Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Going Green

We hear that phrase a lot these days, don’t we? Doesn’t it seem like “going green” involves either mass amounts of money, time, or both? Several magazines that I subscribe to have green living sections that highlight things we can do in our day to day lives that will help conserve energy, water, waste, and center our focus on recycling and eco-friendly options. Most of these “tips” are about how you can convert your home into a Green Machine, from major remodels, to replacing appliances, pipes, and electrical systems. And hey! If funds were unlimited, I would probably be living in a green house, fully powered by McDonald’s french fry grease, enjoying natural lighting, and eating only what was grown on my own property. That’s right. Call me Daryl Hannah.

But since I live in the real world, and remodeling my kitchen into an eco-friendly green zone isn’t really an option for me (or for you, I suspect) what can we do to make better choices for our homes, cars, meals, and lives? I’m going to share some pointers I’ve been gathering that seem like real options for those of us who would like to do more, but don’t have 72 million dollars of expendable income.

Buy Local. Think about it. Gas is expensive. If you’re able to buy meat, vegetables, and fruit from within a 100-200 mile radius of your home, you’d be doing so many good things for yourself and your environment: lower cost to transport goods, fewer emissions off the transporting of goods, less packaging and processing of food, support of your local economy, and boosted allergy blockers. But let’s talk about the really important factor: It tastes better! You’re eating produce that was recently picked, so it’s closer to ripeness than its transported cousin, which is picked under-ripe and usually given some assistance to become shelf ready. You’ll also have the benefit of more nutritional value per serving. Fruits and veggies lose their vitamins and minerals as they age. The sooner you eat them off the plant, the better. And sure, a lot of you will say, “But Sara! I can’t get local veggies where I live.” You can! I swear. Here are a few links to help you out. You can buy local, even in NYC.

Heating and Cooling Changes: Simple ones, I promise. It’s getting warmer in my part of the world and for most of us that means AC. Not so fast, cowboys and girls. Windows and house position can work with your AC to cut down cost and energy use. Open some windows to take advantage of the cooler early morning or evening temperatures. Close shades on sunny windows during the day to give the AC a break. Try using your oven, dishwasher, washer/dryer at night when they aren’t adding to the fight. If you have Central Air, be sure to change your filters regularly to avoid allergens and overheating the system.

In the Kitchen: While I dream of a green kitchen, here are a few things I can do to hold me over. Get rid of the paper towels. Use dishcloths or washable sponges for messes and save a tree. Don’t rinse the dishes before putting them in the dishwasher. I know your mom does it, mine too. But we can break the cycle (oh, aren’t I funny!) by showing them how clean our dishes turn out by just letting the dishwasher do the dirty work (okay, I swear I’m done with the puns.) While you’re at it, turn off the heated dry cycle and let the dishes air dry. You know you leave them in there overnight anyway. Seriously. You do. Make sure your faucets aren’t leaking. Try using a toaster oven for smaller meals instead of cranking up the stove every time. And did you know that gas cook tops are WAY less energy efficient than their electric counterparts? It’s crazy, but it’s true. Electric stoves are about 80% efficient, while gas stoves are only 55% efficient(BHG, April 08.) Just saying.

Okay, that’s enough for today. A few interesting links for you:
  • Haagen-Daz wants you to help the honey bees. Mmmm
  • Abundant Forests Alliance. Apparently the paper industry is trying to give back.
  • 10 Green Giants: CNN takes a look at environmentally friendly companies, 5 of which are American based.

Next time we’ll be talking about Green kids and maybe even Green Cosmetics! We’ll see how adventurous I’m feeling.

Monday, April 28, 2008


When we last left our Hero, she was covered in flour and dead asleep at the kitchen table.

But, wait! What is that? She’s wielding the tongs! She’s alive! Cooking didn’t kill her.

Okay, enough of the silliness. Lunch was a success! 22 people attended while I was there, from 11 am - 1 pm. I heard that a few others were going to be filtering in after 1. Apparently, the food was wonderful. I’m saying that honestly, because I don’t eat chicken. And you thought I was just embarking on another ego trip.

Here are a few foodie pictures to titillate your taste buds. On the plate, clockwise from high noon: Thyme & Onion Focaccia, Baby greens with snap peas, tomatoes and Dijon vinaigrette, and Rosemary chicken breast.

Lemony Squash Muffins. The recipe, by Jamie Oliver, can be found here. I'm usually caught tinkering with every recipe I find or just creating my own. But this one was a winner right out of the gate. Try them!

In addition to raising more than 50 dollars for KW Cares, we were able to pull in a few extra donations for our local food bank food drive. Our office is hoping to win the coveted Macaroni Trophy. We’re accepting donations at our office until May 21st.

Here’s the info on the Habitat for Humanity work that we’ll be doing on Thursday. I’m going to bring my camera and click as many pictures as the day will allow. As of this morning, we had more than 15 people signed up, between day, morning, and afternoon shifts. It should be a great time!

I’ll be back a bit later with some interesting reading!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Do You Have Super Powers?

Super Powers?

Yes. I have them. Everyone does, right? Aren’t there things that you are amazingly good at, that you know you can do better than anyone else? Yes, there are. You have super powers.

Here are mine:

  • Laughter. The ability to make a speeding toddler stop running and start giggling. Specifically mine, but it might work on your toddler, too.

  • Mimicry. I can make almost any sound. This includes language. You know that clicky-hard G-hard K letter in Kartuli that resonates off the back of your tongue? You don’t? Well, I got that.

  • Language in general. Give me a week, and I can speak yours. Yes, I’m open to any offers from the CIA.

  • Cooking. If you know me, you know that I love to cook. You also know that it’s the one thing that will proudly take me on an ego trip. Tell me you love what I just made for you and you’ll have a little spot in my heart for life. You haven’t lived until I’ve cooked for you. And you won’t know how much I really love you until you’ve tried my Mocha Java Cake. Or my Pumpkin Maple Cheesecake.

Speaking of cooking and super powers, today was my prep day for lunch tomorrow. I’m hosting an office lunch in order to raise funds for KW Cares. Expected turn-out is around 25 or 30 people. I’ll be serving Rosemary Chicken, Focaccia with either onions, olives, herbs, or all three, Baby Greens Salad, and Lemony Squash Cupcakes. I woke up at 6am today to start the Focaccia. It was my first attempt and I wanted to be sure I’d have enough time for a redo if things went south. They didn’t. To quote my child, brace for the ego trip, “mmmm, delicious olive bread.”

I’ll have pictures and donation amounts tomorrow. I’m really looking forward to the event and hoping for an amazing turn out. If you’re in the area, come on out. Keller Williams Advantage Realty. We’re asking for a $2 donation per lunch, all of which goes to KW Cares. Hope to see you there!

One last note: As of April 13, 2008, PSU Autism Speaks 5K Race raised $120,000 for Autism Speaks. This brings our 3 year total to $412,000. Wow. Thanks again to all of my friends and family members who donated. You're the best.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

What Every Hero Needs

Whether you’re battling hunger, cancer, lead paint, or poor fashion sense, at some point you’re going to have to run from the bad guys, run after the bad guys, run to someone's aid, or run a marathon to raise funds for the cure. All of this adds up to a lot of running for our Friendly World Saving Super Hero.

So, how do you do it? Stay fit, I mean. Do you run? Do you do yoga? Dance your heart out on the kitchen floor, by way of spontaneous dance parties with your toddler and/or sister? Well, now you know what I do!

How do you keep yourself motivated? I run with my iPod and set up a weekly jogging playlist. Would you like to know what’s in the queue for this week? No, Erik. It’s not Eye of the Tiger. At least not today… I start with something slow, build up, then slow back down. I’m working with about 30 minutes, which usually gives me a little more than 2.5 miles, including warm up and cool down. Here goes:

  • Sail Away – David Gray
  • Boston – Augustana
  • Jump (for my love) – Pointer Sisters
  • Holiday – Green Day
  • If I Never See Your Face Again – Maroon 5
  • Suddenly I See – KT Tunstall
  • Makes Me Wonder – Maroon 5
  • Inner City Blues – Marvin Gaye

Be friendly little super heroes, and tell me your power songs. What gets you going and keeps you going? Boston, Jump, and Holiday really kick it in for me and I feel like I could run forever when I’m listening to them. Maybe I should cut the list back and throw it on repeat. Or maybe I'll steal one of your songs.

A little video for your listening pleasure. Who knows? Maybe you'll start running when you hear it.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

It's Earth Day!

What better way to start a save-the-world blog than on Earth Day?

I'd love to hear what Earth Day means to you. Did you plant a tree? Turn off the tap while brushing your teeth? Carpool with your coworkers? Contribute time or money to an environmental cause? Did you vote green?

To me, Earth Day means doing a bit extra, reminding yourself and others that we can make a difference. So, today I reminded everyone at our office meeting to carpool while they toured properties. I took a few minutes to stock my car with reusable grocery bags to reinforce the habit. I planned out my day in terms of geography in order to conserve gas. NPR ran a story on tap vs bottled water and the environmental impact of each. So, I drank tap water today, even though the bottled variety was looking me in the eye at every turn. I know you did way better than I did. Tell me how.

Just a few more thoughts:

April is Autism Awareness Month. My company and family recently raced for the cure by participating in this fantastic PSU event, PSU Autism Speaks 5K. Our page hasn't been updated with our totals, but as a family we were able to raise $150 for Autism Speaks. Thank you to all of our contributors. But the door is still open. If you'd like to contribute to our race, click here. Thanks so much.

In other news, the CIRCUS came to town! Finn and I watched as the train pulled into town. We could see elephant trunks peeking out of the windows. Apparently, they were supposed to lead the animals out of the train and down the street to the Bryce Jordan Center. We didn't make it that far. It took about 45 minutes for the train to show up and after another 30 minutes of waiting for the animals to detrain, Finn had enough. He declared "All done!" and walked himself back to the car. Oh well. He loved the train. At least he had fun. We have tickets to Saturday's show. I'm sure he'll get his fill of the animals then.

Stay Tuned For:

1. On Monday, April 28, I'm hosting a benefit lunch for our in house nonprofit KW Cares. I'm making Rosemary Chicken Salad, French bread, and Lemony-Squash Cupcakes. I'll let you know how it goes and how much we raise. The goal for the year is $3,000. We are currently at the $900 mark.

2. On Thursday, May 1, I'll be attending an all day build for Habitat for Humanity, along with my team of 10 other Realtors. Details forthcoming.

Thanks for reading. Have a great week!