This blog chronicles my life as I try to balance healthy lifestyle habits with my husband's penchant for pizza rolls and my daughter's desire to watch iCarly 8 hours a day. It contains a mostly humorous, kind, and somewhat spiritual look at everyday life and the people who live it.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

4-6 Small Meals or No Meals, Whatever Works for You

When you're not eating is as important as when you are...

No discussion about health, fitness, or metabolism is complete in my opinion until we talk about fasting.  The tradition of fasting on holy days, to prepare for ceremonies, to gain spiritual knowledge, or to begin a rite of passage is centuries old.  The ancient wisdom still holds true today - if you want to cure what ails you: be it weight issues, allergies, disease, or stress - try fasting as a miracle cure.

I began doing one day fasts about 9 years ago.  Just a simple juice fast where for one day about every other week or so I would plug in the ol' juicer and drink only freshly juiced fruits and vegetables for the day.  I got away from the habit for awhile and kind of forgot how good I felt after a fast.  The reasons are simple: digestion takes a tremedous amount of energy to accomplish.  The amount of processed food typically consumed means that it takes even more energy because we barely need chew processed foods so natural enzymes present in our saliva don't have much chance to work.  Energy used digesting food is not being directed toward cellular waste removal, healing, and general maintenance.  Remove the need for digestion for a day or two and your body can get a lot of work done that it has been "meaning to do" when it had time.

Frequently when I am feeling overwhelmed, sluggish, or suffering from a cold I remind myself that it must be time to fast.   It's probably not a good idea to chomp down a cheeseburger for dinner and decide to fast the next day because that's a shock to your system and there can be side effects like headaches, irritability, and dizziness if you begin or end a fast abruptly.  The best way I have found is to plan the day on which I will fast.  The day before I begin the fast I have a smoothie for breakfast as usual, a salad of raw veggies for lunch and something simple like soup (a simple soup like vegetable or tomato, not a heavy soup like clam chowder or broccoli cheese) or another salad for dinner.  The next day I begin the fast with fresh juice.  All throughout the day whenever I feel hungry I drink more juice or water.  My favorite juice is apple celery juice because it just feels clean which sounds weird I know, but try it and you'll see what I mean.

You could continue this way for a whole day or even 2 or 3 days but definitely no more than 3 days the first time.  When you are ready to break the fast you eat the same or similar menu as you did the day before you began the fast: simple foods, mostly raw, with no dairy, very little fat, and definitely no animal products, including eggs.  You may wish to continue the pre-fast diet for 2 or 3 days but it's not absolutely necessary.

Some studies show that fasting for just one to two days a month increases life expectancy, lowers disease risk, is an excellent weight management tool, and can help overcome weight loss plateaus.  I am going to fast this Friday.  It's a Holy Day in my religion, the official end of Lent (though I won't actually watch HGTV until Sunday, I promise), near the beginning of a new month and a new season.

What could be a better time to let my body rest and rejuvenate?  How about you?  Anyone ready to try a fast?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Green Tip Tuesday: Stainless Steel Water Bottles

Stainless Steel water bottles don't need to look boring!

By now I think I've probably heard all of the debates about plastic water bottles and the possible water contamination that takes place as the plastic begins to break down due to time, sun exposure, heat/cold exposure, or rough handling.  I know that the water inside the bottle may not necessarily have been regulated and could be worse, much much worse, than the water from my tap.   I know I can't leave the water bottles in my car because I'll speed up the plastic breakdown due to the heat buildup inside my car, so I have to be really organized and remember to bring a reusable water bottle with me.  It's hard to turn on the news without hearing some new danger posed by bottled water - so why is it still so popular?

Convenience definitely plays a part.  I am guilty of purchasing water because I didn't plan very well, forgot my bottle, or had to choose between buying water or buying soda - water is definitely the lesser of the two evils there (remember, the soda is packaged in a plastic bottle too and is subject to the same toxic leakage from the plastic - or worse due to the harsher effects of the chemicals in soda).

To counter these problems I've decided to make an investment:  I have bought 3 stainless steel water bottles.  One is for the car.  It's still cold enough here that my water is actually chilled whenever I drink from that bottle throughout the day.  The second is for my gym bag.  In a pinch I have had to refill it from the gym's water fountain, but I suppose that's (somewhat) better than buying bottled water.  The last bottle is the pinch-hitter.  It steps in whenever one of the other bottles is being washed, cannot be immediately located, or whenever my daughter wants a larger bottle than the little ones I bought for her.

It's never a good idea to let water sit in a bottle for long periods of time because bacteria can really build up inside that bottle, but at least if it has to sit for awhile, it's better that it does so in a container that won't leach toxins into the water, won't contribute to bacteria growth by allowing sunlight in, and won't increase our dependency upon petroleum products.

We need to drink water.  All day, every day.  Proper hydration can cure headaches, reduce the appearance of wrinkles, shine your hair, increase your metabolism, ensure proper digestion, aid kidney function, and help you fight off disease!  Unfortunately it can't do any of those things very well if the water itself is the source of toxins.

Be good to your body.  Be good to your planet.  Drink water from a safe, reusable, stainless steel water bottle.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Gift that keeps on giving

I just posted about a funeral I attended, a funeral for a child, which has left me shaken and despairing for his parents and siblings.  At first I thought I wouldn't post again today but I felt dissatisfied with the brevity of the previous post and also felt the post lacked the true essence of how I feel about life -- and death.

The boy's father created a beautiful picture of his son's life using anecdotes of their family's life.  He talked about trips they had taken, famous people met, baseball caught, golf balls signed, and even the time his son caddied for ChiChi Rodriguez.  The father wove a tale of a beautiful life.  He began the eulogy with the words "My son was a lucky guy..."  I was astounded at the father's ability to move beyond his grief, shock, anger, and despair to truly capture the spirit of his son.  I think everyone present felt lucky to be there, even as tears streamed down our faces.  The son was definitely alive again as his father enriched us all by sharing his son's joyful life experiences.

Last year our family started a new tradition: giving experiences for gifts as opposed to the tangible clothes, toys, "stuff" we usually gave each other.  It began with Steve's 40th birthday for which my daughter and I gifted him a day as a fantasy Formula One RaceCar driver.  We all loved the experience and decided to make "experience giving" our tradition.  This year for our daughter's birthday she went indoor skydiving.  Steve's birthday present was tickets for all of us to see a Boston Red Sox's game.  My birthday present will be for our family to go white water rafting.  For Christmas this year we want to go to the Bahamas.

It took me awhile but I finally figured out that I rarely remember the shirt, or the kitchen gadget, or gift card that I receive as a gift, but I always remember the experiences I have that create those family stories that get told and retold, embellished upon and edited until finally they become our family's history. 

I want a life rich with experiences, memories that I can keep forever.  Those are the gifts that require no storage, no dusting, never go out of style, and never wear out.

And that, my friends, is a gift that keeps on giving.

Have you said "I Love You" today?

I just returned from the funeral of a 17 year-old boy who died unexpectedly during a routine operation.  The experience was just as devastating as you think it was.

The boy's father gave a beautiful, stirring eulogy that captured his son's life and made the congregation laugh and cry.  Mostly cry.

The essence of the eulogy was this: life is short.  Life is unpredictable.  Grab hold of the ones you love, hold on tight, tell them you love them.

And for God's sake, kiss your kids!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Metabolism Myths

I was talking to my sister yesterday and listening to her worry that her slower metabolism  is due to aging.  I set her straight about metabolism and thought perhaps there were others out there thinking that their metabolic rate is dependant upon their age.  Not so, my friends, not so.  Your metabolic rate is determined by your muscle mass.   Build more muscle, burn more calories.  Lose muscle, your metabolism will slow down. 

Lift weights to lose weight

Recently one of my blog buddies, Karen, wrote on her blog Fitness A Journey Not a Destination about this very topic.  I learned a lot about metabolism when I was enrolled at the University of Toledo taking kinesiology classes.  My instructor emphasized that three exercise components are necessary to ensure overall health: weight training, cardio, and gaining flexibility.  Focusing on only one of those 3 may give you the appearance of good health but as you age the deficits will become more apparent.  Since metabolism is the topic of the day, I'll focus on that and cover the other topics later.

How to rev up your metabolism?  Follow these steps:
1.  Eat 4-6 small meals a day to keep your blood sugar levels constant
2.  Weight train 3 times a week, increasing the difficulty level as reps become easier
3.  Drink plenty of water, dehydration decreases metabolism
4.  Limit consumption of alcohol, OTC drug, and prescription drugs (when possible)
5.  Sleep and wake at regular hours, preferably for 7-8 hours a night.

Have you ever heard of your Real Age?   Your body doesn't know how old it is, only how well it is maintained.

I'm sure there are many other ways to increase metabolism, if you have any other tips I'd love to hear them.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Dr. Oz is on TiVo probation

Recently when I asked if I should give Oprah another chance a reader named Karen suggested I try Dr. Oz.  I didn't know much about him so I TiVo'd him to try out a few shows. 

My jury is still out.  I liked that he mentioned poop and how important it is to have one (or two or three EVERY day) because so many people shy away from that most normal of bodily functions, but I was disappointed that with all the other medical topics in the world he chose sex addiction and even worse, Dr. Drew, as a topic and guest.

He had great advice on fiber content in vegetables and grains, how to give yourself a breast self-exam, and the dangers of diabetes, but he seems awful touchy-feely with his female guests and the giggling from the women he calls up on stage gets a little old.

I will admit to being fairly free with the fast forward button on the remote which is probably kind of a shame because I think Dr. Oz gives little nuggets of great information mixed in with a lot of fluff.  The problem is I don't allow myself to spend a lot of time watching TV so whenever I sense fluff coming up, I fast forward to the next topic.

Am I being too critical of the man?  Admittedly I have only seen 3 shows and of those shows, maybe a total of 18 minutes per show.  I do have some questions: Why do the audience members who go up on stage have to wear a lab coat?  Why does he change into scrubs for the last 20 minutes of the show?  Why do the women giggle so much?   Does anyone else think he could spend more time on a single topic and explore it more fully rather than have 3-4 topics per show?

Be you a fan or not I'd love to hear your thoughts on Dr. Oz.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

While Eavesdropping at the Gym...

Have you ever overheard just part of a conversation but the part that you heard was so interesting you really wished you could hear more?  This happens to me a lot at the gym probably because people are talking more loudly to be heard over the noise of the equipment and the music.  Lately I've heard some pretty intriguing snippets so I thought I'd share what I heard along with my best guess for what the rest of the story may be.

Conversation 1: (man next to me on elliptical, talking on cell phone) "Uh huh, yeah, yeah, okay, uh huh, okay well go ahead and put her in her box.  Yep, okay, talk to you later."  I have to admit that I really, really, really want to know who is going in the box.  Is the "her" in question a doll?  A piece of art?  Doesn't using the pronoun "her" imply a living being?  Is it a cat who needs to use a litter box?   Surely it's not a punishment for his daughter, or a way of keeping track of his half-crazy mom, right?

Conversation 2: (woman on elliptical next to me talking to another woman) "Well I still think that he gave it to her because she has been itching ever since she last saw him, either that or its from her dad."  That's all I got before they walked away.   Are we talking about poison ivy here?  Head lice?  A yeast infection?  What does her dad have to do with it????

Conversation 3: (woman in locker room, talking to me and the room in general) "Okay I'll see you all later I have to go wiz and then take a BodyVive class."   Excuse me, did she say "wiz?"  I haven't heard that slang for 20 years and I'm positive I've never heard a woman use that word!  That, my friends, is a case of WTMI, way too much information!

Conversation 4: (woman in restroom stall complaining loudly) "Oh this smells just great in here!  What are you women doing, eating cabbage?"  I stood there washing my hands shaking with laughter on that one.  Mostly because just a few days earlier I had eaten a New England boiled dinner which is mostly potatoes, carrots, and cabbage.  I swear I hadn't used the restroom!  It wasn't me!

I'm a shameless eavesdropper.  If someone is yammering away on their cell phone within my hearing I'll listen.  I don't even pretend to look like I can't hear them.  I peep through people's windows when the lights are on and the shades are open.  I even ask Steve to drive by more slowly so I can get a better look.  I never think of myself as a voyeur but clearly I have a few privacy/boundary issues (though I swear I am just interested in how the room is decorated!)

Is it just me?  Are you all out there politely turning away from loud cell phone users and other people's conversations?  Remember, most of what I hear is being said so loudly I can hear it with my earbuds in...

Is that wrong?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Green Tip Tuesday: Creating your own container garden

It has long been my dream to have an herb garden.  Two years ago my friend Chellie cultivated a little corner of her neighbor's garden and grew the herbs she used most commonly in cooking.  Every time we would be chatting on the phone and she'd casually say "I'm walking outside I'm going to cut some basil for dinner tonight." I reaffirmed that one day I too would have an herb garden.

This year is my year.  I'm not tilling up any soil, making any grandiose plans, or marking off rows in the backyard, I am merely purchasing 3 large planter pots that hook on the railing of my deck.

This planter is designed to fit over the deck railing.

Now all I have to do is fill these planters with herbs.  To make the most of the small planting space I am going to plant some herbs together.  Some herbs grow better together than others so I researched a little to see what will work best.

Pot 1: Sage, rosemary, and thyme
Pot 2: Cilantro, oregano,and parsley
Pot 3: Basil and mint

Mint grows very well in a planter environment because it has a tendency to take over gardens if not contained.  I plan to grow a lot of Basil because I love pesto and it takes a lot of Basil to make a small amount of pesto.

There are a lot of different ways to grow herbs in small spaces

I have only ever tried to grow tomatoes and I had pretty good success so I am feeling a little more adventurous.  I like that I can grow these herbs organically.  I like that I reduce my dependency on grocery stores by creating a garden.

Have you ever had an herb garden or done container gardening?  I would love any tips or hints you may have!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Scary Cousin Terry

I have really enjoyed going through all of the pictures my dad sent to me for Christmas.  It's great to look back on Christmases past and see the family...well, most of the family.  I have a scary cousin Terry.  He's really my second cousin, but still too close in the gene pool for comfort.  In deference to the fact that Scary Terry is still alive I won't post his real picture, but he really does look a lot like Charles Manson.

It's the eyes that remind me of Terry...and the scary goatee.

I got to thinking about what made Cousin Terry so scary.  My mom said she first started being a little weirded out when she noticed that although he was over 30 years old he always wanted to go play Barbies with me in Grandma's bedroom.  Alone.  She wasn't weirded out enough to actually stop him, just enough to check on me regularly.

My brother thinks that it was Cousin Terry's weird stare that made him so scary.  He would just stare at you with these hooded eyes and then kind of smile.

For me it was the smile.  Whenever I looked at Terry he was smiling at me.  Just smiling.  I don't remember him ever actually saying anything to me, just that little smile.  It gives me the willies just thinking about it.

I realize that every family must have a scary member.  Even the Brady Bunch vilified poor Jan, making her wear wigs, glasses, and 2 tiny curls on either side of her forehead just to show that she was the Scary One.

Again, look at the eyes!  (No goatee, thank God)

Who is the scary member of your family?  If it's you, that's okay, name it and claim it.  After all, even Jan Brady ended up selling her bike to save the Brady Kids' gift to Mrs. Brady.  As for Scary Cousin Terry...I think he may still be an elementary school teacher...

Friday, March 19, 2010

Should I give Oprah another chance?

This year for Lent I gave up HGTV.  I haven't cheated, not even at the gym where I am forced to choose the elliptical that is smushed up against the wall just to avoid the TVs, one of which is always playing HGTV.  I have remained steadfast. 

Lots of times at home I find myself ready to fold laundry, cook a meal, dust, or do some other mindless task and I usually flip on the TV for some entertainment.  With TiVo it only takes me about 38 minutes to watch a 60 minute program because I fast forward through the whole intro, the commercials, the credits, the 'sneak peeks' at what will be on later in the week, etc.  I have been filling this 38 minutes with the Ellen show, which I have to admit, I really, really like, but Ellen has a lot of celebrity interviews and/or bands on her show and I fast forward through those and sometimes only end up with about 18 minutes of interesting-to-me Ellen.

Last year I decided to add Oprah to my TV viewing.   Sadly, poor Oprah didn't last but 2 weeks before she got yanked from my TiVo because of I couldn't take her coverage of the election any longer.  I haven't seen a single show or even a preview since. 

Are there any Oprah watchers out there?  Any suggestions for shows that require little attention and can be TiVo edited down to about 20 minutes?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Art of Gift Giving

March is a huge birthday month in our family with a total of 6 birthdays being celebrated before the month's end.  It makes sense, I suppose, that gift giving has been on my mind a lot lately.  I wrote this post over a year ago about some Christmas gifts I had received that made me wonder how the gift givers saw me.  Now, as the gift giver, I wonder how the gift recipients see me when they receive my gifts.

I like to think BIG when I think of gift wrapping.  I perused way too many issues of Martha Stewart living to be content to just throw on some paper, tape it up, and call it done.  I like to choose beautiful, unique paper, preferably from places like The Container Store or Ikea or the like that sell papers not necessarily seen everyday.  I like to add wired ribbon, perhaps some leaves, pinecones, or twigs from nature, maybe raffia...yeah...I feel a theme developing here!  I'll wrap all the gifts in plain brown paper that I'll stamp with leaves from a stamp I make myself by gathering the last few leaves left on the ground and then carving them into a potato to make my own stamp and then I'll gently clean those leaves and use them as a pattern to make felted leaves that I'll attach to the package with raffia that I have recycled from a wreath I made 5 years ago!

Needless to say, my gifts always arrive late.

Can you say "pressure?"  When you tear hand-stamped-with-a-carved-potato paper off a gift you are bound to be either a) disappointed that the giver spent more time thinking about the potato carving than the gift; or b) not even aware that the paper was stamped (though you do notice a slight potato-y smell...) and thinking that the giver sure spent a long time sticking junk from the yard on a package that just contains a gift card!

Did I mention that I am not an inspired gift giver?

My mom's birthday is tomorrow.  I haven't sent her a gift yet.  I haven't even purchased a gift for her yet.  I have thought about her gift.  I've thought about little else for the past week.  Last year's gift went over like a lead balloon.  It wasn't the gift my mom wanted.  What she really wanted was a gift card to Olive Garden.  I gave her what I wanted her to have, not what she wanted to receive.  This year my mom really just wants a gift card to JCPenney.  Why do I hesitate?  It's not hard to send a gift card!  I'll admit it feels a little meaningless to me but then again, I'm the giver, not the receiver.  It's not about me.  Do I make the potato-stamped paper for the gift recipient?  Or for myself?  Ahhh, narcissism and gift giving make strange bedfellows, yes?

I better go.  I have to get to JCPenney.  And then to the post office.

Do you have any gift giving/receiving stories to share?  I'd love to hear about the worst gifts you received or better yet, sent!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Green Tip Tuesday: Low VOC paint

Today feels like spring and spring, to me, always means painting time.  I am an incurable decorator with a fickle love of color and a passion for change.  I love every single wall color in this house but I will probably have them all changed within the next few months.  I can't help myself.  I love to paint.  I am fearless on a ladder (though that did once cause the 'incident'...) and love the look of  clean, smooth, freshly painted walls.

But all paint is not created equal.

Enter the new variety of low-VOC or zero-VOC paints.  These paints are a class of latex paints that are made with reduced or zero amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).  They are purported to be better for our health than regular paint and I agree with that statement because reduced exposure to chemicals such as formaldehyde is definitely a good thing.  The reason that VOCs are in paint at all is because they are an excellent binder - they help the paint go on smoothly and the paint molecules to adhere to each other thus creating a smooth finish on the wall.

Low VOC or zero VOC paints are not going to go on as smoothly.  There will be more splattering, especially if you roll quickly.  You will definitely have to put on a second coat because without those binding chemicals your paint will look more "open" on the wall.  Low VOC or zero VOC paint is more expensive and you will use more and you will have to paint more slowly to ensure that you are not splattering your ceilings, trim, and floors.  It's worth it though.  It really is a worthwhile expense. 

See paint isn't the only thing around you leaking VOCs and polluting your air.  Your printer ink, your craft glue, your stained wood furniture and your veneer furniture are all leaking VOCs into the air.  Scrapbookers working with lots of different adhesives and papers may be breathing in large amounts of VOCs.  We are all receiving a lot of exposure to a potpourri of chemicals that we can't even begin to imagine so it's important to reduce our exposure whenever we can.  Low VOC or zero VOC paints are an excellent way to coat the largest surfaces in your home with something that won't cause headaches, allergies, and, with enough exposure, cancer.

It's not a treat or something just to be used in the kids' rooms, although please, please, please use this paint in your bedroom where you spend 6-8 hours a night breathing in whatever is leaching from your walls, floors, and bedding (frequently with your door closed!) and with very little ventilation during those hours.  You wouldn't consider an antibiotic a "treat" if you had an infection, right?  This is preventative medicine, my friends. 

I have used several lines of paint, all of which I recommend though I don't recommend one over the others: Mythic paints have a beautiful color palette all their own, though many other colors can be mixed using a Mythic base.  Benjamin Moore Natura is also very nice - no odor within about 5 minutes of finishing the job. 

It's nearly spring.  Freshen your home with some beautiful new colors that inspire you.  Freshen your air with products that won't harm you.  Freshen our planet by committing to doing just one Green thing this spring.  Just one.

Has anyone used any other low VOC or zero VOC paint they would like to recommend?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

...And that's why I need more toilet paper.

So late last week I had this great idea:  I will turn the remaining 3 months before my 40th birthday into a boot camp of sorts and sculpt my body so that when I turn 40 I will be ripped, cut, and amazing.  I couldn't help it, I was hyped-up by the return of Biggest Loser after the long Winter Olympics hiatus, I'd had a little too much enjoyment from my peanut butter cookie Larabar, and I had recently seen a picture of 42-year-old Halle Berry in her underwear.  Inspiring, to say the least.   Never to be one to do things by halves, I jumped into my new routine.  I made sure my breakfast smoothie was pristine: no cheating by using orange juice for extra flavor because it also adds calories.  My lunchtime veggie intake was a thing of beauty: no dip, a small handful of almonds or walnuts for protein, perhaps some fresh-squeezed lemon juice for some zip.  Snack time I had a Larabar.  Dinner was awash with whole grains, fresh veggies, and simple proteins.   I was working out with a new fervor: 30 minutes on the elliptical, an hour of weigh training, an hour-long cardio class.  Each day I had breakfast, take daughter to school, workout, home, shower, lunch, take a walk, yoga, pick up daughter,  snack, housework, cook dinner, read, bed.  Get up and do it again all over the next day.  Earlier this week I was so sore I was sure my chest pains were a heart attack.  By Wednesday I was sure I had a sinus infection (and still possibly a heart attack).   By Thursday I was so sick I was willing to consider going to Dr. Breast Exam to get antibiotics.  By Friday I was so sick I was only well enough to yell at Steve, but too sick to go to the doctor.

Perhaps working out about 5 hours a day and consuming barely a thousand calories while still not fully recovered from my cold wasn't my best plan. 

Still, congested as I was, I didn't rate breathing high enough to go to Dr. Breast Exam for a prescription so I decided to cure myself with probiotics and extra psyllium husk in my smoothie.  Look to the colon folks!  Whatever ails you, look to the colon.

I'm still congested.  I still have a headache. My nose is still raw from blowing it. 

But By God my colon is clean.

And that's why I need more toilet paper.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Eye of the Beholder: Green Tip Tuesday: The Programmable Thermostat

Eye of the Beholder: Green Tip Tuesday: The Programmable Thermostat

This Life Needs a Good Soundtrack

I didn't grow up in a home with a lot of music.  Every Christmas my mom would borrow my old Raggedy Ann & Andy record player and play Christmas music while we decorated the tree, but that was about it.  Somehow though I became a person who functions better with a little mood music to help me along.

As a teenager I traded in my Raggedy Ann & Andy reclord player for a stereo and a clock radio.  It was love at first listen: I logged many hours dancing around my room to the GoGos, Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, and Olivia Newton-John - just to name a few.  I did my homework, cleaned my room, talked to friends, and doodled in my notebook all with the music blaring as loud as I could get away with.

As an adult I kind of forgot how much I liked listening to music until recently when my iPhone made it possible for me to listen to music anywhere in my house but still hear the phone if it rings because the iPhone does the coolest thing ever: it acts like an iPod until you receive a phone call at which time it stops the music and gives you the option to answer the call!  Is that cool or what?  No more racing to through the house to get the phone and then asking the as-yet-unidentified-caller to hold on while I turn down the music I had blaring because I was cleaning bathrooms upstairs but the only music source was downstairs.  No more realizing that I missed a few calls because I had my earbuds in while walking or cleaning.  No more carrying my cell phone, iPod, and pedometer ('cause there's an app for that!) just to take a walk around the neighborhood.  I'm streamlined, baby!

I'll listen to just about any kind of music but I do have a few favorites:
I like Kelly Clarkson for washing dishes.
You can't beat a Disney movie soundtrack (like the one from Aladdin) when dusting.  (Hey, no judging!  You'd find yourself singing along if I played it for you!)
Cleaning bathrooms requires music you can really belt out like something from Pink because the acoustics are so good.
I've been paying all my bills lately to Jason Mraz.
And I like to go for One Republic, Coldplay, or Rob Thomas when I fold the laundry.

I often wonder what my neighbors would think if they saw me dancing around the kitchen, washing the windows while shaking my booty, and dusting while loudly singing to You Ain't Never Had a Friend Like Me.  I'm lucky because my neighbors aren't quite close enough to see into my house though I have no doubt they've heard me singing during the summer when all of our windows are open.  When I see people starring  in their own personal concert while in their car, I smile.  I like to see people singing.  It's healthy.  Singing tones the abdominal muscles, lowers blood pressure, releases stress, and generally improves our mood.

So let loose!  Belt out a few show tunes and maybe give a little shoulder shimmy while running the vaccuum.

 How about you, what artists or music genres get you moving?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Green Tip Tuesday: The Programmable Thermostat

Is this how you look when you're at home and trying to save money on your energy bills?  I spent all last winter when we lived in an-over-200-year-old-and-who-even-knew-windows-could-last-that-long? rental all bundled up.  The sophisticated heating system was either all on or all off and I definitely couldn't afford to heat that whole house all day, so I chose to freeze until my daughter came home from school when I would grudgingly turn on the heat.

This house is equipped with 5 heating zones (heat only, no air conditioning).  This is the first time I have ever had zones and I am a fan.  We have oil heat so I get "instant" feedback as to my consumption by the size of the bill left in my front door after the oil truck has left.  Did I forget and leave the heat on in the basement for  2 weeks?  Well, that accounts for the those extra 20 gallons @$2.69/gallon.

Keeping track of all these zones would be a royal pain if it weren't for the programmable thermostat.  Available at any major hardware store (we bought ours from Lowe's) they can range in price from a simple model to the cadillac-of-thermostats-that-will-practically-keep-track-of-your-periods-too models which can get pretty pricey.  We spent about $50 for each thermostat.  I used to run around the house trying to remember to turn up and down the heat.  Inevitably I would forget a zone and would either pay to heat an unoccupied space or freeze while putting on my pajamas because I forgot to turn on the heat.  Here's how we do it now:  On Monday-Friday I don't heat the upstairs from the hours of 8:30a.m.-5:30p.m.  Nobody is up there during those hours with the possible exception of me doing laundry and running up and down stairs hauling baskets full of clothing is enough cardio to keep me warm.

The basement is only heated to 50 degrees.  The temperature is turned up "upon request."  Our main floor is heated to 68 degrees from 7a.m. to 10p.m. and then it automatically drops to 60.

When we have school breaks or sick days or snow days I can override the programs and keep everyone toasty - but I am always amazed at the difference I see in our oil bill.  Just a few sick days can mean 10 extra gallons of oil.  Winter break consumed almost 40 extra gallons!  That there's a lot of reliance upon petroleum.

I've even heard-tell (my southern vernacular is legit, I was born in Texas) of some utility companies that give discounts or credits to customers who have programmable thermostats.

How do you reduce your heating bills?