Thursday, December 9, 2010

30 Days of Solar Energy

We celebrated our 1st 30 Days of Solar Energy this week!  So, you ask, how did the 1st month go?

We had our CT Clean Energy Fund inspection (after all, if they are providing grant monies, the job has to be done to their satisfaction) which went well.  A few nit-picky things (sorry, but needing stickers?  I'm sure it's important, but the poor electrician from Sunlight Solar had to go up on my roof this morning with temps in the teens!) which were corrected very quickly.

Here's the inspector checking out the roof.  Anyone else tired of seeing pictures of my roof yet?


We were pretty excited to learn that in 30 days (MANY of them cloudy - but hey, that's November for you) we had generated over 600 kWh.  We also surpassed the 1000 mark for pounds of CO2 saved!  I've been using the Mohlers in West Hartford as my benchmark, and I think we'll surpass their 12,000 lbs saved in a year.  We might also have better orientation and sun exposure than they do.

The CT Solar Lease program required us to do a quarterly meter reading for December.  While we have a modem-type device attached to the system that will update automatically to a website we can check, I'm not sure our own website was fully up and running so we did the reading and submittal the old-fashioned way.

What did our electric bill look like?  It looked really low!  $44 vs. the $167 for the same month last year, and we cut our grid use by 75%.  (Not bad for a 5 BR household with an in-law apartment with lots of lights & the TV going a good part of the day.) Honestly though, I kind of expected we'd have NO bill.  I suppose that was silly though, because we need lights at night, when we're not generating solar energy, and we don't store the energy - it goes out to the street if we're not using it.  I was also in the habit of running the dishwasher at night after dinner when we went to bed, and running the dryer at night (because it's easier to fold clothes without 2 kids jumping on the clothes pile I'm trying to fold.)  Hubby pointed out that I need to change my energy-usage habits and do those things during the daytime when we're generating.  That's grossly obvious but I hadn't thought of it yet.  Yesterday I even cooked dinner during the daytime (a roast in the crockpot.)   

I think we're generating a lot more energy than we're using too.  The day the CCEF inspector was here, he said we had generated 421 kWh and sold back 301 of them to CL&P.  I can't wait to see the credits add up.  


Isn't this a riot?  My neighbor who has to look at my solar array from his yard dubbed it "The Minnick-Hendrix Roof Guitar!"  Very clever, Fielding, very clever!

In other news, we're trying to get involved with a new energy-reduction pilot program but we've been having trouble connecting with the local contact.  I'm not even sure what it's all about, but if GREEN guru Andy Bauer is involved, it must be good!   

Thursday, December 2, 2010

MAMA GONE GREEN is my Guest!

I'm so happy to share a guest post/quick tip with you today from one of my favorite daily reads, MamaGoneGreen.  Special thanks to Taryn!  Please stop by her blog - I know you'll enjoy reading her as much as I do :)


Quick Tips: Handwashing

 Tis the season for germ spreading and hand washing, right? Here are a couple of quick tips from Mindy Pennybackers Do One Green Thing that will help you make some more informed choices when choosing what to wash your hands with.

When possible, avoid regular handwashing with antibacterial soaps containing triclosan because this chemical spreads antibiotic-resistant bacteria (which means that when we actually ARE sick and really do need those antibiotics, they may no longer work!). Also, washing with antibiotic soap is no more effective than soap and water at killing germs anyways, so it is really unnecessary. Lastly, the production of triclosan (to put in the soap) releases dioxins into the environment, which can cause cancer. Yuck.

One last quick tip: when choosing between bar and liquid soap, choose the bar version. Bar soap has less ingredients AND less packaging than liquid soap, making it better for the environment, and probably better for your health as well.

Wash well!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

My GREEN Ireland

Guess who went to Dublin for a long weekend?  Oui, c'est moi!  (We're just crazy like that!)  As usual, I tried to be a GREEN traveler & observer along the way :)

The first GREEN aspect of the trip was that all 6 of us squeezed into one car, luggage and all, to carpool to the airport.  We nicknamed it the GREEN MACHINE.

There were some pretty cool and different (for me) environmentally-friendly things in Dublin that caught my eye.  Like these cool solar compactor trash cans.  This one sits outside the entrance to the Book of Kells Exhibit at Trinity College.


Another day while walking near the campus we came upon this display in a window which we all thought was fabulous.


It's a flower grenade!  Ha ha!  It was part of this really cool cafe/shop/science exhibit which was closed while we were walking by and unfortunately we didn't manage to make it back for the time when it would be open.


We also saw lots of opportunities to buy and eat locally grown vegetables and meats, even stumbling upon a local outdoor market that spread out over 3 streets with 3 different themes: local handcrafts, local foods (including locally made baked goods, cheeses, meats) and locally grown produce.  We tried some of the local goodies and 2 friends picked up some knit goods.


The best part of our trip though was the day we spent in the country, which is just as GREEN as you would imagine, even in November.  










Thursday, November 11, 2010

ReStore Comes to Middlesex!

I really wanted to smush two topics into one short post today: GREEN beers and the ReStore...it's just that they're both timely and so very important (that's me being cheeky.)

Alas, I recognized that GREEN beer deserves it's very own post, and next week is just as timely as today would be.  I'll tell you why next week in a special post :)  Exciting things happening around here! (Well, exciting for me.)

Have you heard of Habitat for Humanity ReStores?  We're getting one in Cromwell - to be opening soon, as in this month.  You can donate materials from your building/remodeling projects...for instance a friend is remodeling a perfectly good bathroom just because she doesn't love the color...she could donate her cabinets or fixtures.  How it works is you call or send an email to jdoyle@habitatmiddlesex.org or call 860.343.9179 and they set a date to pick up your items if they can use them.  Those items are sold in the store, and reused (very GREEN!) and proceeds are used to build more affordable homes in Middlesex County!  For more information, go to http://www.habitatmiddlesex.org.  I've always wanted to visit those stores and I'm excited that we'll have one nearby.

What would a post be without a quick update on my solar life?  The same day I posted last week, CL&P showed up with the new meter, installed it in a flash, then the activation order came in a few hours later.  We fired up the system to great fanfare (and someone celebrated with a vodka tonic) and it has been live for almost a week now.






In only 52 hrs of the system running (it turns off at night so not to draw electricity it needs to run) we have generated 117 kWh (kilowatt hours) and have saved 198 lbs of CO2.  With the sun we have today I expect we'll hit the 200 lbs mark by lunchtime!  Not surprisingly, hubby and I can both be found running to the scary basement to read the inverter & meter at least once a day!  I just ran outside to look at the new two-way meter and I see that we're currently sending solar energy out to the street!  How cool is that?  Wondering how long until that novelty wears off :)

Friday, November 5, 2010

While I Wait for the GREEN Light...

Waiting for the GREEN light...could that have 3 meanings?  The first might be waiting for the go-ahead to power up the solar electric system from my local utility company (CL&P) once they've installed their new electric meter outside my house.  The 2nd would be the actual GREEN light on the inverter that indicates we're generating power.  The 3rd is a little more obscure, kind of like waiting for the light to dawn on me, only in the environmental sense?  My GREEN awakening?  Yeah, I guess that's already happened.

Our solar installation was finished on Monday, with a final walkthrough and all.  On Monday, which was bright & sunny, we were generating close to 8.2kw during the test reading!  (BTW, I've said it before and I'll say it again - the entire crew over at Sunlight Solar, especially Kevin & Will who spent a good part of 2 weeks here, have been very professional and excellent to work with on this project.  I would recommend them without hesitation.)  Below is the finished project.  It is a little broken up on the west of the roof (there are at least 2 vents in the way) but that leaves enough room to add on that solar thermal system later :)



Tuesday morning was the inspection with the town and electrician from Sunlight Solar, Paul, who also installed a line into our router box for the Locus box.  The Locus box will read how much power we produce and transmit it to a website that both we and the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund will monitor.  The inverter itself has a digital display that will read how many lbs of CO2 we've saved and how much energy we're producing, etc.  You just know I'm going to be sitting down there staring at it the first week to see where the numbers go!  (Kind of like how we watched our first load of laundry in the new front-loader 10 years ago!)  The new meter in the basement will show a continuous run of how much energy we've generated.  Speaking with the town inspector, he told me that over the summer he'd seen 6-8 solar applications here in town.  I'm going to have to drive around and check on those!  I was on Sunlight Solar's website reading how these clients in West Hartford just celebrated their 1 year solar-versary and put up a sign in their front yard announcing they've saved 12,000 lbs of CO2!



Now we wait for CL&P.  We were told it may take up to 2 weeks to go live.  In the meantime, I've been reading my Photon Magazine!  I also borrowed The Lazy Environmentalist from the library, but Photon Magazine turns out to be better reading.

 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Solar Project Moves Along...

Day 6 is pretty exciting chez nous!!!  We have Kevin and Will, plus 2 other great guys from Sunlight Solar here and the panels are going up.  Today they expect to put up 28 of the 40 panels we'll have.


While they unloaded the panels from the trucks they told me that Evergreen Solar, the manufacturer of the panels we're using, is a company out of Massachusetts and their panels are U.S. Made.  Also, they told me, the company has a low carbon footprint.

Here's the label of one of the first panels they unloaded.

The guys from Sunlight Solar have been very professional, respectful, and lovely to work with.  This morning they played classical music while prepping the panels as Charlotte had a picnic on the grass observing them.  They got the first 6 panels up before breaking for lunch!


The rainy weather slowed things down a bit, but it's coming along.  This is the view from my fabulous neighbor's yard.  You can see the panels won't cover the entire roof - we have enough room to add panels later for solar thermal!  (Woo!)

I would have waited until later in the day to share photos of how it will look in a few hours, but I'm heading to the hospital to spend time with my dad this afternoon.  Hoping he's getting strong enough for surgery soon.  Please send good thoughts our way.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

O Canada I'm With You on This One

Cheers go out to the Canadian Government for making it the first country to officially declare BPA (bisephenol-A) toxic to human health and the environment.  I've been on a mission to limit my family's exposure to it since I first learned of the possible dangers (specifically the disruption to endocrine system, diabetes, heightened risk of breast & prostate cancer, heart disease & reproduction abnormalities) of BPA.  That meant getting rid of the many sippy cups we had, a few baby bottles, and reusable containers that might not be BPA-free.  Now if I have to buy something made of plastic, I look for the BPA-free label or go with glass or stainless steel.  (When we ditched the sippy cups for Sigg bottles, my kids never missed them!)

(This is my arsenal of BPA-free stuff, minus the rest of the Laptop Lunches bento box and water bottles which the little guy has with him at school right now!  Cute stuff, right?  Besides the Siggs, we have Resnackit, Lunchskins, and Laptop Lunches.)

Another source of BPA is in food packaging.  Not only are some infant formulas in containers lined with BPA-containing materials, but everyday food that might be in your pantry has it as well.  ConsumerReports.org has a short video and names some of the offenders they tested (Campbells, Libby's, Hormel, etc... pretty common pantry items like soups, juices, veggies.)  Even some of the organic canned goods they tested came up positive for BPA.  This presents another good case for eating fresh, don't you think?  At the very least it means even more research before heading to the grocery store.

In other updates....

Look who is up on my roof!



Sunlight Solar arrived on Tuesday morning and Kevin & Will have been hard at work.  Day 1 they spent working in my basement installing the meter, the inverter, and working in the electrical box.  Kevin said he was glad to see there was extra room in there for them.  Good to know.  They also praised my electrician (my very own electrician-brother Steve!) for doing such a neat job with our electrical.  Thank you Steve for being very professional even when wiring for your sister!


(That's Will, the Kurt Cobain-esque gentleman working on our inverter!)  

Day 2 they moved on to the roof because the October weather is cooperating and they've been installing what look like cleats which will hold the rails where the panels will sit.  We have a VERY steep roof, so I'm thankful they brought along harnesses.

Today looks like they're doing some work in the attic running conduit, and are putting up the disconnect outside as required by the power company.   They were planning on being back on the roof if the weather held - but the rain came early.  By this time next week I should be posting pics of the finished system!  I have a ton of questions for them, but with all this real estate work staring at me on my desk, I don't have the time to bother them.  I'll bet they're grateful for that!  I will get more info from them before the week is done though :)

By the way, we've had an interesting (in the annoying sense) issue with our tax assessment changing because of the solar panels.  Our tax assessor said she would tax us the cost of a new furnace, but our solar company told us they shouldn't up our taxes, and that they hadn't done so to the other applicants, so hubby went to talk to the assessor.  Thanks to the state/federal incentive program the assessment cannot go up, so we won't have to pay extra taxes.  Keep that in mind if you're going through the process as we are and don't let the tax assessor tell you otherwise!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The GREEN CT Realtor in Photon Magazine

When a package arrived at my office on Friday from the Netherlands, I just assumed that one of my readers had sent me a magazine that I would enjoy.  (I'm always amazed at how many different places I have readers following from - it's very humbling to see that in just a few days I might have visitors from China, Moscow, Singapore, Berlin, Canada, Australia, Norway, London, etc.)



It wasn't until later that evening when my husband was reading it that we figured it out...Photon Magazine wrote about my blog!  I've been featured on other websites (NE Conserves) and blogs before, but this was my first time in print media as The GREEN CT Realtor.  Needless to say, I'm pretty excited about it.



I'm also excited about the magazine, which is published in San Francisco.  I'm looking forward to sitting down with a glass of one of my organic wines (yes, I'm still trying a new organic wine each week!)  and reading it cover to cover.  I'll let you know what I think!

So what do you think of the blog tweaking?  I've been changing some of the page elements to mix things up a bit.

In real estate news, I have a handful of great properties on the market!  It's been a while since I shared what I've been working on, so here goes.  I've already told you about Knowles Landing on the Connecticut River in Middle Haddam, which is such an inspiring & peaceful place.  (Check out the view from across the great lawn to the riverfront dock & seating area.)  The 2nd video shoot we did came out much better than the first - I'm looking forward to sharing that with everyone.



I also have a sweet fixer-upper of a cottage on Lake Pocotopaug here in town as well.  4 bedrooms and a great view onto the lake right on the sidewalked portion of the lake - it's a great location!


There's also an approved 9.82 acre building lot on Pine St. in Columbia which is level & private and just perfect for building that environmentally-friendly house I've been talking about...


I just put a gorgeous 1875 10 room home on the market in Middletown.  It has a brand new kitchen, so many possibilities with so many rooms, and a 2nd kitchen upstairs.  It's on a half-acre lot and is a really sweet place with a side porch AND a garage.  


Today I put an old favorite of mine on the market, 108 Main St. here in East Hampton.  I just love antique homes, and this one is great because it has the open floor plan that modern families are looking for plus it has character and is located in the village center.  Bonus that it has a 3 yr old roof and 5 heat zones and 2 driveways! 


Also had a 3-family investment property on Lyons St. in New Britain (What's that?  You lived on Lyons St. at one point?  You won't believe the number of people I've met who HAVE lived there!  Nice little neighborhood.)  It sold SO quickly and is scheduled to close on Monday.  Great tenants - it was fun getting to know them while were were showing the house this August.

If you want anymore information on these listings or feel like browsing others, please visit my website.    So (here's the real estate plug I never actually use despite this dynamite platform,)  if you know anyone who might be looking to buy or sell real estate, I'd be happy to help.  I'm not just saying this - it really is a good time to buy.  If you've been following along for a while you probably have a good feel for the type of person I am, so please feel free to send your friends my way.  Gosh, that's pretty awkward.  I do all of my business by referral at this point (Happy 10th Anniversary to my real estate career!) so thank you to everyone for their business and for referring me to your friends and family.  (Even to Jane who sent me that weird guy last week - I think I found him the perfect house!)   







Thursday, October 7, 2010

Your New Green Blog Friend

Confession time.  Between taking care of sick kids for the past WEEK, trying to work full-time hours from home due to a very busy real estate schedule, collecting signatures for a town political coup, keeping my commitment to trying new organic wines (someone has to do it!) and patiently waiting on my solar panels, I've also found time to blogstalk a new favorite GREEN blog!  (That sounds like a pretty exciting week though, doesn't it?  Plus tomorrow I have the new video shoot - yes, shoot #2 - for my listing at Knowles Landing!  There exists the remote possibility that a celebrity guest might be there - yes, my 2nd celebrity associated with this listing and I'm SO excited about it!)

Let me introduce Mama Gone Green, who might just be my West Coast GREEN counterpart/BFF/soulmate.  OK, that might be going overboard, but we have a lot in common as far as our choices in living an environmentally-friendly life and parenting.  She's an environmental studies instructor at a community college in Portland, Oregon and a mom.  Hats off to anyone who can find the time to blog daily.  Hers is filled with wonderful stories, recipes, helpful information, and ideas.  I found inspiration there.  I've also found inspiration in Nester's 31 Days series I've been following.  She's writing the 31 days to a less messy nest.

Mama Gone Green has agreed to possibly doing a guest post for us one day!  I'm thinking next month when I'm in Ireland might be the perfect time for you to meet her.  Then again, why wait until November...I think you should click on over to her page and enjoy her blog right now!

(If you're wondering what happened to my solar install on Monday, hubby asked them to delay a week while he finished the prep work.  With the help of my brother the attic is ready, then some work in the basement and we're good to go for this coming Monday!)

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Solar Panels on Monday

Just as my beautiful sunflowers were beginning to fade...
I opened the email that the solar installation begins Monday morning!  The project we began back in January is finally coming to fruition and I'm SO excited.  It's a good thing the support beams for the attic were delivered yesterday.

 This is the delivery from our local lumber yard.  (Funny story about the lumber yard - their phone number is written on the outside of our house - we're talking eye-level as you walk up to the front door.  We think hubby's grandfather wrote it there 267-2565 and it won't come off.  It's been there for at least 15 years already!  Because of that, we decided not erase the smiley face Julien drew below it a few years ago when he entered his Picasso phase.)  Seeing as how we now have only the weekend before work starts, I can see hubby will be spending the weekend in the attic sistering up those beams for added support.

By the way, local friends, did you notice that our local library had solar panels installed recently?  I'll have to ask how that's working out for them!



Has anyone else seen the ads for the new eco-friendly Nissan Leaf?  Not a hybrid, but fully electric  Interesting.  Scott's plan is to drive the Corolla until it's no longer possible, then switch to a Prius.  For that we'll surely go see my friend Alex at Hoffman Toyota!  I suppose we'll have to consider other options as well, and this Nissan means we may have to go for a test drive.  Chevrolet also has an option called the Volt, but I can't say I've ever been a fan of Chevy.  I'll definitely be doing some research on all of these before we decide, and knowing Corollas, we have a while to figure that out!
Just read a GREEN blog today I'd never seen before.  It's Australian, so don't be confused when today's article is about spring urban gardening - that whole other side of the equator thing and all.  The blog is ecoMILF (Mother Into Fair Living) and I enjoyed it.   (That's her banner above.)  She was featured on Best Green Blogs and has some really nice articles, vegetarian recipes, and projects.  I think we'd have fun sharing a cup of tea and some of that fair trade chocolate she's talking about!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

GREEN Events...Coming Up!

Hola Greenie Friends!  Happy 1st day of Autumn!

Anyone else get the invite to "Out of this World 2010 the green gala" at the Connecticut Science Center in Hartford?  The details: Saturday, Oct. 16th from 7-11pm ages 21 and over.  It's an eco-chic evening with food, celebrating the mission of the science center and the first CT gala powered by a hydrogen fuel cell, plus THE GREENIES, awards for various Green fashion statements.  Love it.  There are also various auctions for some very chic prizes like trips - you know how I love to travel!  Sounds like fun, eh?  Tickets are $150 pp.  Click here for more info.

Another eco-event coming up even sooner is the National Solar Tour.  In Connecticut, the event is Saturday Oct. 2nd from 10-4.  This is the open house of homes running on solar power  - there are 21 sites throughout the state open that day with representatives or site owners there to discuss the types of installations, systems, and technologies used.  It's a free event!  Here are some of my favorites:


This is the net zero energy home in Killingworth, part of the tour.  I think I'll have to make a trek out there!  The tour is the same day Scott will be putting up the sister joists to support our roof for the upcoming installation of our solar panels...I wonder if I can tear him away to visit a few homes?


Another house on the tour - this one in New Hartford, where I was last weekend.

For the full list of tour sites, visit the Connecticut Solar Tour '10 page.  There is also a link on that page for National Solar Tour of the Northeastern United States.

I found out about the solar energy tour from Sunlight Solar Energy's Fall Newsletter.  It's a great source of information, and there's even a trivia contest that I may spend some time trying to figure out - the prize is a $150 gift card to Patagonia.  As I posted on Facebook earlier this week, it's where I learned that the CT Solar Lease Program has just announced that it has funds left for 100 more leases.  So if you didn't get your application in back in February, here's your chance!  There is also information there about rebate programs for solar thermal (aka ST) and photovoltaic (aka PV) projects.  Um hum...we're learning the lingo folks!

Hope you have time to get out and enjoy this gorgeous first day of Autumn!  We're taking a walk later and heading to the park, but first I have to go dump this bowl of kitchen scraps and coffee grounds in my composter!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Modular & Pre-Fab Housing has a GREEN Lining

The truth is that I'm conflicted when it comes to new construction.  When it comes down to selling existing homes vs. new, I've always picked existing because it's been the GREENER choice.  If we have plenty of housing inventory, then why muck up more of the ridgeline overlooking the lake (just an example from my town) with clearcutting for mcmansions, which not many can afford in this economy?  Why ruin the view for the rest of the community?  At the same time, I firmly believe people have a right to do what they'd like on their own property, as long as it doesn't conflict with local planning & building codes.  I don't deny anyone that right.  I've handled this personal dilemma with choosing not to sell subdivisions or seeking out new construction business.  Plenty of other realtors are out there who would be thrilled for the business.

In my local real estate market, there isn't very much modular or pre-fab construction.  I've heard people say that "old yankees prefer stick-built!"  Early in my career I met a few builders who were doing it, but there weren't many takers.  I read online from the National Association of Home Builders that only 2-3% of homes built today are modular.  They say modular building has come so far in the past 30 years or so, and the options these days, are simply fantastic.  Especially when you factor in how GREEN you can go with this!



The basics of what makes modular construction environmentally-friendly include: these are usually smaller in size, very little construction waste (which is usually recycled) tight seals and good insulation, use of eco-friendly materials, and a higher quality of construction (I'm not sure how to validate that last point - it's a claim I keep seeing, so please don't hold me to it.)  In this or any type of construction, I think it's also about the choices you make in the finishes and those that will affect air quality (choosing materials with no/low VOCs or formaldehyde, recycled or repurposed materials) heating & cooling systems (energy-efficient, solar, passive heating,) space planning, and even things such as land planning and orientation.  (My dad taught me young about the importance of orientation.  We used to go for walks every evening after dinner and he'd talk about the houses in the neighborhood.  When your dad's a carpenter from a big family of carpenters and contractors, this is what you learn!)

Recently I saw the Country Living Home Green Home pictured above and it stopped me in my tracks.  This doesn't look like so many of the modular ranches or colonials I've seen, but more like those sweet HGTV GREEN houses.  It's the Hudson model, based on a cottage design: small , full of character and a very nice shade of GREEN :)  It's done by New World Home, a company creating sustainable housing with historically inspired designs.  Their webpage has a great quote, " We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors.  We borrow it from our children."  - Ancient Native American Proverb.   With such a strong statement/philosophy, it's no surprise the homes built by this company have all achieved the LEED for Homes Platinum certification - wow!  I am all about their darling dutch colonial too, called the Dickinson, after Emily Dickinson, which for some reason I can't seem to copy a link for you to see!  (Sorry, some days Blogger works better than others!)   Visit the New World Homes webpage where you can see this one plus all of the other beautiful homes as well.

Looking at modular construction brought me to another website for a company that makes pre-fab outbuildings like sheds, gazebos, cabanas, etc.  I found Summerwood Products and their great array of buildings and plans.  Their Melbourne garden shed is fantastic and my favorite home studio building is the larger sized Sonoma!   Not that I need either...but if you happen to buy/build one let me know!  It's nice that you can buy these pre-assembled or pre-cut and build them yourself - less waste when it's done at the factory.

2 other pieces of information to share with you today!  Have you heard of or read Jetsongreen.com?  It's a blog a million times more advanced than mine written by a team of very hip people.  It even lists GREEN jobs available!

From the Yale Daily News, which I just started reading since I may be advertising in it shortly:  Yale dining plans now include a reusable stainless steel mug for all participants in an effort to be more sustainable and use less paper cups.  The dining halls now charge $0.25 for each paper cup, so bring in your mugs.  Love the logo on the mug:  Yale  Where Blue is Green.  Reported today, just a few days after the distribution of the mugs, students have complained that the mugs are not spill-proof and are poorly made - whoops!




Thursday, September 9, 2010

Solar Panel Update!

Since this is not an organic wine blog, I'll be brief about the wine I tried last week.  I like some whites, but I have to say I REALLY enjoyed the Bonterra Viognier.  So far that's 2 out of 3 bottles I'd buy again!
I haven't mentioned our solar panel project in a while, so here's the update.  We've been approved and our install date is in October!   Seems like it kept getting pushed farther and farther out, but there it is.  Scott has some support work to do on the older part of the roof so it will withstand the weight.  Since he'll be doing work in the attic we've decided to purge the attic (yet again) and host a tag sale which, when combined with the contents of the garage (we'll be tearing it down next Spring to make way for one which will be less critter-infested and might actually fit our cars,) and the goodies in the basement, should be quite the interesting assortment.  

Connecticut Light & Power, our electric company has already sent us the emails regarding whether or not we'll require a separate transformer, etc.  I just can't wait to start generating!

My 4 year old just asked, "What have we done that's environmentally-friendly this week?"  Let's see: walk to school, ride bikes to school, carpool, compost, recycle, eat all organic veggies, harvested fruit at a local orchard, Mommy drank organic wine, plus the ususal stuff - overall a pretty GREEN week.

I'd write more but I'm knee-deep in real estate negotiations, planning to put 4 more houses on the market by the end of the month, and preparing for 6 appointments tomorrow. 

Keep it GREEN my friends!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Biodynamic Wines? Yes, Please!



My introduction to organic wines continues!  Last week I drank a Sterling Vineyards 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, which was fruity as promised, but a little less full-bodied than I prefer.  It grew on me after a few sips, and I think it grew on hubby as well, because I think he finished the bottle on me!




The De Martino Cab - wow.  The label was right on with the full-bodied and long lasting finish.  Yum.  I'll be drinking more of that.





I thought this would be the week to try out my first biodynamic wine (at least that I'm aware of - it's entirely possible I've had some from French friends who drink organic.)  Turns out it's kind of hard to find in my little town.  Maybe it's because I didn't find the word "biodynamic" on any of the labels.  I suppose I need to go into the store armed with the names of the labels I'm looking to try.

What does biodynamic wine mean, anyway?  My understanding is that it is wine produced on a vineyard/farm where not only are the grapes grown organically sans pesticides or harsh chemicals, but using a holistic approach to the vineyard as a living system.  Vine growers might plant other crops around or near the vines, use farm animals, compost, pay attention to maintaining the soil, and bring a general sense of balance that comes from growing & farming a traditional, natural way.  OK, I'm in.  Now to get my hands on a bottle...





Two bottles of Bonterra Vineyards organic wines did make it home with me for the next 2 tastings: a 2007 Viognier & a 2009 Riesling.  Once in a while I give a Riesling a try, and with the heat we've had lately, it just seemed appropriate.  Bonterra Vineyards also has a biodynamic label - The McNab, which is comprised of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah & Merlot.  They even have a Facebook page.

I'll be on the hunt for another biodynamic wine from Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma.  Quivira Wine supposedly makes excellent sauvignon blanc (yay!) zinfandel & rosé.   I'm also planning to try something from Grgich Hills, who earns an extra GREENIE point (you know, like a brownie point?) for running on solar energy!  I'm loving their website.

Good news for my local friends - John, my favorite package store owner from Center Package, is acquiring another local store, Wine.com, which focuses mainly on wines and high end beers.  I asked him if he'd stock my favorite Peach Lambic and he said he'd get some on order!  Next I'll ask about bringing in some more choices for organic & biodynamic wines :)

My Viognier is chilling in the fridge for later!  I'll see if my favorite organic-minded neighbor would like to sample it with me :)  I picked up a fabulous little book called green chic SAVING THE EARTH in style by Christie Matheson.  She begins it with a quote from Saint-Exupery's Little Prince, "It's a question of discipline, " the little prince told me later on.  "When you're finished washing and dressing each morning, you must tend your planet."  Cheers to that!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Back in the US with Organic Wine on my Mind

Let me begin with a thanks to all my readers, coworkers, friends & family for helping us get through a very difficult and scary medical ordeal with my dad.  This week I'm finally back to work, and thrilled to be here.  I'm sorry to announce my new iMac isn't here as the hard drive is somehow toasted and it is being repaired at the Apple Store.

I'm a bit of a planner.  That's an understatement.  I'm a huge planner and it only got worse when I had kids.  It applies to most areas of my life.  While I wish I were more of a neat freak, I'm more of a planner and goal-setter.  It is what it is.  So I'm looking at my upcoming Fall quarter, and while I have work goals, family goals, travel plans (hello, we're going to Ireland!) I also have GREEN goals.  (Does anyone else make quarterly GREEN goals?)

Somewhere on the Internet I caught a line that struck a chord.  It said something like, if you're eating organic, why aren't you drinking organic wines too?  I've thought about organic wines, and I've tried a few, but I've never really focused on them.  That's about to change.

I'm trying a new organic wine per week, which means it shouldn't take me long to get through the organic wine rack at my favorite Package Store!  (Looks like I may be branching out - I'm open to suggestions as to where you like to buy your wine!)  To start things out with a bang I'm trying two bottles - call it a wine tasting!  After all, I do love a wine tasting.  Tonight's bottles include a Californian Sterling Vineyards Mendocino Cabernet Sauvignon 2007.  The label says it holds flavors of juicy blackberry, currant and plum, with hints of espresso and toffee.  It sounds fabulous, right?

The second bottle is a De Martino Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 from Maipo Valley, Chile.  I was VERY interested to read that De Martino is one of the few carbon neutral wineries in the world.  I also read that  Wine Advocate had rated it an 88, but I don't necessarily agree with the numbers others give to wine. 

Both bottles contain sulfites.  I would have preferred no sulfites for my first bottles in this introduction, but that's ok.  Both are made with organic grapes, and grapes are pretty high up there on the pesticide list, so at least I'm getting GREENER that way.  By the way, the 2 bottles together ran me $35.

Next post I'll put up some pics and a quick note on biodynamic wines.  I can't even pretend to know anything about that yet.  Call me a girl interested in expanding my horizons (as well as my garden!)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Dear Readers,

My apologies but there is no post today due to a family medical emergency.  Best wishes to all of you, and I will post again once we have gotten through this.

The Green CT Realtor

Thursday, August 5, 2010

My GREEN Experience in Europe

The jet lag has worn off, and the Japanese house guests left this morning, so what else is there to do (don't mention the laundry or lack of food in the house) but put up a new blog post?  (I suppose it's time to stop crying about the lack of good baguette or St. Julien cheese, and don't even get me started on the coffee or I'll break down for sure.)

Do you remember when I went on and on about how much GREENER things are in Europe?  (I mean in the ECO way.)  Well I certainly kept my eye out for those kinds of things as we traveled for the month of July across France and Italy (Belgium was such a short stay but I do have a note about that too) and I was surprised at my findings.


I went in expecting everything to be super GREEN.  I wasn't disappointed when we arrived in France and were greeted both there and in Belgium by GIANT, futuristic-alien-like looking wind turbines.  France has the 3rd largest European resource of wind power after Germany and the UK.  (*Stat and photo courtesy of wikipedia.)  Excellent.  In Belgium I discovered that when I made a purchase in Bruges, I was asked (in Flemish) if I would like a bag with it.  No idea what she said so a head nod, smile,  and a bag plus my receipt.  The little plastic bag cost me $0.05.  I noticed in France that EVERYONE had their own bags, especially going to market.  Nice.  I'm wishing I'd bought some of their very cool bags to bring home (the fancy ones they sell in the gift shops but also the straw bags they use for going to the market.)  Now Scott knows what to bring home for me (filled with Balisto bars of course!) next Spring!

The friends we stayed with in Bretagne, St. Lunaire specifically, had a very GREEN feature in their home, which was a very expensive high efficiency air-source heat pump.  I don't know that this is a product we would choose where I live, but in a moderate climate this is a very eco-friendly choice.  You can find more information on them on the U.S. Dept of Energy Website.  This website, BTW, is fantastic.  Seriously, you should check it out.  Tons of good information.

What I didn't see a whole lot of in France was recycling.  We visited some parks in certain towns where there were beer bottles and other bottles (both glass and plastic) all over the ground, spilling from garbage cans, you name it.  I'm thinking they don't have the 5 cent refunds and what a difference it would make if they did.  Not only good for recycling's sake, but for the beauty of the towns & cities.  It sure made me appreciate it.  I also gained a new appreciation for our home recycling set up.  Having a dedicated pull-open drawer the same as we do for trash in our kitchen really makes it just so easy.  Pat on the back for thinking of this the 10 or so years ago when we planned our kitchen.

In the Provence area we found it interesting that lawns were forbidden in an effort to conserve water.  Plants growing were drought-tolerant.  A local friend pointed out that behind some of the high walls and privacy fences neighbors were hiding little lush green lawns that would surely get them into trouble were they discovered by authorities.  Such rebels!

Italy, dear, dear, Italy, was like taking a step back in time.  Our beautiful villa didn't have TV or Internet.  We couldn't find WiFi anywhere (unlike in France where everyone has it because it's so cheap.)  Being forced to disconnect was actually a good thing for most of us.  Apparently the "old English lady" as the caretaker referred to her, didn't think those things belonged here, in a place of relaxation.  (The "old English lady" was married to an ambassador - pretty cool, right?  I see why this was their quiet getaway place.)  In the places we visited, no one carried their own grocery bags.  It was plastic, plastic, plastic.  We did finally figure out that there is recycling available, it just took us a long time to figure that out.  No one gets their coffee to go, so there are no mountains of paper cups to be disposed.  What I still love about Italy is the excellent public transportation (a group of 9 of us or so upon exiting gave a standing ovation to one particularly excellent female bus driver who drove us through the busy streets of Rome without even once fearing for our lives!) and the feeling that Italians just use less energy than we do.  They are natural conservers of energy.  It's the lifestyle and I'll say it again - I love it.  They shut everything down during peak heat hours (and oddly a few of the grocery stores we tried to frequent would close on random days like Wednesday afternoons?) take a rest, then go full speed again at a reasonable hour when temps have cooled.  In Rome, our friend Monica pointed out a restaurant she knew I'd love, which featured only local foods cultivated at 0 kilometers.  Well, not exactly 0 kilometers, but you get their drift.  It was about the direct line from farm or vine to the table.
 

 

 (skinny French friends)

I am happy to report also, that despite a month of eating 4 course meals twice a day, complete with wines and cheeses, and the mandatory gelato or 2 per day in Italy, that I gained all of half a pound.  Astonished is the better word.  Sure, we did a lot of walking, but we also did a lot of metro or bus riding in the cities.    Perhaps it was the ridiculously difficult pushing of the cheap travel baby stroller over cobblestone streets that helped?  Or carrying that same stroller up and down every staircase in Paris?  How do our European friends all stay so slim with such a rich lifestyle?  Is it the fact that they're eating fresh, for the most part totally unprocessed foods?  They drink liters upon liters of water (usually sparkling) and eat small portions compared to what we are served here.  A new Italian friend, Fabrizio, explained that for him, the portions are the big deal.  He says that when he comes to the States he always gains weight because of the enormous portions and his unwillingness to leave the food on the plate.  He explained that the "doggie bag" is an American phenomenon and it's not really done in Italy.  I was also surprised to hear him say that he loves American food and has learned to cook it!


One other way I see Europeans as GREEN is with the use of bicycles as a method of transport.  In many places in France we saw kiosks where you could rent a bike for free for the 1st 30 min., then pay a minimal charge for additional use.  Return them to any kiosk when you're done.  There are also electric assist bikes, which hubby is crazy about.  Especially in Bruges, so many locals rode their bikes to work, and had child seats on the front of the handlebars then big saddle bags on the back.  I had the silly idea it would be fun to rent one of the family electric assist bikes to explore the Villa Borghese (Rome's version of Central Park) and didn't have the foresight to see that Scott would drive like a madman speed demon throughout the park and I'd be screaming my head off but giggling at the same time.  (The kids LOVED going that fast and screaming their heads off too!  It might have been their favorite part of the trip.)


The last big difference I'll note is on the cars and use of gas/diesel.  Sure, gas is expensive, but the cars all seem to get much better mileage.  The cars on the road in Italy & France are for the most part, cars you've never seen in the States.  With the exception of Smart Cars, Ford and Toyota (although totally different models than the ones here) you'll see Renaults, Citroens, Peugeots, Opels, Fiats, and a bunch of others.  For the most part, they are tiny.  We drove a fantastic version of a mini van, very much like my Mazda 5, called the Renault Scenic, diesel engine.  Incredibly smart car that we'd buy in a heartbeat if it were legal and available here.  What a difference it was driving from the south of France, near Nice and Cannes, into Italy, where Italian drivers drove like it was a race and they were frantic to win.  Gone were the nice, courteous French drivers and the electronic speeding cameras that kept everyone in check.  I was relieved to see Scott didn't go into Mario Andretti mode himself.


Our European adventure with the kids was all that I expected it to be and more.  We are so blessed to have so many European friends who are all so generous and welcoming to us.  Thanks to our gracious hosts we were able to give the kids a more authentic experience.  Of course we did the very touristy things like the Eiffel Tower & the Louvre, Uffizi, Basilica of the Holy Blood, Colosseum, Pompeii, and other sites not to be missed, but it was also the days on the beach, visiting little villages, going out for evening walks, the markets, dinners with friends, etc., that made it such a rich experience.  We also made an effort to be GREEN in our travels and to minimize our "footprint" as well we could (the kids bathed only when necessary - pools count as baths anyway, brought our Sigg bottles along, public transport as often as possible, very little laundry, etc.)  Amazing trip - can't wait to do it again!

*Important Disclaimer* This post is based on my own personal experience traveling in Europe with my family in the month of July, 2010.  What I observed may or may not be exactly the case.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Monica Seles & Knowles Landing!

Sorry about the absence!  It's crunch time chez nous, and with a BIG LISTING comes a BIG WORKLOAD - especially when you're getting ready to go on vacation!  Preparing for and working on these 2 wonderful things in my life has left little time for blogging, or gardening, or cooking, or cleaning :)

What exactly have I been doing?  Falling in love - and not just with the Portuguese soccer team - with a dreamy property on the CT River that we call Knowles Landing (....sigh.)



Some of you may know how much I love historic homes.  This one is  historic with a twist - it has many of the features & characteristics I love in an antique home, but it has been renovated with modern conveniences.  I'm fine with that - I'm not a purist.  Just take one look at those gables, the upper deck and sunroom, the gorgeous wrap around porch...it's enough to make a girl swoon.  Then turn around and check out the view...


It's pretty spectacular, isn't it?  

This is where I'll be working this afternoon and again tomorrow when I'll be hosting the grandest Broker's Open House of my 10 years in real estate!  Guests will be greeted on the porch with a signature micro-cocktail we call "The Knowles" (thanks Carl for the name!) and will tour the 1886 Queen Ann Victorian.  These are 2 of my favorite spots in the house (it's hard to choose only 2) but these are both fabulous.


The Sunroom off of the 2nd Floor Sitting Room - what an inspiring view!


This is the 3rd Floor Master Suite, a quiet spot occupying the entire 3rd floor with a HUGE Master Bath, loads of closet space, views of the Connecticut River, and a private deck overlooking the water.  




Tearing ourselves away from the main house, we'll walk (or ride the golf cart) to the Guest House/Studio which is a converted 3 story barn with 3 decks...



That charming gazebo is original!  There are two fantastically old maples from where I'm standing here - they're just beautiful and gnarled.

After the studio we head back to the wrap around porch for some light seafood fare including sushi and saunter down past the Har-Tru tennis court to the river front lawn for a wine tasting (we're featuring an Argentinian label tomorrow) and desserts & coffee.  Agents are reminded to bring along their business cards to enter a drawing for their favorite of the wines sampled and the grand prize: 2 tickets to the US OPEN Tennis Championships!!!  Awesome, right?  Do you know what else is awesome?


Why yes, that is MONICA SELES, world famous tennis champion, posing with our very own Knowles Landing!!!  Since Knowles Landing has such a beautiful water front tennis court, we thought we'd market to the tennis crowd in NYC.  Did I mention I've been insanely busy the past 2 weeks?  This is part of the reason why :)  By the way, if Monica Seles wants to come try out the tennis court, the offer is out there!  Call me, Monica :)


I couldn't be doing all of this without my very gifted (and fun) partner on this real estate project, Carl Guild.  Don't let the fact that he drives around with his face on his car fool you - this guy's the real deal.  I'm thinking this picture of him would make a really cutting edge business card.  Very terminator-esque, no?   Want to meet him?  Come on down to the Broker's Open tomorrow!



Now how is it that we got this far without mentioning the 40' deep water dock with expansion rights?  This property has 350 ft of waterfront on the Connecticut River in Middle Haddam.  I was out there one night at 10 pm (again, I've been working some crazy hours!) and it was so peaceful and quiet.  I just wanted to sit and enjoy...

 

In just a few days we have an ad coming out in Connecticut Magazine, then in less than 2 weeks we're appearing as sponsors at the International Tennis Hall of Fame Campbell's Tennis Championship with an ad in their program and a sign at the Members Tent.  Such an exciting project to work on, and we're having a blast creating the buzz.  This is what I've been busy doing, and to borrow an old expression from Martha Stewart, "it's a good thing!"

The Jewel of the Connecticut River