Where’s That Duct?

Blog post title brought to you by a crude joke my brother makes.

A Brief History of My House:

  • Built in 1976
  • Not sure who the first owner was.
  • First occupant I know of was my boyfriend’s Grandmother. Apparently a sweet woman with a smoking habit. And 2 cats.
  • After she passed, a friend of my boyfriend’s family moved in. Hoarder with a cat. I can not make this up. I’m not sure how long he lived there, maybe about 5 years, but it was long enough to completely ruin the house.

Fun Facts:

  • When I first saw the inside of the house, the tenant said he had “cleaned out half of his stuff” but I could barely walk through it.
  • There is a corner of our living room we don’t go near. It’s called Cat Pee Corner.
  • You can see where the steam from my shower has steamed off nicotine stains from my bedroom ceiling.
  • The light covers in the basement shown a dim yellow color from all the mouse waste.

These are all fun facts about what you can see and smell my lovely home. What about what you are breathing? Kind of a big deal. I vacuum and air it out as best I can, but I can’t climb into the ducts like a ninja and clean them. So we called some professionals.  I found a deal on Groupon for a company called Green Heat.  There were two options and, feeling ritzy/terrified of our air, we chose the expensive $69 option.  My boyfriend bought the Groupon, called the company and scheduled a visit. 

Apparently, our filthy ducts were too much for their normal tools so they had to bring out the big guns, so to speak.

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They also inspected and cleaned our furnace and oiled it or something. I wasn’t there so I’m going by my boyfriend’s account of things. Then they offered to kill the bacteria in our ducts with some organic spray or something. My boyfriend also purchased a new reuseable filter from them.

They also broke one of our light fixtures for which they discounted the price by $50. I told my boyfriend to see if they could do better, and another $50 was taken off. They also almost left without cleaning our dryer vent, which is the only difference in the Groupon options. Total cost of our $69 ($518 value) Groupon?

$650

Evidentally, they had to do a “deep clean” as opposed to the normal cleaning they do. Also, whatever work they did on the furnace costs extra as does the new filter. The real killer is that they took off $100 from the original bill because we bought the Groupon. I’m sorry, but these numbers just aren’t lining up. I paid $69 for them to clean my vents, deodorize the air, clean my dryer vent and inspect my furnace. Plus $75 for a new filter. I should be paying $144. Was my boyfriend duped? Did they upsell the original upseller?

I might call them to have the charges explained to me because I’m insane like that. I don’t think $650 is too much to pay to breath a little easier, especially after the horrendous air history this house has had. It’s the principle of the thing. Saving $200 (partly because of their mistake) is not the same as saving $499. 

I’m a little torn. From what my boyfriend describes, they pulled a wildebeast out of our vents.  They also changed the charges A LOT.

What would you do?

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Jelly Jam

More than a year ago, my friend was engaged (now married) decided that she and I were going to make jam for her wedding favors. Neither of us had ever made jam, nor did we know where to start. It just happened to be around the time my cousin started her wonderful blog sharing traditional skills.  She gave me a simple recipe with advice based on her own experiences. Then my friend decided we would do cupcakes in jars instead. Sooooo…..I kind of put canning out of my mind.

Until yesterday. I just woke up and decided, “Today is the day!”  I went out and scooped up a few supplies.

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Then I just followed my cousin’s simple instructions.

8 cups strawberries (4 lbs)
6 cups sugar
3 tsp cinnamon (my secret ingredient)

INSTRUCTIONS:

01.  Sanitize jars, lids and rings in the dishwasher.  Keep the dishwasher closed until it’s time to fill so they stay warm. Otherwise the hot jam will cause the cold jar to crack.

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02.  Combine all ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil over medium heat. Stir frequently until sugar is dissolved.  Keep stirring regularly until mixture thickens. This could take up to an hour.

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03.  Using a candy thermometer, watch the mixture until it reaches 220 F.  Keep heat on medium, it’ll get there.

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04.  Fill jars to below the threads. One recipe I found said 1/4 in below.

05.  Wipe the rims of the jars clean with a damp towel, and place the warm lids and rings on snugly.

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06.  Bring water to a boil in a water bath canner or large stock pot.

07.  Once boiling, place jars on rack in the water canner or on kitchen towels (make sure these are level) with a jar holder so the jars are not touching each other with the water level about 2 in. above the tops of the jars.

image08.  Bring water back to a boil.  Once the water is boiling again, leave jars for as long as the recipe instructs (mine said 10 mins, it varies depending on your elevation).

09.  My cousin suggests turning the heat off and taking the lid off the pot and leaving the jars for 5-10 mins before removing them to avoid the jam rushing out of the jars. Gotta love life experience.

10.  Let the jars cool completely somewhere without a draft.

11.  Do NOT press the lids down. While they are cooling, you will hear little pings when the cool jam pulls the lid down, thus sealing the jar.

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I bought a water bath canning kit, which ran me about $25.  It came with the pot, rack, funnel, rim cleaner (dirrty), jar grabber, and magnetic lid picker upper. These are all technical terms I made up because walking to the recycle bin is too much work. My grocery store and some big box stores carry a pretty good selection of canning supplies.  For something that doesn’t require a huge start-up cost, I’m surprised more people don’t do this. Canning isn’t limited to jams.  You can make your own pasta sauce, pickles, pie fillings. Basically anything you can find in a can can be canned (lo siento if that was confusing).

By making these things yourself, you can save money. You can  avoid preservatives and fake dyes and generally the crap that’s in processed foods that you would be smart to avoid. You can have a real choice in the quality of foods that go into your canning. Not to mention that what you can will stay unrefrigerated for up to year unopened. (Maybe something to have on hand as a part of being prepared for an emergency)

Please do not think this was all sunshine and roses. I did it right…sorta.  When I finished the jam and it had cooled it was very runny. In my disappointment, I posted a status on Facebook about how I had failed at jam and my cousin told me that this recipe isn’t supposed to set like I was expecting. Basically I just have to cook it down to a thicker consistency. She told me this after I had already reprocessed the jam with store-bought pectin. Which didn’t work like I expected either.  Anyway, I’m lucky to have someone so knowledgeable who can explain to me how/what/why I did wrong (or sorta right) and she has some great tips.  Seriously, check her blog out. Seriously inspirational. Seriously.

So tonight I’ll be cooking the jam down again. I might also try another flavor because I like to torture myself.

It’s an Asbesty Situation

My house was built in 1976.  It has a certain rustic charm that makes me feel homey. It is also a bit of a health risk.  The seventies were not exactly great times for building materials.  My primary worries are asbestos and lead.  In my research, I found out that asbestos isn’t just found in insulation (which is how I imagine it), but can be found in linoleum and ceramic tile, ceiling tile, joint compound and so so much more.  I’m a little afraid to go home tonight.

However, if I don’t try to patch up this charming little house, who will?  I can’t blame the house for the lack of wherewithal of the contractors. I also feel a sense of responsibility for the people who live here after us.  This isn’t my forever home, but I’m certainly not going to pass on a house that is full of carcinogens like it isn’t my problem.  Now, if you look in the background of this picture you will be able to see one of the possible offenders.

Asbest-OH NO!

Here is a close-up

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That dusty linoleum is:

  1. UGLY
  2. Impossible to get clean or keep clean.
  3. Adhered to the floor with a black adhesive that says,”I don’t look like any linoleum adhesive you’ve ever seen so perhaps you should test me for a deadly particle.” Or something.

Luckily for me, the contractor that redid the master bathroom left us a few boxes of tiles so I will be able to use those for our downstairs powder room (that contains the same dangerous/hideous tile as the kitchen) and have something to use when finding matching/coordinating tiles for the kitchen. We originally thought about wood flooring for the entire first floor, but there is something so wipeable and sturdy about tile that I really like. There are multiple places in the DIYosphere that say sealing and covering linoleum with ceramic tile is a safe and cost effective alternative to having the asbestoffender removed by asbestos professionals (a totally respectable option though). 

First things first, I will need to send a sample to a lab to determine whether or not the tile or it’s adhesive contains asbestos (my bet is yes). I found this lab that will test my samples for a small fee and get me results quickly.  The site has very clear instructions on how to gather your sample and how to ship it. My samples ship out in the morning and I’ll post the results here.  I guess we’ll see how they change the plans we had for our slooooow remodel.

Have you had to deal with asbestos or lead related issues in your home?  Have you ever had anything really surprise you while you were planning a remodel?

Modern Conveniences

There are very few kitchen tools that I hold on to for dear life. I have a spoon that I particularly love, my stand mixer,…..large skillet. That’s about it. Until I found this:

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My silpat baking sheet may be one of my all time favorite inventions. I use it to bake cookies and roast vegetables. The wonderful thing about it is that nothing sticks to it and to clean it, you just wash with warm soapy water and wipe. No scrubbing, scraping or frustrated drinking involved.

From what (admittedly little) research I have done, silicone bakeware is safe. The only thing to check for would be filler. If you pinch a flat area of the silicone and it shows white, then filler has been used.

Consequences of Juicing

Don’t worry, we aren’t talking about the bathroom! Today is Thursday which means I ended my 3 day cleanse the moment I woke up yesterday. What did I learn?

  1. Know your limits. I was a first timer and I decided that to get through the cleanse I was going to need to eat some of the items meant for juicing  just so I didn’t feel like I was falling apart.
  2. I was definitely not getting enough fruits and vegetables before. Despite the challenging aspects of a liquid diet, I found myself feeling amazing! I felt lighter.  
  3. Transitioning back was not as hard as I anticipated. What makes it easy is the salad bar at work. I really don’t have to go out of my way to get a good salad.  Now that the cleanse is over I’m adding a small (non-creamy) soup to my lunch because it’s cold and I want to.

 

In a way, this has changed the way I want to eat.  It has changed what I crave and I think I’m all the better for it.