And so it begins…me and my energy makeover….
November 17, 2010

The old ductwork, ready for recycling...yes I'm that green...

Well, this is the beginning of Le Grand Métamorphose de L’énergie(the big energy makeover). You may remember BGE conducted an energy audit that took hours, and which found(wait for it) all sorts of  l’energie violations…not enough insulation, gaps in this and that, that’s leaking, this is wrong…you know, the usual. So we are endeavoring to do something about this desperate situation.

What you see above is step one….tearing out the OLD ac ductwork in attic…it’s been there, oh I don’t know, maybe 45 years? I didn’t put it in so, that’s undeterminded. But as you  can see it is just bare metal…some of the insulation had come off, some of them were crushed(who would have stepped on them..hmmmmm), so replacement with energy-efficient, already insulated flex duct was overdue.

Oooooh, already insulated!!

 $1300 later(chi-ching)…we have installed the energy efficient flex duct, that will hopefully be the answer to some of our energy woes. Next, comes installing insulation in the crawl space(sounds like a chilly, cramped operation), and sealing over the rim joists(whatever that is-I just nodded in a knowing fashion) and sealing all the rest of the little places we’re losing hot and cold air in dribs and drabs. Step one, check. I’ll let you know how the rest go….

The Cat Warmer….or, heating a cold stone floor….
November 5, 2010

Damn papparazzi...stop bugging me...

OK, I told you we had the BGE energy audit done a month ago….with all kinds of recommendations for sealing and covering and insulating and thus and such…sigh. But we did ask. And we’re doing quite a few of those things, especially the sealing and the insulation.

One problem area we have is the family room, which is built over an uninsulated crawl space off the basement. That room, which is so lovely much of the year, is co-o-o-old in the winter, because the space underneath the floor is uninsulated. I wish we had radiant heat under the slate floors..but… we don’t. End of story. Enter the cat warmer…I mean, the Rug Buddy-here.

We bought ours for about $275....

The Rug Buddy goes underneath any area rug, (on top of a rug pad), and you just… plug it in. It’s like a safe, silent, invisible portable heater….and can be used on top of any surface…stone, carpet, vinyl, etc. And I have to tell you, it has really taken the chill off that room. Will it save on our energy costs? That remains to be seen, I hope so….but Baby Girl, my little  furry heat seeking missile adores it. Where do I find her stretched almost any time? That’s right, on the Rug Buddy. They might market even more of these items if they sold an alternative version called the Cat Warmer…just a suggestion.

Have a great weekend everyone…cook something delicious, do something fun, play nice and don’t throw rocks. And come home safe…’cause we miss you.

Open Letter To President Obama
June 15, 2010

Spencer waits enthralled for what he will say....

Dear Mr. President,

I watched you this morning on tv strolling the beaches of the Gulf, wiping away a trickle of sweat…hot down there isn’t it? I mean, seriously…it gets really blazing hot down there. The Gulf  also has the world’s most beautiful beaches, in my humble opinion, though I admit to being a bit biased in this area.

Here’s what I want to say to you Mr. President. None of us can undo what’s happened down south….oh, if we could only open the delicate glass door to time and turn back the clock a couple of months, but alas, technology hasn’t gotten that far.  But what we can do…what YOU can do, is first of all, make sure that big oily mess is made right down there. I have family who live in Gulf Shores, and word on the street is that the cleanup effort is kind of what you might expect when a whole bunch of beaurecratic agencies get together and jostle for who’s boss….the impolite term is a cluster  %*#. But since you and I are both civilized and well brought up, let’s just call it a boondoggle. Bottom line, get more resources down there and tell your chiefs to forget their turf wars and just get it done.


Isn't cleaning fun??

But the bigger thing I want to ask of you is to use this BP bad for global good. I need to hear from you in  your national address that things are going to change in this country, whether we’re ready or not. That it’s past time…for a real ,toothy howling energy policy in this country. No more…ok, you knuckleheads, you got another 20 years to change your ways. The profligate way we all use energy in this country has got to stop. Our wasteful, who-gives-a crap-there’s more where-that-comes from….has to end. Now, Mr. President…I should tell you there will be lots of us who don’t want to do that. (Don’t tell anyone but I walk around in the building where I work and while we have recycling bins for paper around the newsroom, lots of paper still hits the trashcan.) It’s easier you know, than just making a recycling stack and taking it over at the end of the day. Soooooo much easier. That’s just a tiny example of the attitude I’m talking about.  And it isn’t always that we don’t care….old habits die hard. And we need to have it hurt to continue our ways. If you make us pay, so that  it hurts to live this way, oh, Mr. President, we’ll change in a hurry. And for many people, sadly, it will be the ONLY thing that changes them.

It’s bully pulpit time, Mr. President. This is your chance for a game changer, time to craft your legacy. Oh I know, I know…President Jimmy Carter tried it back in the 70s and look where it got him.  Here’s what he said on national tv on April 18th, 1977.  “Tonight I want to have an unpleasant talk with you about a problem unprecedented in our history. With the exception of preventing war, this is the greatest challenge our country will face during our lifetimes. The energy crisis has not yet overwhelmed us, but it will if we do not act quickly.” (If you’d like to read the entire text, here’s a link.)

Wow, you could just recycle that opening paragraph! I know some  will cry plagiarism, but I think President Carter would be honored if you opened your talk just that way….and then give the good man credit, naturally. But it is time for  an unpleasant talk Mr. Obama….that our way of life, as much as I hate to say it, has to change, should have changed 40 years ago. No one loves cranking the ac more than me…hey, I’m a southern girl and I remember when we first got AC at my house in ‘bama. It was like a icy gift from the gods, but we probably stopped playing outside as much…the yin and yang of cool air. But if we don’t change, like yesterday, our children and grandchildren will hit a wall like a subcompact hitting a concrete barrier at 90 miles an hour when the oil runs out. Bad, bad things could happen as the world fights over what’s left. Time for alternative energy Mr. President. Past time. It’s your job to step up to the plate, and many people from both sides of the aisle will stand behind you. You don’t have the votes? Get them. OH yeah, I don’t care that it’s too close to an election. It’s go time, Mr. President.

The Food Revolution Continues….
April 13, 2010

Go more meat..wheeeeeee!!!

I thought this supermarket ad in the newspaper was amusing…celebrate Earth Day by buying even more meat! Yeah, except that if you really want to do the Earth a favor, it would be consuming LESS meat, not more(a 2006 U.N. report found the meat industry creates more greenhouse gases than all the cars and trucks in the world combined) . I’ve made efforts in that direction, avoiding meat for a couple of nights a week. I might do black bean soup with avocado on top, or something like that. I really enjoy it, but it’s a whole different mindset not planning a meal around the protein…know what I mean?

Tonight I’m going to hear Michael Pollan speak at Goucher College( full disclosure… I got the invite from my Chesapeake Foodie friend Elise who got the tickets…I didn’t even know he was in town, duh)…He’s written In Defense of Food, and other books, about the science and art of simply eating well…he believes that the health care crisis we have on our hands is due in no small part to what and how we eat. Here, here…so he has now written Food Rules.  It’s a book of simple everyday rules about how to eat better…and it all ties in with Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution..(I just signed his petition today, here’s a link! Nothing crazy really….eat  real food, not too much of it, more plants than meat. How hard is that? Hey, it’s not, but it takes thought and planning. Pollan says this about Food Rules…” I set out to collect and formulate some straightforward, memorable, everyday rules for eating, a set of personal policies that would, taken together or even separately, nudge people onto a healthier and happier path.”

I was telling my baby sister about the Jamie Oliver tv show trying to get schools to serve healthier, real food to their kids, and with the resistance he’s met. She is a kindergarten teacher at a rural private school in Alabama….and was surprised that the only milk they offer is whole milk. Not 2%, Not 1% or skim, but good ole full fat milk…which NO kid needs to be drinking, and some kind of sugary fruit drink…ditto. “Oh, that’s all they’ll drink“, or “They don’t like low fat milk“….hogwash, I say. Sure they will, if that’s what you put out. Or start with 2%, and them switch to 1%, and then maybe make the switch to skim. Her pleas fell on deaf ears for a while….then they put out lower fat milk, but have now switched back to whole. Sigh. What is it in this country…such nutritional ignorance… that we poison our kids with foods and drinks they shouldn’t have?? What? Where a serving a French fries count as a vegetable? Laughable. Disgraceful. I like French fries too but they’re a treat, not served on the lunch line every day. This is not new by the way, but much worse today. When I was a kid, I complained to my Mom about not liking the hotdog buns(mmm, healthy) served one day a week at school. She asked why, and I told her they were greasy. So she went to school where the lunch ladies explained they had all this free butter from the government and they had to use to somehow, so they put it on the hotdogs buns. “Hey, lets add a couple of hundred calories to all these kids hotgdogs! Grab the butter, lots of it!” They stopped, btw, afte she complained. And shouldn’t we parents be doing more of that? Finding out what schools serve(like sodas-come on!), and making our voices heard.

So I’ll be anxious to hear what Mr. Pollan has to say tonight…he’ll be preaching to the choir of course. Most of us there are already converts to good eating. Still, I’d like to learn more about the whole issue. And maybe you too will think about removing meat from the table a night or two a week…for your health and for the planet.

Oh, and here are a couple of his rules for you to think about…..#36 Don’t eat breakfast cereals that change the color of the milk. #19 If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t. And here’s my fav: #39 Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself. As he says, once you start cooking those fries yourself….you won’t eat them as often! What used to be treats like pastries and cakes and fries are now cheap, readily available everyday foods….and that’s just not good for us.

Overpacking..and other wasteful sins….
March 4, 2010

I've just begun...see how tight those suckers are wrapped?

When my late Father said he was sending package my way years ago, I knew I was in for a wrestling session. We had a saying at my house, ……when Bobby wraps a package, it stays wrapped. He used so much tape, the wrapping was barely visible, and one didn’t dare approach it without multiple, razor-sharp implements of destruction. He didn’t make it easy, but there was NO WAY something he sent, fell apart in transit.   No sir-ee.

Such as innocent looking box......

I was reminded of my Father’s endless devotion to over-packing, when I tried to recycle a box, in which a table for daughter’s apartment had arrived. Sounds simple enough, oui? But here’s the rub, gentle reader…or the wrap, I should say. Inside the box were at least 50 strips of cardboard, rolled and then individually wrapped in plastic strips….around and around and around and up and down, in something like Saran Wrap(or cling film as they call it in the U.K.). So to recycle all the cardboard strips under the plastic,(and people who know me, know I’m gonna recycle those suckers…I’ve almost had battles in the newsroom over this)….you had to individually UNWRAP all those little rolls. And they didn’t unwrap easy….there’s another Bobby out there. Sigh.

We love the table, truly…it came from ETSY…the website for people who are selling handmade things they individually make. But I would say this to the owner of Applewood  products……”Dear Mr. Applewood and Decor in Utah: I really love your little table, even though you sent a white one when we wanted a black on…(no problem, we’ll paint it)….but it must be said tha your packing is lamentable. Not that it was shoddily packed, oh no.  Perhaps a greater sin….over-packing. Only a maniac recycler like myself would have unwrapped each and every one of those little  #*&^#*# tubes….I had devote a full two weeks at it …off and on of course…but I did it. However,  in the feeling that we perhaps both desire the same thing….getting something safely to its destination without driving the person who receives said package insane….and in the interest of saving someone on your end much time(how long did it take to wrap those little suckers anyway?), and money(that giant wad of plastic has to be expensive…shall I mail it back to you?)….let’s just agree that there must be a better way. A way that is kinder to your wallet, kinder to me, kinder to the earth(Oh, Momma can you hear me?)…and just, well…better. Biodegradable peanuts? Cardboard rolled but not wrapped? Air bubbles? Yours for a better world, Donna Hamilton.

I'm closing in on the finish...Baby Girl doesn't like the looks of it....

Anyway to make a long story short(I know, too late for that)…I did get them all undone and drug the bunch out to recycling this week. I felt much better not looking at it in my living room, and even better still that MOST of it was recycled…I still have your giant wad of plastic wrap to put in the trash tomorrow. That makes me feel bad, and I don’t like people who make me feel bad. Can’t we find another way? Pretty please?

A Friday Sea Turtle Hatching…and my baby girl hatches too!
August 21, 2009

A baby sea turtle gets ready for his first swim in Gulf Shores....

A baby sea turtle gets ready for his first swim in Gulf Shores....

My sister(my OLDER sister I always like to say, much to her chagrin), sent me this video of a sea turtle hatching where she lives in Gulf Shores Alabama. It’s almost 10 minutes long…but if you watch to about the midway point, a hundred  tiny turtles come scrambling out of the nest. It’s a big event for people who live at the beach, and they are very protective of the nests and the hatchlings…the nests are marked, and have a wire covering on top of them, so nothing can get to the nest before they hatch, and people keep an eye on them…111 turtles hatched that day!  So sweet, as they all paddle their way to the water, by instinct. As you’ll see, the residents even build a little “autobahn” for the baby turtles, a kind of  “turtle chute“to make getting to the Gulf of Mexico less laborious. And off they go…, into the waves….to their destiny.

And speaking of off they go, to their destiny….I’m almost afraid to say the words, lest I jinx it, but…my daughter… has a job. In a bad economy, a real, live job….with a wonderful non-profit organization in town that does such good work. I’m really excited/relieved/hopeful/ for her….after the first day she came home and flopped on the sofa with an, “I’m exhausted!”.  And I know exactly how she feels…it’s overwhelming when you’re at a new place, learning new things, trying to be what they want you to be, when you’re not sure what that is, and knowing that everyone is watching the new girl. I’ve been there too…many times. It is exhausting. I was unbelieveably tired my entire first year here at WBAL-TV…just exhausted when I got home, until I got used to the pace, and the work.  That’s just the way it is. But I bought her a pretty little case for her cards, as a small first week on the job present…she was so pleased. And I’m proud of her…my own little hatchling, off the to the sea.. to her destiny. You go, girl! And sis Audie…thanks for the video…I could listen to the waves all day.

It could be a trashy transition….
June 4, 2009

my daily salad containers and salmon can-I save them for recycling!

my daily salad containers and salmon can-I save them for recycling!

As many of you know, I have been an avid recycler for quite a few years now, and I have a system at my house that works for us. There’s a big basket in a corner of one room where the paper and boxes go….and a hamper at the top of the basement steps where I put cans and bottles and plastics. I don’t have to do that any more as the city went to single stream(meaning you don’t have to separate anything, it can all go out in one big hamper if you like). But because I have a system, and it works, I keep it like it is.

Now Baltimore City has announced the following as of JULY 14:

 1. reducing trash pickups to once a week,Tuesday -Friday. 

2. instead of picking up recycling every other week, you get a weekly pickup.

I sense a trashy transition coming. Unless the people of Baltimore really get behind recycling (some neighborhoods are and some could care less)….the trash could stack up in a big, bad, ugly way.  See….for someone like me…a recycler….I like this plan. I only put trash out once a week anyway usually…as I don’t have that much, because at least half to two-thirds is put into recycling. People would be shocked at how much their trash output is reduced if they recycle. And the plan will benefit me…because what stacks up at my house is recycling. And Lordie, if I miss  recycling pickup, or a holiday kills one…you end up with a month of recycling. Luckily I have a basement to put it, but still. Lots of people don’t.

But if people refuse to learn to recycle, and let’s face it, it ain’t brain surgery….they will either have loads of trash at their house…or even worse, loads of trash they just put on the street anyway. That will be a rat’s fondest dream…”Oooh, look at  that big pile of nice stinky trash all ripe-like in the summer heat…have I died and gone to heaven? Where’s my spoon? ” 

You get the idea. So I’m hoping Baltimore City will start explaining in a clear fashion(and we in the media need to do this too…that would be a big help) just how one recycles. What goes in? What doesn’t? What kind of container can you use? What can’t you use? All plastics? Just some of them? All paper? boxes? Styrofoam? This is very confusing to folks who have never tried to recycle( and I know a lot of people that would surprise you, that they don’t recycle)….and it needs to be made simple. Which it is really, you just need some guidance. And then it’s all about creating a couple of  new habits…you don’t just throw everything in the trash. The earth only has so many landfills. And lots of them are full. It’s time to recycle….once a week….every week. It ain’t that hard. For those of you who live in the city, you’ll be getting a postcard soon about which trash and recycling days are yours. Look for it!

Not as green as I think I am??
November 20, 2008

Look, I really do try to live green….I carry reusable bags for groceries. I recycle the plastic bags if I forget. I’m getting a tankless water heater…trying, anyway. I drive a hybrid, and I hypermile. I recycle all my newspaper, magazines and catalogues….all plastics and glass. Come on….I’m pretty darn green, OK? But here’s the thing.

An outraged Lisa Robinson.....or maybe just surprised....

An outraged Lisa Robinson.....or maybe just surprised....

I like to keep a plant on my desk, something pretty, just for looks. It pleases me. So, right before we had some company bosses come in, ( and you wanted your work area to look nice for company, right….judging, judging)  I bought a pretty calla lily with the loveliest orange/brown blooms. Very nice. And it stayed nice for about a month. But in spite of watering it, soon it a very sad little plant. Sooooo, and I’m sorry to say this, but I put it in the trashcan. Along comes 11 News I-Team’s Lisa Robinson, who plucks it from the garbage, offended, and says, “You are the green queen, and you just throw this living thing away? Just throw it away?” I respond…weakly, “Well, it looks horrible,……what else am I supposed to do with it ?” She suggested taking it home and trying to nurse it back to health. I wasn’t up to that, but Lisa was. So while she’s not a big recycler…yet…I’m working on her….she is recycling my calla lily. So, I owe her. And at least Lisa’s not investigating me…..are you?

Solar Clothes Dryer??? Hey, wait a minute….
October 17, 2008

At first I was so excited....
At first I was so excited….

When I first saw this sign at Kendall Hardware in Clarksville….I had gone there to look at their woodburning stoves, as we’re looking at some alternative ($$$$$$$$$) ways to heat the homeplace this winter, as opposed to oil heat. And when I saw this sign I was genuinely excited….What a great idea I thought, because as you know, the electric clothes dryer is a big waster of your kilowatt hours….some say they cost about $100 a year to run.  But then someone pointed out to me in a rather droll fashion…”They’re talking about a clothes line.” Oh. Then I’m not really interested.

Hey, I grew up hanging out wash in Alabama(I know, so old school but my parents were not quick to  get the latest, not when they had 3 girls to hang the wash), but let me tell you, for those of you who’ve never had the pleasure, hanging wet sheets on a cold day with freezing fingers is not as picturesque as it sounds. I’ll never forget when we got our first clothes dryer…we were simply amazed by how soft everything was when they emerged all warm and fluffy…..not stiff , like from the line, and while I know there are many of you who just LOVE the smell of line dried laundry, I’ll just buy a laundry detergent with a fragrance called “Fresh Linen” and call it day. But there has been a resurgence of interest in drying laundry outdoors….for environmental reasons and more personal ones….websites devoted to the art, and ways to make your laundry less stiff.  But I’ve been there, done that. Don’t want to go back.

Oh there are times I do use my solar clothes dryer…. a few white things like tablecloths that dry well in the sun, stretched out on the grass… and in the summer, they even bleach out a little. It’s great, as long as a dog doesn’t pee on it. But I love my dryer…love it. I suppose it would be ok to have a drying rack like we used to have at home for drying things in the basement in the winter….(you know the old wooden folding ones?)…might as well make use of all that heat and add a little humidity at the same time. But the dryer stays.