Home Sweet (?) Home

March 28, 2012

Guest blogger Denielle is back to give us some tips on the joys of homeowning…and there are joys, right?

Being a homeowner can be a real drag. Every month we have some surprise charge for something we didn’t know even existed (drainage tube for condenser on AC unit; sewer ejector pump for basement bathroom, garage door cable; thermal cup on hot water heater, igniters on stove – yes, these are real expenses we have incurred over the last 6 months). The list goes on.

Add to this the list of regular/semi-regular maintenance projects that must occur (driveway sealing, deck waterproofing, sprinkler system winterizing and re-starting, etc., etc.), and my checkbook register looks like an ODE TO LOWES.

The moral of this story is: marry a handyman/handywoman. No, in all seriousness, when I have work done (the exception being major appliance-related stuff – I don’t tinker with hot water heaters or stoves), I watch the technician and often ask him to explain the problem and solution in great detail. Maybe next time I won’t know how to install a sump pump, but I will certainly know how to determine if it’s working properly.

Other key bits of advice (remember: the most boring advice is often the best!):

  • Always keep instruction manuals and warranty info in an easy-to-access location (I keep a binder with clear page inserts). Instruction manuals can provide helpful trouble shooting techniques.
  • Google is your friend; I installed dimmer switches in 2 rooms thanks to a step-by-step video tutorial online. My local hardware store owner also loves to explain to me how to do things and what tools I need to do them. Re-grouting or re-caulking bathtubs is much easier when you get some slick tricks explained in advance!
  • Keep a well-stocked toolbox.  If particular tools come with certain appliances, be sure to label them properly. Do as I say and not as I do on this one. I’m in the midst of an exhaustive search for the exact Allen wrench needed to tighten my refrigerator door!
  • Get maintenance plans for plumbing and heating related machinery. It’s usually a nominal fee and will pay for itself when a problem arises and the service fee is waived!
  • Know you can do more than you think you can!

HAPPY HOMEOWNING!

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Bling for Babes

March 21, 2012

Typically the stuff one gets in gift bags at events is pretty perfunctory — maybe a copy of a magazine, a few discount coupons, etc. Not that I’m knocking them, but it’s rare to get something in a gift bag that you’ve wanted to try or actually will use. Recently I received one of the most chock-full gift bags I have ever seen, and I’ll admit I was in a little bit of heaven, not least because it gives me a whole bunch of stuff for me to try out and review for all of you Family Favs readers!

One of the things in there were Sally Hansen Salon Effects Real Nail Polish Strips, in leopard and zebra prints. Now, this is something I can honestly say I wouldn’t have thought to purchase. But as soon as I saw it, I knew my kids would love it. So this weekend I gave my son a couple of fingers on each hand in leopard, and my daughter wanted all of her fingers covered. They’re easy to apply (in fact with kids’ nails being so tiny, one of them covers at least 2 nails) and they lasted all weekend through rough and tumble kids play, Which was good because my daughter couldn’t wait to show her friends at school. With no drying time, there’s little down time when applying. And they come off with nail polish remover.

And you never know, with the right pattern, maybe you’ll want to use them too!

You can find them in a drugstore near you, and they run about $9. Pretty good for an afternoon of fun!

Another way to keep ’em occupied

A great way to keep kids occupied in a drugstore, Sephora, at the makeup counter or even Target? Testers. Kids love to try new lotions or perfumes, and as long as they’re not making a mess and there’s no allergy issues, let them! I feel like if a few drops of lotion mean you have a few minutes to actually examine the products on the shelf and take a moment to think about what you’re buying, it’s win-win for you, for the store, and for your kids’ sweet smelling hands.

Game Change

Did you see the movie on HBO? It was well done and worth watching — if only to be frightened at how grossly cynical our political system is. Julianne Moore is very good as Sarah Palin, and the script is based on the book written by 2 insiders who talked to just about everyone who was involved in the campaign. So I tend to think they got it pretty close to reality. (In fact I read an interview with Moore this morning who wouldn’t say things unless it was absolutely well sourced.) Beyond marveling at the fact that one of our major party’s VP nominees had no idea what the Fed was or that the Queen wasn’t the head of government in Great Britain, they had a Prime Minister, you sense that she herself was so far in over her head with a new baby, a son in Iraq and a pregnant teenage daughter, and then add onto it the fact that she really had no business being the nominee, well…it’s an interesting character study, if nothing else. And hopefully some sort of wake up call. Worth checking out!

What Would Snooki Do?

Here’s my latest piece for Nick Mom…because we all need some parenting advice from Snooki, no?

Read it here.

Etc.

Every day is a little better with my knee. I just want to snap my fingers and make it all better but that’s not really possible. (But I sure do wish it was.) The amazing weather is making me want to get out there and just enjoy it. It’s hard to believe how mild the winter was here in NYC. They say that means allergies and bugs are going to be awful come spring and summer. I hope they’re wrong, whoever “they” are. It’s nice that it’s staying lighter, later. Last night I took the kids out for frozen yogurt, because that’s what you do when it’s such a nice night out and your husband is having a board meeting in your apartment.

Hope you’re having a great week!

Stir Crazy

March 14, 2012

Well, I had knee surgery for a torn meniscus on Friday and I have had enough of being cooped up! Especially when it has been so incredibly beautiful outside. Too nice for March, frankly. I don’t mean to be all doom and gloom, but this super mild winter has made me feel like the apocalypse is coming. But maybe that’s the pain meds talking.

The good news is that I have been able to catch up on some TV that I never get to watch. I’m up to date on Gossip Girl. I’m up to date on Glee and honestly, it’s not very good. I think that one needs to go from my DVR list. But I watched the entire first season of Homeland on Showtime on Demand, and it is very well done. Claire Danes, while she’ll always be Angela Chase to me, shows she’s a really great actress in this complex role of a bi-polar CIA operative. In this day and age of extremely dumbed-down media, it’s refreshing to find a show where you think you know how it’s going to go, but it doesn’t. Mandy Patinkin also fills out his role very well as as Danes’ character’s mentor and protector inside Langley. If you haven’t watched it yet, check it out. Season 2 comes back on Showtime in September, so you have a little time!

Courage

Is that how Dan Rather used to sign off? Well, it’s what my good friend Bret Parker has, among other positive things. On Monday he bravely revealed to the world that he has early-onset Parkinson’s, which he has kept to himself for the last 5 years. (Some of you may remember Bret from his guest blogger posts here at Family Favs.) To read his essay, click here.

Etc.

Being stuck in the house immobile is highly over-rated, I must say. I’ll be happy when I can ditch the cane and go about my normal days again. I miss my workouts! But I am taking the long view and hoping a few days stuck home will payoff in feeling much better. On the plus side, I’ve tried to get a lot of things done that I never have time for. Think about things I never get a chance to think about. You know what? Maybe all of us need to take an immobile day every once and while, watch a lot of TV, put our feet up with some ice on our legs and just…chill.

I feel like I have a lot to get to this week, but maybe that’s what happens when you actually get a few days off to stop and smell the…Daterra coffee from Irving Farms. Seriously good coffee. We had dinner at the lovely (and tasty) Blue Hill one night, and the after dinner coffee was so good we asked where it came from. A few days later I hit their small shop on 7th avenue, right below 14th street. (They also have a main store over on Irving Place.) only drawback is that Daterra doesn’t come in decaf. You can also order it online here — it’s $14 for a 12 ounce bag ‘o beans. And by the way, Blue Hill is great for a special occasion — it’s a cozy vibe with a market menu utilizing the very best of what’s being grown right now. You may remember the Obamas went here on their date night to NYC a couple of years ago. They picked a good place. (Blue Hill is at 75 Washington Place)

We hit Zampa Wine Bar the other night, which I also really liked. In addition to an extensive wine list, the food is truly tasty. The crostini is a must – the tuna with hot pepper oil for sure. There are all sorts of small plates. On the large plates, the lasagna doesn’t disappoint. I like that you can order a little or a lot, depending on how hungry you are, and share with your dining partner or a whole table. Small tastes of everything add up a to a much more satisfying meal. It’s a much more modern way of eating, and perfect for a neighborhood joint. It’s comfy/cozy, which means that you should make a reservation. (306 West 13th Street)

Let’s just finish out the week with another new place that I had been wanted to try for a long time: The Dutch. For those of you who follow this type of thing, The Dutch comes to us from Andrew Carmellini, the chef who also brought us the hot spot Locanda Verde in Tribeca. Because these hot spots tend to attract a see and be scene kind of crowd, and they are almost impossible to get into, I tend to want to ignore them, but then they go and wind up on the New York Times‘ list of best new restaurants of the year and I feel like I must go and check them out! So we went with some friends and I have to say it was truly worth the hype. The space is larger than I thought it would be, but broken up into different rooms so it doesn’t feel cavernous. The mini oyster sandwiches are a good place to start, and the eggplant dip makes a nice accompaniment. One thing I liked about the menu was that I didn’t feel like I could get a lot of the choices other places — it felt special. The black cod with sticky rice was delish. Others at the table had the peking duck, the cod and the roasted chicken, which were all satisfying. Desserts are generous and definitely split-able. The devil’s food cake with black pepper boiled icing was amazing, as well as the Dutch apple pie a la mode. A good time to be had by all! (131 Sullivan Street)

I’d say that’s a pretty tasty post this week, no?

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Did you watch the Academy Awards? Can anyone produce that show in a way that makes it more entertaining? I don’t know…at one point there was a montage of old movies and I felt like I had seen the montage a thousand times before and I found myself wondering what in the world the purpose of including it was. And Billy Crystal, while at times funny, just seemed so old school. I did love Meryl Streep’s acceptance speech. It’s not easy to be self-deprecating but confident, and heartfelt without seeming forced or schmaltzy, but she deftly managed it like the pro she is. I think they need to cut the awards given back to just the ones people really care about, get a good host, put in a little more entertainment and call it a day at 2 hours. Amen.