Monday, November 28, 2011

High Expectations

So, I was originally planning on posting green ideas to wrap your holiday gifts. I even have quite a bit of it written, but I'm not ready to actually wrap my gifts yet. So, this week we will have a blogette to set the mood for my Holiday Theme: Festivus.

While it's still November, I wanted to at least introduce my first holiday theme for this blog. Might as well with all the lights, music & advertising. Jokes aside, the Holidays are my favorite time if year. I even like to encompass all the days (Thanksgiving, St. Lucia, Yule, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, New Years Eve, etc) and call this time of year "Festivus." I get very merry during Festivus and start baking and buying gifts like a fiend. It's sad, really.

So while I do not have a blog entry for green wrapping ideas, I've been very busy! Here's a snippet of what I've been up to since Thanksgiving:

While I started a knitting project a couple weeks ago, I am continuing the pattern. It will be a Christmas gift!
It's psychedelic, man!
Speaking of gifts, I made snowflake necklaces last night for two people. I got the idea from pinterest. Here's a link to the original blog entry. It's amazing what you can do with shrinky dinks.
I had a left over snowflake, so I used it as a trinket for another gift. The idea is from From Glitter To Gumdrops and is a great gift idea for newlyweds. I still need a hook and ribbon, but it's practically good to go. I would post a photo, but I don't want the recipients to see it.

Next week, I plan to cover advent calenders. By doing so, I'm going to show you how I'm making one that's an adaptation from Mod Podge Rocks. With the glue and paint, it takes a bit of time, so I already started working on it. I'm so excited.

And as I mentioned previous, I've been baking a lot. I most recently baked a chocolate pecan pie for Thanksgiving and a breakfast casserole for work. They are delicious.
And it wouldn't be the Holidays without shopping. And sadly, I was one of the crazy shoppers out Thanksgiving night and through out Black Friday. But in doing so, I got a lot of shopping done. I even got a few "gifts" for myself: A beautiful Kitchen Aid mixer & a gorgeous (and desperately needed) LG dryer. Oh, and the new dryer sings. I may call it Navi. Maybe.
This is the old dryer. It was free, but at a price. Now it's dead to me.
Speaking of new appliances, I'm also having to deal with an unexpected need for a new water heater. Thankfully, we rent our home, so our landlord will be nice enough to purchase said heater. Maybe now I can more accurately adjust it for energy efficiency.
Lastly, tis the season for Festivus, so why not get a festive Christmas tree? While I normally try to shop locally, we caved in a bought a huge scotch pine tree for a great price at the local Home Depot. They even threw in a few free boughs from other trees that would of ended up in the dump. Making my own wreath will be even easier now. I plan to show you have to do that later.

All of these great activities is paired with some good work news. I've recently been promoted to produce our local 6p.m. show. So I will be working "regular" shifts Monday through Friday... normally. With a few co workers needing to be off, we are currently playing the producer shuffle. So one day I'll do the 6 p.m., next will be the Midday show, followed by a morning shift. So much for regular hours, ha. But it is still great news and the hours are something many in my field would die for.

Yet, I also am in the process of saying goodbye to one of my best friends in Kentucky. It was a pleasure to even meet Jennifer, much less get to know the crazy, loving & strong woman that she is. She is moving on to better things, but I will miss her deeply.
Love you JHo.
And while it's not Christmas yet, I seem to be accumulating gifts at my work desk. Last week a coworker gave me a huge Aloe Vera plant followed by a beautiful winter rose poinsettia from my mother-in-law. After getting back from Thanksgiving break, I now have a carton of eggs which were raised from another co-workers farm. I could get use to this.
So I hope you are not too disappointed that I don't have a full blog entry pertaining to green gift wrapping. But not only will I soon cover gift wrapping ideas, but there are so many great Holiday gift ideas & crafts that I can't wait to share.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Novem-brr: Put A Battery In It!

I'm ending our month theme today with a few last things you should get done before winter really kicks in for the year: checking smoke detectors and doing what you can to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.

Winter can be a dangerous time when it comes to carbon monoxide. In a report last year, the CDC found the highest amount of people going to the ER for carbon monoxide poisoning is in January. This is mostly thanks to improper ventilation for gas furnaces, ovens, vehicles, and portable generators. And it's not a matter to take lightly. In fact, carbon monoxide is considered a "silent killer." The CDC also reports about 20,000 people annually go to the ER because of carbon monoxide poisoning each year, and about 500 people die from it annually.

Now that I've gotten your attention, there are some really simple things to keep you safe. First, purchase or check the carbon monoxide detector in your home. 24 states, including my home state Illinois, have some sort of law regarding installing detectors. There are various companies that make detectors, just be sure it can run on a battery for back up. And since you spend most of your time at night, it's important to have detectors in the bedroom.

There are ways to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning in your home. First, your oven and gas furnace. If you have a gas oven or furnace, make sure it has proper ventilation. And if you have a gas oven, but electric heating, do not use the oven to heat your home if you run out of power. If you just moved into a home, it would be wise to have a professional look at both to make sure there is proper ventilation and maintenance in your new dwelling.

The chimney is another big culprit to cause carbon monoxide poisoning. Its hard to tell if you have a  blocked chimney, and the there a several poisonous gases that emit from the fire. If you have a wood burning chimney, creosote is a dangerous thing to look out for too. If you do not clean your chimney occasionally to knock out the residual tar, it can cause a chimney fire.

I hate getting into a cold car as the next girl, but if you need to heat up your vehicle, be sure there's proper ventilation. That means it has to come out of the garage, or at least have the garage door open, when warming up and running.

And lastly, there's the gas generator. My new home was hit by a terrible ice storm a couple years ago. So needless to say, a lot of people recently invested in at home generators. But by burning gas, a generator can create a lot of poisonous exhaust. So unless it's actually installed into your home with proper ventilation, it needs to be as far away from your home as possible.

But along with a carbon monoxide detector, you also need to check your smoke detectors. With the additional lights and ornaments we install during the holidays, a spark can easily turn into tragedy. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, there are more than a half million winter fires each year. Those fires annually cause $3 billion in property loss, 1,900 deaths, and nearly 8,000 injuries. Most local news organizations use our "fall back" of daylight saving time as a reminder to check smoke detectors. So if you haven't yet, you need to now. Twice a year, you should test the detector and change out the batteries. Also use it as an opportunity to make a fire & emergency plan with your family.

So I hope you feel that you are better informed about the legit dangers that can happen during the winter months. None of the issues above should be taken lightly, and have taken the lives of others. It's been fun to show you the great ways you can prepare for the long winter nights coming upon us. But, I'm really looking forward to sharing some great DIY, green gift ideas for the holiday season. In fact one blog friend, Roxy, has jumped on board and already published a great post about making home made soap as a gift!

Oh and if you'd like a preview to what I'm thinking about trying out, check out my pintrest board. I've even posted a board that's dedicated to the Holidays (what I like to call "Festivus"), so be sure to check it out.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Novem-brrr: Avoid The Draft

And no, I don't mean getting out of the military draft during war times (though that can easily be solved by high tailing it to Canada).

No, this week we are going to cover the ways you can better insulate your home for the cold winter months. By doing so you are keeping your home toasty, allowing your furnace to work more efficiently, and saving energy (plus energy costs).

Though I do believe insulating your stomach with cotton balls was one rumored way to getting out of the Vietnam War draft.

And to show you what you are looking for, the husband and I made a little photo op at a local home-improvement store.

One of the best ways to avoid the draft in your home is to seal up the house. If your dwelling is older like ours, it probably has a lot of cracks and openings. That is allowing the heat to escape.

One of the easiest cracks to find is along your windows & doors. An easy way to find leaks is the candle test: light a candle and follow along the edges. If the candle flickers, there's a draft. And there are two easy, cheap ways to seal those doors & windows: weather stripping & plastic insulation.

Weather stripping can include foam tape, door sweeps, even those awesome twin door guards. I have to say installing the foam tape and twin door guard are super easy to do. You simply tape the foam tape along the opening of the door and window. As for the twin guard, you place the foam tubes in the sleeves & slide under the door. The door sweeps all depend on what kind you use.

You can also apply the plastic insulator for windows; it looks like plastic wrap. When properly applied, the practically invisible sheet can save you money on the utility bill. Creative Homeowner shows a great step by step way to install the plastic that I'm too lazy to do.

You should also try to seal the other cracks around the home. We have so many cracks around our old home, I can't even count them. Once again, you'll use the candle test along possible areas. Under the window sill is a big culprit in our home. After you've identified the leaks, use the tube-in-a-can gun to squirt small amounts of foam to fill in the crack.
The husband modeling at the home improvement store
There is one more big way you can boost your energy savings: attic insulation! Only about 20% of homes built before 1980 have proper insulation. And installing that proper insulation will improve the efficiency of your furnace, reduce your energy bill, and even boost the value of your home!
Lotsa' insulation... I don't know why it's so fuzzy.
Winterizing your home in general helps the environment, your home, your comfort, and your wallet. But by avoiding the draft, those perks are increased. And since these ways are so easy to do, you'd be crazy to not battle the draft.

We only have one more week of winterizing your home before I start our holiday season. I really can't wait to start covering the great gift and craft ideas I have, but there is one more thing you should check before winter gets too serious. Next week see the few steps you can take that could possibly save your life.

Oh, and can I just say I'm addicted to pinterest? Be sure to check out my board and see all the crafts that I hope to try and share with you.

Monday, November 7, 2011

New Theme: Novem-brrr

Hello folks- it's a new month, so that means a new theme! As winter starts to blow in, we will cover some green ways to prepare your home for the cold weather. Not only will we discuss ideas good for the earth, but also your wallet by lowering heating costs!

And to start things off right, here are some quick, easy things you should do before it gets too cold.

- Change the Air Filter
You should actually have your entire furnace checked every fall, but changing the air filter is key. It helps your furnace perform better, which means it needs less energy; and therefore, it reduces your monthly bill. It also helps the air in your home stay clean. Changing your filter should be a seasonal task, but a good reminder is when you need to turn the furnace on during chilly, autumn days.

- Reverse Ceiling Fans
During the summer, your fan rotates counter-clockwise to bring a breeze to your home. But in the winter time, your fan needs to rotate clockwise. Warm air naturally rises, but having your fan rotate the proper direction will improve air circulation and bring the heat down from the ceiling. And with the air evenly heated, your furnace will have to work less to heat your home. The Daily Green credits a ceiling fan rotating clockwise can save you 10 percent on your monthly energy bill.

- Caring for the Water Pipes
Pipes freezing and bursting with water is a huge problem that can be easily avoided. First, you'll want to tend to your outside water sources. Make sure the garden hose is completely drained. If you can, turn off the water to any sources that you will not be using during the winter months. For the hose bibs, turn off the inside valve, but keep the outside tabs open so if there is excess water, it can leak out.

As for pipes inside the home, if they are close to an outside wall, they need to be insulated. Insulating all your pipes will cut on your energy bill too, since it will take less energy to keep the water in the pipes warm. But another good way to prevent frozen pipes on a really cold night is to open up your cupboard doors under the sink to allow pipes access to heated air.

- Turn Down Water Heater
I love a nice hot shower as much as the next person, I don't think I need it as hot as most heaters are set at by installers. Also according to The Daily Green, most conventional water heaters are set to 140 Degrees Fahrenheit. The site also claims lowering the temperature to 120 degrees (or lower) would reduce your water heating costs by 6-10%. Our water heater is apparently so old that there is not a temperature setting, just a warm and hot.

- Checking the Ducts
Your comfort in the summer or winter time depend on the air ducts in your home. And if your home is as old as mine, there is a chance that air is leaking from those ducts. Those leaks not only mean loss of air at valued temperature, but it means your air conditioner and furnace have to work harder (aka higher utility bill). So if you take the time to have a professional look at your furnace, might as well have one to check the ducts and vents of your home. Various studies show you could save up to 10% on your energy bill by fixing leaks.

One thing you can do outright is to check the vents in each room of your home. Make sure they are not blocked in any way. Make sure all the vents are open. As The Simple Dollar explains, closing the vents in an "unused" room really doesn't save you in the end.

So there you have it, 5 easy ways to prepare your home for the upcoming winter. Sorry if it seemed a bit boring and without many photos. Next week, I'll cover the ways you and your home can avoid the chilly draft.