07 Apr 2010

Ask Nichole

Originally Uploaded to flickr by Horia Varlan

Welcome to my new regular feature, Ask Nichole, wherein you can ask me for advice on everything from what to buy your sister-in-law-to-be as a hostess gift and where to get it (on the Hill, of course) to how to get your dog to stop pooping in your living room.

I don’t know what it is about me, but I’ve always been that person that my friends come to for the craziest of advice, to settle bets and to play on their trivia teams. Admittedly, I’ve lived an interesting and independent life so I do know how to fix a toilet that won’t flush, how to make a mean Old Fashioned, and the name of President Lincoln’s dog. And, if I don’t know the answer to your question, I know someone who does. I love solving problems – be they etiquette questions or more straightforward “how tos.”

If you have a question you’d like me to answer, please email me at NicholeTheHillisHome[at]gmail[dot]com. I am ready to take on all your most challenging questions – so let’s go ahead and get started, shall we?

My husband and I just moved near the Capitol South metro and our car has been taken over by spiders! We killed 6 on Friday night and 3 last night. They are sand colored spiders, about 1 or 1.5 inches in diameter and they are creepy and a little aggressive. Have any other Hill residents experienced this? Do you know what kind of spiders they are (poisonous)? What should we do?

So far we’ve only seen them at night, and it has me completely spooked. Please help!!

Julie T.

The answer to this and more after the jump…

Um, this is like my worst nightmare ever. I absolutely hate insects of all sorts and this would totally freak me out!  I asked around and no one I know on the Hill has had this happen. I don’t know what kind of spiders you might have (there are 38,000 species of spider and as far as I’m concerned, they’re all creepy and gross) but I do know how you can get rid of them.

I called Elizabeth, the manager of the lawn and garden department at Frager’s and she said that it sounds like a mama spider crawled into your warm, dark car in the winter months and built herself a nest and laid herself a whole heap of eggs.  Elizabeth suggested you look for her nest under your floor mats, under your seat, in the trunk — anywhere that’s dark and cozy.

Your next step is to go to Frager’s and buy yourself some Diatomaceous Earth.  This stuff will kill anything that crawls. It’s made of ground diotomes and feels like talcum to us, but for the creepy-crawlies, it feels like they’re crawling over a pit of glass and salt. This causes them to start licking it off of themselves and thus they ingest it and it kills them by drying them from the inside out. You need to give yourself a whole day or so to dust your entire car.  Remove your floormats, make sure the windows and doors are closed, dust everywhere including your trunk, and let your little eight-legged friends crawl all over the thing.

So, now you’ve got a dusty car full of dead spiders. The polite thing to do is to do your best to sweep out as many of the spider carcasses as you can before taking it to a full service car wash to finish getting the dust out of your car. If you need a nearby carwash, I’d recommend the gentlemen on I Street NE, between 6th and 7th Streets. These nice gentlemen may not be the quickest, but they’re conscientious and my understanding is that they’re men trying to turn their lives around, which is always an effort worth supporting.

A word of caution:  Using an insect bomb inside inside of a car is very, very dangerous!  Don’t do it! Elizabeth said that even folks at Raid do not recommend this.  The chemicals will seep into your upholstery and you’ll be inhaling noxious gasses for some time to come.  Stick with the diatomaceous earth and you should be spider free in no time!

My neighbor’s treebox is a weed-fest. I am sick and tired of looking at it. It  is trapping litter and old socks. I can’t say, “Please deal with it,” especially since I never see my neighbors.  Can I go in there with my pruners and weed hackers and box of pansies from Frager’s and dig it up?  What is the protocol here?  I once spoke  with a lady in Georgetown who had to go in and take over former Secretary of State Madeline Albright’s treebox because she left hers so untended so I fully realize my nasty next door neighbor’s treebox may belong to a  a diplomat or worse!

Okay, I’m going to go ahead and admit something to all of you: I’m the neighbor with the untended treebox.  Not this particular untended treebox, but my treeboxes are ugly, and no matter how many times I say to myself, “This is the year I’m going to pretty up my treebox,” it never happens.  I live on a corner, so we’re talking about three treeboxes that I’m responsible for and they’re all ugly.

So let me first say that I would LOVE for a neighbor to take them over and beautify my treeboxes.  I’ve even asked around to see if there’s a school or city program for kids interested in gardening or horticulture who’d like to take them over.  I don’t care what they do them — plant trees, flowers, herbs, veggies — anything is better than the weeds and dirt combo I’ve got going.

But, let’s be diplomatic here.  I think the first thing to do is actually try to talk them.  First, because it’s a good idea to get to know your neighbors, regardless of the circumstances.  If you’re really willing to go ahead and make the effort to clean up their treeboxes, maybe knock on their door one evening or weekend afternoon and say something like, “Hi, I’m your neighbor. I just wanted to introduce myself and I was planning on running to Frager’s to pick up some pansies for our yard and thought I’d ask if you’d mind if I picked up a few extras and went ahead and planted them in your garden. I  love to garden and I know how hard it can be to make time for that sort of thing.”  This is a very non-confrontational approach and it’s almost like they’re doing you a favor by letting you practice a hobby that you enjoy in their treebox.  You could also mention that an overgrown treebox can snag you an $80 fine from the city and that you wouldn’t want to see them slapped with that penalty and that you’d love to lend a hand.

I would hesitate to  just go out there and start digging without first trying to speak to them. You might even leave a note if you can’t catch them at home. And when you do talk to them, just make sure that you’re approaching it from the perspective of your wanting to be a helpful neighbor, rather than pointing fingers and accusing. Use this as an opportunity to get to know your neighbors and everyone can benefit.

I’m helping to plan my girlfriend’s bachelorette party. We’d like to stick to H Street for the festivities.  We’re thinking of starting off with a nice dinner and then moving on to drinking, dancing and general bachelorette fun.  What do you suggest?

First let me applaud you for not taking the more traditional route of donning all manner of feather-adorned, penis-shaped goo-gaws, renting a cheesy white Hummer limo, heading to Tom Tom in Adams Morgan, consuming your body weight in Cosmos, and puking all over 18th Street.  Your choice to celebrate your friend’s impending nuptials here on H Street is an excellent one.

I’d start off with dinner at the newly opened Liberty Tree, which THIH’s own Kyra reviewed here.  They’ve got a wonderful selection of pizzas which provide the all important base for a night of drinking.  From there, I’d move on to the H Street Country Club for Pimm’s Cups or Pebble Beaches and a round of mini-golf.

From there, I’d head back west over to Little Miss Whiskeys for dancing and their house specialty: Jeremiah Weed Sweet Tea Vodka and peach schnapps in slushy form, served in mason jars.  Miss Whiskeys has a great rotating cast of DJs that will keep you dancing until close.  They also have that fun  back room upstairs which is available to rent out, which may be more your speed than bar-hopping all night.  If you’re interested, you can reserve it through their website.

Now, at this point, you’re pretty deep into your night.  Maybe the dancefloor at Miss Whiskeys is getting too crowded, but you and your girls aren’t ready to go home.  Head down to Jimmy Valentine’s at 1103 Bladensburg Road (there’s no sign) for that last drink and dance of the night.  The best thing about Jimmy Valentine’s?  It’s across the street from Capital City Diner, which is open 24 hours a day on weekends.  By now, the pizza you ate earlier at Liberty Tree will be a distant memory and you’ll be craving a greasy breakfast before you finally go home to pass out.

And always remember: on nights like these, drink lots of water, take a few Aleve before going to bed and make sure you have an ice pack ready and waiting.  You’ll thank me in the morning.  Oh, and should you wake up with a nasty hangover anyway?  My dad swears by buttermilk as a hangover cure all.  I’ve never been able to stomach the stuff, but have always found the Holy Trinity of root beer, Pepto tablets and saltines to be a great Day After cure all.


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  • Chris

    I can’t wait to send in my question.

  • Elizabeth Festa

    What kind of root beer? Real root beer? Also, are renters responsible for the treeboxes, or are the homeowners?

  • spiders aren’t insects, they’re arachnids. just sayin’


  • Liz – it depends on your agreement with your landlord. The city fines the homeowner and the ticket goes to the address on file for the property owner. However some leases (particularly those for houses rather than say, apartment buildings with management companies and whatnot) stipulate that the renter is responsible for care and maintenance of the property. If you’re a renter, you should check your lease.

    Root beer: truthfully, I’ve had both “real” root beer and regular old Dad’s or A&W and they all seem to do the trick. If you need caffeine too, try Barq’s (it’s the only readily available brand that’s caffeinated, as root beer is naturally caffeine free).

  • Touche, IMGoph. Touche.

  • Elizabeth Festa

    Nichole, can you write my term paper for me? Please! @Chris–you cannot stump Nichole!

  • Kyra

    This is a great feature! I love it!

    I’m also glad you gave Elizabeth over at Fragers a call. Isn’t she just delightful?!

    And I am a big fan of tending to the unkept tree boxes of others. I won’t dig up a tree ox just because I don’t like it, but I will tend to patches of dirt. Why? Cause the city dust is bad enough without living next door to a giant front yard of dirt or tree boxes filled with dirt.

  • thanks for featuring my question! i’ll let my husband do the hard work on this one. i can’t get the sick image out of my head about the mama spider releasing her young on us, but i’m really happy to have the advice. i know what we’ll be doing this weekend.

    our friends at 6th and east capitol told us they have the same spiders in their VW beetle. but i don’t know if they hatched or just drop down from the trees.

    still, it’s totally gross and my worst nightmare come true.

  • Jane

    Can you tell me more about this car wash? Do you mean the x-clusive window tinting and detailing place? Or is this a business I don’t know about?

  • Robbie C

    Our ‘first’ dog, Bailey is a DIGGER.. big time, non-stop. How can we kick him from the habit? The hole(s) get larger, and more (holes), and it doesn’t stop. Adding the 2nd dog, his sister, didn’t solve the dig-to-China dilemma. HELLLPP!
    thanks lots.

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