Your New Best [Plant] Friend

plant

If your apartment has windows that get a decent amount of light, I’m here to campaign that you get a new addition to your apartment… an orchid! For some reason, I grew up with the notion that orchids are some mysterious variety of species, which short of witchcraft and voodoo is impossible to keep alive. It turns out that was completely wrong (crazy, right?!), and this sentiment was probably perpetuated by people who overwatered their poor little orchids. I was further spurned by my abominable black thumb which has been the death sentence for many a houseplant. However, I got my first orchid several months ago and lo and behold, it is still alive. I’ve since added a second one to the group and they’re doing beautifully. I might even go so far as to say they are one of the absolute best plants for a renter to get. Here’s why.

Orchids love being inside, in a window. They don’t need to be outside. They are remarkably low maintenance! They like being cramped up in their pots as long as they have a well-draining orchid mix soil. There are about 27,000 kinds of orchid, but unless you’re a real connoisseur, you’ll probably end up with one of the grocery store varieties of Phalaenopsis, or Moth Orchid. They love indirect sunlight and humidity, so they are virtually perfect for Florida where vegetation is dense and the humidity is enough to make any sane person give up on their hair. We’ve established the conditions are good, now the maintenance: they require a watering about once a week. The main cause of death in potted orchids is root rot due to overwatering and poor drainage. Those two factors are key in keeping your little green friend alive. Don’t worry if the blooms drop off, as long as the leaves are green and the roots look good, the blooms will come and go periodically.

Each time I come home to my apartment, I’m still mesmerized by my ability to keep my orchids alive and well. Trust me, if I can do it, anyone can.

 

For additional information on growing orchids, check out this entertaining and informative article from the Guardian.

 

Making Your Furniture Work Harder

furntiure

Small space living forces residents to be creative. Problem #1: You have x number of belongings and a comparably small amount of space to put them in. Thankfully this is not a new problem in the world and many innovators and companies have dedicated their time to solving these kinds of spacial issues. One of the easiest ways to combat limited space is to acquire furniture that works harder for you – furniture which has storage or organizational space built in.

Chairs –

Seating can be one of the easiest and least expensive areas to replace your traditional furniture with something more efficient. One of the simplest options for social seating is to use ottomans with storage space under the cushion. These range in price, but very affordable options are easy to come by, like this one carried by Target. Many retailers also sell benches with similar storage space underneath the cushion. Another creative way to boost your chairs’ workload is with ladder-backed chairs, such as this one from small-space giant IKEA. This particular chair has an extended back which creates a towel rack (there have to be a million ways to use this thing!), allowing it to do double duty.

Beds –

The route I’ve taken with the bed is definitely the least expensive – risers and under the bed storage. But there are other, more aesthetically pleasing and efficient routes. Bed frames with built in storage underneath, like this one with inconspicuous drawers, are a smart choice for a renter. Better yet, frames or headboards with shelves are fantastic for storage. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous you could even opt for a lofted bed with a workspace or storage area underneath. Oftentimes in a small apartment, the only direction to go is up! See a good list of storage beds put together by Apartmenttherapy.com here.

Tables –

Coffee tables are a great place to store the odd pile of books, dvd’s, or cd’s (people still have those, right?!). If your coffee table has open shelving, consider getting baskets to help organize belongings in. There are also special coffee tables which open up to reveal a larger storage space inside. Then you don’t need to worry so much about making it pretty! This coffee table from Crate and Barrel may not be the most cost effective, but it is both an attractive table and one that works hard for your storage needs.

Once you find some hard-working furniture, you’ll be surprised at how easily you can fit everything into your cozy apartment!

Favorite Coffee Cups

coffee

Do you have a go-to mug you insist on using every day?  Have you had it for at least a decade and if anything happens to it, there will be a desolate void in your life which will haunt your coffee break for years to come?! Or do you like to get a trendy new one every year to match your current style? I cherish a handful of mugs from my childhood – yep, 20 some years later I’m still using the Disney mugs my brother brought me from his band trips to Disney World and Universal Studios. Mix those in with more recent acquisitions, a hodge podge collection of handmade ceramic mugs from friends and former classmates from college. All in all, it’s a pretty eclectic mix. What does your mug shelf look like?

If your coffee (or tea!) is feeling lackluster these days, maybe it’s time to spruce up its outfit. These are my favorite picks for coffee mugs:

 

For the Apartment:

The Crazy Cat Lady in me loves this mug set

Part mug, part bowl, but either way this is the most comfortable to hold

This mug is perfect for any Harry Potter fan

Pantone Mugs look nice and come in a myriad of colors

Mug Life mug from Easy Tiger Co. is classy and funny

 

On the Go:

Anything Zojirushi is amazing and durable, like this travel mug

Cute and girly travel mug from Kate Spade

Positive vibes coming from these travel mugs

Slightly more manly travel mug in a nice textured copper design

 

Let’s Talk Sheets!

sheets

 

That’s right. Today, I thought we should discuss the ever-fascinating subject of…(drumroll please)…SHEETS. Everybody’s favorite, right? We all use them, but how often do we think about them? If you don’t use them, then that’s quite interesting and I’d like to know what you do instead. But for those of you who sleep on a bed, with sheets, this one’s for you.

I own a modest, but sufficient three sets of sheets for the bed, with the additional couple emergency pillowcases. This seems like a decent amount to rotate between without having to rush to the laundromat all the time to wash them. But how many sets of sheets should you have? And what kind? What are the best sheets made of?

It’s Not All Thread Count – Many people place a great importance on thread count with the thought that higher is better, which is roughly true. However, an important thing to keep in mind is what those threads are made of. According to RealSimple.com, Polyester blends are the least expensive and most wrinkle-resistant, but cotton will keep you cool and dry (you’re not as likely to sweat in them). Egyptian cotton is widely thought of as some of the smoothest and highest quality you can get, but pima cotton is also desirable for its durability. Also consider the ply of the sheets- single ply sheets are thinner and daintier than double ply. The weave is also important with percale being the smoothest and silkiest, twill being heavy duty and cozy, and jersey knit provides stretch.

Wash First – Sheets are typically treated with chemicals to prevent common problems like shrinking and warping, so you should always wash them first. If you’re concerned about what your sheets have been treated with, look for the term “pure-finish” when shopping, which means they were not treated with any harmful chemicals.

Bedding Changes – It’s recommended by most that sheets should be changed at least every other week, if not every week. The frequency of which you change sheets may depend on how much you sweat at night. Added bonus of frequently changing – that amazing feeling of crawling into bed with a freshly laundered set of sheets!

How Many Sets? – Apartmenttherapy.com suggests only owning two or three sets of high quality sheets to minimize the amount of clutter in your closet. If you are good about doing your laundry regularly, it should be a sufficient amount. Looks like I’m right on the money with my three sets!

 

Valentine’s Day, Apartment Style

valentine

 

I can truthfully vouch that Valentine’s Day restaurant experiences are often completely miserable. Restaurants are packed to the gills, its staff overworked and exhausted (and usually moody), the food is slow getting to the tables, and you sit wondering why you ever thought this was a good idea in the first place. Thankfully it is super easy to skip all that nonsense and have a great time in your own apartment, and no, I don’t mean Netflix and chill style.

It really all comes down to ambience. That’s why you wanted to go out somewhere in the first place, right? I mean maybe the food had something to do with it too. We’ll get to that next. Ambience is key- you want to create a mood for yourself and your date. Once you’ve cleaned up the apartment and arranged things how you want you can set the mood. Start with some fresh flowers (they don’t have to be expensive and try these tips to help arrange them). Next, adjust your lighting so it’s not as bright and sterile by dimming lights if possible or using lamps instead of overhead lights. Candles are obviously a nice touch, but be careful you don’t leave anything unattended too long! Last but certainly not least on the ambience list is music. Pick something easy to listen to that you love because it not only helps set a mood, but can be an easy conversation topic if you need one.

Have a drink of some kind on hand for your guest in case dinner is running late or just to have a few minutes beforehand to talk. Pick a special cocktail, mocktail, or bottle of wine. Don’t worry about not knowing much about wine- the most important thing to know about it is how to open it! Make something for dinner that you’re familiar with cooking, so there’s less chance of something going awry. If you really want to make something special, I recommend practicing it the night before! Dessert is always a good idea, but you don’t have to make everything so why not pick up something locally crafted from bakeries like Dolce Vita, Patticakes, or Gigi’s Cupcakes?

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

Treat Yo’self – Spice Up Your Bathroom

bathroom

 

 

The bathroom is one of the often-neglected rooms, when it comes to decorating. This is completely illogical, however, because we use the bathroom every single day. So why skimp on this smaller, seemingly less important room? It should look as good and make you feel as good as the rest of your apartment does. Try these quick fixer-uppers for your water closet:

Decorate the walls – It seems like everyone forgets that you can hang things up in the bathroom, too. You’ll want to pick pictures that are well-framed so the moisture from the shower won’t harm them. You could also hang floating shelves and put small vases, candles, or other objects on them instead of pictures.

Use fresh flowers – Fresh flowers make a world of difference in any room. If you’ve got the couple of minutes to stop by the flower stand or grocery store on your way home from work every once in a while, it will dramatically improve the feel of your apartment!

Put a table/stool next to your tub – If you have enough room and an extra little side table that will fit, stick it next to the tub to put a candle and some accessories on. If it has a shelf or a drawer, you can stick some extra towels or washcloths in it, too. It will make the room feel instantly cozier and spa-like. And who doesn’t like a spa?

Get a lush bath mat – It will add texture to the bathroom arrangement and help pull everything together. Also it will feel really nice on your toes when you get out of the bath!

Add potted plants – You can’t go wrong with extra potted plants anywhere in your apartment. Pick ones that like a fair bit of humidity and a little less sunlight. I tend to keep my orchid in the bathroom because these conditions suit it pretty well in a windowsill.

 

Happy [Almost] Lunar New Year!

lunar new year

The Lunar New Year (same as Chinese New Year) is in one week! I’ve always been drawn to the allure of Asian culture- the food, art, zen and taoist philosophies, the beautiful languages (both written and spoken), and the list goes on. So I always enjoy partaking in Lunar new year even if it is in some small way.

Traditionally, Lunar New Year, or the Spring Festival as it is also known, is a time to celebrate new beginnings as well as one’s ancestors and relatives who have passed away. The celebration continues for a number of days until the fifteenth of the first calendar month, which is called the Lantern Festival. According to chinahighlights.com, the Lunar New Year is celebrated with food (dumplings!), festivities like the dragon and lion dances, firecrackers and fireworks, and red envelopes which are traditionally filled with money and given to the children of the family. Homes are usually decorated with various signs of good luck or possibly red lanterns. I always like to go to the local Asian market for cute New Year decorations.

This year will be the Year of the Monkey! The monkey sign of the Chinese zodiac is a smart, quick-witted, charismatic one. Read more about Lunar New Year 2016 here.

If you want to join a celebration in the Gainesville area and learn more about Chinese culture, the University of Florida will be holding a festival on Sunday, February 7 and you can find out how to get tickets here!

Smoked Out By the Neighbors

ashtray

The feud between residents who smoke and those who don’t is certainly not breaking news. It ranks among one of the top disputes between people who live in the same building, right up there with pets and noise. Smoke seeping in your apartment can be a serious problem, especially if you have a condition like asthma, but it can also be a way of life or a giant nuisance.

I personally stand on the non-smoking side of this battle front (my sincere apologies to the smokers who I cannot agree with on this matter). I’m not against smoking because by all means, do what you want to do, but if you live in an apartment be conscientious of your neighbors. My neighbors upstairs smoke and subsequently have all manner of chronic respiratory problems, which they very audibly exhibit signs of on a daily basis. I had high hopes for the new neighbors who just moved in across the hall, but in the first two days of living there they have managed to permeate the hallway and my apartment with the aroma of a Grateful Dead concert circa 1967. They even accomplished setting off the smoke detector from it. Now I know I sound a little bit bitter, but isn’t it my right as a renter to decline having to inhale someone else’s charred plant matter floating around in the air?

The solution is potentially easy if your building does not allow smoking. The landlord can be contacted and notified of the smoking problem, which hopefully he or she will take action over. However, if you live in a building which allows smoking you may have to resort to arming yourself against the problem. Air purifiers and blocking the sources of incoming smoke are the most common solutions to the problem. If you have an exhaust fan, consider running it more frequently to move smoky air out. Legal action rarely can be taken against in this case, but can in some cases if the smoke is causing bodily harm and can be documented as affecting your health.