Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Who and How Much: Wellesley Window Cleaners

Every time I get a quote for a home repair or maintenance item it seems to cost twice as much as I think it should. I recently had this experience as I requested quotes to clean the windows in our 1,800 square foot home.
We've got 10 double hung windows on the second floor, and 10 more on the first floor. Also on the first floor, we have 24 casement windows, 4 skylights, a sliding glass door, and a front door with glass and sidelights. The majority of the windows have screens and the casement windows have removable grids.
The first quote came from a local franchise of a nationwide window cleaning company: $390. I thought this was a little high so I called on Service Magic to see if we could do better.
Service Magic (now Home Advisor) is an interesting business. You submit a request online and they try to match you with service providers in your area who reach out and arrange a time to come by for a quote.
I submitted a request for quotes at 4:00 pm on a Tuesday and within 10 minutes 2 companies called to set a time to stop by for a quote. By 6:00 pm two of the providers visited our house and provided a written quote. Amazingly quick - these guys know they're being price compared and there are other firms competing for the business. The quotes were in the $350-$365 range.
The next morning a third firm stopped by when we weren't here and left a quote for $220 along with a brochure and a business card. I was skeptical that the lowest quote would be the best, but after comparing ratings on Service Magic for each of the providers, the cheapest guys had the best overall rating. And the homeowner reviews gave me confidence it would be a solid experience. So I called Rise and Shine Window Cleaning and scheduled an appointment for the coming Monday morning between 8 and 9 am.
That Monday morning I got a call at 8:00 am letting me know they were on their way and shortly thereafter Leoni and Giancarlo Carvalho -- brothers and owners of the business -- showed up in their totally legit-looking signed window cleaning van.
Window cleaning is a bit of a tricky industry and looking back, I had to think a bit why it took me so long to have this done. I say it's tricky because on one hand it seems like tedious but simple work. All it takes is some Windex and paper towels, right? Wrong. It takes ladders, scrapers, solvents, know-how, skill and much more. Furthermore, nobody likes strangers in their house. If we're lucky, we've found housecleaners we trust. Going through that again with window cleaners is a bit of an adventure. But it's worth it because after 5 years windows and screens can get pretty dirty.
When the guys showed up they politely introduced themselves and described how they'd like to do things. First they'd remove all the screens from the inside, then they clean the outside of the windows, then the inside.
We've got a no shoe policy in our house so I asked them if they could wear shoe covers while they were inside. They said of course - they always do that. We've had contractors over for much more expensive remodeling projects who didn't show that kind of respect for our home. Nice touch.
So I went about my work from my home office and they set out cleaning the windows. They were quiet, and efficient and polite...I really don't think I could be any more pleased with window cleaners.
About half way through the project I took a break to see how they were doing. It dawned on me just how much work this is and how I could have spent 3+ weekends on this project and still not achieve the results they did in 4 hours. They quietly moved furniture away from in front of windows and replaced it exactly where it was. They scraped away built up debris on windows that would have taken a lot of elbow grease otherwise. They removed, cleaned, and replaced screens without breaking a single thing. I'm sure I could have busted $200 worth of stuff bungling the job on my own.
I had a conference call towards the end of their time here so I left a check for them knowing I'd be happy with the job they did. I love it when I do my job while professionals do their job better than I possibly could. These guys were fantastic. And what a difference clean windows make. Absolutely sparkling clean and clear. Well done.
These guys were great. Absolutely highly recommended. 5 out of 5 stars.
Check 'em out:
Rise and Shine Window Cleaning
And check out Home Advisor too while you're at it.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Back to School Lovin' from the Oven

I'll be the first one to tell you that I'm not much of a baker. Between cooking and baking, cooking offers more recipe flexibility which suits my impatient improv in the kitchen style. Even so, sometimes there's just no replacement to something warm out of the oven. Anyone who has baked at all knows that baking requires accuracy and measuring; neither of these my forte.

Even so, I've been wanting to have something to offer two hungry, growing boys that was hearty, healthy and filling. Sometimes carrot sticks and ranch just don't cut it. And the baked snacks that are available for purchase never seem substantive enough. One afternoon, I came across a recipe on Pinterest that looked interesting and offered a way to incorporate more veggies into their diet - always another objective of mine.

Against my better judgement, I modified Marcus Samuelsson's recipe and made my own version of his Whole-Wheat Sweet Potato Coconut Muffin. Now twice adapted, mine contains healthy fat, fruit, veggies and a bit of protein from the yogurt.

I strongly recommend using silicone baking cups like these if you don't want to grease muffin tins or mess around with paper liners.

2 and 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour, preferably pastry flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup ground flax seed meal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup mashed or pureed sweet potato
1 cup applesauce
1/2 cup dried, unsweetened coconut
1 egg, beaten
1 cup non-fat Greek yogurt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, flax seed, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. In another bowl, whisk the egg, add applesauce, cooled sweet potato, coconut, egg, and greek yogurt. Fold wet mixture into dry mixture until just combined.
Fill muffin cups; sprinkle a pinch of sugar on top of each muffin and then bake for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until muffins are puffed and turning golden brown on top. Remove from muffin cups when cool enough to handle. Serve warm. The others will last in the refrigerator for several days.
The result? Sweet muffins my boys beg for that are easy to pack in lunches.  Let me know if you agree.

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