Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Just Try Not to Giggle

I got the following video from Stuff On My Cat (see my favorites to the right for a link). It made me laugh out loud. I love baby cats!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Going Green

I'm a few days late, but...

I've had the whole Green Scene thing on my mind lately, and I've been taking a hard look at how I live my life. Sure, I recycle, and drive a pretty fuel-efficient car (when Mazda makes a hybrid, I'll be all over that), but what else do I do to promote a healthier planet?

I started by making a list of the things I do that are planet friendly:

1. Shopping bags

I bought some of those canvas-type bags at Safeway and Target, and saved a large one from the Steve Madden store, and I use those when I buy groceries. I think I might start using them when I go shopping, even at the mall, just to save myself from using those annoying plastic shopping bags.

I have found that it cuts down on the amount of plastic bags I have stuffed in the linen closet (there's only so many of them I need for when I scoop out the litter box), and I figure it's doing my little part for our world.

2. Two words: Fuel. Economy.

Rosie Pro (Rosie the Protege) gets pretty decent gas mileage. It helps that she's a small, four-cylinder sedan. It also helps that I don't have a huge commute. My commute is a mile-and-a-half, and yes, I have clocked it on the odometer.

I average about 25-30 miles per gallon. Not as great as a 45 mpg Prius, but still, better than your average Hummer, right?

I've also tried to cut out some of the driving I do. I have a Trader Joe's across the street. I never drive there. That would be too ridiculous.

3. Laundry Day

For a while now, I've opted to wash my clothes in cold water. I figured that this was better for my clothes (and it is), but I've also recently learned that it's also better for the environment!

I mostly have clothing that can be washed at home. I think I only have two or three items in my whole closet that have to be dry cleaned--a dress and a dressy jacket.

Also, because I don't like the fading and shrinkage caused by the dryer, I hang my blouses, jeans and bras to dry. Living in an apartment, this means using a small rack on the patio, letting the whole complex get a view of my clothes. In the winter, I sometimes bring the rack in, or I hang things in doorways. It takes longer for them to dry, but hey, it works.

A bonus for drying things outside--they smell so good!

4. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

I recycle cans and bottles, and I was so excited when I noticed recently that my apartment complex has put recycling bins by our dumpsters for the paper, cardboard, and glass that the local recycling place won't take. You can be sure that I'll be putting a lot of stuff in those bins.

I also wash out mayonnaise jars and the plastic tubs that butter and other stuff come in for reuse. Saves me from buying Tupperware.

5. Electric Bill

I have perpetual nightmares about my electric bill being outrageously high, so I do what I can to save electricity.

First, I only use the air conditioner when I really need it (same goes for the heater), and I try to insulate the apartment so that I'm not letting the cool air or heat get out. Fortunately, my apartment faces North, so I don't get the summer sun in my windows.

I've taken to unplugging my electric kettle and candle warmer after each use, as they can use up electricity when plugged in. I turn lights off and I never leave my computer on standby overnight. I will during the day, but it gets shut off completely when I'm finished.

6. The Daily News

I used to subscribe to the Sacramento Bee, and then sit with it over a leisurely breakfast.

The words "leisure" and "breakfast" had a painful breakup when I left college and entered The Real World.

Before long, I realized that I don't need to get the newspaper. I check the major headlines at Google News and . I get my celebrity gossip from Perez Hilton. I find movie show times at Fandango. I read book reviews at Amazon, and movie reviews at Internet Movie Database. I even get my favorite comic strips in my inbox every morning, thanks to My Comics Page (small payment required for this one).

Of course, I'm not perfect. So, I've been reading magazine articles and looking for ways to reduce my individual carbon footprint on the planet.

I found the 50 Things To Do To Stop Global Warming list through Facebook, and read with great interest an article in Glamour magazine, listing ways to be greener.

Reading about a greener lifestyle, and hearing about Earth Day, inspired me to make some Earth Day resolutions. I started at Glamour's web page, and here are my resolutions.

1. Know where my food is coming from.

Using the Eat Well Guide, I can find stores, restaurants and farmer's markets that offer green foods. Unfortunately, there aren't very many in easy distance from my apartment, but I will try to go to some of the local produce stands when I can.

Buying local food is not only great for the local economy, but often the foods are grown without pesticides. It also saves a lot of energy use in the transport of food. A win-win!

2. Speak up!!

I can tell my elected officials to back eco-friendly legislation, courtesy of the Natural Resources Defense Council. I can encourage our next president to make green issues a priority, by signing a petition.

And, I can blog. : )

3. Nix the chemicals!!

If you know me, you know I'm a true clean freak. I enjoy cleaning my apartment; it helps me feel in control of things, and hey, there's nothing nicer than relaxing in a clean environment that smells nice.

Bleach doesn't smell nice.

So today, at Target, I bought two bottles of method cleaners. I'm going to see how I like them, and maybe I'll be able to say goodbye to chemical cleaners.

Oh, and here's a great tip. Got soap scum in your shower? My parents gave me a great tip--use shampoo to clean it off. I tried it on my glass shower doors and it worked like a charm! I used some old shampoo that I don't use on my hair anymore. I cleaned my shower while taking a shower, without inhaling harmful chemicals.

For some easy home cleaning recipes, click here.

4. Eliminate paper waste...starting with my mailbox!

I've already switched to online banking, including getting online statements. My next goal is to get email notifications of my other bills, to save from getting paper bills in the mail.

Just now, I've found a link to GreenDimes, a service that will help get my name and address off junk mail lists. Through the site, I can also decide which catalogs I want to receive, and which ones I don't. Fabulous!

You can get one of three types of service. The most basic is free. When you sign up, they offer to send you a $1 check, or plant a tree for you. I opted for the tree.

5. Save gas

Let's face it. We live in a car-obsessed society. If, like me, you live in the 'burbs, you have to have a car to survive, almost.

As mentioned above, I live a mile-and-a-half from work. I drive every day. What? Yeah, I drive it. Frankly, most days I'm running late enough to need to drive. So one of my Earth Day resolutions is to attempt to walk to work one day a week. I can't make any promises, because I'm often flying out the door with mere minutes to spare (I'm supposed to be at work at 8:00). But I'm willing to try.

Also, I live near enough to a BART station that next time I want to spend a day in the City (San Francisco), I can take BART (that's Bay Area Rapid Transit, the Bay Area's own above- and underground commuter train).

According to Glamour, even a ten-minute drive to the store can waste gas and resources, and they encourage buying online. I already love and adore Amazon, and aim to use it more (besides, they slash prices on all products in a big way, and offer free shipping on certain items if you spend $25). And I'm a recent convert to online video rentals. I had a free one-month trial of Blockbuster Online and I love it. I'm paying for it now, but it's not a hardship. I can get any movie I want delivered to my mailbox, and Blockbuster pays the return postage (well, it comes from my monthly dues, but still, it saves a stamp, right?).

My queue is already a mile long.

6. Control my water use.

I used to be a morning person, but somehow, in the last year, I became a complete night owl. Needless to say, I need a good shower in the morning to wake up.

It was my dad who introduced me to the concept of the "military shower." Get wet. Turn the water off. Lather up. Rinse off. It saves water in a big way. I'm not quite ready for this method of personal hygiene, but I am ready to cut water use where I can.

I've started by training myself to turn the water off while I brush my teeth. I read in Glamour how Jennifer Aniston has admitted to brushing her teeth in the shower. I'm not going to go that far, but, but I'll look for ways to cut down my water use around the apartment.

I'm also just saying NO to bottled water. The impact it has on our environment to make the plastic bottles (even when you recycle) is huge. I take large jugs of water to work, because I've heard from several of the kids that the drinking fountain water in my classroom tastes like toilet water (how they know this, I don't care to know...). I have to drink water at work--I sing, talk and shout for a living.

At home, I've invested in a Brita pitcher. Works for me.

7. Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs and rechargeable batteries

The bottom line is that I need to introduce these into my life. My camera, my electric toothbrush, and even my Spin Spa shower thingy require AA batteries. The camera, in particular, gobbles them up.

My dad recycles them, but still, I could save a lot of money buying the rechargeable kind. And with the statistics coming out about CFLs, it seems a very worthwhile change to make.

8. Composting

Yes, I can even do composting on the patio of my apartment!

Obviously, I don't have a garden, but I can offer any composting I do to my parents, or any friends with gardens. I might actually give it a try, because I do use a lot of fruits, veggies and other organic foods...not to mention all those daffodils I've been buying this year.

If you have a garden and you are interested in composting, here's how to do it.

9. Show the trees some love

I bought three sturdy, blue cloth napkins today. I use napkins every time I eat. As you can imagine, I go through them quickly. I decided to buy the cloth napkins because I can use them for a day or two (or three) and then wash them. They won't be fancy napkins; I won't iron them or use them when I have company. They'll simply be my everyday napkins.

I am also aiming to be more careful in my consumption of toilet paper, facial tissue, and paper towels. A lot of my cleaning needs can be met with cloth rags.

Another goal is to find a place that will accept all of my shredded paper for recycling. I shred A LOT of stuff to protect my identity (I have one of those really cool cross-cut shredders).

10. Educate!!

A year ago, appalled at all of the cans and bottles I saw in my classroom trash can each day, I set up a choir recycling center. I told the kids that the money I got from recycling their cans and bottles would go to the choir account. It's one little way to promote an eco-conscience among the next generation.

I hope to continue sharing ideas with my students in years to come, to help them be aware of our planet, our natural resources, and the ways we can help.

And while I know my LPB doesn't get a tremendous amount of traffic, I can still use it to share tips and ideas for a greener lifestyle with my family and friends.

I can't eliminate all earth-harmful things from my life. I still need Rosie Pro to get around, and I can't reuse or recycle everything. But I can make a start, and I can make a difference.

That's my biggest Earth Day Resolution.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Thirty Teens on a Bus

I survived!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

No More Drum-a

Yesterday was the last of the drum line competitions I will go on. On one hand, I'm relieved--no more U-Hauls, no more loading and unloading equipment. No more worrying about the $10,000 marimba and people getting lost. On the other hand, these kids have been awesome, and it is bittersweet to know that I won't be with them next year. They have grand plans, and they ask me, "Can we do this next year? Can we do that next year?" It kills me to smile and say, "We'll think about it!" while knowing, inside, that I won't be back.

But then, I (try to) work with my two advanced choirs and I remember why I'm glad I'm leaving. Even a colleague who covered my class once noticed they don't like to listen.

Anyway, drum line is finished, and it's on to Anaheim this weekend with my choirs.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Amen, Sister, Amen

Heather sent this to me this afternoon, and it hits the nail on the head. I wish this bright young woman every success--she obviously has her head on straight.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

April Fool

In the midst of looking for new employment opportunities, I find myself with two weekends in a row of traveling (one drum line competitin and one three-day trip to Anaheim with my choirs), after school auditions for my two top groups for next year (which I won't be around for anyway) and to top it all off, I am behind in my third quarter grading.

Yes, I am the April Fool.

But I only have 71 days left of April Foolishness!!