Black Friday

Ah, Black Friday. A shopaholic’s joy and bane.

I’ve participated in Black Friday shopping twice in the past few years. One year, my sisters, cousins, and I trekked to Woodbury Commons Outlet at an obscenely early hour. Big mistake. There were long lines to get into the stores and the prices were the worst. Basically retail. Another year we went to Jersey Gardens Mall at midnight. Again, not worth it – crowds and high prices. Finally, we threw in the towel and said no to Black Friday.

For a couple of years.

This year, my aunt brought over a Black Friday circular. Kim picked it up and started casually flipping through it. Suddenly, her eyes narrow and I know the look. It’s the “We’re doing this” look. She gives me the look and I know its futile to refuse or argue. We were going shopping on Black Friday. At the Staten Island mall, since we were at our parents’ house for Thanksgiving dinner.

The best deal we saw was at Old Navy – $1 fleece scarves, $15 sweaters, $5 fleece shirts, $5 off $50 coupon, and a free Kodak Easyshare Sport C123 Waterproof Digital Camera for the first bunch of customers. There was no way I could turn this down. My inner shopaholic roared.

Since this was a last minute decision, we were dressed quite inappropriately for hardcore shopping and we knew it – the biggest problem were the flats. These shoes could mean the difference between getting our free digital camera and being trampled. We had to take the chance and trust in years of training. Over the next two and a half hours, we formed a strategy, created a shopping list, and emptied our bladders.

The Staten Island Mall was scheduled to open its doors to crazy shoppers at midnight. My mom, Kim, and I went back and forth as to when we should leave. They both insisted that there wouldn’t really be a line because “Staten Islanders don’t care about this stuff” but I knew we needed to leave early to beat the crowds. In the end, we compromised on leaving at 10:15.

In the words of Dr. Sheldon Cooper: “I informed you thusly, I so informed you thusly!”

There were about 150 people ahead of us. After 10 minutes, we couldn’t even see the end of the line anymore. There were at least 200 people behind us.

Kim was freezing! But we had to tough it out.

At about 11, the line started moving. By eavesdropping on someone nearby, we learned that the mall people were slowly letting people in, ten at a time. There is no one regulating the line except for one mall cop that drove up and down the line. So until this point, people lined up out of politeness.

As we got closer to the entrance, people started pushing, the line got wider, and people started blatantly cutting the line. When we got to the front, we saw that there was one mall cop being shoved by the crowds because they stopped listening to him. Poor guy. But, since this was the suburbs, even though Kim got pushed people still kept it civil and apologized. You can’t beat the suburbs for competitive shopping – you just can’t.

While we were waiting on line, Kim and I pretty much lost all hope of getting that camera since there was so many people ahead of us and surely, they knew about the camera. Once inside though, we realized that most people were headed to Hollister and Footlocker and we started running because we knew there was a slim chance we might make it.

We made it. Come on – did you ever have any doubts?

While Kim was shopping in another store, I researched our cool free gift. Despite it’s Kodak reputation, it’s a pretty nifty little camera. It retails for about $70 and is waterproof up to 10 feet. Plus, Old Navy gave us a free coupon for a free personalized calendar, which is awesome since we make one for our parents every year and they usually cost $20. Two gifts in one! We’re going to give the camera away and it feels so good to have paid $0 for it. Just freezing in the cold for an hour and a half.

I spent $78 in total. Four items were presents so, all in all, it was a good night. Shopping for others both satisfies by shopaholic regressions and gets the job done.

I’d definitely recommend making the trip out to Staten Island for Black Friday. While there were hundreds of people there, it was definitely less than most places and people were still polite. Once inside the mall, there wasn’t really a difference between Black Friday and a typical Saturday night. No stress at all.

Next up on the busiest shopping weekend of the year?

  • A date with ST 😀
  • Pie off at church! I’m bringing a chicken pot pie. Wish me luck 😉
  • Housing Works Buy the Bag Sale again on Saturday, 11/26 – with Helene this time! MEGA excited. Once you get 19 items for $25, it kind of ruins you for anything else. Even Black Friday shopping. Seriously – I put down two items last night because I knew I’d get some great stuff on Saturday.
  • Street cleaning on 8th Avenue with a group from church.
  • Thanksgiving celebration at church.

Did I mention I got home at 3:30, cleaned the closet, read Inheritance until 4:30 and started browsing Ebates for double cash back offers when I woke up at 9:30? Shopping adrenaline is still in my system.

How to Tie a Scarf

…is what I Googled today, because I am challenged in the scarf-tying department.


Happy Halloween!

Growing up, my sisters and I were forbidden to participate in any type of Halloween activity. Our parents thought it was devil worship. So we were the only kids in the Halloween parade wearing normal clothes while everyone rocked out in costumes. One year, I rebelled and made Betty Rubble and Pebbles costumes for my sisters. I used large sheets of felt and hot glue to assemble. Good times. 😀 Candy was not forbidden though, so there was that.

Surprisingly, I never went nuts during Halloween even after my parents stopped caring about it. I never had a provocative animal costume or partied rain or snow like some friends did this past weekend. In fact, two years ago, ST and I bought Halloween costumes and still haven’t used them 😕 Our door bell is also broken so we don’t greet any trick-or-treaters. Needless to say, ST and I are pretty lame around this time of year.

Halloween is for the kids – what’s better than dressing up in an awesome costume and gorging on candy? Nothing, that’s what. Seeing my favorite monster and cupcake enjoy themselves made my day. 😀

Yes, Kaitlyn is a cupcake underneath her big brother’s hand-me-down parka. Her hat is a cherry.


I was so relieved that Kaitlyn wore her costume. You see, when she first tried it on, she hated it. As in, I gently forced her into it, put the cherry hat on her head, and she ran away crying.

I love this wild child.

I’m looking forward to buying tons of candy on sale tomorrow 😀

Final Thoughts

Based on my first Housing Works Buy the Bag experience, I’ve extrapolated a set of general principles that work for me:

  • Due to my weird height and frame (5′, average weight, short torso, not much of a waist), it’s tough for me to find pants that fit well. Unless I can try them on, I won’t be thrifting too many pairs of pants in the future, which is a shame since they are such a great bargain. I got seven pairs during the Buy the Bag event but I’m only going to keep three, maybe four pairs. They’re not like super-awesome-amazing either. Nice but just okay.
  • I will stick to tunics, sweaters, and dress shirts. These tend to be expensive and generic-looking at stores such as H&M, Gap, Banana Republic, and the like.
  • Keeping a look out for patterns and colors is the best way to sift through the madness.
  • Brainstorm a shopping list to stay focused while shopping.

Pros…

  • It’s cheap, duh. 😎
  • When shopping at a mall or SoHo, it’s exhausting to walk from store to store. When thrifting, there is a plethora of great labels all in one spot. Sweet.
  • At Housing Works at least, I seem to be the perfect size for thrifting as most stuff I picked up was perfect for me. Yay for average-sized girls!

Cons…

  • Can’t try stuff on and there are no returns. Boo.
  • Shopping euphoria/shopping in the moment can lead to unwise purchases.

I never knew thrift shopping could be so fun. I’m definitely hooked and will continue to add thrifted items to my wardrobe.

Lessons Learned

You’re probably super grossed out from our mice ordeal or at least tired of reading about it by now.

Sorry… I still have more to say.

Throughout this ordeal, I’ve scoured the Internet for information – mostly I found random threads and a few stories here and there. But I never chanced upon a blog that chronicled the financial, emotional, and deeply personal battle that results from living in a mice-infested apartment. Either people just aren’t affected by this sort of stuff or people just don’t want to talk about it.

Well, it makes me feel so much better to talk about it.

I can’t describe the shame and guilt that I felt about having mice in my apartment. Somehow I figured it was my fault – mice are dirty, ergo dirty people must have mice. Dirty people = me and ST. When I told my landlord’s son, he insisted that when he was living in this apartment, he’d never seen mice. So it must be something we’re doing wrong. The problem must have started with us.

This couldn’t be more untrue.

I tossed and turned last night and couldn’t really sleep until around 5 am. I kept dreaming about checking the mouse traps and seeing only poop and no dead mice. I seriously think I heard squeaking and scratching behind the walls. I even got up and turned the lights on to inspect. ST didn’t like that at all.

Now, after we’ve used up our last can of Great Stuff and laid out as many traps as humanly possible, as I sit here reflecting on the past 72 hours of my own personal hell, this is what I’ve learned.

  • It is not and has not ever been our fault. This place is old, grimy, poorly maintained and riddled with mouse holes. Sunset Park is also the center of the mouse universe. All of these things existed before ST and I moved into this seemingly perfect apartment over a year ago.
  • There is no shame in having mice! Even though ST didn’t like it when I discussed our furry friends with other people, it was really therapeutic for me to talk about it. There was no judgment, only sympathy and understanding (thanks friends!). 9 times out of 10 the person I was talking to also had mice. This is NYC people! Not just mice, but bed bugs and roaches to boot. It happens to everyone. This does not mean you’re a dirty person – those suckers are hardy.
  • Keep calm and kill mice. If you’ve stumbled upon this blog in search of “humane” or “nice” ways to get rid of mice, you should definitely leave now. I don’t want to cuddle or be nice to mice – I want to kill them permanently. The best thing to do is to remain calm and create a plan. It might not work the first, second, or third time you try it. THAT’S OKAY. You just need to be strategic and meticulous.

Through trial and error, we found what worked most effectively for us. Here’s what you’ll need.

  • Great Stuff expanding foam. If you have mice issues, stock up on this. Depending on the size of your apartment, I’d recommend having at least one of these cans on hand at all times for emergency patch-ups. We recommend the triple-expanding foam in the black can. The foam in the red can doesn’t expand as much.

  • Marble chips. Any type of small rocks will do but a huge sack of marble chips were like $4 so that’s what we picked up. This works much more effectively than steel wool because the mice in our apartment actually chewed through the damn steel wool.
  • Glue-type mouse traps. Again – this post is not about the humane treatment of rodents. There’s setting and resetting – just pull it out of the box and place it where you’ve seen droppings. It’s completely okay to OD on mouse traps. Check out what the floor under our stove looks like:

Here’s what worked for us:

  1. Get on your hands and knees and locate every crack and crevice. Don’t just look for holes – they can crawl out of the tiniest places and little cracks become future holes.
  2. Fill holes with rocks. Get a chopstick or pencil and really push the rocks in there. Cram as many as you can in there.
  3. Cover holes with spray foam. I liked to dig down past the rocks and spray to my heart’s content. Then I’d cover the rocks entirely with foam. The result will not look pretty but this is the best method so far.
  4. If you’re super paranoid like me, set glue traps around this hole, just in case. Glue traps cost like $1 for four at our local deli so we went to town.
  5. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

It is better to be safe than sorry so OVERDO IT. Overdo the crap out of it.

We tried other methods but they didn’t hold up as well as we’d hoped or read about:

  • Steel wool. Our mice chewed right through it.
  • Caulk of any kind. Our exterminator used white caulk that the mice chewed right through like it was pudding. It only took a few days for them to do it too.
  • Poison. This had absolutely no effect on our mice. They ate it, pooped green poop, and went on their merry way. So not only did we have regular disease-causing poop laying around we had disease-causing poop laced with poison. Terrific.

If things don’t work out in the future, these are additionally defenses we intend to try:

  • Peppermint essential oil. I’ve read a few times that they hate this smell.
  • Baiting traps with peanut butter. There are traps that mice crawl into and then get electrocuted. Then you just dump the body into the trash.
  • High-pitched noise makers. These gadgets supposedly give off a high-pitched sound that is inaudible to humans but terrible for mice. Some people swear by them. I’m skeptical but it can’t hurt.
  • Getting a dog. The most consistent recommendation we’ve gotten is to acquire a predator. The mice sense these animals and steer clear.

We know that this probably isn’t the final battle. It’s only a matter of time before the mice dig themselves a new hole or chew through rocks and plumbing foam. Both scenarios are highly likely. Moving would be the best thing to do although probably the hardest. The problem is that we have nowhere to go. Last week, we looked at 6 apartments, all of which were far worse than our current situation. Such is the plight of the common renter in NYC.

ST and I are now thinking and re-thinking our future plans for buying a home in Brooklyn. The popular spots are among the most highly-trafficked by mice and other vermin. It’s cute because ST constantly says, “When we move we’ll get this” or “When we move, we’ll get rid of that.” Everybody needs a goal and a hope for something more, something better. We’ll get there. Until then, this ride isn’t that bad.

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Light Reading

One side effect of working is that I cannot sleep more than 7 hours. My body is programmed to need no more and no less than 7 hours of sleep to teach.

So when I woke up at 8:30 am on a Saturday morning, I did a bit of light reading. Cracked has this awesome list of 5 Scientific Reasons a Zombie Apocalypse Could Actually Happen. DUH! ST and I have already got a game plan – I’m in charge of surviving the initial attack while ST has researched long-term survival. Theoretically, he knows how to make a generator from a car motor. It’s that serious.

Sound advice…

Our apartment is in a house that is relatively safe against zombies.

There are iron bars secured over all the windows and the front and back doors. Brooklynites (Chinese ones, mostly) install these prison bars to keep the bad guys out, not keep them in. They are perfect for zombies though because even if they smash the windows, they can’t climb in due to the bars.

I think real zombies would be blood thirsty like the ones in 28 Days Later (one of my favorite zombie movies of al-time, BTW), but less powerful and quick. Because how could being brain-dead and uncoordinated make you faster to zero in on prey? That’s just nonsense. No, they’d be more like the ones in Shaun of the Dead, but meaner and bloodier.

Becoming undead will definitely not make you stronger, faster, and able to scale a building with your bare hands and feet.

I Am Legend zombie

More realistic zombie, but also too fast and strong. Also, what’s up with the allergy to UV-light? Dumb.

28 Days Later zombie

Better, but too docile. Still one of the best zombie movies ever, in my opinion.

Shaun of the Dead zombie

I think the most realistic zombie is from The Walking Dead – I’m really glad this is a show and not a movie – more to watch. These zombies are uncoordinated and slow yet hungry and deadly if they manage to chomp on you and infect you with their neurotoxins. They’re not stupidly allergic to light nor did they gain super-human strength when they became undead. Yup, these guys are the best so far.

We shall see.

I am really in the mood to watch 28 Weeks Later now. Not quite as good as its predecessor (to be fair, as a sequel, that is implied) but it’s still a scary good time.

Butt Dance

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is one of our favorite shows.

Check out the Butt Song by Charlie Day:

Here’s your dad’s version:

WAY BETTER!

School is starting on Thursday and I am stressed. I came home from work a bit grumpy today and your dad did the butt dance to cheer me up 😀 Worked like a charm!

365

My project is going well. I’ve been using Instagram to keep track of it. Today’s picture features El Taco, simply because I almost forgot to take a picture and my laptop was right in front of me.

Rainy Day Entertainment

Besides online window shopping, there wasn’t too much to this weekend. I wrote new curriculum and watched tons of TV. This is not really different from a typical work night though. ST and I watch TV and catch up on Internet stuff (news and blogs) to de-stress. We have three laptops for two people… suffice to say we get our money’s worth in cable and internet.

This is what I’ve been into lately, in no particular order.

Awkward. This show is actually pretty cool. It’s about this girl who is infatuated with this boy. She has low self-esteem and they’re in a secret sort of relationship because she’s not cool enough. Sad, but very entertaining and realistic. It’s the kind of show that should bring teenagers solace in a “this too shall pass” kind of way.

Teen Mom. There are mixed feelings about this show, but I truly feel that this show should have its own curriculum taught in schools (working on it!). It is so educational. Aside from the fact that it’s a reality show and the moms are sometimes negatively influenced by being in the spotlight (Farrah’s breast implants and Amber’s fighting) every teen should watch a few episodes to glimpse the bleak reality of teen parenting.

Futurama. One of my favorite shows of all time. Back when the iPod Nano first began playing video, I uploaded all the seasons of Futurama onto it and watched it while traveling, commuting, and even at the gym. My favorite character is Leela, the bad ass mutant cyclops.

A Game of Thrones. I watch this on my iPhone using tío Saul’s HBO Go account. I like that it stays so true to the novels, which I’ve been reading through this summer. My favorite characters are Daenerys Targaryen, Jaime Lannister, Tyrion Lannister, and Jon Snow. Also, I’ve been into Sean Bean since he came out as Boromir in LOTR.

Alas, his characters always die first.

I’m reading A Dance with Dragons, the latest book. I really enjoyed reading the first three, but a Feast for Crows was awful. I should have just read a synopsis online and skipped it. But I digress.

Family Guy. This is another show that I’ve loved since forever. Your tías and I still quote Family Guy whenever the appropriate situation arises. I’ve even showed clips of this show when I was an adjunct professor at a local community college. Quality TV!

South Park. What a great cartoon! Another classic. Nasty, yes but also politically outspoken (Two Days Before Tomorrow is one of my all-time favorites).

I think that’s it. I wasn’t joking when I said we watch copious amounts of TV 😀

Dear FB

This is the video that inspired me to create this blog.

Love you.

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