Chicagoans: Sign Up for a Water Meter!

If you own a house in Chicago and don’t have a pool or an indoor water park: GET A METER. I am very grateful my coworker happened to mention MeterSave to me (thanks, Curt!), so now I am mentioning it here. If you don’t own a house in Chicago, tell your friends and loved ones who do.

When we bought our house, I had no idea how Chicago’s water service worked because I never had to deal with it as a renter. I was surprised to learn that the city estimates water usage based on the size of your house, or the number of faucets, or the cut of your jib. Chicago is moving to a metered system so that they can measure actual usage instead of guessing. Make sense. Having a meter installed will be a requirement in the future, but for now they’re trying to lure people to sign up via their fancy website (“Version 1.0 Copyright 2009”) and dreamy headshots.


The meter and installation are free: absolutely no cost to you. The installers need access to your main water valve. That was easy for us, as we had recently gutted the basement. They installed the meter here:

Chicago Water Meter.jpg

They also installed a small radio instrument to the front of our house. It’s currently the most attractive thing happening in that area.

Front of House.jpg

With only two people living in our house, I knew we’d use less water than the city’s estimate, but I was still surprised by just how dramatically cheaper our water bill is now. Without a water meter, the City of Chicago would have charged us $560 every six months — nearly $100/month, making it our most expensive utility on average. With the water meter, we’re averaging $18 a month. If the price and our usage remains about the same, the water meter will save us around $900 a year. 

Before:Chicago Water Bill Before.jpg

After:Chicago Water Bill After.jpg

If you know your water account number, proceed straight to and sign up for an appointment. Note: the online form suggests that you’re scheduling an exact time, but when you get appointment reminder it’s revealed that you signed up for a two-hour window.

If you don’t know your water account number, call 312-744-4420 to ask for it! Don’t wait until you get your first six month bill to find out your number, or you’ll have wasted money. They prorate your bill from the time of installation, so the sooner the better. (That “CR” in the statement above is a credit — our non-metered water payment is paying it forward.)

April 22 is both Earth Day and my husband’s birthday. Jarrod is my most enthusiastic and supportive reader, and he’s a pretty great teammate for life. So, this proselytizing post is in his honor. HBD, JMR!

My Favorite Purchases of 2015

Tis the season of grotesque consumerism and year-end best-of lists! I thought it’d be fun to combine the two and bring you: My Top 10 Favorite Purchases of 2015. Instead of ranking them, I’ve sorted them by purchase price in descending order.

#10. Our House

Price: $340,000. I’ve experienced only minor amounts of I’ve Made a Huge Mistake since July, and those have been more about the neighborhood than the house. I still think we made a good decision! Whew.


#9. Frye Carson Lace Up Boots

Price: $298 / Link. In my experience, Frye boots are worth the money. These awesome shit-kickers are sturdy and comfortable enough to wear everyday – without treating delicately – but streamlined enough to look good with tights and dresses. (The upturned toe isn’t as pronounced in real life, and it flattens with wear.) If you live in Chicago, the Frye flagship store is heavenly: the staff is super nice, they have ALL of the boots in ALL of the colors, and they do free repairs for life.


(Pictured with a delicious waffle + arugula + bacon concoction I bought from a food cart in Portland, Oregon.)

#8. Bosch RS7 11 Amp Reciprocating Saw

Price: $79 / Link. This saw is a beast. I bought it for basement demo (more on that soon, I promise!), and it cut through wood and metal with remarkable ease. Despite the power, I feel really safe using it – it’s heavy, but easy to hold and operate. Here’s me caressing it lovingly, wearing glasses on glasses and a college boyfriend’s band t-shirt.


Side note: I love for Amazon price tracking. You simply copy and paste the Amazon URL and it shows you the item’s price history. This saw, for example, fluctuated $40 in December 2015.


I always check here before buying bigger ticket items on Amazon. If it reveals that the current price is higher than average, I set up a price alert so that I’m notified when the price falls below whatever amount I specify. You don’t even have to create an account; just enter your email address.

#7. Nest Learning Thermostat – 2nd Generation

Price: $75 / Link. I was always diligent about setting our previous apartments’ programmable thermostats on an energy-efficient schedule, so the Nest’s auto-learning function wasn’t actually a huge sell for me. The three things did sell me on the Nest were:

  • Auto-Away: If we’re not at home, the Nest disregards the schedule and automatically adjusts the temperature to save energy.
  • Remote control: When we’ve been out of town, it’s super nice to be able to heat up the house before we arrive home.
  • ComEd Rebate: ComEd currently offers a $100 rebate for smart thermostats.


When the 3rd generation Nest came out, the 2nd generation model dropped in price. I didn’t want or need the 3rd generation’s bigger screen or higher resolution (I’m not watching Netflix on it), so I snagged the 2nd generation for $175 and the rebate brought it down to $75.

#6. Ryobi 90-Piece Drilling and Driving Accessory Kit

Price: $27 / Link. I bought this kit based on The Sweethome’s recommendation and it’s been great. It’s had everything that I’ve needed over the past few months with the exception of drilling into granite. Turns out those bits are literally made of diamonds.


#5. Duralex Picardie Tumbler Set

Price: $20-$30, depending on size / Link. Buying new glasses was something I had been looking forward to with home ownership. Jarrod is comically clumsy, and our glass collection dwindled as he broke them, but I didn’t want to buy new ones until we moved. I am now very happy to own these. It’s another Sweethome recommendation. They’re purportedly nearly impossible to break; I’m excited to test that with Jarrod. So far so good!


They come in a range of sizes. 5-3/4 oz is pretty small: we’ll use them for wine, or when we have kids visiting. 10-1/2 oz is great for Manhattans. 16-3/4 oz is perfect for water. They stack, which is nice because we don’t have a lot of upper cabinet space. They don’t nest as closely as pictured on Amazon, though – that’s some Photoshop wizardry. Just a heads up!

#4. How Your House Works: A Visual Guide to Understanding and Maintaining Your Home

$18 / Link. Super helpful guide! I wish I had read it before we did our home inspection – I would have had a much better understanding of what our inspector was pointing out about our plumbing, electrical system, etc.


#3. Hot Shot Men’s Knit Hat, Blaze Orange

$5 / Link. One of the weirder events of my life happened in September. Some friends and I had gathered after work to have a drink on our friend Katie’s rooftop deck. While we were up there, a barely-pantsed resident stormed up, wielding a knife, warning of an intruder with a gun. He was truly terrified. He wore a bright orange cap and black leather sex cuffs, and no shirt or shoes. He claimed his pursuer was in the stairwell. He was clearly on a bad trip and we didn’t really believe the gun story, but also didn’t want to test that.

So, we were trapped on the roof with him, 20 floors up. We called 911, calmed him down, learned his name was Nick, took away his knife, helped him “barricade” the door (half-heartedly, with a deck chair), and waited 25 minutes for the police to arrive. Meanwhile, he called his mom. It was kinda adorable.


The cops finally showed up and confirmed that there was no armed intruder in the stairs or Nick’s apartment. We were free to go. End of weird story. It was scary at the time, but is now funny.


That night I bought everyone matching Bad Trip Nick hats to commemorate the experience.


#2. Cree Soft White LED 60w Replacement

Price: $4 / Link. I replaced all of the light bulbs in our house with these LED bulbs. The light quality is very nice: warm without being yellow. Thanks to a ComEd subsidy, you can buy them in Chicago for only $4 each, which is a steal when you consider the estimated yearly energy cost is $1.20 with a life expectancy of 27 years (based on 3 hours/day).


#1. Scanner Pro App

Price: $2.99 / Link. Currently only $0.99! This app was great throughout the home buying process, which required a lot of signed and scanned documents. It’s especially handy for sensitive information you may not want to run through your workplace scanner and network. I manage our lives in Google Drive, and I use this to immediately scan and upload documents; e.g. an auto mechanic invoice to our Superoo folder, or a fencing quote to our Hauslermo folder.


Happy New Year!

Preach!: Meat and Tights

Cedar Valley Sustainable Farm

We have been customers of Cedar Valley Sustainable Farm for two years now and I can’t say enough good things about this community-supported agriculture (CSA) situation. For $570 a year we receive bimonthly packages of high-quality, locally-raised chicken, pork, beef and eggs.  The shares are delivered conveniently and reliably to Provenance in Lincoln Square. (They also deliver to other Chicagoland areas: Lakeview, Edgewater, Naperville, Oak Park, Evanston, Logan Square and Frankfort.)

CSA Meat Share

We do occasionally purchase additional meat, such as prosciutto or chorizo, from the store for specific recipes, but the shares are of sufficient quantity to feed our family of two. It’s worth the price knowing that the animals we eat were raised on a humane, sustainable family farm and slaughtered at safe, small-scale processing facilities.  Look how happy that pig is!

Pig Farm

You can learn more about Cedar Valley on their websiteblog and Facebook profile.

Uniqlo Tights

Each fall, as soon as temperatures drop below 65 degrees, I celebrate the return of tights season.  I love tights.  I wish my legs could be surgically replaced with tights. And let me tell you: Uniqlo makes the best tights.

Uniqlo Tights

I stock up each time we visit New York and now, lucky for us all, Uniqlo has an online shop so that people all over the United States can experience the joy of Uniqlo tights.

Uniqlo Tights Haul

My very favorite pair is their $12.90 Heattech tights: they are the perfect pair of warm, opaque, matte black tights. And they are durable as all hell.  I have worn them several times a week for months now, and I am not delicate with them: I put on tights like I’m pulling on dungarees.


Whoa, look at that shadow on the wall. Dustin Hoffman, you cad.

(Preach! is an occasional Sunday feature with personal endorsements of products, stores and services — generally one Chicago recommendation and one anywhere-in-the-world recommendation.  These posts are not sponsored in any way.)

Preach!: Sheets and Comics

(Preach! will be an occasional Sunday feature with personal endorsements of products, stores and services. I plan to do one Chicago recommendation and one anywhere-in-the-world recommendation.)

Pinzon Flannel Sheets

Persuaded by their near-flawless rating, I ordered these sheets from Amazon at the beginning of winter.  They’re perfect.  Our bedroom is the coldest room in the apartment – last year we used a space heater and we haven’t needed it once since buying these sheets, even with the thermostat set to 50 degrees at night.  They’re super soft and smooth, and they wash beautifully – nothing like the rough, pilled flannel sheets I remember having as a kid.

Amazon Pinzon Velvet Flannel Sheet Set

Pinzon Signature 190-Gram Velvet Flannel Sheet Set

I was surprised to learn from the packaging that the sheets are actually manufactured by Amazon – turns out that Pinzon is one of their private labels.

Amazon Pinzon

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Challengers Unlimited Comics Rental

Challengers is a comics shop at Western Ave. & Milwaukee, just south of the Blue Line stop.  Jarrod signed up for their rental service recently, which offers a large selection of graphic novels for $10/month.  It’s a great way to explore different series and the collection is much more current than what’s on the shelf at your public library.

Challengers Comics

The shop owners are friendly and approachable – I think a rental membership would be a great gift for the comics newbie in your life.  Nothing says “Happy Valentine’s Day!” like Saga Volume One.