Thursday, February 7, 2013

New apartment

My sister made a huge and positive change in her life. She moved to a new state and is now living independently. Well, sort of. She's currently bunking at our cousin's house until she's settled. How generous are my cousins?!

Her move got me thinking about the very many moves I've done. More specifically, about the things I needed for my apartment. What are the things one really needs for her first apartment? I was specifically thinking about things one needs in the kitchen. Everything else can be purchased over time. In my opinion, everything for the kitchen can be purchased from Ikea, Walmart/Target, the Dollar Tree, a thrift store, and, only when absolutely necessary, Bed Bath and Beyond. I should warn that I will reference Ikea a lot. Not only do I have their catalog sitting right next me, they are also super affordable.

When it comes to dining ware, I think that a set of 4 is a great place to start. If you are expecting more people, you can always use disposable products. Kudos if you use biodegradable ones.

For a starter set, I'm a big believer in going with a classic style. All-white dishes are safe and timeless. Food also looks best on white. I also believe in having simple glassware. This is coming from a girl who can't live without color. I love simplicity in the basics, but going wild with everything else. Kitchen towels, rugs, textiles, and art can all be suited to your taste. Dishes and glasses shouldn't stand out so much. Your food should. In cases where you're throwing a dinner party, centerpieces and your home decor is where you can show your personality.

Silverware

I don't have a complete set of silverware. Part of me wishes I did. Walmart has a set of 4 of each piece for $1/set. Very very cheap. Admittedly, that's what I have. I do love the Fornuft set from Ikea.  You can't beat the $9 price tag for a set of 20. They also have the Bonus set for $4 for 16 pieces.

Glassware
I'm a big believer in not spending a large amount of money on glassware. They break so easily. I also believe in using real glasses, not plastic cups. I don't own a single plastic cup in my house (except for a few disposable cups hiding in the back). Granted I don't have any children or clumsy roommates. My go-to place for glassware is the Dollar Tree and Pier 1. Hear me out on the dollar store: each of their glasses is $1. That's it. If you break it, no big deal, but I'm willing to bet you got your money's worth. You could buy really cute stemware and glasses, but at the end of the day, you really just want a drink. Another option is Ikea's Svalka wine glasses, which is only $5 for a set of 6. As far as stemware is concerned, I think that having an all-purpose glass is enough.
Drinking glasses are important. I like big, substantial ones myself since they work well with beer or water. The Dollar Tree has great ones for $1 each, so it will only be $4 for a set. Ikea's 365+ glasses is only $4 for a 6-pack or if you really wanted to go cheap, the Reko set of 6 is only $1.49.  They're stackable, too, which is a great bonus. Speaking of stackable, I love Ikea's Fargrik mugs . At only $1 each, can't beat it. I'm a fan of having a matching set of mugs, but a friend of mine has a huge collection of mugs from all over. I love it. It's fun and exudes character. My dad buys a mug whenever he travels, so he's got plenty. My mom buys shot glasses that she never uses. My dad wins on this one. Just kidding.

Dishes

As I mentioned above, I love white dishes. They are classic, clean, timeless, and simple. Another bonus that no one really thinks of is that they are easily replaceable. If you were to purchase a set of patterned dishes and break one, you'll have to cross your fingers that they still sell the same pattern. White is simple and classic. The Dollar Tree and Ikea have great options. I also really love Corelle. I'm a huge fan, thanks to my mother. That's all we have at their house. Corelle dishes are super lightweight and durable. They are perfect for when you move, which will happen. It's much better to get them from their outlet store if you're lucky enough to live near one. Walmart does sell their sets and will sometimes have them on clearance. The best part is, you can buy sets from Corelle that will include dinner plates, salad plates, bowls, and mugs. It's hassle-free, but more expensive. Bed Bath and Beyond has this set for $25. Such a great deal.

Utensils

I tried so hard to keep the list short. Didn't work so well.
-Proper knife set-do your research. It took me hours of research to figure out what I really wanted. I ended up getting a great set from Target. My only wish is that it came with a bread knife. Make sure that the knife can be re-sharpened. Some knives can't, so this is where research comes in handy. If there is one place to splurge throughout your kitchen, it's here. There is nothing more frustrating than cooking with a dull knife.
-Bamboo cooking utensils-I purchased a lot of silicone/plastic cooking utensils over the last few years and regret it. I still have them since there's no point in throwing them away, but all you really need is a set like this.
-Tongs- You will use this way more than you ever thought you needed to.
-Grater- Oh, this is a hard one. I personally hate those box graters because they take up so much room. I have super small one that I got from DT like this, which I love, then I purchased a bigger one like this that has bigger holes like this.  I love them both but I think you only really need the bigger one. They are both pretty flat, so I can store them easily.
-Chopping Board- I've heard that it's good to have multiple boards to use for different things (veggies, raw meat, etc.) I have something like this from Target. At the end of the day, this is what you really need.  Just clean as you go.
-Corkscrew- as a wine drinker, this is a necessity. Learn to use one of these. It takes up less room and will last way longer than this. Don't buy the $2 ones from Walmart. Big mistake.
-Whisk- I purchased a 3-pack because it was cheap. I only use one of them and the other 2 take up precious real estate in my kitchen. Learn from my mistake. Buy one medium size whisk and forget the set.
-Can opener
-Potato peeler
-Rolling pin-Only if you really like to bake. I bought mine from an Asian market in Kansas city for less than $5.It's a small, French-style rolling pin. It's also great as a meat tenderizer and to crumble up crackers or bread.
-Rubber spatula- for baking and general cooking. I use mine all the time. It's actually my go-to cooking utensil
-Others that are optional: Spatula, soup ladle, slotted spoon, large spoon for serving, salad tongs

-On the other hand, here's a set from Overstock with everything you could possibly need.

Serving ware and storage containers

Purchase double duty kitchen ware. I'm a big fan of glass and ceramic containers. They are oven/microwave safe (check first to make sure!) and they look good. Purchase ones with a cover, so they can go from oven to table to fridge with pretty much no effort.
Also, see what I wrote in the baking section about double duty oven safe serving dishes. Go with white.
-While I do love glass, I have to admit that I own the Pruta food container from Ikea. Can't beat it.

Baking
-I love my Flackig mixing bowl set from Ikea.  They are so easy to use for baking and mixing. The bottom is silicone-covered so they don't slide around. Did I mention that they're only $5 for a set of 2?! You'll need at least 2 big mixing bowls. They have multiple uses.
-You need 1 set of measuring cups and 1 set of measuring spoons. No more than that. Learn from my mistake.
-You will need a 9x12 cake pan (which can double as a roasting pan), cookie sheets, a cupcake pan, and maybe a loaf pan. You will use them for more than just their intended purposes.
-It's also good to have oven safe serving dishes. They double as both serving dishes and bakeware. Things that serve multiple purposes in a kitchen is huge. Great places to buy these things are Ikea, Target, Home Goods, and Cost Plus World Market (a personal favorite!). I've also purchased great oven-safe bakeware from thrift stores. Just soak them in the sink with warm water and a few tablespoons of bleach to kill any grossness, then wash it with soap and warm water a few times and you're good to go.

Cookware:
I love the set I purchased from Bed Bath and Beyond, with a 20% off coupon of course. Sure, it's (insert sarcasm font) cancer-causing nonstick cookware, but I love that it's a complete set. I have never found myself needing something else. If you want the bare essential, get a deep, covered skillet that is at least 10". This baby will do it all. It's my absolute favorite thing to have in the kitchen.
The best places to find cookware, other than the usual suspects of Ikea and BB&B, is Home Goods or TJMaxx. They have brand name items for super cheap.

Other things you may need:
-Pot holders- You need 4 pot holders and 1 oven mitt. The extra pot holders can double as trivets
-Bar mops- the simplest kitchen towel. You can buy a multiple pack for cheap from Walmart and they are very effective. When you're ready to clean them, you can quickly soak them in bleach to kill all the germs and get rid of all the stain.

Small appliances
-Coffee maker
-small hand mixer only if you bake
-a small rice cooker if you're Asian or if you really like rice
-Toaster oven. I use mine all the time.
-I don't use a microwave, but if you do, make sure to get one of those.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Wanderlust

I wonder what it's like to feel settled. That feeling of "this is it." I have never felt that and I don't foresee myself ever saying that. I get that "this is good for now" feeling quite a bit, but never that definitive "I'm here" feeling. I have come to accept that I am a perpetual wanderlust. I have the heart of a gypsy and I'm perfectly okay with that. I actually love my spontaneous, adventurous spirit. I'm happiest when I'm doing something I've never done before...but there's always that "what's next" feeling hanging in the background.

Let's go through current examples of my life.

My apartment is cute. I've always wanted to live in a studio apartment. No joke. I used to picture rooms that I lived in and how they could be outfitted to fit a bathroom, a kitchen, a living room, and bedroom. I look forward to Small Cool contest at Apartment Therapy every year. If I could, I would be an interior designer exclusively for small spaces. I'm that obsessed with studio apartments. Now I live in one...then what? Is it time for me to buy a house? Once I rent a house and make it my own, what's next?

Then take my job. I love it. It challenges me and is actually teaching me new things. Come Friday at 4:00 pm I want to get out of there, though for the most part I love being there. I love all the new things I'm learning. I love the ministry that it is. But, there's still that nagging feeling. I know that I'm not in this forever. I'm pretty sure that I'm in this for a few years and then...what?

So, tell me. What's it like? What's like to know that "this is it." I'm not talking about that huge-sigh-last-surrender-feeling, I'm talking about that super-elated, I'm-in-love-with-the-entire-world feeling. What's that like?

Friday, August 24, 2012

Apartment Hunting part 3

More apartment hunting...

7. Cats and gut instincts- A gal came into the office for something and mentioned where she lived. I told her, as I've told so many people, that I was looking for a place to live. She gave me her landlord's number. They did have an apartment available, so I made an appointment to see it. I went over and the landlord didn't show up. Not okay. He called me a day or two later and apologized. He told me that they were having a special: free rent for the rest of the month. So a friend and I went to look at the apartment that afternoon. Not bad. It was a roomy one-bedroom apartment. No central AC (I would have to buy a window unit.) and nothing was included in the rent. I've never rented before so I don't even know what I had to pay for. Oh well. It was a pretty good apartment and he seemed like a good enough landlord. I decided to take the weekend to think about it since it was 5:30 on Friday. I called him on Monday to apply for the apartment. He told me someone had already applied, but I can be a back-up applicant. I went over that same day later that afternoon and it turned out that another aparment (exact same layout) had opened up. I looked at it and something didn't feel right. Same thing with the first apartment I looked at. And this one smelled like cat. Gross. I just couldn't get myself to hand him the check. I asked him what would happen if I backed out of the deal and he said that I would lose that $100. He said that I needed to think about it if I had doubts. I may be desperate, but could I really live there for an entire year? I knew I couldn't.


8. Main Street apartment- The Friday I went to look at the cat apartment, I was suppose to look at 5 apartments with a property management company. Some of the apartments were on Main Street. She called me an hour before my appointment and told me that they had rented out 3 of the apartments and the other 2 wouldn't be ready until September. By that point, after so many doors closing, I was angry. Monday came and I couldn't find anything, so I called her on Tuesday to see if she had anything new. She said she did and showed me a very dated, but good enough one-bedroom above a diner. A reasonable rent at $530 plus $30 if I wanted to use the laundry, plus electricity, and internet. She couldn't tell me too much about the neighborhood for legality reasons. Bummer. I put in the application anyway since it was only $20. She was so great to work with. She even contacted the city to make sure I could get the moving truck in. She was great, but the apartment wasn't so much. It would have worked, but I really hate old houses. I also wasn't sure if I wanted to live on Main Street. It would have been fun if Main street was actually fun. It isn't anything special.

9. Great timing- Just to give you another example of how awesome my timing is. I called a lady who had a listing for an efficiency apartment. That Tuesday before I was supposed to leave, I called them. Desperate. She informed me that they had rented it out just a week ago. Perfect. Just freaking perfect.

10. A new friend- I was browsing through the local parish's facebook young adults group and found a posting for a basement apartment. I sent her a message and she called me back. After a few days of going back and forth, she offered for me to come and see the place. She hadn't decided on how much she was going to charge me since it was going to be a different setting than what she had originally put on the ad. Basically, they have a huge (gigantic) room that is connected to the apartment. They already have 2 girls living in the apartment. I would have had to share a bathroom and the kitchen with them. The downside, and it's huge, is that it's a 20-minute drive to the house. It would probably take half an hour just to get to the house from the interstate. She still needed to talk to the girls about the living arrangement, so she couldn't give me an answer then. She was extremely sweet and kind. When I told her that I found another apartment (her friends' actually), she called me back to tell that everything was ok and even invited me to go to margarita night with the ladies. How awesome is that?

11. And then there was one- I looked at the loft apartment again the Monday before I left for Canada. I had discounted it, but thought I'd revisit it. I finally met the owners who were very kind and gracious. They are an older couple who, I think, are looking for a certain type to rent their apartment. I asked them a few questions and then asked them if that was the best price for the apartment. It couldn't hurt to ask, right? For Rent taught me that. They said yes, but then said that they knew someone who was renting their basement apartment for less than what they were asking for. I love that about small towns. She pretty much went through her entire rolodex to look for this couple's phone number. I called them that night. They called me back the next day, so I scheduled to look at the apartment that night right after I looked at apartment #10. They are a great family, so that was a good sign. As we walked down to the apartment, he told me that I could rent the entire apartment for $575, inclusive (even laundry and internet!!!), or I could just rent half of it for $400. Essentially I would rent a studio apartment. The layout of the basement made this easily possible. They needed the space, and I wanted the money. It was perfect. There was no down payment and no lease. Basically, no commitment. Praise God. The upside was that it was close to work, though it was left of the office. They eased my mind about the snow issue I have. There is virtually no storage, but I can work around that. Easily. I'm already figuring it all out in my head. Creativity is one of my strong suits.

Oh, and when did I find it? Tuesday night. I asked them for the apartment the very next day and moved my stuff in that night.   And that, my friends, is my life...big, important decisions made at the very last mintue.

Apartment Hunting part 2

In hindsight, I wish I had taken pictures of the places I saw. I just didn't know how to do it without being creepy. I guess I could still go back and take pictures of some of them at least. We'll see.

Here are apartments #1-6.

1. A 45-minute commute- A friend called me when I was still in Florida and told me that her friend had just called her complaining about the need for a roommate. Coincidence, she thought. I ended up getting in touch with this gal and her roommate. They sweetly offered to pick me up and show me the house. They even allowed me to spend the night and introduce me to some people the next day. It was a solid 45-minute drive from my office to the house...without traffic. I realize that people do this all the time, but I'm not at all used to it. I come from having absolutely no commute. That drive is going to get old very very quickly, especially in my old Toyota. The girls were sweet and hospitable, but I regrettably cannot do that drive every.single.day. As much as I want the social aspect of living in a city, I just couldn't make it work.
2. Light and airy- I looked at a one-bedroom, above-the-garage apartment during my training week. It was cute! There was a loft area right above the bedroom/kitchen. It had a great open layout albeit on the small side. There were plenty of windows. The apartment was comfortable and had so much storage. More storage than I could ever wish for and use. I couldn't get over how light and airy it felt. All those windows. It was located less than 5 minutes from the office. The downside was that it was in the country (left of the office). Rent was a reasonable $600 a month, but did not include laundry (laundromat here I come!) or internet (my heart sinks just writing that). They asked that I stayed there for an entire year, but there was no lease. The owners were a kind, older couple. So kind in fact, that she later told me about my current landlord and even called me later to tell me about another apartment that may be available.
3. A cozy room- A family entertained the idea of renting a room to me. I would have my own bedroom with my own bathroom. They have a few children and the house itself wasn't very large. While I would have had my own space, it wasn't the most comfortable situation for me. The upside would have been all the money I would save since I would only rent a room and not a whole apartment. The downside, other than the idea of the situation, is that I would have to find a place to put all my stuff. I have a lot of stuff that I'm not willing to get rid of.
4. A room in an old house- A gentleman in the office approached me one day and said that he has a room for rent in his house. I would have my own bathroom, my own fridge, and my own part of the pantry. Upside is that only the man and his wife are living in the house and they are used to having a renter. I asked how they would treat me and he answered, 'like a tenant.' Perfect. As harsh and crazy as this sounds, I don't want to be a part of someone's family. I would also save a lot of money. They are in town, which is a plus. Downside was that I would have had to find a place for all of my stuff, maybe even a storage room, since the place was furnished and there was absolutely no room for my stuff in the house. I'm not sure if there was room for anything in the house. Oh, and did I mention how much I hate old houses? I hate them. I hemmed and hawed about this one. I finally decided that I would do it short term even though my gut told me not to, but he had already rented the room to someone the day before. My timing is awesome like that.
5. Craigslist galore-I searched on Craigslist almost everyday. This is a small town, so it was rare for something new to come up. I emailed and contacted a few people, but to no avail. I did speak with one lady who had a room for rent. The first thing she asked me was if I minded smoking in the house. Ummm... She also asked if I minded dogs since they had 3 or 4. Ummm... I politely bs'ed my way out of that conversation very quickly.
6. Kindness of strangers- There are apartments a few minutes from my office. I called the owner to ask her if there was any availability. She called me back and said that there wasn't. I was so frustrated at that point that I just politely told her thank you and hung up the phone, totally forgetting to ask her who it was. I ended up calling her back a few days later to follow up and realizing too late that she had already called me back. She was so sweet and gracious. She offered to help me and told me that she would call around since she knew so many people in town who had apartments. A complete stranger offering to help me find a home even though she's never met me before is the best example of true hospitality. It was a wonderful feeling.

More to come...

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Bland and boring

Dear Clare,
How is it possible for you to not have salt and pepper in your kitchen? Yes, I realize that you did just move into your apartment a few days ago. I realize that you don't have a fully stocked pantry yet, but seriously? No salt and pepper? You have organic greens, pesto sauce, and even nori in your fridge...but no salt and pepper. How does that salmon taste without it? Pretty bland, huh? Lesson learned? Maybe? Hopefully?

You do realize that you now have a real job, right? By real, I mean that you now have to cook for yourself in a limited time. You now have to implement all those recipes and ideas you so eagerly pin on pinterest. You now have absolute control over what you eat and what you buy. You can buy whatever you want and need. BUT, I can guarantee you this: anything you make will be bland and gross without salt and pepper.

That is all.

Love,
Me