Thursday, April 22, 2010

Happy Earth Day!

Wow! The other half is posting!'s me.

Angie usually includes photos, and maybe one of us will add pics to this post, but in honor of Earth Day, some little things we do to help the little planet we live on, and some other things we are thinking of doing...someday. Who would think that the oldest child would be the green hippie in the family?

On to the list.

1. Recycling. No brainer. We used to have to drive it a few miles to a recycling dumpster, which seemed counterproductive, but now we have a blue recycling can behind our garage. We sort the recycling (see previous post about our mud room) for no reason other than entertainment and ease of storage, then put it all into a bag that goes in the blue can.

2. Composting. In a daring move that I may come to regret, my wife and I made a deal. I got to buy and keep worms in a plastic bin in our apartment (now in the basement) and, in exchange, my wife gets a cat. We now use the worms to compost much of our fruit and vegetable waste, as well as unused bread. Other composted items have included tea bags and coffee grounds. Most of last year's jack-o-lantern was composted, too. We have used the compost to fertilize our house plants, window boxes, and now the seeds for our garden. Much of it will be used this spring when we plant outdoors. As for the kitty? Watch for posts about that later this spring.

3. CFL bulbs. They create less waste heat that traditional bulbs, which means less energy used and a lower electric bill. Added bonus, I haven't had one burn out in the over two years I have used them. "Dislike" the fact that they have mercury and need to be disposed of at special sites when they do finally burn out.

4. Power strips. "Energy vampires" are appliances that use electricity even when they are not "on." For example, those chargers for cell phones and video games. Anything with a little led light or clock is continuously using energy. Even our computers and televisions are running when off. Our toaster, which is used for maybe 3 minutes a day, has lights on it! Easy solution has been plugging all these things into surge protectors and flipping the switch off.

5. Energy star appliances. Personal favorite is that the dryer has a sensor. If the load is dry early, the dryer shuts off...genius!

6. Air dry clothing. Thank goodness spring is finally here.

7. Hose timer. No more trying to remember to shut off the hose at night. Coupled with a soaker hose and a lot less water is wasted.

8. Low-fume paint. Sorry, I can't remember the official title, but the paint and primer we have been using is low fume, which means less air pollution while the paint is drying.

9. Gardening. That means buying fewer vegetables that have to be shipped from halfway across the planet. The plants reduce CO2 and the flower garden will provide habitat for butterflies and other insects.

10. Electrical lawn mower. No gas emissions. Ours mulches, so no landfill space is wasted.

11. Ceiling fans. Make the rooms feel cooler, using less a/c

Eventual goals...

1. Regular composting. I would like to compost our lawn waste, too. The worms would get overwhelmed I fear.

2. Rain barrel. I would like to collect rain water from the roof to water the lawn and flower garden. Why use tap water if I don't need to. Maybe it will spare someone's basement from flooding, too.

3. Windows. We want to get better insulated windows.

4. Tankless water heater. Why use gas to heat up water in the middle of the night? Really?

Hopefully these goals will be realized some day. Don't plan to see us raising our own livestock anytime soon, but I think these reasonable goals can help. I bought a book about this topic a while back full of easy things that people can do without drastically changing their quality of life. Probably should reread it. If I find it in the room of boxes we still have, I'll post the title.

Bye for now fellow Earthlings.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Mud Room

One of the things that sold us on this house is the mud room. I guess it's technically not a mud room, but a covered side entrance. That being said, calling it a "mud room" makes it sound like there's an extra room attached to the house, and really, it gives this space a better purpose. So there.

This is just a basic view of the mud room. It's not very big, so it's not like I can capture it through different angles.

As you can see, there are two windows and a screen door, so no matter what time of day it is, this space gets a lot of light. It'd be a perfect holding area for our seedings if it was insulated!

We're big recyclers, so to finally be able to sort our non-garbage is fabulous! In our apartment, we had a box for paper and a small garbage can for everything else, and that filled up fast. Being able to sort takes that excess junk out of the kitchen, and we can see exactly what we're using more of, which is a thrill for me, but only because I'm a big loser.

I seriously hate these ugly curtains. You can tell they were handmade by the previous owners. But, ugly as they are, they provide what little insulation there is in here. They're heavier than your average floral garbage, so they'll stay until we can find something a little less....gaudy? (And, they'll be here a while, because curtains for the mud room are at the very, very bottom of my to-do list.)
These handy little cupboards have become a life saver! They're currently housing our winter boots and our clothespins & clotheslines. Anything that's more for the outside goes in here. It's fabulous! And yes, it's carpeted. Why? I dunno. It's nice in that I can run in and out to the mailbox in my bare feet, but at the same time....who carpets a mud room?

That little blue box on the right side with the watering can on top is our mailbox. None of the houses in this area have the mail slide that I grew up with--each house has it's own mailbox. I'd be lying if I said that part of me didn't want a mailbox a la Carl & Ellie in Up! but having an indoor mailbox is nice. Sometimes it's a pain because the mail carrier doesn't always slide the mail in--occassionally we get a carrier who shoves a newspaper into the box and we have to wrestle it out like we're playing tug of war with a spunky little puppy.

As for "hopes and dreams" for this room, we really don't have any. I'd like to replace the curtains eventually with something that's insulated like these are, but that's not anywhere close to the top of the list. The only other thing we want to do is replace this screen door with something that can be locked. The current door doesn't lock from the inside or outside, so someone could easily sneak in and hide out for a while, or break in and no one would see them. However, having the side door locks replaced has helped quell that feeling, for a little while at least.

So, that's that. Hopefully I'll get my big girl pants on soon and I can update with some more changes and other things that are going on--I've been a bad housekeeper lately, so I'm not going to openly post pictures of our messes. I'll openly admit they exist, I just won't share them with the world. ;-)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A Surprise Visit To The Planetarium

Before we dyed our eggs, Graham and I made a long overdue trip to the Shedd Aquarium.

We paid a ridiculous amount to park, and on our short and brisk walk to our destination, we took some pictures.

We braved the elements.

Shortly thereafter, we found our spot in line. We learned we were in the wrong line to begin with, and we learned that there was a 2 hour wait to get inside. So, we chose a different destination:

The planetarium is probably the least frequented of Chicago's main three downtown. It's smaller, which isn't bad, but space and stars doesn't interest most people. For us, that was a good thing because the planetarium was empty compared to the Shedd. And being teachers, we got in free! Yahoo for staff ids!

Once we got inside, we saw a Mars rover.

Then we saw some planets created to scale. See that big yellow thing in the back? That's the sun. In the foreground you can see Saturn and Uranus. (Heh heh heh...)

We also got to see a few spinny universe things.

And, we got to see the ridiculousness that is the justification for reducing Pluto to "dwarf planet" status.

We moved on, and got to see Earth and Mars, Mercury, Pluto, and any other small planets in scale next to the sun.

Zoom! Zoom! Astronaut Angie gets down to business.

A piece of space fell into a house in the suburbs.

One of many sun dials on display.

Explanation of Cahokia in downstate IL.

Explanations and photos of Mayan calendars and spacey things.

Another universe spinny thing.

When we were done inside, we got to walk around in the sunshine. This is one of my favorite picture-taking spots in the whole city.

Graham snuck a photo of a very cold bride and her bridesmaids. The wind was brutal!

A parting shot of the Sears Tower.

Adios, skyline!

Better luck next time for the Shedd. We'll try again in the summer.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Spring Planting

On Saturday, we planted.

We got our trays ready, and our seeds.

Graham doled out the fertilizer and got things ready, while I took pictures of the yard.

We planted tomatoes and herbs.

We planted all types of flowers.

We used everything we have, and we planted everything we wanted to plant.

We got a later start than we usually do, but I'm certain that we'll have some good growth soon.

I'm looking forward to using some fresh tomatoes and green beans from our garden. There's nothing quite like using vegetables that you've grown from seeds.

And, because it was time, we transplanted my college spider plant and some other plants that have outgrown their pots.

We can be truly productive when we feel like it!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Easter 2010

On Holy Saturday, we dyed Easter eggs.

Coloring eggs was never a tradition in my family. I only vaguely remember doing it once, and even then I'm not sure if it is a dream or if it really happened.

When I first colored eggs with Graham, before we got married, I felt like a whole new world had been opened up to me.

Everything about it was new to me. I didn't know that vinegar, water, and lemon juice could have varying effects on eggs. And holding an egg in boiling water makes the shrink wrap shrink? That was news to me.

I like coloring eggs, and I like documenting the experience each year. I love adding to our collection of memories.

Graham will tell you that I'm always open to new experiences. I begged him to go ziplining during our trip to Maui because it looked like one hell of a time.

He wasn't jazzed about the experience, and we ended up not being able to go, but he was willing to try it out for my sake. He prefers to play it a little safer.

But, he's the one who introduced me to the world of real Easter eggs.

The tablets, the colors, the wax crayon...

...even the different egg-coloring kits there are, though we're big fans of Paas.

This is one of my favorite traditions. It's something small, but it's so much fun to me because it's something that Graham introduced into my world. Most of the time I feel like the one to introduce something new into our lives.

This is something fun. It's simple, and it's not anything revolutionary, but I like that it's ours.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

A Haircut

On Good Friday, I got my hair cut. Nearly 6 inches were lopped off the bottom, and my hair is now springy and life-like again.

From the front:

From the back:

I'm a lazy hair-cutter. I wait weeks--nay! MONTHS--before my hair gets trimmed. I usually spend 6 weeks looking at the mirror and saying, "I need a haircut." Then, because that's how things go, I realize I'm getting a new driver's license and than BAM! New DL, no new hair. Shortly after I get the new DL, I get my hair cut. It's how I roll.

I'm also not a nervous nelly when it comes to hair being snipped. I've gotten plenty of bad trims and I usually dislike something about all my new styles, but what gets me is that....IT'S HAIR. It grows back. I had 13 inches cut off my head the day before my high school graduation. I didn't cry. The girl cutting my hair kept cutting off an inch or two and then nervously asking if she should keep going. You could tell she thought I'd cry. I'll cry about other things, but it's just hair.

I'd love to have long hair. I really would. But I just don't have the patience to keep up with it and treat it like it should be treated. I get bored with blow drying it, and suddenly I have split ends and shaggy hair and I just don't give a damn anymore and I have it lopped off. Is something wrong with me?

Whatever. I'm pretty okay with this hairstyle for now, and I'm sure I'll neglect a much needed trim in the future. I'm a grownup in that way.