Saturday, July 9, 2011

Fabbie Finds

It's that magical time again: the Saturday you all love and look forward to so you can read a blog post! Woot. This week's fabbie finds are themed around food...the first 4 products I found seemed to have a culinary flair, so I made sure to find a 5th that fit into the trend.

Onward!

1. Shark Fin Ice Cubes
Perpetual Kid
$9.99





Are these not the funniest slash cutest things ever? The mold creates a nice big base that sits just deep enough in your beverage to be hidden, but also keep those fins upright and sinister looking. I think they would look particularly cute in a really big punch bowl or other large vessel with a lot of surface area so it looked like a giant feeding frenzy or something. You could get really graphic and float some raspberries or strawberries too for a gory effect...play some Jaws music...use some sort of hidden device to create a current so they looked like they were swimming...too much? Sorry.



2. Pen Cap Utensils
Dine Ink via ThinkGeek.com
$5.99






We've all been there. You're on the run, at work, at your sibling's soccer game, chillin' on the subway, lounging on the beach...and you open your bag to grab that yummy lunch you worked so hard to prepare. Mmmm, it's a chickpea, black bean, and edamame salad, some Moroccan couscous, and a little slice of home-made mocha ice-box cake. (What? I seriously pack lunches like this. Don't judge). You're starving and have been looking forward to this all day...that yummy vinaigrette...those little pearls of exotic deliciousness...that creamy-chocolaty-coffee-y awesomeness...You dig around in your bag for your fork, salivating at the thought of digging into your little feast. And to your horror, you realize you left that simple, yet necessary, utensil sitting on the kitchen counter that morning in your rush to get out the door. You stare at your lunch, tummy grumbling, cursing the fact that you packed NOTHING you can eat with your hands. Why oh why did you forget that fork? You could risk it, and tip the containers and attempt to dump the food into your mouth, losing half of it on the floor/ground and making a total idiot out of yourself while you're at it...or, you could reach for your trusty never-go-anywhere-without-them pen cap utensils! You pop one onto one of your ho-hum Bics, and it magically transforms into a transportation vessel, allowing food to travel from your container to your mouth. Life is good. Bon App├ętit.


3. Pink Elephant Funnel
ModCloth
$7.99
What a cute, yet practical, kitchen gadget! This little creature puts the fun in functional, with a trunk used as a funnel spout. If you've ever tried to transfer liquids from large-mouthed bowls to itty-bitty-opening vessels, you know just how useful a kitchen funnel can be. Spare the grossness of contemplating using your DIY/around-the-house/nasty job funnel you keep in the garage (you know, the one you use when you change your oil? No?) and invest in this little bugger instead. Cuter, cleaner, and awesome...er.


4. Little Birdie Salt'n'Pepper Shakers
ModCloth
$15.99
Another ModCloth find, I just couldn't pass these little guys up (c'mon...they're birds. Enough said). I love how they're in two different poses, and snuggled on/into a little nest of sorts. These will always make a nice centerpiece on the table, regardless of whether it's set for dinner, or cleared from a meal and just sittin' and looking pretty. You can't ever go wrong with white (and as far as I'm concerned, it's difficult to go wrong with aviary accessories, although it is possible. I'm not THAT crazy).



5. Recycled Plastic Cutting Boards
Preserve
$14.99







If you're like me, you always feel bad when you have to toss those plastic containers that certain items come in, despite the fact that you've looked everywhere for an eco-friendly alternative in a number 1 or 2 plastic so that it can be recycled (my local recycling program only takes numbers 1 and 2. Boo). There are some food items that you just have to buy in number 5 plastic if you want them at all, such as yogurt, hummus, cottage cheese...and so many places won't recycle these containers. Behold! Preserve's Gimme 5 Program. You can read more about it here, but the long story short is that this program actually takes your number 5 plastic containers for free and recycles them into all sorts of products, such as cutting boards like the one featured above. Not only is this a great way to recycle, but these products are BPA free, dishwasher safe, and still 100% recyclable after years of use (just melt 'em and mold 'em again! It's like play-dough for big kids!) You can drop off your number 5 plastics at your local participating Whole Foods Markets (check here for a list of participating stores), or you can mail your plastics in (at this point, you have to pay for shipping, but Gimme 5 is working hard to create more drop-off locations. You can find more info here.) They even take your Brita filters! Plus, Preserve's products all seem to have great reviews; for example, the curve on this cutting board doubles as a handle and a retaining wall to help slide you hard-earned choppings into pots. Perfect!


Bonus! Revolver Hair Dryer
Nodaya
$40?





The only place I can actually find one of these puppies for sale is on some Asian website I can't understand (there are some in Etsy shops, but they are all sold). According to Google Chrome's translation of the website, this bad boy retails for around $40, but I'm not exactly sure how accurate that translation and conversion is. However, if I can find one of these guys, I'll be totally down to purchase it as a splurge. I'm not a gun fanatic by any means (quite the opposite actually), but I just think this product is so clever and cute (the Tiffany blue color is particularly appealing to me...the juxtaposition of the shape and color are so ironic!) Just think of all the witticisms you could say if you owned one of these...you could blow your 'do out...pull the trigger on those split ends...you get my drift. Plus, if a certain male figure in your life has longer locks, the blue version of this little gadget just might be manly enough to encourage some masculine dryer-time. However, I would totally not recommend traveling with this bad boy if your trip involves a plane; if you thought security was a pain when they wanted to take a look at your regular hair dryer, imagine the scene when this little guy goes through the X-ray machine. Not pretty. Unless you arrive for your flight about 10 hours early and are looking to kill some time (no pun intended). In that case, go for it. It's your trip.

What about you guys? Find anything awesome this week? Think of any other witticisms to go along with this blowdryer? Have a local recycling program that actually takes number 5 plastic (jealous!!)? Leave a comment and chat!


*Note: All images via the linked webpage for the featured item.
**Double Note: I was not paid or perked by any of these sellers or companies (pft, I wish they knew who I was--hah!). I just found these items myself and thought I would share them!



Monday, July 4, 2011

Be Vehwee Quiet...I'm Hunting fow Apawtments


So I figured if apartment hunting was taking over my life and preventing me from doing projects that I would otherwise blog about, I should blog about this instead. So this post is about the method my boyfriend and I came up with to find a new pad.

My boyfriend and I decided to move to Richmond since it will be a mid-ish point for his job and my upcoming internship. Neither of us has really lived in a city per se, and we thought that, being a city, there would be oodles of apartments to be had in a neighborhood that was safe and not undergraduate (VCU students are EVERYWHERE) or roach-infested. So. Not. So.

At first, we turned to Craig's List, who had served me well in the past. However, perusing The List quickly became annoying for a few reasons. Reason 1: the filters it uses. We needed at least a 2 bedroom, but there was no way to search for 2+ (we certainly wouldn't mind having another room if it was in our budget). Additionally, being very unfamiliar with Richmond, the main streets, and all the neighborhood names, we soon became tired of Google mapping everything separately.
 

Now, I had never heard of PadMapper until very recently. Now that I'm using it, I do remember my sister mentioning it a while back, but at that time, it was too early to start scouting (sorry, Sis). However, now that I've "discovered" it, I will never EVER go back to Craig's. Here's why.

PadMapper reminds me of Kayak.com. It searches different popular apartment listing sites (which you can customize), and pulls up all of your possible apartment matches on a Google Map. The customization capabilities are super duper awesome; you can put a high and a low on SO many different filters: rent, number of bedrooms, number of bathrooms, how old the posting is, pets that are allowed, sublets, if there is a picture in the ad, etc. Being a very visual person, I LOVE the Google map that gets pulled up. And if you create an account (it's free and super fast), you can favorite different places to save for another time (the pins turn green). PLUS, when you click on a pin, you can click a link that takes you to the original ad, allows you to do Google Street View right within the window (creepy, but also awesome), and it even creates a "walk score" for you, taking into account how close different places of interest are, like coffee shops, laundry mats, bars, restaurants, gyms, and grocery stores. It's GREAT.

Once we found PadMapper, it suddenly became a lot easier to to find apartments that looked promising, and we needed to come up with a system to make appointments that didn't overlap, and allowed us enough time to get from point A to point B. We came up with a very basic schedule type thing with 30-minute time slots. After the first day where we overbooked ourselves, we decided to allot 1 hour per showing (regardless of whether or not the same agent showed us multiple apartments). This has worked out pretty well for the most part, though 1 hour 15 minutes is sometimes necessary if the apartments are really far from one another. I just write out the times on the left hand side of a piece of scrap after we decide when the first and last appointments are going to be for that day. Then, as we make appointments via e-mail or phone, we fill in the address, name of the agent, and their phone number. It looks like this as it starts to get filled in (blurred out for privacy - don't want any stalkers because I have SO many people that read my blog):



Once the list is finalized (some things get canceled if the apartment is rented before we can see it, or we need to move things around), I type up an itinerary for the full day that we take in a portfolio when we make the trip.

Since we started viewing so many apartments (about 10 per trip to Richmond...yeah, we're picky), we needed to come up with a system to keep track of which apartment being which, what we liked about it, what didn't work, etc. We came up with a ratings and check-list form that we customized to things that are important to us for each room. Some things are rated (counter space in the kitchen, for example), and other things are just a check box system (for instance, whether or not there is a washer/dryer that comes with the apartment). We made some adjustments after the first day (it was far too detailed and it was taking us too long to fill it out), so we streamlined it to suit what we needed it for, and then incorporated space at the bottom to make notes about unique things that caught our eye (whether good or bad).


So far this system has been working pretty well. We learned the hard way that we max out at around 8 or 9 apartment showings per day (day 1 was a total crank-fest at around 14 apartments. Not good). We also learned that you should call and confirm your showing that that morning, (time slot, where to meet the person, and the quoted rent in addition to what it includes). Otherwise, you show up and wait only to find out the apartment has already been rented, the agent is sick and no one took over her showings, etc. Always a bummer, especially since it's about 95 degrees outside, and you've driven all over creation for nothing. It became a necessity for us to confirm rent quotes because we ended up being quoted one thing the week before on the phone, and then we'd show up at the apartment, and all of a sudden the rent was $200 more, which they wouldn't tell us until the end of the appointment. This became a major annoyance for us; not only was it a huge waste of our time because the apartment would suddenly be out of our range and we wasted the time slot, but we would fall in love with a place only to find out we couldn't afford it. Not cool. This seemed to be a trick used by multiple property management companies, so we just started double checking every single one.

It was interesting to see the different reactions we'd get from different people when we'd show up with our clipboards and ratings scales. Some people thought it was a great idea, others obviously privately deemed us insane. But the system works for us, especially since my boyfriend and I each rate the apartment on our own and compare later, so we get to make unbiased reviews, for the most part.

So far, we are still apartmentless. We're both pretty picky regarding very different things (my boyfriend is much more concerned about location and ceiling height for his easel, I'm much more concerned about feeling safe and at home inside the apartment, which usually means sunny windows, somewhat updated appliances, and enough space to not feel like I'm trapped in a closet). So far...no dice. We've been pretty disappointed to find out that our budget places us at the low end of where undergraduates tend to live, which isn't really where young professionals in their mid 20s see themselves. Hopefully this Wednesday will be the winner!

How about you guys? Any advice on apartment hunting? Have any "system" you employ? Think we're crazy for designing and using a rating system? Live in Richmond yourself and have some words of wisdom? Do share!



*Note: All images are mine, EXCEPT for the PadMapper image via here.
**Double Note: I was not paid or perked by any of these sites or companies (pft, I wish they knew who I was--hah!). I just found these sites myself and thought I would share them!