Thursday, January 27, 2011

Once again...

It's once again time to renew my lease. This will be my third lease renewal since moving to Maryland. I'm not sure whether I consider this a milestone or not. I've been here 2 1/2 years and really have no complaints if you take distance from family and how much of a pain in the butt it is to travel by air. I also have no true complaints about my apartment. Especially during this time of year, I realize I made a good decision renting here. Other apartments may do just as well, but truly this complex takes snow removal and de-icing of sidewalks and parking lots seriously. Last week we had sleet and ice. No delay to get into work. The sidewalks and parking lots at the complex were good. The roads were good. The parking lots at work were good. The sidewalks at work were solid ice. No cleaning had been done that I could tell. I did manage to get into the building without falling. A good amount of snow (3-5 inches) fell last night. We did have a two hour work delay this morning. When I left, the complex was clear. They had even cleaned between the cars in the parking lots. I still had to do a bit of work to clear the car, but the sidewalks and parking lot and even the streets were pretty much cleaned.

Side note regarding the weather: While I don't relish cleaning three inches of snow off of my car, with the Prius, if you get what's on the top of the car to a certain point, it all just slides down to the hood and off the car. That was nice. I also learned from last year's blizzards and got snow boots and a snow shovel. Loving the boots and while we haven't had a ton of snow, the shovel has come in handy.

Back to the apartment. They handled last springs bug problem well and have been kind enough to go ahead and order new mini-blinds for my bedroom even though they don't see a problem. Well, they don't close all the way. They do close, but not a solid close so cold air still gets in as does light. I face the street so this leaves me with random street light at night no matter what I do. This year I even got a window insulation kit and with the help of a friend, insulated the bedroom windows. It helps some, but when temperatures drop into the 20's or lower it still gets to be 58 or 59 in the bedroom at night. Fortunately, between a ton of blankets, newly rediscovered flannel sheets, and a fluffy kitty, I stay warm. It's that or leave the heat cranked up at night and I'm not really ready to do that, though I have adjusted it so it doesn't go much below 58. Good thing one sleeps better in a cooler room.

I've decided to go with the one year lease (18 month was not offered this time). It still goes up a bit, but not much. I also learned that with the new lease there is no pet rent, so the rent should be about $5 less overall, assuming I've done the math correctly (I get an employer discount as well which is not figured in the quoted rent amount in the lease renewal letter). So, the rent goes down a bit and kitty cat doesn't have to get a job, not that she ever looked, no matter how much prodding I did.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Baking and smoke alarms....

Recently, it's all about the food. About three months ago, I decided to give up frozen dinners. As a single girl, this was a major decision for me, as the frozen dinner had become a really easy go to dinner during the week. However, I was having various issues and one of the things I decided to really try and eliminate, or drastically cut down on, was preservatives. Frozen dinners often use them as well as a ton of sodium.

So far, it's been good. I thought I'd do a lot of freezing, but basically I do things that can be built upon, either for lunch or dinner during the week. I'm basically using leftovers in the planning. I've also switched from an egg breakfast that I ate for years (home cooked) to a greek yogurt with a morning snack of a home made muffin. Cooking wise, I've done a few things that have really pleased me, but in other ways I'm still learning how best to cook for one person, which means I'm learning a lot.

It's a joy to be baking again. Muffins are my passion and I've started to try my hand at scones. So far so good. However, my apartment complex upgraded the smoke alarm in the hall outside of my kitchen to a combo carbon monoxide detector and smoke alarm a few months ago. Apparently it's very heat sensitive. Running the oven at 450 degrees sets it off. Apparently 400 degrees does as well, as I discovered today while baking muffins. I'd even covered the thing with aluminum foil. Seems that's not good enough. I'll give it a go with a plastic bag as well when I do dinner tonight as that will require 450 degrees. It's nerve wracking. I know covering it isn't a good idea (of which it appears I fail at since it still went off), but I'd rather the thing not go off when I'm using the oven. Others in my apartment complex have the same problem and I believe some have simply disconnected them. I know this isn't ideal. A friend has strongly suggested I talk with the apartment management, but I don't think these things can be adjusted. I've done some research and am at a loss. I've cleaned the oven and checked everything I can think off. Running the fan doesn't help. It'll be okay for a while, then bam, the darn thing is going off. And, it's not like I'm going to give up using the oven. Until I can talk to management though, I'll experiment with ways to cover it up so kitty and I can keep our nerves in tact.