Thursday, December 15, 2011

Eiffel Tower Goes GREEN?



Someone has a lofty horticultural vision for Paris!

It was announced recently that there are plans to cover the Eiffel Tower in 600,000 plants for 2012.  Can you imagine?  The $96 million plan is the work of Ginger (an engineering group) Vinci (a construction company) and architect Claude Bucher, who say they have built a prototype several meters high.

The plants would be attached to the tower in bags and would be irrigated by a series of watering tubes.  The plan calls to allow the plants to grow until being removed in 2016.

French newspaper Le Figaro is calling the carbon-neutral project the "lungs of Paris." Other newspapers referred to it as the "largest tree."

The City of Paris immediately denied the project will happen.  They said they get "crazy" ideas all the time.  So we won't see a "living" Eiffel Tower, but it is an interesting idea.

Check out this link to Chemicallygreen.com which shows examples of fantastic "living" walls and buildings.  By the way, it's a pretty cool GREEN website definitely worth a look.

If you are planning a visit to Paris, visit the official Eiffel Tower website  for hours, buying tickets ahead of time, making dinner reservations, or learning more about Paris' most famous landmark. They also have a section for kids, which for a parent is a great resource.

Here we are at the tower in 2010.  The views really are breathtaking.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Clarifying The American Clean Energy and Security Act

This post is in response to a letter written in my local paper recently, in which the writer wrongly stated that thanks to the passing of H.R. 2454 homeowners would no longer be able to sell their homes without meeting energy & water efficiency standards.  The writer must have misunderstood or not read the entire bill, because that's NOT what was approved.

As a Realtor member of the National Association of Realtors, I know that this is not true.  It may be true in other countries, as energy audits are common in some European nations, but it is not the case here.

Following is NAR's Myths and Facts about The American Clean Energy and Security Act as found on NAR's website.


NAR Myths and Facts The American Clean Energy and Security Act
National Association of REALTORS® Government Affairs Division 500 New Jersey Avenue, NW, Washington, DC, 20001

On June 26, the House of Representative approved H.R. 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act. Since then, there have been many reports about the bill and NAR's position that are based on incomplete information. Here are the facts:

Claim: “NAR supports a "Cap and Tax" bill” 

Fact: NAR takes a position on legislation, or provisions within legislation, that have a direct affect on real estate. Working with our Congressional allies, NAR stripped the Energy Bill of provisions that would have adversely affected our industry. At the direction of the NAR Board of Directors and Land Use, Property Rights and Environment Committee and the Climate Change Presidential Advisory Group, NAR concentrated on the real estate provisions in the bill. NAR was successful in getting harmful federal energy audit requirements and point-of sale triggers dropped from the bill. 

As passed, the bill:
Does not create a federal energy audit requirement for real property; 
Exempts existing homes and buildings from any federal guidelines for new construction energy labeling.
 • Leaves the decision to state government whether to pass a law and label, but specifically prohibits any
labeling during a sales transaction. 
Prohibits the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating carbon emissions from residential and
commercial buildings under the Clean Air Act; 
No longer includes provisions to bolster a private right of action under the Clean Air Act that would have
allowed citizens to halt construction over minor risks – whether real or imagined; 
Offers property owners with matching grants and diagnostic tools to make property improvements that
saves energy; and 
Provides green building financial incentives for HUD housing, including a loans, block grants and credit in
underwriting for energy improvements.

Claim: “The bill mandates energy audits and labeling before any home in America is sold.” 

Fact: The bill does not create a federal energy audit or labeling requirement. As introduced, the original bill would have required energy audits and labeling at the time of sale. However, Realtors succeeded in making many positive changes before the bill passed. Many published reports are not based on the version of the bill that was considered by the House. As approved, the bill:

Does not create energy audit requirement for real property at time of sale. 
Exempts existing homes, multifamily and commercial buildings from any federal energy labeling guidelines
such as the existing federal Energy Star label program (section 204(m)), and 
Leaves the decision entirely to state governments whether to pass a law to require labels, but expressly
prohibits labeling during a transaction (Section 204(h)).

Claim: “The bill federalizes building codes.” 

Fact: The bill would create a national building code standard that improves upon building energy efficiency. States would be given 1 year to bring their state codes into compliance with the new national standards. If a state fails to do so, the federal government would set and enforce the state’s energy codes.
Throughout the bill’s development, NAR has worked as part of a broad real estate coalition to address concerns with the House bill’s building-code provisions. NAR and the real estate coalition were unable to secure committee passage of amendments to limit these provisions. An amendment to strike the provisions defeated along a party line vote. NAR will redouble its efforts in the Senate where the energy committee has reported bipartisan alternative to the House’s that sets more realistic energy reduction targets while preserving state and local authority. If and when the Senate takes up its bill and it reaches a House-Senate conference to resolve the bill differences, we will undertake the necessary efforts and activities to ensure onerous provisions are not imposed on real estate markets.

Claim: “NAR should have read the bill.” 

Fact: NAR reviewed the entire amendment and bill before taking a position. NAR was directly involved in the development of the 308-page amendment. The energy labeling exemption for existing real property was included on page 45. The House bill is available to the public at the Library of Congress’ website: http://thomas.loc.gov/ The real estate provisions are in Title 2 beginning on page 320.

Claim:  The bill contains a new federal policy that requires residential and commercial buildings to be retrofitted to federal "green" standards prior to time of sale.

Fact:   Section 202 (building retrofit program) does not contain point-of-sale retrofit requirements. 
The bill does: 
Provide states with the funding for financial incentives to property owners who voluntarily decide to make energy efficiency improvements. 
Provide that financial incentives may include grants, loans, loan guarantees, and/or mortgage interest rate buy-downs.
Establish a sliding scale for incentives -- i.e., if a home owner makes improvements that result in a 10% reduction in energy consumption, the owner would be eligible for an award of $1,000; a 20% reduction would be eligible for a $2,000 award, etc. up to a maximum award of 50% of the retrofit cost for each building.
Require state voluntary retrofit incentives programs that use federal funding for incentives to meet federal guidelines for certifying private contractor training, equipment and practices for energy audit/retrofit services eligible for federal funding.

Claim: No Congressional office will deny that there are mandatory point-of-sale retrofit requirements in the bill.

Fact: The real estate provisions in the energy bill represent approximately 50 pages of the 1428-page House bill. While members of Congress have been involved in the full range of policy issues involved in the bill, some staff may not be totally familiar with the details of the real estate related provisions. NAR has focused exclusively on these 50 pages, been involved in their drafting from the beginning, and has successfully advocated for significant improvements to these provisions. There are no federal energy audit or retrofit requirements at point of sale in the bill.

Claim: The GREEN Act provisions of the bill require owners of federally assisted housing to retrofit their building to energy efficient standards. 

Fact: The Green Act requires the HUD Secretary to establish incentives for energy efficient programs on HUD- assisted properties. The bill also provides the Secretary discretion to incorporate energy efficient standards into HUD-assisted programs.


Legislative Contacts: Austin Perez, aperez@realtors.org, 202-383-1046 Helen Devlin, hdevelin@realtors.org, 202-383-7559
Regulatory Contact: Russell Riggs, rriggs@realtors.org, 202-383-1259

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Little Green Things Adding Up!

Do you ever wonder if all the little things you're doing to be GREENER add up?  I know they do, but recently I've been feeling like I can actually SEE the difference, and it's pretty uplifting!

Reusable Bags was the trigger.  I've been using reusable shopping bags for a long time.  I've always liked how CVS Pharmacy rewards me for doing so through the green bag tag program.  For $1 I bought a green tag and bring my own shopping bag with me.  Each time I remember to have the cashier scan my tag adds up, and for every 4 times they give me back a $1 coupon.  I looked down at my receipt the other day to find I'd used my tag something like 44 times this year.  That was pretty nice to see that I'd saved that many plastic shopping bags AND that I'd earned $11 back for doing what I would have done anyway.  As a side note on the reusable bags, I recently organized my pantry and found I had twice as many bags as I'll ever need.  (I have some canvas bags that are 8 years old that are holding up beautifully!)  Those extras are being offered at my local senior center or to anyone else who needs them.

Our mostly-empty trash barrel makes me happy as well.  Thanks to recycling and composting, we really could use the smaller trash bin and save some more money there.  However, we let a single neighbor put her trash in our bin so she doesn't have to pay for trash removal (yes, we live in a town that does not collect our trash) so after she puts her trash in there I'm not sure we could still go with the smaller bin...but still.  We've cut way back on filling the larger barrel.

The reusable coffee filter on the Keurig Coffee Maker.



We had one when we first bought it, but it was accidentally tossed out by someone who didn't realize it was the reusable one, and I finally got around to picking up a new one.  The new one happens to be easier to use than the first one I had, and getting it on sale it ended up costing the price of a box of k-cups.  (If you are buying a reusable filter, be sure to check that it fits your model - this one does not fit all Keurigs.)   For that price I've easily gotten my money's worth already, and brewed some yummy seasonal gingerbread coffee :)  Less waste makes me smile.

Happy December 1 Everyone!  Hope you're all bringing a little more GREEN into your everyday as well as your holidays :)

Monday, November 7, 2011

Day 365 Totals on our Solar Panels

Here it is - Day 365

How many kWh we generated on 5 November, 2011 by 4pm that day:






How many pounds of carbon dioxide we've saved in 365 days:



Nice.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Happy 1st Anniversary to my Solar Panels!

In just 2 days we mark the anniversary of turning on the power to the solar panels!  


It may be a little premature to announce what the costs were, as well as how many hours we used, etc., and I can't give you a full year's analysis yet, but I can compare recent months to the same months the year before, and talk about how much of a difference I can see in the first 10 months.  


January-October of 2010 we used 7,751 kWh. 
January-October of 2011 we used 125 kWh.  Yes, 125.  Since March 2011 we've generated more power than we've used, resulting in 0 usage for every month since then!  As I once stated, our utility company, Connecticut Light & Power, charges us 
$16/month just to be connected, so that has been our monthly electric bill since March.  Of course, we are paying our monthly solar lease payments as well.  It will be interesting to be able to compare the winter months as well as the full year.


One of the months, February, is completely off, and I wish I'd looked at that sooner and brought it up with the power company, because the bill claims we used the same amount of electricity as we did the previous year, while the months before and after are shockingly lower.  There is something VERY fishy about that!  To be honest, I don't think I'm fully understanding our new electric bills - I think a call to my solar installers, Sunlight Solar should be on my "to-do" list!  


So it's still a few days off until I can announce our total lbs saved of CO2 - but the 363 day total is:


16,739 lbs (and it's only past lunchtime!)

The number of kWh generated in 363 days so far is:

9,846 kWh

Even on a somewhat cloudy day like today we'll generate over 24 kWh.  Pretty nice.

Bottom line though, I think it's going to take us a while to recoup our costs.  Realistically, we're not looking at saving money the first year, or maybe even the next (even though my fingers are crossed we will.)  What we have done so far this past year is generate loads of clean energy and save thousands of pounds of carbon dioxide from the environment.  Not bad.  Not bad at all.   

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Do These Jeans Make my Butt Look GREEN?

Time for a little GREEN recap of happenings of late!

We're back from the DisneyWorld trip to celebrate the little guy's birthday, but I'm still feeling kind of guilty over how much waste there was on the trip.  I suppose most of that was beyond our control, and at least we did the following to keep things on the GREEN side:

bought reusable mugs (cutting down the number of cups we would have tossed)
took public transportation (cutting down on emissions)
reused towels & sheets (cutting down on water usage)
ate at as many table service restaurants as we could (cutting down on disposable plates & flatware)
recycled our glassware, plastic bottles & newspapers

There is consolation in knowing that Disney does a lot of work in conservation.  (I had to tell myself that as I cringed at throwing away things I normally would have recycled at home, but also kept in mind all the good things I discovered about how GREEN the Disney Company is in a previous post.)  On a side note, it was a really lovely visit and I would highly recommend staying at the Animal Kingdom Lodge as we did.  Seeing the savannah animals outside our balcony every day was really memorable.



Another way we got a little GREENER the past few weeks was that I put some of the college money my daughter won from CHET (CT Higher Education Trust) into the Social Choice Option, which among other things, chooses companies based on environmental practices.  While my own investment portfolio includes similar funds (as I once wrote about here) hers did not.  Here she is receiving her check at the State Library:


What else is on the GREEN horizon these days?  I've been looking into environmentally-friendly local companies and I'll be introducing you to one very soon.  Also, we're approaching the 1-year anniversary of my solar panels going live, and I'll be sharing how the first year went in terms of production, costs, etc.  Also did some shopping with a friend and picked up a pair of jeans at our local consignment shop.  For $8 they're in pretty good shape and super comfy.  Paired with my scarf of the week (a whimsical floral piece I picked up in Firenze) it's a seasonally-appropriate GREEN look!


BTW, a quick shout out to my International readers already this month:  Korea, Egypt, India, Mexico, France, Norway & Hungary!  Thanks for reading!  I'd love to hear how you're living the GREEN life too :)

Friday, September 23, 2011

More GREEN Reads

It's the Autumnal Equinox!  Happy 1st Day of Autumn Everyone!

I'm celebrating by making a pumpkin angel food cake for a friend.  (I may have to make a few more because it's so good I think we need one for us as well!)

I've been working my way through 2 very different books recently.  One is a quick, easy read that I can read with my 7 year old that has a lot of information I already know but it's the kind of stuff I want to share with my little guy.  The other is the kind of book that I want to get through, but I'm struggling because it's a bit more complex reading and by the end of the night I'm thinking I should just watch the PBS documentary that goes along with the book.


This is the book I'm flying through.  Author Scott Meyer is a former editor-in-chief of Organic Gardening magazine.  The chapters are organized as such:

Growing Your Own
Going Wild for Food
Save it for Later
Working with Animals
Caring for the Home
Then there's an appendix (which is Growing A-Z a guide on how, what & when to grown each veggie,) resources, etc.

I liked the chapter on foraging.  It brought back a childhood memory I have of being out early one morning with uncles and cousins and my family, walking through a mossy woodland forest in Canada, collecting mushrooms and maybe fiddleheads.  (My uncle Clement could identify what was safe to eat.  I wouldn't attempt that on my own.)  It also reminded me of last month at a fruit farm here in CT when the Asian women on the truck with me asked the farmer if they might be permitted to pick the nuts from the Chestnut tree growing at the edge of the property.  He turned them down.  I wonder if he had plans for the nuts himself.

What I like about the book is that it doesn't have to apply to "city" homesteaders.  I'm just looking to be more self-sufficient and the information is helpful.  The chapter on preserving food offers different ideas and things I might actually try!  After all, if I'm growing all this food, I don't want any of it to go to waste.

I also enjoyed the chapter on caring for the home, although I'm all set in the compost department, which covers the largest section of this part of the book.


Yesterday while I was reading the book with my cup of coffee, I was inspired to run out to the garden!  This was my harvest.  I cleared out some weeds that had taken over a row and prepped it for the lettuce & arugula I'll put in soon.

The other book I'm trying to get through is this:


It's about global warming, which sparked an interesting discussion with my 7 year old, who apparently has been informed by an older family member that there's no such thing.  This book sets out to prove that carbon dioxide buildup is causing global warming, but with my son I'm steering the conversation towards fossil fuels and natural resources & alternative energies.  Honestly, while I'm getting a lot of out parts of the book, other parts have me lost and putting it down for another cup of coffee.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

My Blog Turns 3 Today!





Looking back 3 years ago, I never would have guessed that I would have readers from around the globe, or what an amazing experience this would be.  I've connected with other bloggers out there and made friends & connections I never would have otherwise.  The other main benefit is that it's been a constant reminder to live GREEN, to keep reading up on related topics, to research and seek out information.  I've found really informative websites, all kinds of vendors, and talked to so many people who are GREEN in their own ways and inspire me to keep it up.

Funniest or most unexpected things on the blog?  This photo of tennis star Monica Seles helping me promote my real estate listing at Knowles Landing is THE most widely downloaded photo!  I get heaps of international visitors looking at it!


Then there was the surprise of the author of a book I discussed on my blog actually visiting my blog and writing to me about it!  Thanks, Wendy Brown!  I was kind of awed by that.

The other crazy-cool thing was being written about in Photon Magazine!  Why this photo of me reading the magazine in bed is still being downloaded around the world is a bit of mystery to me!



So how am I celebrating today?  Well, most special occasions (and Tuesdays of course!) call for some bubbly and something that looks very much like chocolate cake in my opinion.  I'm still hoping for both (someone message my hubby and let him think it was his idea, ok?!) but I'm also going to plant some bulbs and then tonight dinner at It's Only Natural in Middletown with my afore-mentioned main squeeze.  ION was his idea - vegetarian in honor of my blog - très apropos, n'est pas?

What better way to mark the occasion than by planting bulbs for Spring color!  One of my absolute favorite places to shop is CT's own White Flower Farm in Litchfield.  Have a glance at these beauties.



I adore tulips, especially any multi-colored, double, or parrot varieties.  The ones above are divine, aren't they?  (The blue flowers in the lower photo are muscari, or grape hyacinths.  Love them as well - but they're tiny and it takes a lot of them to make a statement!)  The thing to remember with tulips though is that they really only bloom for 1-2 seasons and then nothing except for a few bits of foliage.  Despite this, they remain one of my favorites, and every 2 years I plant more.  Here is my front walkway 2 Springs ago when I was on a purple kick.  What you don't see on the other side of the walkway are the 100 crocus bulbs I planted years ago that continue to be the first signs of Spring in my yard.


While I don't have beds of daffodils on this grand of a scale, I still enjoy the groupings I have spread throughout my own gardens.



By the way, though I'm not doing it today, it's also time to get some garlic to put in the ground for next summer's harvest.  I saved some from this year's harvest to replant for next year - now to just get my garden in some type of order so I can find a good spot for it.

This is a good time to plant some cool weather crops that don't need long to mature (like lettuces, radish, greens.)  I went the entire summer without buying any produce from the grocery store (with the exception of carrots - I can't seem to grow enough carrots!) and now it's time to frequent the farmer's markets up until they close for the season.  I'm telling you I put off the grocery store for as long as I possibly can!

In addition, planting a tree today would be awesome!  Making it an annual event to coincide with the blog anniversary - what a cool idea, right?  Hmmm....maybe today's the day to plant the first of the fruit trees in the future orchard!

It's a great day.  I'm feeling really grateful for the friends, for the comments people leave here and on Facebook, and for the many times that my posts here are shared and circumnavigate the globe.  I'd like to thank the talented bloggers who've shared guest posts here: KJ from Let's Go Fly A Kite, Taryn from Mama Gone Green, and Steve from Compostings.  KJ's post continues to be THE most searched of all the posts on my blog - do you remember the Earth Day wreath project she made?  It was genius.

Where do we go from here?  There is so much to do, and after the eye-opening experience of the hurricane/power outage and how dependent our lifestyle is on electricity, I have a much greater appreciaton for the need for alternative energies.  Not that I'm going to solve the energy crisis.  After all, I'm just a little blog, helping in some small way to make us just a little bit GREENER.  

Peace my friends.  Thanks for reading every week.  

Friday, September 2, 2011

Lessons I Learned from Irene

We sat in the dark for 5 long days...no running water.  We lost all the food in our refrigerator & freezer.  Trees and wires down everywhere.  No cell service for 24 hrs.  Then, as we were going to bed last night, the lights came back on.  Cheers erupted throughout my neighborhood.  Still no cable, phone or Internet (sorry no photos because I'm writing this on a computer which is not my own) but having running water makes all the difference in the world.  It could be so much worse, really.  So many of our friends are still without power and no hope of getting it before Tuesday.  Also, my thoughts go out to the flood victims in Vermont and other areas.

So I thought I'd take a sec to share what I've learned from this experience.

*  Hubby was brilliant when he insisted that we have a propane cooking stove 8 years ago.  Brilliant I tell you.
*  If you have to fill your tub with water because of the threat of power outage, use duct or electrical tape to cover the drain first.  Hubby knew this already, but I know people who didn't and their water slowly leaked down the drain.
*  Percolator coffee is excellent.  We had 3 ways of making coffee during the outage and it is amazing what coffee does to make you feel like things are ok.  In an emergency, go ahead and brew some joe (and bring some to your neighbors.) Somehow it helps to keep things civilized. 
*  The generosity of friends is humbling.  We had friends who got power back days before we did and were offered a place to charge electronics, hot meals, showers, laundry, and ultimately, 2 generators (as we had none.)  One neighbor came by to offer her pool water for flushing toilets if we had run out.  I can't thank all these people enough.  More than once I was moved to tears by these offers.
*  5 days was the limit for me I think.  I was sitting in the dark muttering "I'm going to snap" over and over again when the power did come on.  (It could have been the lack of running water and the fact that I didn't have dinner though.) 
*  It's important to check in on people.  I know we're all busy trying to get by, but don't forget the seniors or single people who are sitting by themselves in the dark eating crackers.  Invite them over, stop by for a chat, bring them a newspaper or magazine for something new to look at. 
*  Having a battery-operated radio to listen to is the only way to stay connected to the outside world sometimes.  Gram happened to have one and she listened to it 12 hours a day for updates and news.
*  The old police scanner in the basement was kind of fun to listen to the day of the storm.  We knew right away how badly the town had been hit by the extent of the reports of fallen trees and wires all over town, and that we weren't going anywhere.
*  I am not at all GREEN in emergency mode.  Paper cups, plates & utensils take center stage when I cannot wash dishes because of no running water.  I did, however, recycle what I could.
*  As my neighbors and co-worker Deb here just reminded me, put out empty containers (like rain barrels) to collect the storm water for use later when flushing toilets, etc.
*   If there is a threat of power outage, stock up on the essentials early on.  Water was such a hot commodity in my community that the day before the storm the grocery store was rationing how much you could buy.  I was thankful that I bought mine 3 days before the storm hit.  What I missed the boat on was D batteries - went to 6 stores and not a one to be found.  Luckily we managed to get by with the flashlights we had.
*  Baby wipes and antibacterial wipes came in REALLY handy.
*  I don't want to criticize, but it feels like my town wasn't really prepared.  There was no communication coming from town hall or the town manager.  He didn't even show up to the emergency town council meeting.  I heard several people complain around town about the lack of leadership and especially communication.  We still had newspaper delivery, so why wasn't there information in the paper on where the shelter was, etc.?  At the emergency meeting, I will say that I thought the town staff and departments worked together well to give us an update on what they knew.  At Sue Weintraub's direction, they also agreed to have a sign made to be posted outside town hall with info for residents.
*  Fill the gas tanks.  My dad always does and he was right on.  My town had no gas stations open for several days.  It was a ghost town until this morning when power started to come back. By the way, SHAME on the local gas stations for raising the prices of gas when they did reopen.  You know what, the gas stations in towns 30 min away who didn't lose power are selling at the same much lower price it was last week. 
*  Finally, you CAN bake croissants on the grill!  I had raw dough that had thawed, threw it on a cookie sheet and about 20 min in a closed grill on a medium temp and we had a really yummy breakfast with that percolator coffee!

So in a way, we were "surviving the apocalypse in the suburbs" (as I had written in a recent post after reading Wendy Brown's book.)  It was a short term apocalypse.  Tonight we're harboring a friend of Gram's from the senior housing in town who is still without power.  I've been hearing of other good deeds too, like Jane of Fit-Trix Fitness Center here in town, who opened her gym this afternoon and set up an obstacle course for kids to come and play on free of charge, and offered adults coffee and a chance to watch the news and relax.  Then there's Paul's and Sandy's who is a collection point for a family in nearby Portland who lost their house (& pets) to a fire started by a candle they had burning during the power outage.  Thanks to both of these businesses for being so neighborly and doing what they can.

Hope everyone is safe.  If there is something I can do, even if it's sharing a gallon of water or making you coffee & ironing your shirt for work tomorrow...please don't hesitate to ask.  We're all in this together right? (Or, perhaps to use one of my favorite LOST quotes, "Live together, die alone.")


   

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Day 5 No Power

We've been out of power for 5 days now after the hurricane.  No running water and limited access to Internet or cell phone signals (a cell tower is down in our area.)  I'll put up a proper post when I can get to a computer. 

Best to all of you.  Hope everyone is safe.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Preparing for a Hurricane (& Stocking the Cocktail Cabinet)

With all the buzz about Hurricane Irene coming up the coast and SLAMMING us on Sunday, I've decided to get a jump start on preparing for it.  The news reports this morning are predicting we could be out of power for days.  (Wait...could this be the Apocalypse in the Suburbs I mentioned in a recent post?)



The National Hurricane Center says I should have certain items in my Disaster Supply Kit.


Check boxWater - at least 1 gallon daily per person for 3 to 7 days
Check boxFood - at least enough for 3 to 7 days— non-perishable packaged or canned food / juices— foods for infants or the elderly— snack foods— non-electric can opener— cooking tools / fuel— paper plates / plastic utensils
Check boxBlankets / Pillows, etc.
Check boxClothing - seasonal / rain gear/ sturdy shoes
Check boxFirst Aid Kit / Medicines / Prescription Drugs
Check boxSpecial Items - for babies and the elderly
Check boxToiletries / Hygiene items / Moisture wipes
Check boxFlashlight / Batteries
Check boxRadio - Battery operated and NOAA weather radio
Check boxTelephones - Fully charged cell phone with extra battery and a traditional (not cordless) telephone set
Check boxCash (with some small bills) and Credit Cards - Banks and ATMs may not be available for extended periods
Check boxKeys
Check boxToys, Books and Games
Check boxImportant documents - in a waterproof container or watertight resealable plastic bag— insurance, medical records, bank account numbers, Social Security card, etc.
Check boxTools - keep a set with you during the storm
Check boxVehicle fuel tanks filled
Check boxPet care items— proper identification / immunization records / medications— ample supply of food and water— a carrier or cage
— muzzle and leash
I'm making a modified list, including a refresher on how to manually work the oxygen tanks for Gram.

Other modifications/additions

Candles & matches or lanterns.

Cocktails ingredients.  I was only mildly kidding when I announced on Facebook that I would wait out the storm in the wine cellar.  It's full of cobwebs and scares me.  It's also where we hide the girl scout cookies.  Oh, see, we ARE prepared to survive in style - we have Samoas!!!  Samoas & wine!  So there's no need to make a trip to the grocery store or the fruit orchards after all.  (Just kidding.)

I am lucky to have 2 pantries in my kitchen- they're both in need of reorganizing.  Here's a peek at one of them:



Do you see what's conspicuously missing here besides the pasta & cereals?  (They're in the other pantry.)  Good chocolate.  Tuna fish in olive oil.  Juice.  Nutella.  I have a gallon of water or 2, but I'll pick up another few.

The good news is that I have a gas stove & and outdoor grill, so in the event that we do lose power, we can still cook.  If we find ourselves in that scenario, I have nearby family (& friends) who will probably be coming over to eat, and so the cocktails may be important after all!  Add pineapple juice, fresh limes, and cranberry juice to the list!

Other Preparations

If, like me, you're on well water, you'll want to fill up your tubs on Sunday for water to flush the toilets.  Trust me, you'll be glad you did.

Check propane tanks to see if they need to be filled.  (This would be super important in cooler weather as we have a propane furnace-rated fireplace that heats our family room.  During the last big winter power outage I had to sleep in front of it with 2 babies!)

Seeing as how they're bent on scaring us on the news with the threat of power outages, it may be time to eat some of the frozen things from the freezer.  I'm particularly excited about this since my freezer is full of ice cream, croissants, Indian food, and things like peas & waffles.  Again, since we'll be able to cook, I can hold off on some of these, but I may be baking the croissants.... and the ice cream....well we'll just address that potential issue today :)

Just had a brilliant idea.  Know what would be a perfect way to enjoy finishing off 5 ice cream containers?  (I call the chocolate gelato, btw.  My friend Victoria can have the soy mocha swirl.)  ...eat them while watching the hurricane episode from Dawson's Creek!  Ha!





Then back to preparations.  It's also time to check on the garden and see if there is anything that can be harvested.  You don't want all that good food falling on the ground in your muddy garden come Monday after being whipped around at 80+ mph.  My raspberry bushes are just starting to ripen so we'll be picking those again on Sunday too.  I'll have tomatoes, beans, squash, cukes, grapes, and other random things to pick from my wild garden.

Take down any bird feeders or bird baths that might be in danger of hitting your house in a high wind, etc.

Pick up any debris or toys in the yard that might fly away.  That's on my list for today and we have a ton of toys outside.  Flower pots too.  They're going into the basement.   (Someone's grill cover has been in my backyard since the big storm we had this past winter and we can't figure out who it belongs to!)  It's going to rain at some point today too, so better we get started this morning.

Maybe I'll cover some of the firewood for our fire pit - or bring some into the basement in case we decide to have a campfire.  I'll ask the hubby if that's necessary.  I heard they're predicting a foot of rain here.  A foot.  My yard may be too wet - and muddy.

If you have a sump pump (we have 2) check to make sure they're plugged in so that while there is power we can deal with the water that may flood into basements.
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OK, so the real fear is that this thing will fly up, up & away...


...and land someplace else and squash a bad witch.  (FYI - Wicked is playing at the Bushnell in Hartford!)

Hopefully they will do a good job of shoring it up as it doesn't look like we'll race to get a roof on it.  I think it's better if the wind just goes right through it, right?  I just kind of wish we could cover the entire thing in a giant tarp.

I'm all set for reading materials (I have my next 2 books lined up on my nightstand) and we have a good collection of games to keep the kids busy.  Anyone want to stop by for a game of Disney Cranium?

So what other preparations are you planning?  What is on your grocery list?

On a serious note, I hope all of my friends from the Caribbean to Florida to the Carolinas and all points north are safe during this storm.  I know it can be scary, especially for the little ones - mine keep asking if it will be the same as when we were caught in a tornado.  Keep us all informed that you're ok via Facebook, Twitter, or drop a comment here.  



Thursday, August 18, 2011

CBS Connecticut's Most Valuable Blogger!

It is such an honor to be named a FINALIST for CBS Connecticut's Most Valuable Blogger Award!  Little bit exciting, right?  Ah, it's the little things that make me happy, n'est pas?


(Please vote for my blog!  A big thanks for doing so!)

Know what else makes me happy these days?  My carriage house project is FINALLY starting to take shape!  This was the progress as of yesterday (only the 2nd day of framing!)


Today they put down the floor for the 2nd fl.  Slowly, slowly the work continues...I can't wait for it to be closer to finished so we can talk about all the ways we're going to try to make it GREEN!

It's been a while since I shared an update on our 40 panel photovoltaic array.  The solar panels have been cranking out the electricity all summer!  Each month my electric bill has been all of $16 (even with the air conditioning & TV going in our in-law apartment several hours per day!)  We've been generating around 35 kWh per day of electricity, and it appears that since November we've generated 7750 kWh and saved over 13,000 lbs of CO2!!!  Seriously, how great is that? We're sending a lot of energy back into the grid.  Makes me want to go and hug my inverter :)

Heading out now to support my fellow Realtor's Broker's Open House for a property on Lake Pocotopaug - it's no Knowles Landing, but 71 Meek's Point isn't too shabby!  They're similarly priced, so if you're in the market in the $1.3M range, I'm happy to show you both of them :)





Monday, August 8, 2011

GREEN Summer Finds :)

Hi Blog Friends! It's been a while - we've been busy having our "Not Bummer Summer" (thanks Judy Moody for inspiring that!) and taking vacations and such.  Thought I'd catch up for a moment and share some of the great GREEN finds I've made in my travels.


Found this great little shop in Ogunquit, Maine last month that does personalizing, where they carried all these funny magnets and this one made me smile :)  I also picked one up that says YAY!  BEES! for one of my real estate clients (and friends!)  Speaking of real estate - man, it's been a hard summer.  Contracts that had previously going along swimmingly are drowning left and right over circumstances beyond my control.  It's really frustrating.  Even more frustrating is how difficult it has become for so many buyers to become homeowners.  I've said it before, but really it's creating a large demand for rentals in my market and they're so hard to come by.


On my way home from the Greater Hartford Association of Realtors Strategic Planning meeting I happened to drive by the Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Salem, CT.  They were unloading a truck and what did they happen to have coming in, but some cute square windows that might take the place of my oval decorative windows for the carriage house we're building.  The oval windows are $900 each and we needed 2.  The nice man at the ReStore sold me these 4 square windows for $10 each.  $10!  I took them on the spot.  They're not what I had originally planned, but I think we can still add enough character to make it work.  Looks like we can get a side door for around $25 too, but the double doors and the rest of the windows (seeing as how I'd like for them to match) will be ordered.  On the building front, we're still looking at just a foundation and the floor has been poured.  We hope to have framers starting this week, but it's just crickets out there today.  Well, crickets and the sound of my bank account being depleted.


We finally made it to the Chester Farmer's Market on Sunday morning.  Despite the pouring rain it was a great market, and there were many organic vendors, meat sellers, breads, fish, cheeses, other dairy like yogurts, honey, soaps, fresh flowers, jams, etc.  We walked away with the beautiful bouquet of flowers that Scott surprised me with at breakfast (the vendor delivered them right to our table in the Simon Marketplace - it's so darling you should stop there!) plus divine cheese, baguette, & saturn (or donut) peaches from Glastonbury.  I didn't realize we could grow those here - I'm going to try to get some going!  Added to our fresh veggies from the garden it made for a lovely summer dinner on the terrace.



Here's Scott at the flower vendor, Hay House Farms of Old Saybrook, CT (and that's Julien twirling his Roma umbrella!)  They are a CSA and participate in the Chester, Lyme & Old Saybrook Farmer's Markets.  (We've talked about getting involved in a CSA, but between some of our friends I feel like we may have enough garden space between us to do our own!  We'll have to plan better for next summer.)  The farmer/artist has a blog and he said they do a farm stand on Thursdays 3-6pm - looks from the blog that you can visit the farm and check out their great kiwi vines which are producing!  Again, I didn't realize you could grow those here....very interesting.  There's a photo on his blog of the kiwi growing over the pergola.  Apparently they also have a Stupa, which is rare in CT.