Archive for March, 2012

I’ve had my eye on a set of good quality stainless steel cookware since before I struck out on my own again last year.

Emeril Pro-Clad

But as I made the move from house to apartment, the money I had to set up my new home dwindled faster than I thought it would amid a family emergency, so I decided to get by with my 1-quart All Clad pot, an 8-inch Emeril Teflon fry pan, my old 3-quart copper-clad pot that once served as my tea pot and the cast iron skillets I bought for camping until my debts were paid down and there was enough cash to buy a decent set.

Bed, Bath & Beyond has a really neat program where you can register to receive their literature in the mail and they send you 20% off coupons. So soon after the move, I signed up at the store and got my first coupon right after Christmas. I used it to buy a 10-inch Emeril stainless steel fry pan and saved $8.

We owned Emerilware stainless for several years and I found it to be a good quality product. But to me, All Clad is the benchmark for quality cookware and I really wanted to buy a set before money got tight again. The $800 price was too hard to justify .

I did my taxes shortly after buying the fry pan and for the first time in 9 years, I was eligible for a refund. I knew I’d have to wait for the refund but had no idea when it would come.

A week ago, I checked the IRS’ website and learned that my refund would be processed by early April. With cash flow getting better, I started looking around at All Clad pots to see what the prices were for a 2 or 3 quart pot, which could tide me over until after the summer, when a big chunk of debt will be gone and cash flow will be easier. After looking at several places, I went to Bed, Bath & Beyond and compared Emeril Pro-Clad to All Clad. To tell you the truth, other than Emeril’s signature on the bottom, there isn’t much difference, so I  used another 20% coupon to get a 3-quart Emeril Pro-Clad sauce pan that doesn’t come with the set and saved $16.

I also discovered that Emeril Pro-Clad is a division of All Clad. The main difference is that All Clad is made in Pennsylvania while Emeril Pro-Clad is made in China. Emeril Pro-Clad is built to the same specifications as All Clad.But we’re looking at $300 for a 12-piece set of Emeril vs more than $1,000 for a similar set of All Clad. (And you can’t use Bed, Bath & Beyond 20% off coupons with All Clad.)

I have some reservations about using cookware made in China. It’s not that I’m a snob, it’s just that China has a history of not appearing to care where they get their raw material. So in recent years there have been recalls on children’s costume jewelry, infant formula and dog food to name a few. Since cookware is heated, there’s even more opportunity for toxic and noxious things to find their way into my Spaghetti-O’s. But since this has Emeril’s signature on it, I feel a little more at ease. Push comes to shove, I know where his restaurants are, if you know what I mean.

I boiled some eggs the other night and was blown away by how fast the water came to a boil with my new 3-quart pot. Then on Monday, I checked the IRS site again. This time it said my refund was scheduled to be deposited in my checking account on Wednesday. I woke up this morning and there it was, sitting in my bank account.

So I went to Bed, Bath & Beyond after work this evening. I used a 20% off one item coupon (the last I had) for the 12-piece Emeril Pro-Clad cookware set and saved $60. Then the checkout person told me I was eligible for a free 12-inch Emeril frying pan ($60 value) as well as a $30 mail-in rebate.

When it’s all said and done. I paid $300 for $500 worth of cookware. If I hadn’t waited until now, I would have paid full price. So I celebrated by having Chinese food for supper. When I opened my fortune cookie, the word of the day was “Cook” and the fortune said I could expect a surprise.

Not a bad evening at all.

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The road to my simpler life started in earnest in October when I sold my share of the house and said goodbye to married life. The plan was always to get rid of the mortgage and move into smaller, more affordable digs, any way, saving money in the process to  buy land and start building my small house in the woods.

So in October, I returned to apartment living for the first time since 1992. I opted for a bottom unit because I just didn’t see myself toting groceries and laundry up a flight of steps every week. I moved in, unpacked and quickly settled in to a quiet routine. Up at 6:30, off to work at 7:30, home at 5, bed by 10. Reading, watching TV and wasting time on Facebook  pretty much occupied me at home.

Then Bigfoot moved in upstairs while I was out of town.

Thump. What was that? Thump. Thump. Thump. It’s 5:30 in the morning. I went to the door. No one there. Thump. I turned toward the sound in the living room. No one is there. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. The sound moved toward me and stopped just above my head.

Then it dawned on me. I have new neighbors. And apparently they wear steel-toe boots to bed.

I was starting to get mad. And envisioned a trip upstairs to ask them to walk softer. But then I realized how stupid that would make me look. And then I realized that this is the first apartment I’ve ever lived in where I wasn’t on the top floor.

And then it hit me. I think I used to be Bigfoot.

In the ensuing weeks, I welcomed him to the neighborhood and kind of got used to the footsteps. Being hard of hearing helps, too.

When Bigfoot got a roommate, there were more thumps to ignore, which I am learning to do. The blaring music, I’m still not used to, but their taste in music isn’t too bad. They have these huge speakers sitting on the floor that stand up half the height of the wall. I can see them when they have the balcony door open and the blinds pulled back, which is most of the time.

When the music interferes with my TV, I raise the TV volume all the way and turn on the closed captions. Truth be known, closed-captions help me with my TV, even when their music is off.

I did ask them to stop throwing cigarette butts off their balcony onto my patio because I plan to start an herb garden this month, freaky weather willing. Since I used to smoke 3 packs a day and didn’t care where I threw my butts, I’m not going to raise a stink with management if I find an errant butt on my patio. I may even buy a galvanized bucket and fill it with sand and give it to them for their balcony.

I’m trying to avoid being the “You kids get off my lawn” guy. But it’s not always easy. Take this past Sunday. As I walked to my car to go to church, I noticed a couple of chairs upended in the grass outside my bedroom window. Then I saw a folding chair laying at a weird angle on the grill of the car next to mine. The screen door for their sliding glass door was wedged in a tree nearby. All of that was on Bigfoot’s balcony when I got home Saturday evening.

Enough is enough, I started to say. Then the little voice inside that tries its best to keep me honest pointed my mind’s eye to an image from the drunken night we threw all the pool furniture at the Holiday Inn into the pool before we shouted and stomped around the hotel while people yelled at us from behind their closed windows.

So my lease is up in October, and I’ll start looking for a house to rent this summer.  I think I’ll like living in a place where there aren’t kids like me overhead. But until then, I’ll enjoy my simple life. In the basement of Bigfoot.

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