffled-Circle Quilt + Shams

Soft but not durable

I was ready to splurge on the questionable West Elm Ruffled-Circle pictured above when I decided to search “quilt” in Apartment Therapy and  I stumbled upon a post on New DwellStudio Bedding for Target. HELLO modern, vibrant colors! I quickly looked up this bedding on Target.com and it was on sale for $56 bucks with free shipping but was this going to be like sleeping under cardboard?  For less than $60 and free return, I thought it was worth checking it out.

Well, from the picture below, you can see the happy ending here.  Although not as soft as Ruffled-Circle, it is surprisingly decent to touch. Plus, I really love the design and colors!

Perfect Temperature!

Home Woes

While living in a Victorian conversion flat has it’s advantages such as high ceilings, fireplace (unfortunately, non-working), and pretty mouldings, I’ve come to realize that there’s more headaches than expected. Because these houses were built over 100 years ago, there can be structural, piping, heating, and insulation issues.

While we are happy with our Home Sweet Home, we have been dealing with one headache after another for almost 1 year. Yes, I have a lot of pent up frustrations to vent out! First, we noticed leaks underneath the tub, which spilled over into the carpet outside the bathroom. Over time, the wet carpet started molding. Every time the management company sent contractors to fix the issue, it has always been patchwork rather than getting to the root of the issue. So of course, the issue keeps recurring. Finally, in November 2010, the landlord decided to fix everything in the flat, based on a meticulous list of things that I have put together, which I have sent and resent to the management company and him over and over again, I may add!

The work included sanding down peeling paint, respackling them and repainting the rooms, fixing damp in the guest bedroom and bathroom, fixing the leak underneath the tub, getting rid of the mold and making sure the carpets are dried, etc. We expected this to take perhaps 1 week. Wrong! This took 3 weeks to complete because people here have no common sense and are so lazy! On top of that, our old boiler broke down so the landlord replaced it with a new one. But, the new one was not installed correctly, so we had no hot water and no heat over one of the coldest weekends of the winter.

After all these work, we thought that our headaches were over, but we were too optimistic. Come January, the leak underneath the tub resurfaced and the walls were still damp. The first contractors did a shoddy job. So, these had to be fixed AGAIN!! This time, the management company sent a new contractor, who fixed the root of the problem.

But a different company was sent to deal with the damp. This company started work this past Friday. The work entailed removing all the plaster and cement covering the brick walls in the bathroom and guest bedroom, drilling holes into the brick, filling them up with some sort of anti-damp thingie, and sealing the areas back up. Sounds easy enough, right? Wrong again. When I asked what the work would entail, they did not tell me that they need to remove the sink and cistern. So, from Friday and throughout the weekend, we had no sink in the bathroom, and no functioning toilet because the plumber doesn’t work on weekends. Unbelieveable!! Who the heck lives in such a condition in the 21st century?! They could have told me this when I was making the appointment so that I’d schedule the work to start on Monday rather than Friday! And, with all the tearing down of plaster and mixing cement INSIDE the flat, EVERYTHING was covered in dust and cement particles!! We spent a whole day cleaning and wiping everything down yesterday.

Now we have to leave the cement and plastering to dry for 4 weeks before the walls can be repainted. Everything looks so ugly and I am still waiting for the plumber to come reinstall the sink and cistern. If anyone ever considers buying an old house because it’s quaint or has a lot of character, be fully prepared to expect some major headaches. This experience has totally put me off buying old flats/houses.

Registering for…Groceries?

I ran into my local supermarket a few weeks ago to grab some milk, and did a double-take at a woman holding a scanner in her hand, as she pointed it to a bag of cat food.  My first thought was, “Now people are registering at the grocery store?!” …my second thought was, “Please don’t let me become the woman who registers for cat food in lieu of a wedding registry.”

I went for a more leisurely grocery shopping trip yesterday, and a giant kiosk right by the entrance caught my eye. It’s those scanners! Wait, there are grocery bags hanging here…wait, these scanners aren’t for registering. They are for…shopping, scanning, and bagging as you go!  BRILLIANT!  I swiped my member card (more on that later), grabbed the flashing scanner, and took off down produce, with a sharp left to avoid the bakery :/

Zappity-doo-dah!

As I zapped my items with the scanner, I found a few things to be really advantageous – I immediately saw the price of what I scanned, and a running total.  Most who know me know that when it comes to shopping (of any kind), I’m very much an impulse buyer, and often don’t find out the price of something until I’m at the register.  It’s a habit I’m working on trying to break.  Seeing the price of things really kept me aware of how much I was spending, so it would be great to see these in stores where I blindly spend – I’m talking to you, Sephora and Target!

It’s probably also no surprise that I don’t clip coupons.  This is a habit I’m trying to get into.  Why not save a couple of  bucks a week?  Especially since it helps balance my starbucks addiction. I’ve also started keeping my Bed Bath & Beyond  and Costco coupons right by my door, so I grab them on my way out. Anyway, back to the nifty scanner – it also queued up and applied coupons based on my previous purchases, as stalked…I mean, tracked, by my member card.

I think the benefit I found most useful, though, was that I bagged my groceries as I went along, the way I wanted them. I don’t like my greek yogurt to be bagged haphazardly with boxes that could pierce the foil cover!  I don’t like my  milk,  juice and water all in one bag!  Too heavy!  I don’t want one bag with just bananas in it!  Too light!  The ability to  bag my  items the way I wanted to, and that I could pay by handing over the scanner to the cashier, swipe my card, and fly  through  checkout within a matter of seconds, made grocery shopping a much more enjoyable chore for me.

My Beautifully Bagged Booty!

When I mentioned this to mrscannoli earlier today, (she and I often share the same supermarket), her  first thought was “I think it’s an opportunity to steal.” (She’s not an auditor for nothing, folks). I also had the same thought, and in fact, did get some “What the hell are you doing, putting stuff in bags?” looks from fellow shoppers. I would hope that  the honor system and random security checks at checkout would allow for this to continue to be a successful way to make people’s lives more convenient!

 

 

Organizing the Classics

It’s no surprise I do a lot of cooking and I do look to the internet for inspiration, but I am also a suck for a hard cover cookbook.  Over the last 10 years, I’ve collected a bunch of them and in our house, I’ve been using a small folding bookshelf from Pier 1 circa 2001 to store/display them (actually it was Hubbo’s from his old apartment and I inherited it).  Along with the dozens of cooking magazines that I buy at the checkout line, it’s becoming a corner of clutter nightmare.

I wanted to get something that was functional but also nice for the kitchen.  Not a plain ol’ Ikea bookshelf, but nothing too decorative.  Plus I did not want to spend a fortune.  I was looking through the Ballad Designs site around the holiday and I saw this iron bookshelf for $99! I liked it a lot because it looked like something you’d find at the library.  And a shelf of pretty cookbooks is my kind of library!  But of course I waited because I wanted to spend money on gifts for OTHERS.  Imagine that.  So I waited and it went back to full price of $169.  I’ve been checking on and off waiting for it to go on sale again and no luck.  I’ve searched the internet for something cheap and similar and again, no luck.

Then I started to worry that if I waited too long, it would be sold out or discontinued!  So I bit the bullet and ordered it last week.  I got it in black, since I thought white would not match anything in my kitchen.

The instructions to assemble it were easy, it was a bunch of screws that needed an allen key (provided).  Man oh man, why do companies insist we assemble furniture with these damn annoying tools?  It was hard to get into the corners where the screws were and it would have taken a third of the time if there were traditional screws involved.  I think it took about 45 minutes in total since some of the screws were hard to get to and I did not exactly rush to finish it.  The website reviews say it took one person 8 hours over 3 days to assemble.  Don’t understand that at all.  Furniture assembly is not rocket science, people!

Here’s a before and after of the space:

BEFORE: Piling things on the floor is not a great idea. Ever. Clutter disaster.

AFTER: Lovely! Easy to read and grab. And less clutter! I do have to go through and toss all the magazines on the bottom shelf. Also added a photo of my Spices from last year's birthday cooking event for me and Maccha.

Now this is what I call the classics!

You get what you paid for…

While researching a new purchase, I always start by finding the most expensive, luxurious and often (but not always) best quality item available that fits my requirements. Once I set my sights on this object of obsession, I start the long and painful process of finding its poor country relative to fulfill my need…Here’s an example of something that caught my eye recently:

The real…Horchow Blue Recamier Sofa

 

The knock off… Urban Outfitters Antoinette Fainting Sofa

Both come in a variety of colors, I particularly love the Horchow chair in silver leather, HOT! (couldn’t find a high enough resolution picture so the blue will have to do) With about a 2500 dollar price difference…..Umm, let’s not get it twisted.

if i had all the money in the world…

I would be buying…

Rather than…

Online shopping fail…

Remember when Ivy enticed me to check out the Crate and Barrel sale with those cute red ceramic pie “tins”? And I ended up ordering summer patio furniture? Well, they attempted delivery of the mosaic cafe table yesterday and…as they were maneuvering through my kitchen, three of the tiles fell off. The just came off in the guy’s hand! I checked the other tiles and they all seemed to be well cemented in. So, I’m thinking the side of the table got bumped in transport and loosened those tiles. They are going to redeliver. The guy asked me, “Well, do you want to keep this one to use until they can deliver the replacement?” As if I he thought I was in a hurry to sit out on my snowy balcony for brunch or an evening night cap. I actually felt quite ridiculous having patio furniture delivered in 17 degree weather…

I have been trying to be better about online shopping. In the last two weeks, I have only had one delivery from Gilt and one from Sephora.