Folk Thursday: Jimmy Fallon and Neil Young

This is awesome.

On an unrelated note, here’s Day 2 of my giving-things-up-for-Lent project:

lent2

I bought this by mistake at the dollar store, forgetting I’d already bought the frame I needed for a picture I wanted to hang up. I don’t have anything else this size that needs to be framed, but I bet somebody else does. Into the giveaway box it goes.

Emily

Lent

Sorry I haven’t posted in a while. Thanks to a quirk of the schedule, I’m now on Day 9 of a 10-day stretch with no days off, and on top of that, we’ve had several nights of subzero temperatures that forced me to move the quail into the garage; the better end of a foot of snow, which required quite a bit of digging out once the streets were cleared (and a 1.5-mile walk home from work in 5-degree weather while we waited, because getting a ride to the office at 2 p.m. is much easier than getting a ride home at 11 p.m.); and outrageously dry air that gave me terrible headaches two mornings in a row before I figured it out and plugged in the vaporizer. Anyway, here I am, and I’ve got an idea to share.

Today Yesterday was the first day of Lent, and somebody on Twitter started a thread asking people what they were giving up.

I’m not Catholic, so I don’t usually observe Lent, but as I was looking at another tiny-house website during some down time at the office, it occurred to me that I really need to start shrinking my inventory of unnecessary crap around here.

One thing led to another, and as I waited around for AP to send over a story I needed for the front page, I hatched a plan: Instead of giving up one thing for Lent, I’m going to take another positive step toward shrinking my environmental footprint by giving up one thing per day.

Once a day, probably right before bedtime, I’m going to go through the house, find one thing I don’t need and don’t use, and donate it to someone who can put it to good use.

For Ash Wednesday, I am giving up this:

lent1

Clock radios are nice. But I haven’t used this one since I got my iPhone, which has a perfectly reliable alarm clock built right in, and I’m not likely to use it again, so out it goes.

What are you giving up for Lent?

Emily

Eco-Saturday: Programmable Thermostats

A programmable thermostat will keep your energy costs down while you're away.
A programmable thermostat will keep your energy costs down while you’re away.

Here’s a cheap way to knock down your energy consumption: Replace your old thermostat with a programmable model. The government estimates you’ll save about $180 a year by programming your thermostat to turn the heat and a/c down when you’re asleep or away from the house and up when you’re home.

You can buy a basic programmable thermostat for $20 to $50. You can get fancier models with built-in Wi-Fi that lets you adjust the temperature remotely with your smartphone, but they’re more than $200 apiece and strike me as being completely unnecessary. If you think you’d use it enough to make it worth the price difference, go for it. Personally, I don’t see the point. If I had $200 to blow on electronics, I’d spend $30 on a thermostat and the rest on one of those sonic-screwdriver remote controls that allow you to walk into a sports bar and shut off any TV that annoys you just by giving it your very best Oncoming Storm glare and waving your sonic in its general direction.

Anyway. Ron says our thermostat cost less than $40 and took him about half an hour to install. You don’t need to be an electrician to do it; just throw the breaker to the thermostat, follow the directions in the package, and turn the power back on when you’re done. Allons-y!

Emily

Birds of the air

“…your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.”
Matt. 6:8

Sometime around 1989, my internal clock calibrated itself for Rawaki Island. This would be fine if I lived on Rawaki Island, but I don’t. Nobody else does, either, except for a few seagulls and feral rabbits, and I don’t think any of them are hiring.

I’m healthiest, happiest and most productive when I can go to bed about 3 a.m. and get up around 11. When I try to move that schedule up more than an hour or two, I end up with all kinds of obnoxious little symptoms that make life unpleasant and hamper my productivity.

I’ve tried every imaginable technique to reset my internal clock. I finally exhausted all my own ideas and sought help from a doctor, who recommended meditating; shutting off my electronic devices a couple of hours before bedtime; and taking melatonin.

The melatonin made me sick; the other recommendations, while pleasant, did nothing to alter my natural sleep cycle.

Frustrated, I Googled “circadian rhythm” last night and discovered there’s a name for the way I’ve slept for the last quarter-century. It’s called delayed sleep phase syndrome, and it affects about 3 out of every 2,000 people.

DSPS can be very difficult to treat, and since most people have never heard of it and regard “my body runs on Kiribati Standard Time” as a bullshit excuse for sleeping in, the easiest solution for most people with DSPS is to find a job with a schedule that matches their internal clock and move on.

I’d never heard of DSPS when I sat down to meditate the other night, but as I settled into the Fortress of Solitude and tried to concentrate on my breathing, my mind started to wander (as usual), and I got to thinking about the Sermon on the Mount, which I decided was an acceptable thing to think about while meditating, since it’s practically a Zen text anyway and thus conducive to relaxation.

Less than 24 hours after I’d considered the lilies of the field and beheld the birds of the air, my boss called me into his office — apropos of nothing — to tell me he was switching me from reporting to copy editing.

This means I won’t have to be at work until 3 p.m., and I’ll be able to stay up until 3 a.m. every night without running late or making myself sick. I might even have time to squeeze in a jog before work.

Behold the birds of the air.

Especially the seagulls fishing on Rawaki Island.

Emily

Eco-Saturday: Inspiration

At about 730 square feet, our house is small but not tiny. My long-term goal is to retire to a tiny house in the middle of nowhere, New Mexico. To that end, I spend a lot of time getting rid of things I don’t use, experimenting with various storage methods and trying to figure out how to cram my life into half my current square footage.

Even if you’re not planning to downsize to 350 square feet or less, you can draw a lot of inspiration from good design. With their multipurpose furnishings and clever hidden storage spaces, RVs are masterpieces of practical design. DIY campers are even better, as people design or modify spaces to suit their own personal needs.

Whether you’re trying to shrink your environmental footprint, simplify your lifestyle or just make your current house more presentable and less cluttered, it’s worth spending a few hours surfing websites for inspiration. Here are a few I’ve found recently that delight me to no end:

Hank Bought A Bus — A grad student wrapped up his master’s degree with a hands-on architecture project in which he converted an old school bus to living quarters, a la Bob Waldmire. (Bob’s still got one up on Hank, though. Hank’s bus doesn’t have a sauna.)

Tiny House, Giant Journey — A young couple travel the country, towing their Tumbleweed house behind them, meeting other tiny-house aficionados and documenting their adventures online.

Tumbleweed Tiny House Company — Speaking of Tumbleweeds, don’t miss the company website, which is loaded with pictures and floorplans sure to inspire a few daydreams.

Tiny House Talk — What it says on the tin: Blog devoted to tiny houses and the people who love them.

Small House Bliss — Another blog, this one focused primarily on small-house architecture.

Go explore some of these links and see what takes shape in your imagination. Feel free to share your daydreams in the comments.

Emily

Vegetarian Friday: Caprese salad

I’m not sure this even deserves to be called a recipe, but it’s a good, high-protein meal you can throw together in under ten minutes.

Ingredients:
Carton of cherry or grape tomatoes
Package of fresh mozzarella, drained
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Fresh basil, snipped into little shreds (if fresh isn’t available, just skip it; dried doesn’t taste right)

If you can find ciliegine — the bite-sized mozzarella balls packed in water — you can save a step here, but if you can’t, just buy a log of fresh mozzarella and cut it into chunks, as I did in the picture above. The important thing is to make sure you buy fresh mozzarella from the fancy-schmancy cheese display and not the drier stuff that comes in vacuum-sealed bags in the dairy case.

Toss the tomatoes, mozzarella and basil (if using; I forgot to bring in a plant before winter and was too cheap to buy fresh basil at the store) in a big bowl, drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and serve.

Befores and afters

I spent most of today searching for a paper towel dispenser I could mount below my cabinets. I have no idea why, but they’ve gotten rare as hens’ teeth. Why everybody wants to take up precious counter space with a paper towel holder is beyond me, but the kind that sit on the countertop were all I could find everywhere I went. We searched six stores before we finally found one at Menards.

Another thing that’s become scarce: Those three-tiered hanging fruit baskets like everybody’s mom had in the kitchen when we were kids. I try to keep fruit on hand for snacking, and I wanted a set of those hanging wire baskets like we had in our kitchen when I was little. No dice. I finally had to order a set from Amazon, because I couldn’t find them locally.

Anyway, after I rustled up a towel dispenser, I set to work cleaning the kitchen cabinets. My spice collection is ridiculous and was taking up half a standard cabinet and an entire corner of the counter. While I was at it, I organized a junk drawer. Here’s my handiwork, with a couple of fun little mini-recycling projects included:

This corner was just ... yeesh.
This corner was just … yeesh.
I can feel my blood pressure drop when I look at this countertop now.
I can feel my blood pressure drop when I look at this countertop now.
Stuff fits much better when you put it in proper storage containers. Even if you have to stash the noodles in a cotton-candy tub.
Stuff fits much better when you put it in proper storage containers. Even if you have to stash the noodles in a cotton-candy tub.
Good luck finding anything in that mess. Look at all that junk. And my last attempt at organizing the spices resulted in that gray tray, which corralled some of them nicely but made them impossible to get in or out of the cabinet.
Good luck finding anything in that mess. Look at all that junk. And my last attempt at organizing the spices resulted in that gray tray, which corralled some of them nicely but made them impossible to get in or out of the cabinet.
After. I merged a bunch of duplicate containers, took all the stuff that was stored in bags and put it in jars, and moved a bunch of spices to that new shelf I built yesterday, as the configuration of the cabinet was better for storing cans.
After. I merged a bunch of duplicate containers, took all the stuff that was stored in bags and put it in jars, and moved a bunch of spices to that new shelf I built yesterday, as the configuration of the cabinet was better for storing cans.
Junk drawer. Standard issue.
Junk drawer. Standard issue.
Yes, I sorted all the hardware into an old candy box. You know I'd be thrilled if Ron brought me a box of hardware for Valentine's Day.
Yes, I sorted all the hardware into an old candy box. You know I’d be thrilled if Ron brought me a box of hardware for Valentine’s Day.

I was kinda proud of myself for coming up with that candy box thing. And yes, that’s a sonic screwdriver in the drawer. Ron bought it for me last year. It’s an actual screwdriver, too. I love it.

Hope your day was productive, wherever you are.

Emily

Score one for Pinterest.

Most of the crap I find on Pinterest is … well … crap. But I went looking for storage ideas today and liked this excellent little space-saver so much I wound up using it as my excuse du jour for taking a field trip to the hardware store.

The whole unit fits neatly between the fridge and the wall.
The whole unit fits neatly between the fridge and the wall.

The version somebody pinned from Classy Clutter (which is an excellent site, BTW) looked prettier than mine, but I’m lazy. And cheap. And lazy. And my station wagon is in the shop at the moment, getting its transmission rebuilt, so I didn’t have a good way to bring home a ginormous piece of bead board for the back. And did I mention I’m lazy?

Here it is before I loaded it, so you can see how it's put together.
Here it is before I loaded it, so you can see how it’s put together.

If I feel ambitious later, I can unload it and take it outside and hit it with a few coats of spray paint, but I think we all know that isn’t going to happen.

Anyway, instructions for my version are below the fold. I made it four feet high, partly because of the aforementioned station-wagon-going-AWOL issue, partly because my refrigerator is only five feet high, and partly because I could buy an eight-foot-long board and have it cut in half for $2.22.

Continue reading Score one for Pinterest.