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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Playing the Heat Game

(Note: In this rare occasion, I swiped a meme from Facebook. If this is your image and you would like it removed, please contact me and I will do so immediately.)

Well, it's late October, and the temps around here are finally getting chilly. We were promised a mild fall, and so far, we are getting it. But, it's inevitable that we are going to get cold weather.

Cold weather, as you may have noticed, makes me crabby. And one of the things that makes me crabbiest is that I have to spend money to keep warm. I realize the reverse is true - I have to spend money in the summer to run the AC - but nothing bothers me quite like hearing the heat kick on and know that I'm working my tail off to pay the heating bills to make up for an outdoor temperature that I don't like anyway.

I've written on this topic before, but I recently posted the above meme to Facebook, and I was interested in the distribution of friends who also play the game of seeing how long they can last before turning on the heat. We do this every year; I try to make it to at least November 1 unless I have company coming over. One of my heartier friends notes that her goal is December 1.

Is this practice sustainable? Well, it is one of those "little things" you can do. Every day you decline to turn your whole-house heat on, you use less fossil fuel, and you pay less for your heating bills, thus making a small dent in both global resource usage and personal resource usage. I think it's a good practice overall.

Some ways to stay warm without turning on the dreaded whole-house heat:

  • Put on another layer. Your mom wasn't kidding; if you are cold, put on a sweater. It is far cheaper to keep your own body warm than it is to heat a whole house for your comfort. I have several "writing sweaters" I wear over my daily clothes when I am sitting at my desk.
  • Vent to the inside. If you can, vent your dryer to the inside of your house; I have written a long post on this, but there are baffle boxes you can buy that allow you to toggle your venting to the inside during the winter and the outside during the summer.
  • Bake. This is a great time to start making cookies, quick breads, roasts, and other meal items that have been too heavy to eat all summer and which require the oven to be on for an extended period. Don't forget to open that oven door when you are done and let all that lovely heat escape into the house.
  • Use area heat sources. This means using a space heater when you are going to be in a single room or using your wood stove to add a little heat to the house. Don't forget to close off the room you are heating from the rooms you will not be in, so you retain as much heat as possible where you are going to be.
Of course, I'll ultimately give in on the whole house heat. There will be a day that I crawl out of bed from under my flannel sheets, two blankets, two bedspreads, and three quilts*, and decide that I just can't live another day in the chill. But, until then, let the game continue!

*Really not kidding about the amount of covers I sleep under. I have the body temperature control ability of a reptile.
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Friday, October 14, 2016

A Nice Little Thing about an Airport

OK, when you think "sustainability," airports are not usually the next thing to pop into your head. In many ways, they are (very necessarily) temples to overconsumption of resources in the modern economy. Just look at all those heavy metal tubes with wings sitting out there, burning jet fuel like it rains from the sky. And then look around the interior, filled with food and drink in disposable paper and plastic (which you pretty much have to buy because getting anything reasonable through TSA is a nightmare). Finally, look at all the travelers! Business travelers headed to meetings they probably could have had over the phone, to say nothing of all those tourists who wouldn't have been expecting to vacation hundreds or thousands of miles away from home just a couple of generations ago.

I'm not a frequent traveler. One vacation a year is usually it. But recently, I actually went somewhere for my business, and I saw something that, to me, really worked.

In the Atlanta airport, I encountered a sign that told me that the concourses were spaced a five-mintue walk apart; in other words, if one had the time, one could travel between the very first concourse and the very last in about 30 minutes of walking time, instead of taking the much faster passenger monorail. Since I had arrived at the airport ridiculously early, as usual, I set off to take a 10-minute walk to my concourse.

Along the way, the airport had allowed artists to place art installations; the one you see above used light and carefully-shaped cut-outs to mimic the dappled light of a forest. A soundtrack accompanied it. Was it great art? Well, I'm not sure, but I would argue it was great art for the space. In a facility dedicated to rushing around and expending resources, I was invited by environmental cues to get a little exercise and to lower my blood pressure a little bit by enjoying the dim, dappled light and the nature sounds. It was only a few minutes, but it was certainly a better option than increasing my stress with a relatively-sedentary monorail ride.

Maybe other airports are doing this as well: encouraging people to walk by posting information about time and distance. Maybe more experienced travelers already know which airports they are willing to walk and which they will not. But, for me, this little break was a nice surprise.  So, well done, Hartsfield-Jackson!
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Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Sauteed Fall Vegetables

One of the saddest things about the fall garden is the quality of the produce just isn't up to summer standards. The tomatoes, especially, that were so wonderful raw in the summer have now become "cooking tomatoes," a little less flavorful and tender than their July counterparts.

So, Mr. FC&G and I have been positively ODing on sauteed veggies the past couple of weeks. By taking everything we have available and throwing it in a sautee pan, it makes a wonderful topping for rice.

Right now, we have peppers, tomatoes, green beans, and kale. The kale, especially, is a wonderful addition, since it gets sweeter with some cool nighttime temps.

The best thing? The only thing I pay for in this recipe is the olive oil, which makes it super cheap. For each veggie listed below, I used a handful of each; you can adjust to your own harvest

Sauteed Fall Veggies
2 T organic olive oil
Green peppers, sliced and split into small slivers
Green beans, snapped
Red tomatoes, cut into small pieces
Yellow tomatoes, cut into small pieces
Kale, cut into ribbons
1 T dried oregano

Heat olive oil and add veggies in the order above, giving each a chance to cook a bit and wilt.  This allows your most "solid" veggies time to cook and lets your kale just wilt and sweeten at the end. Cook a total of 10-15 minutes, depending basically on how firm you want your tomatoes. (They seem to be the decision-maker here; everything else can handle more or less cooking time.)

If you wish, add a handful of organic cashews at the end for a bit of protein. Serve over rice; we like organic sprouted rice.

The Analysis

Fast: 10-15 minutes of cooking time, and you are chopping your veggies while you cook.

Cheap:  Everything but the olive oil comes from the garden.  The addition of organic cashews and sprouted rice adds some protein and makes it a vegetarian meal.

Good:  Who knew I even like green beans? I've been avoiding them my entire life, and it turns out that it is just the cooking method - I don't want them boiled, I want them sauteed and crispy.  Yum!

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