Sep 29, 2012

Comparison of Lifestyle

Just thought I would summarize a lot of research I've done for this blog (some entries haven't been made yet, they are in draft). You pick which lifestyle you have, and maybe you can get some advice from the ramblings of my mind...and the research I've turned up.

I've decided that there are 3 basic types of lifestyles out there and I'm going to share MY perspectives about them. Again, these are MY perspectives, so don't waste time telling me that I'm wrong just because YOUR perspective may be a little different from mine. Know also, that I am a bit of each of these, depending on my mood that particular day, the experience I am having, and what amount of time I have to expend.
  • Efficient - defined on as "performing or functioning in the best possible manner with the least waste of time and effort." My perspective: very busy people (work, school, family, hobbies, etc), that strive to be efficient in experiencing life by simply purchasing objects or hiring others to do the personal projects because they don't have a lot of time or experience.
  • DIY - My perspective is that they too are busy people, but strive to experience life by using some of their time & skills as a hobby to save money to create what they want, and will solicit friends to assist if needed on a personal project.
  • Hippie - My perspective is that they stay busy by floating through life by finding ways to recycle things they use, collect, and obtain; which is inspired by the things that sift through their minds, how they can use them, give life to something, is a "green way" to live, and yet also reduces the costs of their out-of-pocket costs.
So, what am I "really" getting at in this entry. I had to explain some things, so you can understand the table below, where I share a topic and then compare how each of the 3 will deal with it, IMHO. If the entry is a link, it is to an entry on my blog about it. Yeah, I've lived through this...

Topic EfficientDIYHippie
Colored flames in the fireplace Duraflame Colorlog DIY Colored PineconesNewspaper Logs & Colored Pinecones
Reduce costs due to cooking Eat out more!!!Use a Toaster Oven & Crock Pot vs. a Full Oven  Hobo Pies in the backyard, Newspaper Logs & Collected Firewood
Driving Limo!!!Carpool & work localWalk, ride bike, or work at home
Stay warm in winter Fire up the furnace!!!Set thermostat to the recommended settings & layer up a littleSet thermostat to the recommended settings, layer up a little, find a Snuggle Buddy
Stay cool in summer Warp drive on the A/C all the time!!!Set thermostat to the recommended settings Set thermostat to the recommended settings but what are these "pajamas" you are saying are needed?
Media Entertainment OperaMovie theater once in a while, Netflix, video storeDVD from the library, read a book, swap movies with friends, look at the stars...
Saving water in the toilet I use the newest toilet at 1.6 gpfInstall a Dual Flush Kit or use an 1/2 gallon milk carton"If it's yellow, let it mellow...
If it's brown, flush it down..."
Furniture Arhaus, they deliver & set it upIKEA, I'll put it together myselfDumpster Diving!!!
Popcorn Commercial brand & at the theaterAir popperKernels in a brown bag, and I can recycle the bag after.

Apartment Living - Part VI

So you've read all of the parts on the Apartment Living page of this blog, but have decided that it is time to move out. The key question on your mind is "how do I get my security deposit back?!? I NEED that money..." Some suggestions, because most landlords look at how much work needs to be done before they can "re-rent" the unit. The cleaner it is left and the less amount of work to refresh it, the more $$$ returned. Keep in mind that the security deposit will not likely be returned the day of a move out, but within a month after. It all depends on what needs to be done to give the keys to the next resident.

First, we need to understand what a security deposit is, and then how it applies. The best way to define what a security deposit is, can be found on Wikipedia [link], but I'm going to summarize it as to it applies to living in an apartment.
A security deposit is a sum of money held in trust...  to ensure the cost of repair in relation to any damage explicitly specified in the contract and that did in fact occur.
Basically it is money that the landlord/property manager uses to pay for the revitalization of an apartment when vacated, the resident is "pre-paying" it. Know up front, not ALL of the deposit is given back, so here are some suggestions on maximizing the amount of the security deposit to get back:
  1. Scrub the vinyl floors. Not just sweep with a broom, but scrub the floors.
  2. Pull out the refrigerator and stove and clean everything that has collected under them.
  3. Wash the sides of the fridge and stove.
  4. Clean the oven, stove top elements, knobs, inside the fridge, sinks, and all countertops.
  5. Vacuum the carpets or get a carpet cleaner to do it for you. Yes, it costs a little to do that, but you'll pay for it regardless.
  6. Scrub the tubs, showers, and toilets.
  7. Patch the nail holes from all of the pictures/art you hung up.
  8. Clean under where your washer and dryer were, if you had them.
  9. Wipe down the baseboards as dust and dirt has likely built up.
  10. Run a broom along the ceiling to remove the cobwebs.
  11. Take all of your "stuff" with you. Leaving items in the cupboards or even just in the room causes a lot of work for the people revitalizing the unit.
Basically, do a spring cleaning the way grandma did "back in the day." First impressions are important, so the first time the landlord/property manager inspects a vacant apartment, the more that is likely to be given back. As mentioned, it won't be ALL issued back, there are some things that will be deducted from the security deposit, and there might be an invoice if it costs more than was put down. Those things typically are for fees like:
  • A cleaning person to do what you should have done (listed above).
  • Replacing carpet or vinyl due to excessive stains or tears.
  • Professional carpet cleaners to deep clean the rug.
  • Repairing things that are broken (doorknobs, doors, baseboards, counters, appliances).
  • Excessive plastering needed for holes in the walls.
  • Removing oil or other fluid stains on the garage floor.
  • Having to hire a professional painter if you changed the colors of the walls (read the lease on this one, it can be costly if it is not returned to the original look).
Typically there is a MOVE OUT inspection, and a MOVE IN inspection to survey the property. Anything that shows up during those inspections is noted, and the person responsible is charged. The key point here, is that the more diligence a resident takes while moving out, the more of the security deposit they will get back...

Sep 20, 2012

Apartment Living - Part V

You've used the criteria in Part I to choose a community, you used the info in Part II to fine tune your criteria, used Part III to actually read the lease and decided to communicate with the office, and perused Part IV about dealing with letters (especially eviction notices). So where are we now? Deciding how much we like where we are going to living somewhere...

Christmas 2010
Can you hang drapes? Probably, check the lease or contact the office and ask. Can you paint the walls a different color or put a mural? Check the lease or contact the office. Can I have a pet run or let them run free (because they are so good and loving)? Check the lease or contact the office. Can I use a fire pit/bowl or barbecue? Check the lease or contact the office. Can I hang holiday lights above my front door/garage door/barbecue grill or have a live-cut Christmas tree? Check the lease or contact the office.

See where this is going? It is all about understanding the lease you signed, and what the office can share about polices that lead up to getting a notice. There is a LOT of latitude allowed to the residents, as long as they COMMUNICATE with the office, know the lease, and can rectify it when moving out. That will be the next part of this series, how to get most of the security deposit back. But that is another topic.

Congrats on moving to a new place, reading the current lease, complying with the policies, and just reading this series...

Sep 19, 2012

Grandma's Burgers

Okay, another family recipe that has never been written down, but I can't keep it to myself, that would be selfish. This is the recipe for my Grandma Rose's hamburgers. She taught it to me so I could learn to expand my ingredients into a way to feed more people, still have flavor, and be full of nutrition. Is how you can turn 1 pound of ground meat into a way to make 6 burgers that are about 1/3 of a pound, instead of 4 that are only 1/4 of a pound. Yes, I follow it with a few suggestions.

  • 1 lbs. ground meat (beef or sausage, your choice)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 slice bread
  • Milk
  • Italian herbs, salt, pepper, whatever you like
  • Bare hands
  1. Wash your hands, take off jewelry and watches.
  2. Put the slice of bread on a plate or in a bowl. Soak it with the milk and let it soak.
  3. Put the meat in a large bowl.
  4. Crack the egg, and dump it over the meat.
  5. Place the soaked slice of bread over the meat.
  6. Knead mixture with bare hands, and sprinkle herbs over each layer before turning.
  7. Use hands to cut the mixture in half lengthwise, and then in thirds (to get the 6 patties).
  8. Form the patties and cook them on the stove, in the oven, or on the grill until they are done to the preferred taste. Then serve...
Substitute a 2/3 cup of bread crumbs instead of the slice of bread
Add 1/4 tsp. of smoke flavor sauce in the winter if cooked inside to make it taste like it was done outside.
Hand press them to 1/4 pound in size and thickness to get 8 patties from 1 lbs. of meat
Save at least one patty for the dog, they'll appreciate it
When taking the slice of bread off of the plate of milk, lay a couple of Oreos on it to enjoy while grilling
Use ground sausage instead of just ground beef, or combine them together to add flavor

Sep 17, 2012

Apartment Living - Part IV

This is the 4th part the Apartment Living series. Part I was about what a person should decide when looking for an apartment, Part II was my sharing my experiences in several different places, and Part III was a strong recommendation that you closely read the lease signed, and communicate with the property manager. This entry is about dealing with a eviction notice, and how to move forward. Getting an eviction notice can scare the bejeebies out of you, but it can be dealt with if you take a deep breath, and follow these suggestions.

First, after you took a deep breath, read the notice you received completely. The details of it were the issue, how long allowed to take action, and what options exist. This may vary depending on what community you moved into, so read it.

The most common reason for an eviction notice, is for Past Due Rent. Typically there is a period of time to stop the eviction by paying the past due rent.  This time period is short, it can be a few days or a week, but not typically longer, so pay attention to the allotted time on the notice. Most often, the eviction is turned over to the court system if no action to remedy it by the date on the notice. Make sure to read all of the terms carefully.

If it is for Past Due Rent, compare your records with the information in the notice.  It’s not often that the office misapplies a payment, but it happens in today's dependence on computers. Get the bank records and statements together and find out if maybe something happened on your side or theirs. If you pay with a money order, make a copy of it before submitting it. My neighbor got an eviction notice for Past Due Rent, took his bank statement in for a discussion with the manager, and it turned out that someone transposed his apartment number when typing it into the accounting software. Showing his bank statement got his eviction notice immediately shredded, and the adjustment was made.

Other reasons that notices are issued: other residents have complained about excessive noise, bad odors, insects, pets, and they all come from your suite. Remember what was mentioned in the other parts of this series? Eyes are everywhere. If you have pets, they are always loud, aggressive when walked, or a violation of the pet addendum; other residents will let the office know what they saw. When the office has enough complaints filed about a particular resident, they can be evicted for violation of the lease. For violating the pet addendum, they may not evict you, but can evict the pet. That is why you need to read the entire lease and addendum, to know what is not allowed.

Okay, you've taken a deep breath, read the details of the notice, gathered your records, what next? As explained in the other parts of this series, communication with the office as soon as possible. No, midnight is not the right time, call the next morning if you can't have a face-to-face conversation. The notice gives a short time to reconcile, but that won't happen if it is just ignored. Most managers are willing to "work" with residents about the notice, if the situation that caused it is explained.

Whether on the phone or in a face-to-face conversation, keep things civil. Sure, there will be tension on both sides of the table, but being accusatory or nasty with the office people can come back with a bite. Managers are less likely to work things out if they feel attacked. Remember, there is a reason the notice was delivered by the maintenance specialist. Discuss it, don't argue. It could come back as a haunting if you apply to another apartment community, and they call the current one as a reference. Just like the fact that there are eyes everywhere, the grapevine is still alive and strong, especially with computers and cell phones.

Hopefully by communicating, the resident and manager can come to a resolution to an eviction notice. But, once in a while, it has to go to the court system, especially if the resident does NOTHING. Key thing if it is going to court, show up and have records to prove the case against it. State and local laws may allow some extra time to move out, set up a payment plan that saves paychecks from being garnished, or even the items in the suite from being seized.

Example of failing to comply for Dozer
(no leash)
Instead of writing a part about my experience with notices, they are included here. First, a warning notice about voiding the pet addendum. While I feel that I have one of the most loving, best trained, always smiling, people-friendly dog, I neglected to follow the leash law in my community. Neighbors saw (out their windows and while at the mailbox) that he wasn't on a leash, and complained to the office. Dozer was almost evicted because of it. I had a discussion with the manager over a cup of coffee, and we straightened it all out. It doesn't matter how wonderful I feel my pets are, if other residents feel "threatened," they register complaints with the office. Enough were collected that I got a notice. But, we reviewed the pet addendum, and I comply with it completely now. It isn't always about how you feel, but how neighbors feel in the community.

A 3-day eviction notice for Past Rent Due (that is what they call it here) because I took Dozer for a walk over to the office to pay my rent, he decided to do his business on the front lawn, and I forgot to submit my rent check into the mail box. I was distracted by picking up after him, and forgot the check in my pocket. It ended up in the washing machine, and I was late on my rent. I again went to the office the next morning with the washed check and a new blank one. Within seconds, my eviction was shredded, and my account updated.

Approaching the notice in a civil way, carries a lot of weight. Reading the entire lease and complying with it helps. Reading the notice in detail and being able to present a case preventing it, helps. Being willing to have a conversation with the office helps. When moving into an apartment community, the residents need to make sure they know what the boundaries are. The managers know what the policies are, and they have to enforce it.

And please, don't bite the head off of the maintenance tech that delivers a notice from the office to you, they are just performing a task, and can't rewrite lease policy...

Sep 16, 2012

Dozer Again

Hey, howdy, hey!!! Dozer here companion took off to get a pizza or something, so I took over his Mac for this blog entry. Just thought I'd bring you up to date on life here. Yeah, I don't have a thumb, but I've learned how to single tap thanks to him.

A few months ago he decided to bring home another dog, that has been a challenge since day one. I congratulate him for not letting them put him down, but he's made my life difficult.

So far, we had to drag my favorite recliner to the dumpster, he's chewed the corners of an ottoman, the sofa, some door jambs, and dug a tunnel in the mattress where I sleep, and never shuts up with his barking... damn him for not being deaf like me...

While he has learned the sign language signals to keep my companion quiet, he has a LONG way to go to become where I am. I guess it is my duty to raise him as a mirror image of me... In due time.

Anyway, I respect my companion for adopting him to save him from the needle, but my brother has some things to learn... Good luck Mickey Finn...

Apartment Living - Part III

Based on the basic criteria in Apartment Living Part I, you've decided on an apartment community that you want to reside in. You've listened to my experiences in Apartment Living Part II, and signed your own lease. This entry is about some basic common sense things you need to pay attention to after you move in.

First and foremost, make sure you read the entire lease you signed. There are things you agreed to when you signed, even if the leasing agent didn't read it to you completely. Some tasks you may be responsible for, like changing burnt out light bulbs, changing furnace filters and batteries in the smoke alarms. Some things you aren't expected to do (landscaping, mowing the grass, snow plowing, fixing a leaky faucet), but the lease spells things out. When in doubt, simply call the office and ask.

Pets on leashes
Your lease also contains specific items about having pets and what your responsibilities are. Chances are, if they aren't in the apartment lease, you signed a "pet addendum" that explains what you are liable for, like keeping them on a leash, cleaning up after them, etc. Read that one closely, because if you violate anything in that, you may get a notice that you have to get rid of the pet, may be evicted or the property manager may decide to not renew your lease.

When living in an apartment, most people do not watch soap operas, because they live in one by simply paying attention to what is going on around them. There are eyes everywhere observing what is occurring in the community, so if you do violate the lease (especially with pets), chances are that someone saw it and will report it to the office. Once reported to the office, the complaint becomes a hard copy piece of paper, and it goes in your file folder. With enough paper, you can be evicted or your lease is not renewed.

Maintenance staff are typically the ones that deliver messages from the office. If it is a warning letter or even an eviction notice, don't bite the head off the messenger. They did not write the policy, they are just doing a task they are responsible for, delivering the letter. If a warning notice is issued to you, chances are that you violated the lease in some way. If you dispute it, call or visit the main office. The maintenance person is not able to resolve the issue, they are just bringing it to your attention. I hate being the "harbinger of doom," but am required to do it.

Understand that employees of the property reserve the right to enter your apartment for any reasonable reason. They are not "violating the right to privacy," they have a reason to enter the property they own if it is an emergency (such as a fire, smell a gas leak, or water leak) or if it has been reported to the office of a violation of the lease (excessive noise, tremendous odor, bugs, etc.). Typically if there is going to be an inspection, you will receive a notice a few days before explaining what is going on and when it will occur. Yes, you may have the right to refuse entrance for something like that by contacting the office in writing, but there may be things that you cannot refuse entry for. I do have master keys that give me access to over 300 apartments in the communities that I cover. Again, it comes back to contacting the office.

Communication is the key to apartment life. If you don't talk to the property manager, don't be surprised about what happens. Remember, their company OWNS the property, you are just renting the space. Hate to say it, but is like living in a storage unit, you don't OWN it, you are just existing in it.

I am fortunate to live in a community where I can grill on my patio, have a fire bowl, am allowed to have 2 pets (even a horse if I can stable it), and have a lot of latitude. But, that is why I agreed to live here; I chose the community based on my criteria, read the lease, understand what is expected of me, and keep in constant contact with the office managers. Communication is the key to human life...keep the channels open, and everything will work itself out...

Sep 14, 2012

Apartment Living - Part II

It was discussed in Apartment Living Part I about the things to consider when trying to select an apartment. This part is just some sharing of my experiences in some of the apartments I've lived in and some suggestions of things to keep in mind.

The first apartment was the second floor of a house. It had 1 bedroom, living room, 1 bathroom, and a large eat-in kitchen. Parked on the street, came in the front door, up a set of stairs, and then accessed the apartment. Owner lived on the first floor, and someone lived in a studio apartment above me (the 3rd floor). Mailbox was on the front porch, bags of garbage out to the curb every week, and down the back stairs to the basement to do laundry. We all shared 1 washer and 1 dryer, included in the rent, so the only tricky part was "scheduling" when you could do laundry. Also included in the rent were cable TV, heat, electricity, and water. The only bill in the mail was the telephone (land line, didn't have cell phones or internet then). Weren't allowed to use the yard or have pets. I was working and attending school, so was rarely there except to eat and sleep. The house was well insulated, so I didn't hear the other people that lived there too. Parking outside in the winter meant scraping snow and ice off of the windshield, and dig the car out after the plows went by.

Cliffside Manor Apartments
The next apartment was at Cliffside Manor Apartments. First floor, 2 bedrooms, living room, dining area, kitchen, 1 bathroom, balcony, and storage cage in the basement. Parked in the lot in front of the building (not shown in pic), and in the first available spot because they were not assigned. No, couldn't "reserve" one by putting a folding lawn chair in it. There was someone above, below, and on both sides. Building was not well insulated, so you heard EVERYTHING, especially loud music (guy upstairs played the blues on his guitar at 2 AM when he got back from work, liked to stomp around, and everyone slammed their doors). The mailbox was a bank at the entry to the building, garbage bags went in the dumpster at the end of the building, and 4 coin-operated washers and dryers in the basement. Since it was a true apartment complex, all utilities were billed directly to the tenants. Still didn't have internet access. But, I was traveling a lot for work and wasn't around much. Still had to scrape snow and ice, dig out the car, and make sure I got back from work early enough to get a space near the door.

Redwood Management
Now fast forward. After Cliffside Manor Apartments, I lived in a couple of houses. But life changes, and I had to move back into an apartment. Using the points in Apartment Living Part I, I chose a Redwood Management community. Based on the identified criteria, I chose a single story, pets allowed (Dozer has 6 steel pins in his hips), end unit (to remove 1 neighbor), with an attached garage and laundry hook-ups in the apartment (no more laundromat). Was fortunate to get one across the street from both the mailbox and trash compactor. All of the utilities are metered directly for usage, but since the internet is available, they are paid online. Sure, the rent is a little more than in a multi-level building, but I chose to live here because of the list of what I desired in an apartment community. I have a patio where a grill or fire bowl is allowed, plenty of space to walk 2 dogs (as long as I pick up after them), do laundry whenever I want, am close to all the shopping, no neighbors making strange noises at all hours of the night, park in an attached garage, and even have an attic.

Overall, what you can see, is that the criteria for finding an acceptable place to live changes over time. But it will make your life easier if you take a few moments to figure out what you are looking for...happy hunting...

Sep 12, 2012

Apartment Living - Part I

I've lived in several apartments in my lifetime, experienced a lot of things in them, and currently am a maintenance specialist for 3 luxury apartment communities for Redwood Management Company. Just thought I'd share some perspectives as advice if you are living in an apartment or if are considering moving to one. This is going to be a series of blog entries because there are so many things that need to be shared and I didn't want you to have to scroll down for the next hour to read them all.

This one is about living in an apartment and what leads to which one you choose. The first recommendation, is to make a list of what you are looking for, what is acceptable, and what you do not want to experience in your life. Some basic things like:
  • How much does it cost (rent, utilities, security deposit, fees)?
  • How close do I need to be for work/family/friends/school?
  • What amenities need to be close by (grocery store, gas station, library, restaurants, parks)?
  • How quiet of a space do I need? Could I tolerate people above/below/beside me?
  • What about animals/pets? Are they allowed or would being near them bother me?
  • How many people live in the community?
  • Where do I take my garbage, get my mail and do laundry?
Answering some of these question UP FRONT helps you filter all of the places available to you before you have to call the office or set up a tour. If it doesn't meet you needs, don't waste  your time. Because of the internet, you can learn a LOT about an apartment community before you have to show up to take a tour. Time is precious, don't waste it. Yes, doing some work with a keyboard and mouse requires time, but it is a lot less than making a phone call, driving to the community, walking around, asking questions, etc.

Bottom line, approach moving to an apartment community like you would approach buying a house.

Sep 3, 2012

Home Fries

Had a couple of potatoes in the pantry, so I decided to make home fries. Since it was just me for dinner, I only used 1 potato. Basically figure on 1 medium potato per serving.

1 medium potato (scrubbed)
Italian mixed spices
Garlic pepper
Black pepper

  1. Pre-heat toaster oven to 400° F / 205° C
  2. Poke the scrubbed potato a few times with a fork and wrap in foil
  3. Bake in the toaster oven about 1 hour then put in the fridge to cool (about an hour)
  4. Melt butter in a skillet over medium setting
  5. Remove the foil, cut the potato lengthwise in half, then slice to 1/4" thickness
  6. When butter is melted, spread the slices in a single layer in the skillet
  7. Every few minutes, stir/flip the slices, add more butter if it is needed
  8. Once they start to yellow & brown, sprinkle the spices on them, keep flipping
  9. When they are the way you want them, serve
For home fries for breakfast, bake the potato the night before & cool overnight in the fridge
Use a medium setting with the skillet, otherwise you might set off the smoke alarm
Keep an eye while they are cooking, they can cook fast & burn easy
You can fit 3-4 medium potatoes in a toaster oven, so it keeps the house/apartment cooler
To cut down the cooking time, use the microwave to bake your tater
  You can cube them instead of slicing