Code Surprises

We unexpectedly received a letter at the end of last week informing us that we were in violation of local municipal codes. As it turns out, there are rules requiring that all trees with branches that extend out over local sidewalks be trimmed to a certain height (7 ft), which one of ours in the backyard apparently was not. Thankfully, My Prince was able to promptly correct that problem.

The second violation was more of an inconvenience: city codes require that all vehicles be stored on “improved” surfaces only… i.e. we are not allowed to park our RV in the backyard, or even on the side of our driveway. All wheels must be resting on concrete. Which means the RV now takes up the bulk of our driveway.

That’s annoying, but not the end of the world. It’s also got us headed to the city codes website to find out what else no one thought to tell us about. As a writer, and as someone who has dealt with things like codes and legal requirements before in my grant writing days, I am thoroughly unimpressed by the city’s attempts to communicate the situation. The letter was half unintelligible, they didn’t answer their phones, and the emails My Prince got in response when he attempted to reach out were basically functional but not particularly helpful.

Considering how easy it would be to hand/mail out simple pamphlets to the new owners every time a home is sold, none of this should have had to be a surprise. Moreover, if you want people to comply, communicating clearly is of paramount importance. None of that is actually my problem, however – just one more lament about the inefficiencies of the world.

The situation has gotten us thinking about what changes we’ll make down the line, however. With these new considerations, redoing the driveway and possibly the garage have bumped up the list from minor convenience to a bigger deal. Thus I’ve added researching driveways, garages, fencing, and stamped concrete to my long-term to-do list. We’re unlikely to find any deals as sweet as what we got for the solar, but there’s no harm in looking at options and getting informed before we have to make decisions!

 

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Solar 2.0

Last week, at Gamer Con, we stopped by a booth hosted by a solar energy company. The young men manning it got points for recognizing both our cosplays and for being able to articulately talk about solar tech with my brilliant husband (who understands more than most reps).

One rep asked us if we were interested in solar and if we owned a home. We explained that we’d tried to get solar for our last house and been able to due to the placement and setup of the property. (And the fact that even if we’d qualified, it would have cost around $35,000 per Solar City’s estimates!) We told him we wanted solar for our new house, but that the shingles on our roof were in bad shape and the roof would have to be redone or replaced before any responsible company would put panels up there.

The rep proceeded to say six magical words: “Oh, well, we do roofing, too.”

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Our obvious reaction.

We decided that even though we’d already done our big house project for this year, it would be good to get an accurate estimate for planning purposes.

(This is actually a super-helpful money management tip I read about recently for people who are procrastinating or overwhelmed by debt or prospective expenses! Doing research and getting real numbers allows you to make an actual plan, which gives you control, reduces stress, and improves decision making!)

We set an appointment for the middle of this past week for a rep to come out and walk through numbers with us. The rep, Colby, was extremely nice and very well informed. He was not at all pushy and outlined multiple options for us. The really good news, however, came after we explained the roof problem:

  1. Federal and state tax credits out here don’t just cover solar – they cover whatever you need to get your house ready for solar. (E.g. taking down trees or replacing a roof!)
  2. The company we’re going through offers very-low-interest financing on solar systems, with no penalties for paying the loan off early… and because it’s all one project, we can roll the cost of the roof into the loan for far less than it would cost to put it on credit or take out a loan somewhere else.
  3. Because we need such a small system, rolling the two together actually qualified us for the best deal.
  4. If we need additional panels down the line (e.g. if we get a high-draw item like a hot tub or electric car and our consumption skyrockets) they’re dirt cheap to add because all the big expenses like initial wiring and a new meter will already be done.

So… barring any massive, unexpected problems, in addition to the setup we just put on the EV we’re getting a new roof and a full-house solar setup this summer! Seriously, it is amazing how much faster everything seems to happen out here. I don’t know if it’s because there’s less red tape or if people are better at what they do or what, but it’s amazing.

Roses

Our house is located in what was obviously a post-WWII neighborhood. Lots of adorable, modestly-sized homes, many of them cottage or rambler style. An impressive number have lavish rose bushes – both old fashioned ‘cabbage’ style roses and newer tea roses – in rich reds, cheerful pinks, and varying shades of white in the front yards or along the driveways.

I wondered if the thorny knot we had in our backyard might turn out to be a rose bush, but by a month ago I had largely decided it was probably nothing. All the other roses in the neighborhood were in bloom and the bush we had was still just there with nothing to show for itself. I was making plans to rip it out when it burst into bloom with a ton of what I think are mini pink roses.

They aren’t particularly fragrant, but they are nice and they look quaintly lovely gathered in a squat canning jar and set on the table.

The thing is, though, that I think it’s meant to be a climbing rose. The thorny protrusions stick way out and fall sideways, suggesting that they are meant to be woven into a lattice or tied up or something so the plant can expand. The other problem is that the bush is kind of weirdly placed near the back corner of the garage. I do not have a gift for gardening, but I’m wondering if I can relocate it somewhere else and get it properly set up to climb.

We have space at the front of the house between two windows or between the door and the driveway that might be an attractive place to put it, but I need to do some research on the best time to relocate roses and what we would need to set it up for climbing without damaging anything else (like the fence). I also have not given up on the idea of getting other, more brightly colored or fragrant, roses for the yard down the line. For now, I am appreciating that the bush turned out to be something and making notes to do my homework.

You Know You’re An Adult When Stupid Things Make You Happy

IMG_0751One of the things most of my adult friends and I agree on is that you know you’re adult when you start finding that really small, dumb things make you unreasonably happy.

I had one of these moments recently when I realized that two almond butter containers stacked perfectly in my kitchen cabinets.

Why is this good? Because I’ve been looking for a better way to store my spices. Spice jars come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, some of which are cute, but am I the only one who has noticed how inconvenient they are most of the time? You can’t fit a tablespoon in their tiny narrow tops, and you’re constantly buying new containers of things like cinnamon or basil that seem to go in everything.

There are lots of cute jars for sale at places like Ikea, but even if the individual jars are cheap, it costs a fortune to buy enough of them and you’re still left managing racks or bins or something to contain them.

Enter almond butter containers and chicken stock (Better Than Bouillon) jars! They’re free (because I am buying the original product anyway), durable, they have wide mouths, and they stack neatly in my cupboard. It will take a while to accumulate as many as I need, but there isn’t exactly a rush. In the meantime, I will amuse myself by being self-congratulatory over being an “up-cycler” and a frugal minimalistic and enjoy having found a small win in my goals toward ideal home management.  : p

Going Solar

Way back when we lived in New York, we tried to participate in one of the solar programs being promoted in our area. The basic idea was that you let them come put solar panels on your house and then the energy company got to keep any energy they produced beyond what your home used. There were caveats – they owned the panels and had to have rights to maintain them, etc., but we both strongly believe in the value of alternative energy options that we were interested anyway.

Long story short, that inquiry went nowhere. It was NY, so there wasn’t much sunshine to speak of anyway, and we were on the wrong side of the mountain and our house faced the wrong direction… and on and on. We talked about putting solar panels on the Errant Venture, instead, but ended up dedicating money to our long term plan (that abruptly became a short-term plan!) for moving out of NY instead.

Last year, our solar plans were again postponed in light of the move and the fact that we were storing the EV off-site where we couldn’t monitor it and we deemed the risk of damage or theft too high. This year, however, the EV is living comfortably in our backyard and we are ensconced in a state with abundant sunshine, and My Prince decided it was time to take the leap.

So last weekend, while I worked in the kitchen, he installed a brand new solar panel on the top of the EV and ran all the wires and control devices to get it hooked up! It looks fantastic and charges the EV battery impressively fast in our summer sunshine. I’m incredibly proud of My Prince, since he’s never done quite this type of project before and he totally got it all figured out and working by himself!

We were approached over a month ago about putting solar panels on the roof of our house but had to decline because replacing the roof (with tin!) is on our short list, and there’s no point in getting panels before that gets done. Serendipitously, there was a company at Gamer Con that does both solar and roofing, and we were able to make an appointment for them to come give us a free estimate of what it will cost to get a new roof and solar done all at once!

It won’t be a this-year project, but I think that having an estimated number will be really helpful for our planning purposes. Either way, I’m delighted that we (read: My Prince) were able to get our feet wet with solar, since it will not only give us a better understanding of how everything really works before we go large scale, but it will make it easier to do camping (especially dry camping) trips in our EV from now on!

Gamer Con

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Last Friday, My Prince was off and we took the morning to go to Gamer Con. We were delighted to find that it had expanded this year and moved to the Salt Palace, the same place FanX (aka Comic Con) is held. Since it was a Con and cosplay is welcome (and there are Star Wars video games) we dressed up as Luke and Mara Jade Skywalker again. It was an absolutely gorgeous day, which was a bonus.

One of the great things about Gamer Con is that it covers all types of games. There were:

  • “Arcades” of retro-style pinball machines and video games.
  • Massive co-gaming setups for all kinds of video games.
  • A board game library with lots of free tables set up so people could borrow and play new board games.
  • An interactive anime-themed monopoly set where the squares were foam floor tiles and kids could roll giant fluffy dice and then move around the board, standing on their squares as they went.
  • One-shot RPG games where D&D gamers could play different games with new friends.

There were also lots of vendors with gaming-related merchandise and just general geeky goodness. We had a great chats with a couple of the artists and authors that had tables, as well as the Resident Evil and Bikers Against Child Abuse people who always have booths at regional geeky events.

As always, lightsabers are great conversation starters, too, so we got stopped by a bunch of people for photos and to talk about the books and latest (horrible) movies. I remain appalled at how many people can’t recognize Luke Skywalker’s authorized Return of the Jedi outfit, but it was entertaining to see the variety of people who knew not only exactly who My Prince was but who I was! (I politely educated a few of the clueless ones on the existence of Mara Jade and sent them to go read a few books instead watching the atrocities masquerading as SW movies right now.)

I successfully avoided coming home with any new glassware, despite my addiction and the fantastic offerings, but we did come home with a candle that “smells like happy” (as the vendor put it). It’s technically grapefruit and mint, which sounds weird but smells great. : )

The day got away from us quickly, but we abundantly enjoyed it. We got home just in time to make dinner and go to our own gaming group, where we managed to ambush a couple heretics, free some slaves, and Not Die in the process. (Always a win, hahaha!) Once again, I was reminded how blessed we are to be living out here and to have these options in our life.

 

 

Kitchen Time

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It is a standing joke in our house that I make peasant food and that if we want to eat anything fancy, My Prince will be making it. As he put it recently, “I have a habit of finding things on Pinterest with three-hour prep times and going ‘oh, that looks good – let’s try that!'” Thus, if we want spinach puffs or moussaka or any other beautiful and delectable but time-and-energy intensive recipes, he handles it. (And it’s always amazing.)

I, by contrast, handle the regular “peasant food” style dinners that are our mainstay. Not because I can’t make fancy things like Chicken French and such, but just because on a daily basis I don’t find it worthwhile to put that much money and effort (and clean up!) into a weekday meal – especially with as full as our schedules are right now.

But one of the things that I have learned about myself over time is that when I start falling back on the same handful of recipes over and over, or dread or procrastinate on writing menus and making dinner, it’s a sign that I’m not managing my time, energy, and attention well in general. If I’m managing things well, I enjoy spending time in my kitchen, trying new recipes, and getting the kind of color and diversity I want in our meals.

So a few weeks ago, when I begrudgingly wrote yet another weekly menu containing many of the same things we’d had the week before, I knew it was time for a change. I ordered three keto cookbooks from our library and then spent a huge chunk of last Saturday in the kitchen. While I can’t spend every Saturday in the kitchen, I’ve been pleased enough by the results this week to renew my commitment to making real kitchen time somewhere in the week and not falling back into a slump. 

In addition to taking advantage of the fact that it’s summer to pick up some inexpensive (and delicious) melon for snacking on, I also:

  • Found a yummy Deconstructed Pot Stickers recipe. (I adore pot stickers, but can’t order them out anywhere because they inevitably contain wheat and soy and usually MSG, to boot.)
  • Used up a bunch of leftovers in a vegetable mock lasagna (bechamel sauce makes anything taste high-end!).
  • Found an amazing (and shockingly fast and easy) keto gnocchi recipe (and an instant brown butter sauce to go with it).
  • Found a recipe for roasting garlic that not only doesn’t require aluminum foil but takes about 1/4 of the time of the other recipes I’ve seen.
  • Prepped freezer cookies so that the next time I need a quick treat to take somewhere, there’s no stress involved.

I was also reminded that doing that kind of prep reduces my stress and saves time in the mornings. So I’m looking at the start of a fresh month (happy July!) as an opportunity and motivator to get back on track with this aspect of properly running my life in ways that truly align with my priorities. Wish me luck!