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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Going Green!

I have a confession: I'm one of the least environmentally aware people you probably know. I know, don't stone me! It isn't that I don't care, but I have to admit I haven't been very aggressive about caring for the environment. However, I am ready to admit my shortcomings and take action. I've been doing some research on small ways you can help the environment, and I figure I'll tackle one step at a time, until these steps become habits for my family. I'm going to share with you some of the ideas I've complied from various sources to hopefully give you some ideas. You might already be doing these, or they may be new to you. Either way, I want to hear from you - what are YOU doing to help the environment?

TIPS AND TRICKS

***Reduce, REUSE, and recycle: How much of the things that you throw away could actually be used again? Keep those empty baby food jars - they make great catch-alls for nails, office supplies, or craft supplies. Do you have old eyeglasses or cell phone? Donate them. You can even donate your old tennis shoes to Nike, and they will be turned into playground flooring. You can also recycle your computer print cartridges at places like Office Depot or Staples.

***http://www.freecycle.org/ - do you have lots of junk laying around your house? Post it on freecycle, and arrange to have someone come and pick it up.

***Sign up for paperless bills for as many of your bills as you can. Most businesses now offer this. You can either download the statement to your computer or access the statement online. How many times have you actually needed a copy of an old bill? You can still access your statement and print it out through your home computer if you truly need it. If every American did this, 2.3 million tons of wood would be spared annually. Also, skip the receipt at the ATM. I always get the receipt and end up tossing it at home once I balance my checkbook. Better to save the paper and not have it printed in the first place!

***Shop at farmers' markets and roadside produce stands. You'll be buying locally and getting better quality and fresher food.

***Turn down (or up) your thermostat! The average American emits about 13 tons of carbon dioxide each year through boilers, furnaces, and water heaters. Lower your thermostat to 68 degrees in the winter and raise it to 76 degrees in the summer. Plus, you will have the added benefit of lowering your electric bill. Cha-ching!

***Lowering your speed, staying in the same lane vs. weaving in and out of traffic, and not braking constantly can improve your fuel efficiency by 30%. Let's face it, gas prices aren't going down, right?

***Switch to rechargeable batteries. Regular batteries are seldom disposed of properly (although your landfill should have an area just for batteries) and they emit dangerous toxins.

***Visit http://www.catalogchoice.org/ to opt out of receiving those unwanted catalogs. These add up to 4 million tons of paper a year!

***Turn off the lights when you leave a room. Pretty easy, but how often do you forget? I know this is one of the biggest things I need to work on.

***Unplug your appliances when they aren't in use. Shut down your computer each day or night. To aid in this, use power strips - it is much easier to unplug and shut off one thing than five, right?

***Purchase a reusable water bottle. It's wonderful if you are reusing your bottled water bottles, but the plastic starts to break down after 3-4 uses. That's not good for you or the environment.

***Invest in a Brita water pitcher if you don't have good water at home. It filters your water, which is the same thing those pricey bottled water companies do, at a fraction of the price.

***If something breaks, fix it or donate it. Did you know that 40% of the trash in landfills are old electronics?

***Turn off the water while you brush your teeth. Ladies, same thing with shaving!

***Use the cold cycle on your washing machine. Washing 4 out of 5 loads in the cold cycle could keep 50 tons of carbon emissions out of the atmosphere per year. Plus, your clothes will last longer AND you don't have to sort colors.

***Purchase some reusable totes for the grocery store. I got mine from Costco - 3 huge bags for $4. If you do get plastic bags, find a way to reuse them. I personally find them great for doggie poop duty (hey, just keeping it real!) and lunch bags for work.

DID YOU KNOW?

***Washing your car at home actually uses more water than a professional wash.

***Running your dishwasher actually uses less water than washing by hand.

"GREEN" CLEANING RECIPES

***Baking soda is a great all-purpose cleaner. I like to halve a lemon, sprinkle some baking soda on, and use the lemon to scrub my counters. Then I toss the lemon down my garbage disposal.

***Castile soap is great for cleaning floors and counters. Dr. Bronner's makes a natural, organic, nontoxic brand of castile soap. At Walmart it is located with the body washes and scrubs, and at Target it is on speciality soaps/lotions/makeup aisle.

***A vinegar/water mix and newspaper will get your windows sparkling clean.

***Used dryer sheets are great for dusting.

***Multi-purpose cleaner: 1 cup ammonia, 1/2 cup white vinegar, 1/4 cup baking soda, and 1 gallon warm water

***Hydrogen peroxide/water mixture can be used to attack bathroom mold. You can also try lemon juice or white vinegar.

Bottom line, there are many little things we could do that could possibly lead to big results. Do I do all these things? No, but like I said, I'm going to start, one thing at a time. If you have other ideas, please share them, and feel free to share this link with anyone you feel would benefit.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Goal Setting Sunday!

When we first started to really prepare to move to Washington, I decided that a move was a wonderful chance to start anew. I have to admit I had grown pretty tired of myself. I was depressed, making bad decisions, and stuck in some bad habits. I knew I wanted to be a different person, a better version of myself, but I was stuck. I decided that the new move was a great chance to address some of the things I was unhappy about. I was really excited about the possibilities: new house, new job, new friends - I could be a clean slate.

Well, the truth is that every day is a new opportunity and a chance to start over. Are you unhappy about something in your life? Do you have some bad habits? Are you unhealthy and out of shape? Whatever it is that you don't like, you have the power to change, even if it is only in a small way. It has taken me a long time to realize that I don't have to be that person - the one with the bad attitude, the girl with the bad temper, the person who doesn't like their job, who is lazy, and unhealthy to boot. I can be whoever I want to be, if I'm willing to put forth a little effort.

My problem has always been that I start things and then I give up. For example, I'll decide to start a new diet/fitness plan. I'm eating well, following my plan, going to the gym... and then I have a bad day. Once that happens, I'm done. I feel like I have to give up and quit because I've messed up for one day. Before I know it, that one day has turned into a week, and I feel hopeless. I also overwhelm myself with changes: a new diet, counting calories, keeping a food journal, going to the gym, getting 8 hours of sleep a night... whew! It is just too much to keep up with at once, and I get overwhelmed. Again, it goes back to the feeling that if I mess up once, I have to quit.

So I've decided to try a few different things, in the hopes of making lasting changes. For one, I'm going to share my goals and progress with my readers. I'm also going to start slowly, one or two things a week. I'm going to give myself permission to mess up, and I'm going to do things on my terms. You know, diets don't always work for me, because they don't take into account my personal needs.

This week's goals are:
*Work out three times this week.
*Organize the master bedroom and bathrooms.

Check back in next Sunday and I'll update you on my progress and let you know my new goals for the upcoming week. Feel free to join in - what would you like to work on this week?

Saturday, April 19, 2008

OH. MAH. GOSH.

This is too awesome for words. Yes, I was a band geek, and proud of it. What do you recognize in this video?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Two recent RAVES!

I've got to share two new products that I absolutely love.

Keurig single serve coffee maker - http://www.keurig.com/brewers.asp?mscsid=CPXCBV4NTX1F9KFXG4AG9JU15VGEF1C7

I've been looking into single serve coffee makers for quite some time, and Keurig had the most positive reviews. Jason and I love coffee, but we rarely made it at home because we never drink a whole pot. When we were in WA, Starbucks was less than 5 minutes away, so we usually just went there because it was easier and more convenient. Now the nearest Starbucks is 20 minutes away, and we're trying to save money, so I wanted to get a better quality machine. This one is incredible! It takes less than 3 minutes to heat up, and once the water is hot, you have a cup of coffee in less than 30 seconds. There are three cups sizes - small, medium, and large - so you can customize according to what you will drink. It uses pods instead of filters, meaning you buy the coffee ready made in pods instead of purchasing coffee and filters. I haven't done the math, but I read in a review that the price per cup is $0.43. You can also buy a reuseable filter and use whatever brand of coffee you like. It has tons of different types of pods: teas, coffees, and hot chocolate. Jason and I have both been making us travel mugs to take to work each day since we got the Keurig, and our Starbucks trips have really dwindled. This is definitely a thumbs up from us!

The other product I'm loving is the neti pot (youtube video found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j8sDIbRAXlg). If you have frequent sinus infections, allergies, or get colds often, this will help you! It came recommended by my doctor, and I finally broke down and got one after my third sinus infection in less than 3 months. It takes some time getting used to, but it doesn't hurt and you get the hang of it quickly. Most importantly, I haven't been sick, and my allergies are much better since I started using it.

What product are you loving lately?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

What was your first concert?

What was the first concert you ever attended?

My first concert was NKOTB. For those of you that live under a rock (or are under the age of 20) that stands for New Kids on the Block. The group was coming to Augusta to perform, and all the girls in my elementary school were obsessed with the boys, and were begging their parents for tickets. I was no different, of course. Well, the day came that tickets went on sale, and my mom broke the bad news: they were sold out, and I couldn't go. A hissy fit soon commenced, with me being my typical drama queen self ("Mooooooom! My life is RUINED! Everyone who is ANYONE is going to see NKOTB! How will I EVER marry JOEY if I don't go the concert so we can lock eyes across the stadium and fall in love?! YOU HAVE RUINED MY LIFE!). My mom eventually had enough of my hysterics, and revealed that she did indeed get tickets. She had planned to surprise me later. THAT IS A TERRIBLE SURPRISE, Mother. I would have been crucified at school had I told my peers I did not get tickets.

Well, I am sad to say that Joey did not pick me out of a crowd of 5,000. However, I did get a cool Joey t-shirt that I wore tied in a knot on the side, with double pairs of colored socks and jelly shoes. So it wasn't a total waste, right?

Later on in life, I also went to a Travis Tritt concert and (I'm embarrassed to admit this) Nelson concert. You guys, Augusta GA does not get great acts. This is all I could choose from. Give me a break.

In college, I went to two BareNaked Ladies concerts (such a great band, and they put on a awesome show) and two years ago, Jason and I went to a Kelly Clarkson concert (hey, don't hate. I'm not ashamed.). That's the extent of my concert going, I'm afraid. I wish I could say I was a groupie, but no dice.

So... what concerts have you been to? What concerts do you hope to see before you die?

I would love to see:
  • Garth Brooks
  • Dixie Chicks
  • Aerosmith
  • Bon Jovi
  • Faith Hill & Tim McGraw, together

How about you?

Kickin' Chicken's shrimp salad

I don't think I've ever had shrimp salad before, until my parents came to visit a few weeks ago and we hit up the Kickin' Chicken for dinner. My mom ordered the shrimp salad, and I tried a bit... heaven on a spoon, seriously. I went back the next day for more, and I decided to try to make it at home. Here's my copycat recipe:

4 cups shrimp, cut into small pieces
2 cups diced celery
1/4 cup of minced onion
1 cup mayonaise
2T lemon
Salt & pepper to taste

I used a bag of precooked shrimp, and in hindsight I wish I had purchased the kind that was already tail & shell off, as that was a pain. I think I ended up using more mayo and lemon than was called for, but that's just how I like things (I also used to eat mayonaise sandwiches when I was little, so....). I served it on romaine lettuce, with a bit of chopped tomatoes and saltines. Delish!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Oh dear... this does not bode well for me, does it?

I just found my first grey hair.

Don't laugh, y'all. It was traumatic. I was going about my day, spraying my hair with hairspray when something just didn't look right. I leaned in close to the mirror and THERE IT WAS. The stray grey hair. The symbol of my descent into old age. The passing of time, from woman to menopause, push-up bras to Playtex 18 hour bras, skinny jeans to mom jeans...

In its defense, it was a pretty, silvery grey, and not a dull grey. Silver is cool, right? Maybe I'll be like Stacy London (and Cruella DeVille) and have a silver streak in my hair. Instant highlights! See, there are positives... right? Please tell me there are positives.

I haven't found any wrinkles... yet. I'm convinced this is because I'm fat and not because I'm aging gracefully. My chub is keeping the lines filled out. You know, celebrities inject fat from their butt into their wrinkles? Well, I skipped that step. The fat already there, working for me. Bring on the ice cream!

Now I feel the insane need to slather on any and every wrinkle potion out there, just for preventative purposes. Watch out, time. You may march on, but you're not going to march on across my face!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Oh, the places you'll go!

Where have I been, dear readers? All over the place seems like the correct answer. The past few weeks have been heart wrenching, emotionally exhausting, frustrating, and exciting.

Jason's dad died a few weeks ago. He's been battling cancer for about 6 months, and I'm sad to say he lost the fight. We headed up to Illinois about a month ago to attend the funeral. While I had to head back home after a few days, Jason got to stay and visit with his family for a good week. Please keep the family in your prayers. Jason's having a very hard time with this loss.

I started a new job two weeks ago, one I'm really excited about. It seems so weird to actually wake up and look forward to going to work each day. I'm working with mentally disabled clients, helping them to navigate the health care system and receive the services they need. I've met some loving, fabulous people, and I'm learning a lot. It's exciting to be back in the social work field and actually using the skills I learned through my degree. My typical day includes lots of paperwork, assessments, home visits, and client interaction. My co-workers have been wonderful and inviting, and it's just a great feeling of possibility in the midst of all the other stress that is happening on our lives.

What else has been happening? We went home for a visit, went to Columbia to see my nephew play baseball (where he was a MVP, go nephew!), and my parents came up for a weekend. Jason's trying to catch up on the two weeks he was out of work for his father's death, and that's been stressful on him. I'm trying to get used to adjusting to a new work schedule, and managing a caseload that has things due immediately - things I don't know how to do yet (help!).

I really do hope to post more often, so please check back in a few days!


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