Monday, May 2, 2016

Grocery Shopping: The Struggle

A couple weeks ago, I got fed up with shopping at Aldi. It seemed that everything I needed to buy from there was about to expire and would expire within a day or so—well before we’d actually use it, or use all of it. I have bought mostly bag lettuce from Aldi because the only other option is iceberg lettuce, and I hate eating just iceberg lettuce. Lately, all of the bag lettuce—no matter which kind I try to buy—would expire within a couple days. Same with their bread (which I don’t eat, but Chris does). I’ve thrown so much food from Aldi away in the past month or so because it has gone bad before we had a chance to use it all. It’s incredibly wasteful and I felt like I was throwing our money away. I’ve thrown away tons of fruit that had mold on it. Bread that was moldy within two days after I bought it. It is incredibly frustrating to go out of my way to shop there to save money only to throw so much of what I buy there away because it’s gone bad. Sure, this was somewhat of a problem in St. Louis, especially with their produce, which was almost always hit or miss—it was never good or bad consistently. But I don’t remember having this many issues with other products like the bagged lettuce and bread. 

So I decided I’d rather spend a little more money and do all my shopping at Kroger to ensure we weren’t throwing away food that has gone bad too soon and that our only options weren’t food that was about to expire. That worked fine the first week. I spent maybe $10-$20 more than I would have at Aldi, but I saved a ton of time (and gas) by only going to one store. And none of our food went bad before we had the chance to eat it. So I shopped at Kroger again over the weekend. This time, I was disappointed and frustrated. Their produce looked terrible and was overpriced. The fruit that was on sale—blackberries and raspberries—looked awful. Their cherry and grape tomatoes had mold growing on them. So I decided to skip produce altogether, thinking we could go to the Farmer’s Market and get better produce at better prices. We had stopped going to the farmer’s market earlier in the year because they just didn’t have enough produce because very little of what we needed was in season at the time.  

We went to the farmer’s market yesterday and I was disappointed yet again. Farmer’s markets seem to be less and less about selling produce, meat, eggs, etc. and more about selling the kind of food you can eat right now and crafts. There were so few produce stands at the farmer’s market, and none of them had anything I was looking for. Luckily, there is another produce stand across the street from the farmer’s market that sells a variety of actual produce. So we went there. Their veggies were priced better and looked okay, so we got all our veggies for the week there. We skipped fruit because although their fruit looked pretty good, it was all extremely overpriced (although without mold, I’m sure). 

It was an extremely frustrating experience overall. Until our house sells, we need to be saving money where we can. But I don’t want to shop at Aldi if everything I buy will expire before we are able to use all of it (or any of it in some cases). And while shopping at just Kroger was significantly nicer in that it saved me time and gas, it was just as frustrating trying to find decent produce for a good price. And Kroger has so many more options it’s almost worse to shop there because I inevitably end up buying at least one or two things we don’t really need (and they’re typically not healthy choices either!). I’m at a loss for what to do currently. Those are the closest and least expensive grocery stores to us. Our other options are Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, which I try to only go to when we need a specialty item I can’t find at Kroger (like coconut aminos, aka soy-free soy sauce). 

Eating healthy is important, but saving money is important too. And I don’t want to feel like I’m throwing money away buying nearly expired food from Aldi. Any tips, suggestions, etc. would be greatly appreciated!  

Monday, March 28, 2016

Doing the Best I Can: March Updates

It's been a while since I posted an update for you guys, so while I have some free time (and by "free time" I mean waiting for a response so I can actually start working on a project), I thought I'd do a little writing here.

First, I know you are all dying to know what's new in the Mold Saga. Unfortunately, it's not good news. Our apartment was inspected and it was found that one of the windows is actually leaking, causing a significant buildup of moisture on the windowsill and the floor below. They didn't find moisture in the bathroom in our bedroom, but that's probably because we stopped using it. Basically, although the inspector recommended installing exhaust fans and replacing the windows, the owner said no. We were told to just leave the doors open while we shower (which we were already doing, in addition to hanging our wet towels outside the bathroom to dry) and to wipe off any condensation on the windows. Meanwhile, we all continue to be sick and poor Copper has been wearing the "cone of shame" for a week and a half now. I have contacted a lawyer and am waiting to see if we have a case to sue the owner over this. If not, then we're stuck with our moldy apartment until December when our lease is up.

My poor baby! We did buy her a "comfy" cone that's a little softer (and reusable). But every time we take it off, she immediately starts scratching her face. :(

Remember way back when I said I was giving up bananas and avocados since they can be cross-reactive in people with latex allergies? Well I gave up bananas for almost a month. Then I had one banana every day for three days in a row. I noticed zero changes except remembering that I'm really burnt out on bananas and I enjoyed not eating one every day. I gave up avocados for a shorter period of time, because guacamole. Again, I didn't notice any difference with or without avocados in my diet. I'm currently under a lot of stress right now with the problems in our apartment, trying to sell our house, and a lot of other stuff. I may revisit this idea in the future, but I think right now, I'm done experimenting with my diet. I'm going to continue trying to eat as healthy as I can for as cheaply as I can (with a few convenience frozen pizzas thrown in here and there), otherwise I might go insane.

I do have some good news to share, though. A few weeks back I had two job interviews. One for a job I was really interested in and the other was for a job I applied for only because I was qualified and was at a point where I just needed a job. It wasn't something I truly wanted to be doing. Well, I didn't get an offer from the one I was interested in, but I did get an offer from the other one. I initially accepted it, but around the same time, I landed a freelance writing gig. The more I did the writing and the more I realized I might have to give it up if I took a full time job, the less and less I wanted that job. If I was going to give up writing, it definitely needed to be for a job I really wanted. After crunching some numbers and deciding we could make it work, I turned down the full time job offer. I am currently writing [almost] full time and also working a part-time job. It's definitely not as much money as I'd like to be making, and it means we won't be making much progress on paying off our debt anytime soon, but I'm already much happier and feel so relieved that I don't have to take a job I don't want just for the money. I took a risk, and I'm hoping it pays off!

I've got a lot going on, some of which I may write about later in a separate post. Right now, I'm spending almost all day, every day writing and it makes me immensely happy, so I'm trying to focus on that.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The Mold Saga Continues

Over the weekend I discovered mold growing on my ivy plant. Yes, the very plant I brought into my home to help eliminate the mold (in the air at least) started growing mold on it. Perhaps that’s why after the first few days in our apartment it started to droop and die. It’s now out on our balcony where I’m hoping it will perk back up. I removed all the dead and moldy leaves and removed the top part of the soil that had the mold on it. With any luck, it will start growing again soon. If not, i think I may need to throw the poor thing away. I’d love to start over with another ivy, or another type of plant altogether, but I’m guessing that if a plant that’s supposed to reduce mold starts growing mold on it, others will too. My future houseplants might just have to wait until the mold in our apartment is removed. 

On top of that, yesterday I discovered mold on my hair brush. I don’t even know what to do about that. I can buy a new hair brush, but it will inevitably grow mold too until the problem is fixed. And poor Copper gets worse and worse every day. She’s scratching at her eyes, which are red and swollen, constantly and she’s licking/chewing on her paws. Chris and I don’t feel much better. I think we both have had sore throats, headaches, and sinus congestion, and I get itchy/watery eyes and have a rash that won’t go away (it’s probably not food-related). 

It has been tough to not bite each other’s heads off lately. We’re both sick and exhausted with all of this. While our landlord/property manager has been pretty great about getting people to our apartment to fix other things very quickly (I put in a maintenance request this morning because we suddenly have very low water pressure in our shower, and someone will be out tomorrow to fix it), they have been extremely slow with the mold problem. Initially, they sent someone out right away. I think now that they’re realizing it’s going to take a lot more work (and money) than they first thought, they’re much slower to respond. I sent an email last week that was answered but my response to their email was not. I sent another this morning. Still waiting for a response on that one. I was told they have contacted several companies for quotes for the ductwork, but that’s it so far. They have yet to reply to my response that “I understand that there is more work to be done, but I’m concerned as to what will be done about the existing mold…doing the ductwork and installing exhaust fans is only going to prevent future mold from growing. It does nothing for what’s already there. Meanwhile my family and I continue to be sick from it.” 

Today’s email was a request for an update on the status of this problem and an inquiry as to when the renovations on the apartment across the hall will be completed because if it’s mold-free and has the proper ventilation and exhaust fans, we would be interested in moving. Still waiting for a response on that one.  

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

February Recap

Copper and I walked 125-ish miles this month! That’s 20-ish more than January! (Remember, my app isn’t 100% accurate, so it might be more.) I can’t believe how much we walked! And March is off to a good start as well (thanks mostly to the nice weather). 

As far as my goals for the year go, I’ve been slacking a bit. We haven’t made any progress toward budgeting/paying off our debts because I still don’t have a full-time job. (You can read about my frustration with job hunting here.) I do have a part-time, work-from-home job that I started recently, but I’m still training and not getting regular projects yet. Hopefully once I really get started with that we’ll have some extra money to start tackling our debt. I’m also hoping to start a retail position soon, which would also be part time, to earn some extra money while I’m still looking for a full-time job. I do have a potential freelance client in the works as well, so that will be helpful too! I created an online resume/portfolio in the hopes that it will help me land a great job. Check it out and let me know what you think! Any feedback is appreciated! 

I’ve finished reading two books so far this year, but have made zero progress on writing my own book, so that’s a bummer. I need to ramp up my writing this month. We are trying to be better about eating at home more, both to save money and eat healthier. We’re not doing as great as I would like for us to do on that front, but I think after we realized just how much we spent eating out last week, we will make more of an effort to eat at home! 

For those of you following along with our Mold Saga, our problems continue. They were supposed to install exhaust fans in the bathrooms on Monday, but the electrician said there was some duct work that needed to be done prior to the installation, so he said he would let them know and then left. I haven’t heard anything since. So today I put in another work order asking about the status of the duct work/exhaust fans and also asking what will be done to remove the existing mold (because exhaust fans are only going to prevent new mold from growing). I am allergic to mold and feel like I’ve been sick since shortly after we moved here. My asthma has gotten worse, my sinuses are constantly congested, my eyes get itchy and watery, and my throat hurts almost daily. Chris has started showing similar symptoms as well (although I think he’s slightly better off since he isn’t home all day, every day like I am), and Copper licks and chews on her paws constantly, which may or may not be related to the mold. So it’s becoming a serious health issue for all of us, which I made sure to include in my work order request. 

Unfortunately, my thumb isn't as green as I had hoped and my poor English Ivy plant doesn’t look like it’s going to make it. It got really droopy in our bedroom and I thought it wasn’t getting enough light, so I moved it out to the kitchen where there’s a lot more light throughout most of the day, but it just keeps getting droopier. I also thought I was overwatering it, so I’ve lightened up on that quite a bit, but it’s still not perking back up. 

When I first potted the plant and put it in our bedroom, I noticed a big difference in how I felt almost immediately. That only lasted for a few days though. Once it started drooping, I went back to feeling crappy. I’ve tried to look online for solutions to get it to perk back up and save it, but nothing has worked, and I’m constantly reading conflicting opinions. Some articles I read seem to think ivy does better in shade or indirect light, while others say they need more sunlight. Most have said not to over-water, so I’m trying to let the soil dry out more in between waterings, but that hasn’t helped. If anyone has any experience with indoor ivy plants and has any suggestions for saving this poor guy (and me!), let me know! 

Here’s to hoping March is full of good things, like a full-time job, an offer on our house (we recently lowered the price!), and no more mold!  

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Job Hunting is a lot like Dating

I will admit, it’s been quite a few years since I’ve dated, and even longer since I was going on semi-frequent dates with different people, looking for the right person to date long-term. I have, however, conducted many job searches over the past couple years, and the whole process (which is extremely flawed, but that’s another post altogether), feels a lot like dating.

I did have an online dating profile—briefly—back in college, but it was more as a joke, and I never actually met anyone in person. Today’s job search feels pretty similar to what online dating is like. You create an online profile/image for yourself that potential employers will view and judge you by before they even consider sending you an email or giving you a phone call to potentially set up an interview. In the same way with dating sites and apps, you’re being judged by your picture, your description, your hobbies and interests, and so on.

In the dating world, as with the job search, there are all these “rules”, which seem to constantly change. You want to appear interested, and in a job search, persistent, but you don’t want to come off as desperate or needy—so don’t call or email too often. You should wait a certain amount of time before calling/texting/emailing. I’ve seen varying opinions on whether you should include a cover letter, how long your resume should be (stick to one page, or is more okay?), etc. 

After you speak on the phone, perhaps more than once, you decide to meet in person. You wear your best outfit, try to ask the right questions, and give intriguing, appropriate answers to their questions. You leave the date/interview thinking it went really well. Maybe there will be a second. But even after the first, you're already invested—you've gotten to know them and they’ve gotten to know you; you've gotten a peek at what it would be like to work there/be with them, what the day-to-day might be like, maybe it’s the dream job (or the job that could turn into the dream job—or the person you can picture yourself with long-term…marriage, kids, retirement, etc.). They tell you they’ll be in touch, and if you’re lucky, they give you a specific date.

You wait around, sometimes hearing nothing on the other end. Did you say/do something wrong? Did you have lipstick smudged on your teeth? You wait and wait for the appropriate number of days to pass before it’s deemed acceptable for you to call or email and check in (10-ish business days after an interview, unless they gave you a specific date, in which case, if you don’t hear from them on said date, you should wait another day or two before reaching out so you don’t look too desperate—insert eye-roll emoji here).

Sometimes, you get ghosted. The other person just disappears, ignoring your emails and phone calls. You’re left still wondering what you did wrong, with no feedback as to what you could do to improve (okay, getting feedback from a date might be weird/awkward). Other times, you get the rejection email/text/phone call. “It’s not you, it’s me.” “I met someone else.” “You were a qualified candidate, but we chose a candidate whose skills and qualifications best meet our current needs."

Now you have to deal with that rejection. You’re angry, then sad, maybe even depressed. “What’s wrong with me?” “Why doesn’t anyone want me?” “What am I doing wrong?” It honestly takes some time to get over it, move on, and put yourself back out there, because you had been picturing yourself with that person/company, you had imagined your future together, and with a quick email, all of that is gone. So you have to get over it and move on, and if you’re unemployed, you have to do this more quickly than you might have to in other situations. You have to put yourself back out there and go through it all over again, risk the rejection and heartbreak all over again. Because as the job-seeker, you don’t get to be the cold and distant one who says “It was great to meet with you and we’ll be in touch soon”. It’s expected that you’ll be enthusiastic and eager and show genuine interest each and every time, because potential employers don’t want cold and distant employees. 

Monday, February 22, 2016

Testing Out My Green Thumb

I recently did something I never thought I would ever do: I bought myself a house plant. It was my Valentine’s Day gift to myself, actually:

We have a mold problem in our apartment (which I am, as I’m sure you’ve guessed by now, allergic to). I have cleaned and cleaned our bathroom—the main culprit because there is no exhaust fan or window—to no avail. It also appears that there is mold on the window in our bedroom and the windows in the living room. I started doing some research and found that many houseplants help purify and remove toxins from the air. English Ivy in particular can help reduce mold spores in the air in addition to removing other toxins from the air. 

So I decided to give it a shot. I went to Lowe’s and bought a ceramic planter to plant the ivy in, along with soil, 3 small English Ivy plants, and a small trellis for the ivy to climb. I came home, transferred the ivy to the planter, and then placed it in our bedroom. The colors of the planter along with the ivy immediately boosted my mood. As for the mold-reducing properties, well, I didn't have to wait long to see the benefits. 

I woke up the next morning far less congested than normal which seemed miraculous. By the end of the day, my eyes weren’t itching and watering as they have been recently. For at least the past month or so, it was almost painful to keep my contacts in for too long because my eyes became too itchy and irritated. 

I’ve had the ivy for almost a week now and it has made a noticeable difference. My eyes haven’t been itchy at all and I’ve been able to comfortably wear my contacts for the entire day. While my sinuses haven’t cleared up entirely (I don’t really ever expect them to clear up completely), I have noticed significant improvements. My asthma symptoms have also improved significantly. 

My mom sent me a video showing a woman removing mold with hydrogen peroxide. I tried that in our bathroom and on the windows and it didn't work. So I gave in and put in a work order. They asked for pictures of the mold, so I sent in several, and they will hopefully be sending someone out this week to take care of the problem. In the mean time, at least our air is cleaner.

I’ll keep you posted on Ivy’s growth and my symptoms, as well as what happens with our moldy bathroom/windows! 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Solving My Insomnia--For Now at Least

I think I may have finally solved my sleep problem, or I’ve at least made improvements. After we moved (and possibly even shortly before we moved), our brand new bed, which was purchased and delivered in late October, started creaking/squeaking. I couldn’t figure out what was causing the noise, but every time we got in or out of bed, moved around, or even just sat down on it, it made noise. Loud noise. 

With all the new noises in our new apartment in our new city, I didn’t really consider that this noise might be the culprit. However, I became furious that our 3-ish-month-old mattress, box spring, and bed frame--all purchased brand new—were creaking and squeaking with every move we made. Finally, after a few restless and sleepless nights and listening to Chris roll around and the bed creaking with each toss and turn, I started googling. 

Why would a brand new mattress and box spring be creaking? Especially when the mattress is memory foam and has no springs to squeak and creak.

I looked at several blogs and websites. As it turns out, most box springs these days A. contain zero springs and B. have a piece of cardboard (yes, freaking cardboard) slid on top of the wood frame and underneath the fabric that covers the box spring. The creaking comes from the cardboard rubbing against the wooden frame. So one afternoon last week, I decided to do as all of those blogs and websites suggested: rip out that stupid cardboard. 

It was a little difficult to do myself and I probably should have waited for Chris to help, but if I heard that bed creak anymore I was going to go crazy. So I spent an afternoon ripping out the cardboard from our box spring. It wasn’t easy, and I got a few cuts, bruises, and splinters in the process. But the end result? Worth it.

I got the cardboard ripped out and got the box spring and mattress back on the bed frame and tested it out. NO MORE SQUEAKING! And guess what? I’ve slept relatively well since then. Sure, I had one night over the weekend where it took me forever to fall asleep but I think that was partly that I ate some ice cream pretty late in the evening (and eating sugar too late seems to make me really restless). Every other night I’ve had a pretty easy time falling asleep and staying asleep, for the first time since we moved here back in December. 

This may not last. I may start being kept awake by outside noise again in the near future. But for now, it seems to have helped, and I am so grateful for that. 

I do think it’s ridiculous that we paid good money for a “box spring” that is just wood, cardboard, staples, and fabric. If I had known that, we probably would have built one ourselves—and it probably would have been higher quality and sturdier than what we bought. 

Has anyone else ever experienced this problem?