Monday, September 19, 2016

The Pest Nest

Of all the problems that I've had with my new house, the worst thing one of many worst things about it is the cockroaches.

Cockroaches! I didn't see that coming. When I first visited the place in May, it was unoccupied and clean as a whistle (or so my selective vision told me). I saw no sign of a roach and didn't even stop to consider that pests might be an issue. When I moved in a month later, I did spy one cockroach, which gave me palpitations, but only mild ones—I'd seen a roach the day I moved into my last apartment, and nothing had come of that. Fast-forward to late July. It was a month after we'd moved in, and suddenly cockroaches were quite literally coming out of the woodwork! (Is that where this phrase comes from?)

This brings me to my moral dilemma. How does a vegetarian who cares for all creatures, great and small, deal with disgusting insects that are invading her home?

Well, every vegetarian has to draw the line somewhere. You can love all living things, but if they don't respect boundaries and they are a legitimate threat to your way of life, then your only recourse is to kill them. I've had to go through the same thing with bedbugs (no one can really blame you for trying to eradicate a pest that feeds on your own body) and ants.

The ants decided my desk at work was the best place for an ongoing party! After trying numerous times to dissuade them with various strongly scented oils, I finally had to resort to extermination. I am not a fan of using baits or poison. They seem underhanded ("Come here little buggy-buggy, I have a treat for's death!") and sadistic (having suffered food poisoning before, I would never wish that kind of fate on anyone!). And the kind of sticky trap that causes animals to rip their own legs off in an attempt to escape is just cruel. Another option I might have mentioned before is diatomaceous earth, a long-established insect killer that works by creating micro-punctures in the animal's exoskeleton, causing it to lose too much liquid to the surrounding environment. I'm not sure death by desiccation is really much better than many others, but at least with a DE barrier, the bugs won't come to any harm if they just stay clear of it and out of my space! So I dusted diatomaceous earth around all the cracks in my window, and soon the ants were gone. Though I was sad about my murderous ways, I could not function at work with ants crawling all over me.

This summer, our house for some reason developed an infestation of flies. I was trying to ignore them, but I was so fed up by the time I went to the Fulton County Fair, I actually picked up a free promotional flyswatter so I could end the constant buzzing around my head. I never needed to put the flyswatter to use, as the flies had pretty much all disappeared by the time I brought it home, and I was relieved to not have to play executioner to countless insects just trying to live their short lives.

Roaches, however, are a whole different story.

This isn't my first brush with cockroaches—when I moved into an apartment for the first time in 2006, I not only met my first cockroach; I met thousands of them. Every night, the roaches swarmed out from the kitchen in droves. They nested in everything. They loved my roommate's laptop so much that they clogged its fan and made it chronically overheat. There were so many cockroaches in that apartment, you could smell them—it is true; they do have a smell. And it wasn't pleasant. It didn't take me long to learn to hate roaches with every fiber of my being—and to show cockroaches no mercy. If I were the type of person to invent mottoes, one of them would be "Thou shalt not suffer a roach to live." 

Since I was seeing roaches with more and more frequency as August drew to a close, I unwrapped a package of cockroach baits. With other insects, I think of baits as a dishonest way to trick a poor unsuspecting animal...but with roaches, I think baits are the only way to get rid of them before they've taken over your whole house. However, the baits aren't working. Not only did one of our stupid dogs find and eat one, causing a brief terror (later we learned that the roach poison is essentially harmless to humans and pets), but they didn't seem to do anything to rid us of roaches. If anything, their population has ballooned! 

In June, I started by seeing a nymph here or there, creeping around the bathroom or the kitchen sink...then it escalated to a nymph or two, maybe every other day...then I started seeing adults scuttling about. Now (especially at night) I find multiple roaches almost every time I enter the kitchen. One horrifying morning, I found three roaches of various ages, just chilling out in the bottom of a saucepan in the drying rack!

I've had to pull out all the stops for this tenacious population. No method of extermination is too gruesome—though I still prefer a good, honest, and quick demise like squashing them to death. That flyswatter has finally come to use after all; I now pick it up every time I enter the kitchen and prepare to do battle. Last night, I took all the contents out of the two cabinets that seem to be harboring the most roaches, and sprinkled diatomaceous earth along all the edges. And if that doesn't slow down the little vermin, my next step will be a combo treatment with borax.

After that? Well, my sincere hope is that it will be nothing. I hope I'll be able to get rid of the roaches and never see one again. Twice now, I've lived in a house where a new resident brought her own little cockroach collection from an infested apartment (one of those times I was that resident - yikes!), but I've never actually faced down an already-established colony of cockroaches. I can only hope that this isn't going to be a multi-month war like the one against the bedbugs.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Cohappy Cohabitation

Today, in an uncharacteristic moment of seriousness (oh, wait, we probably were only there for the animated GIFs), my boyfriend and I were discussing this article on Buzzfeed about things you should consider before moving in together.

Now, you should probably know that my boyfriend and I never really, officially, moved in together. We've been a couple for 3 and a half years. Sometime near the beginning of that era, my boyfriend invited himself over to my house and never left. Slowly, his collection of clothing and sporting equipment migrated from his former homes (he is the legal owner of his parents' house and had a lot of stuff there, but was living at his sister's house next door when I met him) to mine. I cleared off a space on my bookshelf for his clothes...then I cleared off a shelf in the linen closet...then I bought a wicker hamper for the clothes that were ending up all over the floor...then I bought him a wardrobe from Ikea.... Now, in the third home we've lived in together, he has his very own man-cave (his clothes are still strewn all over the room that he tells me is mine). But after all this time, his official address is still his parents' house in another city.

The aforementioned little tidbit is only tangentially related to the real subject of this post, which is things that couples should do/expect before they officially move in. We went through the list and concluded we're actually pretty good at living together, despite never having actively made a decision to do it. We fell into most of the habits listed in the article naturally. There were only a few things that really stuck out as something we have done differently or could still do differently.

4. You may fight more at first and that is TOTALLY normal.

Though we are very, very different, Al I, oddly, hardly ever fight. Of course, I whine and complain and occasionally get quite snippy when I've asked him to do something 5 times and his answer is always "I was going to do it." (When? 30 years from now?) But getting to the point where either of us is raising our voice, crying, or so frustrated we feel the need to run away, hardly ever happens. I can think of maybe only 3 times we've ever had a real argument. Does this mean we are just burying our problems? Does it mean that we don't take our relationship seriously? Or does it mean we're just responsible adults who know how to deal with our conflicts in a mature way? I think it mostly comes down to Al's being exceptionally easy-going...but I'm happy to take at least some of the credit if I can.

7. Consider opening a joint bank account and splitting the bills evenly.

Three years into our coexistence, we are still 100% financially independent. We have settled (mostly tacitly) into a system of sharing the expenses that seems to work for us. Sometimes we pay more and sometimes we pay less, but we always pay for the things that matter to us the most. I pay for our housing; Al pays for the utilities. I used to pay all the utilities as well, but when he started turning our home into an electronic wonderland and constantly wanted to fiddle with the thermostat, I asked him to pick up the utility bills (now I just pay for water). When we travel, one of us gets the airfare; the other gets the lodging. Al pays for almost all our food (since he loves to splurge on gustatory experiences), and I pick up the tab when we shop at Rugged Wearhouse and the thrift store (since I'm the holder of the loyalty cards). 
Keeping our finances separate keeps us from arguing. If Al wants to blow his whole paycheck on a slightly larger (already too-large) television...well, it's his money. And if I want to blow my whole paycheck on — well, nothing, because I would never do that! — but if I did, Al wouldn't try to interfere.

14. Get all your pet peeves out on the table ahead of time.

I'll admit it, I'm a peever. Everything annoys me. Everything.* If I had bothered to list out all my pet peeves to my boyfriend before we started dating, we'd probably still be having that conversation today. But today, when I asked him, "Do you have any pet peeves?" he was like, "Yeah! ... I just can't think of any right now." I reiterate, one of Al's best qualities is that he's so easy-going, which makes him a perfect match for someone as high-strung as me. So when I find something is annoying the dickens out of me, I try to remain calm, ask Al to do things differently, and usually he does. Or at least he tries.

17. Talk about your standards for what “clean” is, and figure out a plan for how things around the house will get done.

Cleaning is probably the number-two cause of conflict in our relationship (number one is our differing definitions of punctuality). I like everything neat and tidy and orderly, and Al just doesn't care. He throws his dirty clothes everywhere. He never grooms his dogs or cleans up their fur. I usually pick up after him silently, until the point where I feel like I'm working all the time while he's sitting like a lump playing video games, and then I have a minor fit. This doesn't count as an argument, because he doesn't try to justify his slovenly behavior, and he always makes an effort to clean up after that...but it always happens again. 
I have come to a sort of understanding about this situation—he will mow the lawn** and I'd better just expect to do pretty much everything else (or prepare to do a lot of nagging***). This is not an equal division of labor by far, but he devotes lots of energy and money to finding us fun things to do in our free time, so I have gradually come to the conclusion that in our relationship, I'm the one who keeps the home fires burning, and he's the one who keeps the party going. In fact, that was Advice Point #18: "And while it may be frustrating, don’t expect things to always be 50-50."

35. Last but not least, make sure to hide the Oreos.

This is a funny, trivial little point that was thrown into the article mostly for humor's sake, but oddly enough, it touches on one of the things that has changed in my life significantly since living with my significant other. To understand it, you must understand that I'm a very introverted introvert who's been living in group houses for much of my life. This means that I was fully immersed in a situation that made me uncomfortable pretty much every day. My only retreat from the constant communing was whatever little room I had to call my own. But sometimes an introvert gets hungry. And doesn't want to brave the social gauntlet that can be the trek from the bedroom to the kitchen and back again for some much-needed solitary snacks. So I got in the habit of keeping a stash of food in my bedroom, so I could eat whenever I wanted to without having to worry about seeing other people. When my boyfriend started living with me, he took the place of my housemates, and I very slowly got used to the idea of living with someone I actually felt comfortable with. It felt like kind of a victory when I recently realized I was keeping almost all my food in the kitchen instead of squirreling it away in the "snack drawer" that I still keep next to my desk. I am pleased to have ended up in a relationship where I have no need to hide the Oreos. It helps that my boyfriend seems to have no interest in Oreos.

* Originally this was going to be a post about my peeves, and somehow it has morphed into a dissertation about how my boyfriend and I live.
** On mowing the lawn: I've always held disdain for the way work around the house is divided into "men's" and "women's" jobs. E.g. women do the cleaning, men do the "handy" stuff like changing light bulbs and fixing dripping do the mowing and women do the gardening. I always prided myself on being self-sufficient, and when I shared a home with a male housemate for 3 years, I did most of the mowing and almost all the repairs. Yet my boyfriend has taken quite an interest in the lawn (I'm pretty sure it has a lot to do with the shiny green Ego mower that cost me an arm and a leg). So I let him have his macho chore, because if he's willing to take the initiative to do anything without prompting (I still have to remind him, because he's a procrastinator), I'm all for it! But I still end up doing most of the repairs.
*** On nagging: Once upon a time, in my young idealistic years, I thought I would be the perfect girlfriend/wife—understanding, not demanding, and never the kind of person who gets referred to as a "ball and chain." When I saw women in movies griping things like, "the furnace has been broken for three weeks; when are you going to do something about it?" I cringed inside. If I wanted my furnace fixed, I wouldn't pester my husband to fix it; I'd figure out how to do it myself! Well, as it turns out, even if you can figure out how to fix your furnace yourself, that just means one more task that's been laid on your shoulders. Some task that you're going to do while your lazy other half does absolutely nothing. Some people (cough! Al!), I have learned, are not self-motivated. Some people need a fire lit under them. Unless you want to be doing everything on your own, you might have to be that fire, and learn to practice the fine art of nagging. Believe me, it's not easy. It requires a thick skin and lots of patience, but with a little effort, you can succeed in getting your sometimes-too-easygoing partner to be helpful.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Lenny & Larry's Complete Cookie: Birthday Cake

 Another day, another underwhelming vegan cookie.

Unlike my last vegan cookie, this one blared its list of special qualities right on the wrapper: no eggs, no dairy, no soy, non GMO...with so many "no's" on the label, it's pretty much a given that there will be "no" enjoyment as well.

But I bought it anyway, because it also boasted 8 g of fiber and 16 g of protein, which brought it into the realm of semi-healthy breakfast food, and anyway, I love a good Giant Cookie challenge. I might have also been reeled in by the appetizing-looking picture on the wrapper.

Sadly, the actual cookie was but a disappointing simulacrum of the picture on the package, with none of the visible texture, and even the sprinkles being flattened to almost nonexistence.

It did not improve with the eating.

My first impression was of a sour taste, rapidly becoming my clearest clue that I'm eating a vegan cookie. Since it was essentially a sugar cookie, there wasn't really any other flavor than that...but there was texture—a strange texture that was both dry like the desert and soft like a pillow (I'm having flashbacks to the Acadia Park cookie!). Come to think of it, pillows are dry, too, so that may become my new standard for a vegan cookie.

Show me a vegan cookie that doesn't remind me of a pillow, and I'll show you an impressed Giant Cookie Reviewer.

The Bottom Line

Taste: 1 out of 5 stars
Texture: 2 out of 5 stars
Price: I could easily check the price for this cookie, as I got it at Smoothie King just across the street from my workplace, but I'd rather post now and ask questions later, so you'll just have to wait til some other time to get my (doubtlessly unfavorable) assessment of the cost.