Remove Your Shoes Please!

Copyright: andsst

I grew up in a shoes-off household, which meant that as soon as anyone stepped into my home, they had to remove their shoes and leave them at the front door. Throughout my childhood, I noticed that none of my friends removed their shoes while in their homes, but then again, none of whom were Asian. In stark contrast, I noticed that the habit of removing shoes, sandals, and boots was always followed by my mom’s Asian friends, as well as by my relatives (also Asian) in Hawaii. I soon noticed that the floors in my friends’ homes didn’t feel nearly as clean on my bare feet as the ones in my own apartment, since they didn’t practice the same ritual my Japanese-American mother and I did. What I ended up doing in my friends’ homes was either keep my shoes on, or I would keep my socks on if I was wearing any when I visited them. To be honest, I always felt that it was so much cleaner to be in the habit of removing shoes once entering a residence, and this is something I continue to practice to this day. Since I am also the person who usually cleans the floors, rugs and carpets in my house, I have become a stickler for ensuring that no one enters in shoes which have traversed sidewalks, driveways, lawns which are teeming with all kinds of nasty gunk.

These days, I even go so far as to ask service technicians who enter my home to either remove their work boots, or to wear shoe covers, if they intend to conduct work inside the house. Before you accuse me of being extreme in my desire to keep my abode clean, keep in mind that back in July of 2021, a central air service technician tracked so much dirt and oil into my bedroom that it took me two sessions to remove all the stains from my bedroom carpet. Shortly after that, I ordered disposable shoe covers and have them right at the foyer for convenience.

Copyright: Elenathewise

Even with the shoes-off policy in my home, I still notice dust and dirt on my floors, and since I have pets, there is also the issue of shedding hair which accumulates. The last thing I want is to worry about when I clean the floors every week is chemicals, dog feces, and various microbes being introduced to my house via outdoor footwear. A study conducted by the University of Arizona discovered that 96% of soles of shoes were found to harbor fecal matter, which is picked up from the floors of public restrooms, as well as bird droppings and dog feces from asphalt, concrete, grass and soil. When you wear your shoes inside your house, you are spreading all of that bacteria, most notably E. coli, over all of your floors. Not only do you have to worry about germs, you also need to be aware of how many chemicals we track into our homes with our shoes, from gasoline which we pick up while pumping gas at a gas station, to carcinogenic chemicals which are used on lawns, and the list goes on.

Why not improve your indoor environment with a simple step and implement a no-shoes policy when you are inside your house? You’ll be rewarded with a cleaner home and will decrease your exposure to potentially harmful substances.

Living Room Makeover

Have you ever lived with the same furniture and decor for so long, you just need a change? I had the same living room sofa, throw pillows and area rug for 15 years, and was so tired of looking at the same color scheme and the same items, that I was itching to switch it up. Another compelling reason to redecorate was the fact that the living room I have had for the past 3-1/2 years is much smaller than two previous living rooms I had before, so the dark color story which I had selected made my living area feel very dark and cavelike, to the point where it just depressed me. It was also painfully obvious to me that when I moved into my current space three years ago, I had thrown the living room furniture into the space without any regard for design, flow or mood. At no point did I take any pride in that particular space. It took three years of me avoiding that one room in my house, only because the colors were too drab, before I became aware of how much it was affecting my mood.

Living room before
Living room after

Since I could not afford to replace the espresso leather sectional I have had since 2004, I decided to purchase a light colored rug, light colored blankets, and light colored pillows. By June of this year, I began searching for and purchasing new items for the space. I also sold the 8 foot tall artificial palm which was wedged in one corner of the room, and I got rid of the second ottoman which took up much needed space. When I chose the textiles for the living room makeover, I made sure to select soft, cozy fabrics, so that when people sat on the sofa, they would feel snug and comfortable.

What do you think of the redo?

Corner before
Corner after
Entertainment unit before
Entertainment unit after
Entertainment unit form above
Living room from above

Beautiful wool lotus rug is the centerpiece of the living room redo

The Urge To Purge…Clutter, That Is…

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Image ID : 36630133
Copyright : Ioulia Bolchakova

Over the decades, I have accumulated a lot of stuff, and there are many things I may never have the heart to part with, so they remain somewhere in my home, either on display or in a closet or garage shelf. However, the idea of holding onto something I am not currently using has never sit well with me, so I frequently perform purges in which I deep clean, reorganize, repair, and at times sell or donate belongings which are not being used. Since my mother’s family was notorious for being pack rats (to give you an idea, I nominated my favorite aunt for an episode of Hoarders and they were keenly interested in bringing her on, then she fell ill), I have fought against any inclination to hang onto anything which will merely take up space.

I conduct purges about 4 to 8 times per year, and this includes areas such as my garage, all closets, my kitchen, my bedroom, and my master bathroom. Strangely, even though I frequently get rid of things, I somehow still have so much stuff, and it truly bothers me at times. I guess I am not destined to lead a spartan lifestyle, especially when I hold onto keepsakes like the stuffed yellow dog which was in my crib and can still play “Rock a Bye Baby” from the music box which is nestled in its belly. However, old area rugs, candles which I never used, books I have no interest in reading again, decorative pieces which have been ousted in favor of new ones with a different theme or color story, all end up either on Facebook Marketplace or in boxes which are carted off to Goodwill.

For those of you who tend to be hoarders, especially those of you who hold onto a box because it’s a “good box” (don’t fret, I’ve done that too), it might be a good idea to enforce regular purge sessions so that you don’t get pushed out of your own home by your own clutter!

Smart Homes, Or Invaders?

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Image ID : 106747142
Copyright : Daniil Peshkov

 

How many of you have jumped on board the smart home wagon?  I have to admit that I have tiptoed through setting up my home with smart home devices, starting with two Roku Ultra units I purchased last fall after breaking up with Spectrum Cable.  It hasn’t been completely seamless, and I already had a Roku remote stop working after only 5 months, but overall, I have gotten accustomed to watching shows on Amazon Prime Video and Netflix.

My next step was setting up a Wyze Camera which I had received as a Christmas gift.  I figured it would be a good way to watch my cats while I was away, and also ensure that no unwelcome guests were lurking in my bedroom. What I did not expect was that the camera would randomly scan the room when I wasn’t using the app, and after a couple of unnerving scans, I unplugged the thing and haven’t used it since.

Then I really took the plunge this past July, when I set up two Google Nests and several TP-Link Smart Plugs.  I decided to plug in certain key lamps and three humidifiers, and programmed some of them to turn on and off at specified times.  I have to admit that I love the convenience, and if I need to override the automated settings, I am able to do so easily simply by telling Google to perform a certain action.

If you are considering setting up your home with smart devices, make sure that you have a strong internet connection and a high quality internet router, or you will not be able to successfully connect your devices.  The possibilities are almost endless when it comes to setting up devices in your home, and it can get pretty expensive.  But the automation which you can establish in your home is pretty impressive.

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Image ID : 132883048
Copyright : Lacey Barton

 

I honestly dig the convenience of asking Google for the current weather, and I also love being able to start Spotify or SiriusXM on the Google Nest, so that I can have music playing in the background throughout the day.  But there is a part of me which still thinks it is rather bizarre to speak to Alexa, Google, and Siri while we are in the comfort of our own homes. I am also concerned about the collection of information which I am sure is occurring every time we use these devices.  It is already pretty unnerving to have a conversation with a friend and mention something like pizza, only to have supposedly random ads pop up in an email browser which feature pizza from Numero Uno.  Coincidence?  I think not.

At any rate, the convenience of having lights and humidifiers turn on and off automatically is worth it to me.  For example, I had set up a series of lights behind my sofa when I moved in over 2 years ago so that I could have cool mood lighting, but I rarely turned them on because I had to do so via a power strip which was wedged behind the sofa.  Now that I have the power strip plugged into a TP-Link Smart Plug and have it connected to Kasa and Google Home, I can just tell Google to turn the “uplights” on and off whenever I choose. Consequently, I use these mood lights almost nightly.

What do you have set up in your smart home?

Hug A Plant…It’s The Cool Thing To Do

One of the hottest trends over the past few years, which definitely intensified this year as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown, has been the heightened interest in indoor houseplants and home gardens. There is something about being forced to stay indoors that makes the idea of nurturing different types of flora very appealing.

Before I dive into this topic, I will admit that I have fallen headfirst into the plant obsession trend, and though it has made my wallet leaner than I would have liked, I have gotten immense enjoyment out of nurturing the close to 50 indoor plants and 36 outdoor potted plants (this number doesn’t include the soil-filled lot in my side yard which probably holds about 30 succulents) which are now in my home.  Never mind that I had SIX indoor plants and about half the number of outdoor potted plants before lockdown began.

Curious about which plants are the hottest right now?  Here’s one article which has a pretty interesting list:

16 Trendy Indoor Plants for 2020

Out of the list of 16 trendy indoor plants featured on the above link, I only own 4 of them:

  • Money tree
  • Raven ZZ
  • Split leaf philodendron
  • Monstera deliciosa 

As for the other plant species listed in the article, there are numerous reasons why I don’t currently own them.  Some plants simply don’t appeal to me, such as snake plants (though I used to have several Sansevierias in my home years ago), cacti, zebrinas, ceropegias, and maranta.  I am hesitant to get any type of palm because my home environment is simply not humid enough for palms to flourish.  As striking as alocasias are, I try to avoid plants which are toxic to cats, and since this entire genus is known for being toxic to pets, I’m steering clear of them. Stephania erecta caudex is just plain WEIRD and I have zero desire for one.  Peperomias are a bit temperamental, so I will just stick with the Peperomia species I have (scandens, caperata “Rosso”, obtusifolia).

I actually have a Euphorbia, but it is not inside my house.  It sits on my balcony along with several jade plants, dracaena, aloe vera, and assorted other succulents.  As for the White knight philodendron and the Hoya imperialis, well, let’s just say that I am not willing to hunt all over the internet to find either plant, only to spend exorbitant sums of cash on plants which really aren’t that special.

Some plants are so ridiculously rare and expensive that I just had to share them here.  The first description is of rare Albo Monstera variegated CUTTINGS (not even a live plant!).  The Etsy listing is no longer available, because someone actually purchased it.

Rare Albo Monstera variegated gorgeous multi leaf cuttings US seller

$475.00

Only 1 available

Thaumatophyllum (previously Philodendron) stenobolum VERY RARE Hard to FIND

$850.00

Only 1 available

At first I thought the listing  for the Thaumatophyllum stenobolum might have been for the gigantic plant the guy is holding in the featured image, but alas, no.  It looks like the plant the lucky buyer would get comes in a 6 inch nursery pot.  All for $850, with free shipping, thank goodness.

Finally, here is the most expensive plant I found:

Variegated Adansonii Plant Monstera Adansonii Albo Half Moon – Rare + Free Shipping

$5,500.00

I have a Monstera adansonii in an 8 inch pot which is not variegated, which I purchased for $15 at a local nursery.  Who in the world would want to pay such a ridiculous amount of money on a plant?

If you are interested in reasonably priced and popular houseplants which are easy to maintain, here are some of my personal recommendations.

Pachira: I have one which I purchased in April, and it has more than doubled in size since then.  Feng Shui practitioners state that these plants, also known as money plants, bring good luck and good fortune to their owners.

Pothos: Some varieties now fall under the Epipremnum genus, while others fall under Scindapsus, but if you look for the characteristic thick green, heart-shaped leaves, chances are you will easily find Epipremnum aureum, which is found in just about every nursery and big box store.  They are very easy to care for and will survive different light and watering conditions.

ZZ plant:  If you want a truly indestructible plant which actually PREFERS to be dry, then get a ZZ plant.  Zamioculcas zamiifolia features beautiful, glossy, dark green leaves and thick stems which sprout from a very unique root system.  The roots are rhizomes, bulbs which are designed to hold water.  I purchased several back in late April, two regular ZZ’s, and two ravens, which have glossy black leaves and are considered relatively rare.  The large ZZ plant which I purchased is in an 8-inch nursery pot, and the plant itself stood 11 inches in height when I brought it home.  The plant is now 24 inches tall, with tons of new growth!  The best thing is, I’ve watered it only ONCE since I bought it.  ZZ plants can tolerate low light conditions, and actually seem to prefer slightly lower light versus bright indirect light.

Hoyas:  Hoyas are my favorite plant genus now, partially because there are several hundred varieties, partially because they are relatively easy to care for, and partially because some of the species have attractive foliage.  Most Hoyas also produce very interesting, fragrant clusters of flowers.

 

Green Thumb

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Image ID : 119619406
Copyright : sonjachnyj

 

Like many others who have been sequestered at home for the last few months and have gained a  new appreciation for the homestead, I found myself gravitating towards cultivating plant species which I had never grown before.  At first, I thought it would be nice to add a collection of vegetables, fruits and herbs to my side yard, so that is where I started.  I ended up with a small collection of edible plants which are a nice addition to the succulents I have out there.

Evidently, the side yard project wasn’t enough for me, and I slowly began adding numerous new houseplants into the interior of my home towards the end of May.  In the span of less than a month, my indoor plant collection grew from 6 to 35.

A view of my kitchen plants

 

I’ve had this Aglaonema commutatum “Silver Bay” for many years. I bought it in 2003!

 

Before you start thinking that I had suddenly taken on more than I could handle, I once had over 70 plants inside a 1,320 square foot cottage-style apartment back when I was in the midst of my medical training, as well as a whole patio full of outdoor plants, and rosebushes at my front door.  During that time, I proved to myself that I did indeed have a decent green thumb, and thought nothing of allowing my vining and creeping plants to encroach the walls of the place and assert their presence.  Entering my abode was like entering a lush jungle, and people would remark constantly on how many plants I managed to squeeze in that space.

My largest Zamioculcas zamiifolia plant, which threw out all this growth less than one month after I purchased it.

 

My Peperomia shelf…Peperomia scandens, Peperomia caperata rosso, Peperomia obtusifolia variegata

 

Now I am in a 1,632 square foot townhouse, with less than half the number of plants I once nurtured.  These days, I favor more hardy plants like Hoyas, Senecios, and Zamioculcas zamiifolia (aka ZZ plant) which won’t beg to be watered constantly.  Not that I plan to traipse all over the globe anytime soon, but 1) you never know, and 2) I don’t want the responsibility of taking care of petulant plant babies.

Lovely Hoya shepherdii in the master bath…

 

Hoya obovatas are so cool…I’m training this one on a loop…

 

Hoya pubicalyx…I loved this plant so much, I bought a second one!

To be honest, I cringe at the phrases “plant mom” and “plant dad”, but I can see how people would be compelled to fuss over plants in the same way they fuss over pets or children.  Whenever I see new growth on a plant, I get a bit giddy, and tend to monitor it to see how it is progressing.  I now also juggle a staggered watering schedule, which means that some plants are watered weekly, some every two weeks, a few every three weeks, and once every six weeks, my largest ZZ plant gets a drink.  However, other than watering and fertilizing, the needs of my plants don’t interfere with my normal daily life.  I also don’t worry about light needs, because I have intentionally chosen prime spots for the plants which require more sunlight.

The science nerd in me also enjoys learning all the nomenclature, which is no surprise coming from someone who memorized the longest word in the English language (pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis) at the tender age of nine, and who was forced to learn about 15,000 terms while in medical school.  There is something about scientific language which absolutely thrills me and satisfies my constant thirst for learning.

Who has developed a new interest in gardening since the lockdown started?  I’d love to hear what other people have been drawn to plant-wise.

 

 

 

Pets and Your Health

42089792 - woman with her dog tender scene

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I don’t know how I would get through difficult days without my three wonderful cats. Tenshi, Shima, and Kazu are so special to me that I always look forward to coming home and seeing their sweet faces. Those of you who have pets to whom you are closely bonded know how comforting it is to come home to them. Animals are capable of deep, unconditional love which is unparalleled. A pet won’t care that you look all disheveled from battling a grueling day. If you are distraught, a pet will make you smile and perhaps even laugh with cute and silly antics. Pets are natural antidepressants, and create the perfect distraction when you are tempted to feel sorry for yourself or ruminate over something which is only causing you anguish.

Pets are wonderful for our well-being and spiritual health.

It turns out that owning a pet also confers physical health benefits as well. Pet owners enjoy a reduction in stress and anxiety, which has a positive impact on blood pressure. Another very striking and unexpected benefit to having pets is a decrease in a child’s chances of developing allergies to animals. The decreased chance of developing allergies to animals in small children who live with animals is as high as 30 percent, according to research conducted by pediatrician James E. Gern which was published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. Dr. Gern conducted a number of studies on children exposed to pets, all of which concluded that children who were exposed at an early age to animals tended to develop stronger immune systems overall, and were far less likely to develop pet-related allergies.

When I think of friends who have allergies to cats or dogs, most of them did not grow up with a pet in the house. I also did not grow up with a family pet per se, unless you count the two rabbits I had in fourth grade for about six months. My mother was so fed up with them that she sold them to a pet store, and that was that. But I spent extended periods of time petting and hanging out with numerous outdoor cats in the neighborhood, enough so that I had a regular exposure to them. I also spent weekends with my dad’s dog, or with his friends’ dogs, so the exposure was steady.

I honestly believe that early and regular exposure to pets is a boon to immune health in young children. And since there is a large body of scientific evidence to back that up, why not get a family pet for your children to love?

A Beach Inspired Haven

I’ve had a fixation with beach-themed bathrooms for over a decade now, and love using shells and beach-themed décor as fun accents to remind me of the ocean and the beach. When I moved to a new residence this past January, I decided to really have fun with the beach theme, and I took it to the extreme.

One of the features I have displayed in my bathroom is a collection of clear containers which hold sand and shells from different beaches I have visited.  Included in this collection are sand and shell samples from Hawaii, Costa Rica, Bali, Thailand and the Maldives.  Whenever I look at my collection, I am transported back to those magical destinations which captured my heart and spirit.

Whenever I feel like escaping to an island getaway, but I am stuck in Los Angeles, I’ll take a bubble bath while surrounded by my sand and shell collection, lit candles, and starfish lights.  It’s a wonderful way for me to recharge and to surround myself with reminders of my favorite terrain.  I also love the fact that I finally have a full bathtub in my bathroom after 20 years of having shower stalls.  Whenever my schedule allows, I try to take a relaxing bath, which beats taking a quick shower any day.

Moving Sucks

Last Christmas was rough to say the least, mainly because I had received a 60-day notice on December 14th that we had to move from the residence I had been at for over five years. The owner was selling the townhouse, and that was that. Since I never sit around and let fate take over, I found a new residence within 6 days, and we began packing right after Christmas, until right before the move on January 13th.

It wasn’t easy figuring out what would stay and what would go, especially since I was losing my office space and downsizing from a master bedroom which was 2-1/2 times the size of the master bedroom in the new place. We had to sign up with a different water and power company, as well as a different cable service, despite the fact that we were moving two miles down the road within the same city and zip code.

It took us two weeks to settle into the new residence. The new place is beautiful, but the layout is completely different, and the neighborhood is also quite different. The move forced me to break out of every daily pattern I had become accustomed to over the years, from where I received my mail, to the orientation of the dining room table in the room, etc. Even the spot where the toilet paper holder is in my bathroom is different from the place I had left.

When I leave the house, I have to navigate different streets, and because we are in the middle of the city, I feel like I am in a concrete jungle, with traffic everywhere I go. It takes an extra five to ten minutes to get to the street where I used to begin my trek to the gym or to the nearest freeway, and it’s testing my patience.

Another thing I just cannot get used to is the NOISE. We live near a preschool, and the sounds of children squealing during the day are like nails on chalkboard for me. Added to that are the sirens from the fire engines which depart the fire station down the street, trains which travel on the nearby train tracks, and the occasional aircraft departing from the nearby airport, and my nerves are in a state of constant unrest. It’s a startling change from the quiet foothills which we were once a part of.

Moving in general is so disruptive, as well as unbelievably expensive! It will take months before I am set straight again financially. And now we pay significantly more rent on a smaller place, thanks to the inflated rents which now exist. We got reamed as a result of the move.

It’s been almost a month since we moved, and the new residence still feels foreign to me, like I am staying at someone else’s home. It’s a beautiful space, but I have yet to get to a point where I truly own the space, feel like it is part of me. I hope it happens soon!

It’s Really All Just Stuff

I love beautiful things like nice watches, nice cars, luxurious bed linens, designer clothing, museum grade wall art, diamonds, etc. But I also struggle with the strong belief that it’s all just STUFF, and that monetary value can plummet to nothing as a result of natural disaster, fire, theft or loss. For this reason, I tend to shy away from purchasing anything that is nice enough to spark up anxiety over how I would feel if something happened to that item. In addition, I lack the financial resources to make big ticket purchases anyway.

After seeing the news coverage on the devastation which Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma wrought over parts of our country, I thought even harder about personal belongings and how everything can be destroyed so quickly. My heart goes out to every single resident in Houston, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina who has been affected by Mother Nature’s fury. Natural disasters become equalizers, pitching people from all socioeconomic strata into the same situation, homeless, without power, and in some cases, without a means to make a living.

When the La Tuna Wildfire hit the Tujunga/Sunland/Burbank area on September 1st, I was definitely concerned for my safety. The fire burned over 2,000 acres that first day, then by September 3rd, had destroyed over 7,000 acres and reached the community in which I live. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep very much that weekend and was ready to pack some essentials (food, water, clothing for a couple of days) and my cats and evacuate if the fires encroached on structures. That fire certainly put things into perspective for me, and I found myself thinking about what is truly important to me.

I am always grateful for having a roof over my head, a bed to sleep in at night, food and water, plumbing, electricity, and transportation. We can’t take these things for granted.