Saturday, September 20, 2008

My New Computer

On Monday when I got home from work, this was awaiting me. Isn't my husband sweet? I had no idea that he'd bought me a new laptop! My old one is not dead, as my friend Marci suggested, but it definitely had some health problems resulting from old age. It was extremely slow. If I ever clicked "shut down," it would mean that the next time I turned the computer on I'd have to wait at least 10 minutes before it'd be ready for typing and surfing action. The battery lasted maybe 4 minutes, which was a problem since the power cord was extremely sensitive and would not connect (even though plugged in) if it was bumped or placed at an odd angle. This was the computer that got me through 2 of my 3 years overseas and my first 3 years of grad school. So, as sad as I am to see it go, my new, fast, 15.4" screen espresso brown Dell Inspiron 1525 will definitely make the grade. I think I'm in love. The only downside? I'm too busy to play with it!

Monday, September 15, 2008

10 Easy Ways to Go Green

I'm in the process of trying to get our school to allow the City of Raleigh to put recycling "bins" next to the dumpsters in all of the apartment complexes. I wouldn't call myself "granola" or anything, but I do care about our environment and think that as Christians we should do our best to take good care of it. I believe the same about taking care of our bodies, just in case you're wondering. Anyways, I think that Shannon and I do a lot of small things that are good for the environment that many people overlook. This may be somewhat from living overseas, or it may be because I was an Environmental Science major in college for awhile, or it may be because my youngest brother calls me a hippie for wearing Birkenstocks. I'm not exactly sure where this passion came from, but I wanted to give all of my readers a few easy ways to "go green." They're small steps, and I have taken all of them and can testify that they're not that difficult to do, but if we all did them they would make a huge impact on the earth.

1. Recycle! If there are recycling facilities within say, five miles of your house, or if the garbage man picks up a bin along with your trash, there is really no excuse for you not to recycle. Sorry if I offend you, but if you refuse to recycle when facilities are easily accessible, you are basically saying, "I'm too lazy to take care of the world God put me in." Ouch. Plastic NEVER decomposes. Neither do glass or styrofoam. Did you know that your shampoo bottles, milk cartons, cereal boxes, glass pickle jars, tin cans, aluminum cans, shaving cream containers, laundry soap bottles, newspapers, magazines, and old books are all recyclable? Simply rinse out your shampoo bottles in your dishwater or bathwater after you're finished. Take the plastic film out of pasta boxes. There is no reason to put these things in a landfill when they can be used to make something!

2. Switch to cloth bags. When you go to the grocery store, bring your own bags. Leave them in your car and when you get home and unload your groceries, put them by the front/garage door so that you'll remember to take them back to the car on your way out. Not only do cloth bags save you from having a million plastic bags at your house, but they're also stronger and you won't have to worry about the bags breaking. If you do end up with plastic bags at your house (which we all do), use them or recycle them! Use them for trash bags in the bathroom or office, or take them back to Walmart and let them be recycled!

3. Get a water-saver kit. You can go to Home Depot and for $10 buy a kit that includes a new shower head and three sink aerators. These are simple to install and reduce the water outflow from your faucets and shower head by at least 50%. And they still give good water pressure.

4. Switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs. But make sure to take them to a proper disposal facility, as they should not be put in the trash with the rest of your garbage. If every American switched just one of their light bulbs to a compact fluorescent bulb, we would save enough energy to light three million homes for an entire year. HOLY COW! Compact fluorescent bulbs save energy, last longer (up to ten times longer), and don't cost that much more. Yes, they are more expensive, but not by much. Buy one pack the next time you need light bulbs and replace the bulbs in the room where you turn the light on the most. Then the next time you need to buy bulbs, buy another package. Buying them in small increments will not break the bank!

5. Reuse plastic baggies. Even if you only use each baggie one extra time, you will cut the number of baggies you throw away in HALF. If you use them for something like chips, there's no need to wash the bag after every use. If you use it for a sandwich, wash it and turn it inside-out to dry. Not only will you save the environment, you'll save money.

6. Walk when you can. Say you're at a shopping center and you're going to pick up your drycleaning and go to the store. Park at the store and walk down to the drycleaners. Walk back to your car, hang up your clothes, grab your cloth shopping bags, and go to the store. You'll get some exercise, not emit as many fumes into the air, and save money on gas. Amazing!

7. Save water. Turn off the water when you brush your teeth or shave. There's no reason to let good water run down the drain while you're brushing your teeth. Turn it on to rinse out your toothbrush. You can also collect water from the sink in a gallon-jug while you're letting it warm up to do dishes, wash your hands, wash your face, and so on. Leave this jug in the refrigerator and use it for drinking water. This way you don't have to let the water run while you're waiting on it to get cold. Or just use ice! Get a bucket to collect water in the bathtub while you're letting the water warm up. Use this water to water your plants, or dump it in the washing machine. We can fill our washer about halfway up once for every 2 loads we wash!

8. Don't throw things away. There is usually a use for something. Hold a yard sale and make some money. Take wearable shoes to Goodwill. Tear up old shirts to use for dust rags, or keep a couple for those times you're going to paint, work on the car, etc. You can usually recycle computers, printers, and old electronics. Refill your ink cartridges instead of buying new ones. Try to find a use for things before throwing them in the trash. And think about how long you'll actually use something before you buy it.

9. Carry a water bottle or coffee cup with you. When you go to church and get your coffee you can eliminate the need for a paper cup with a plastic lid by having your own cup. It's stronger, won't clog landfills, and will keep your coffee hot longer. Invest in a good water bottle and keep it in the car. Then when you go to the mall, church, or out for fast food, you can bring your own bottle in for water/juice/soda. You'll save yourself money on buying water while out-and-about (fountain water generally tastes the same as bottled) and you won't end up throwing a plastic bottle/cup in the garbage at the mall or restaurant.

10. Don't buy styrofoam cups or plates. When you're having a picnic, buy paper. No, they're not as strong. But they'll disintegrate within the year. Styrofoam? Never.

So there you have it. Michelle's simple guide to green living. It's a far cry from organic clothing and furniture, but they're easy steps to take. Try to start doing at least one new one. When you're used to it, adapt a new one. Soon they'll be natural, and you'll be a greenie just like me!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Our First Blog Award

We got a blog award!

Thanks to Neabear who gave it to me! Since I'm supposed to pass it on, here's who it will go to:

Kecia, Jessica, and Margo

Now, for you recipients of this award, here's the deal:

* Display your award.
* Link back to the person who gave you the award.
* Nominate at least 3 other blogs.
* Put links to those blogs on yours.
* Leave a message on the blogs of the people you've nominated.
* Enjoy your award!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Great Video

So, it's politics time. I'm not going to go into much about what I think of each candidate, but I will say this about the war in Iraq: I've held the opinion for some time that if we withdraw our troops now, it was all a waste. It would be a waste of money, of time, and the one that hits the closest to many of our homes--a waste of American soldiers' lives. What we stand for as a nation is freedom. We are known as a nation that doesn't fight wars on our own turf: we fight elsewhere for basic human rights of others'. That's what we're doing in Iraq, is fighting so that Iraqis will have freedom and democracy and basic rights that as Americans we believe are the "right" of every human being to have. I'm a supporter of the war, even knowing that my little brother is considering enlisting when he graduates from high school in May. My father-in-law sent me the following video, which was not paid for by McCain, and I thought I'd post it because it heavily echos my own feelings. It was made by an Iraq veteran, and I just think it's cool.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Date Night

Flowers that Shannon bought me on Sunday. Unfortunately they didn't last very long!

Today I got a surprise. Shannon called me at about 3:00 this afternoon to let me know that he had made us dinner reservations. I was shocked. First of all, you have to understand that we just don't eat out. I mean, if we're traveling and on the road, then yes, we eat out. But we rarely go out to eat after church or any other time. I personally can't justify doing it very often because I can feed both of us for a week on what it costs us to eat out once at a nicer place (think...not Chili's or the like). So, anyways.

He brought me a change of clothes (I had marker on my shirt and water six inches up my pants legs) and then whisked me off to an undisclosed restaurant. About 20 minutes later I find myself at a little place called Cafe Tiramisu. It was positively wonderful. It's a small, family-owned Italian restaurant in Raleigh. The atmosphere was romantic and the service and food were excellent. Our dishes were reasonably priced, and the tiramisu was the best I've ever had. My eggplant parmigiana was so large that I'll be eating the remainder for lunch tomorrow. And Shannon loved the olive oil to dip his bread in and the cream sauce in which his spinach raviolis and shrimp were swimming. It was a good date and a great surprise.

After dinner we went to The Fresh Market. Now, I've heard a lot about it but had never actually been to one. I was pleasantly surprised. The prices were not exorbitant, their selection of flowers was magnificant, and overall, we had a good time just wandering around the store. We also bought some bulk coffee...they have it in bins so you can try before you buy a whole pound! Usually I just buy cheap coffee and we fix it up with flavored creamer, but we decided to be coffee snobs for a couple of days and go with spendy stuff. So, we bought some Decaf New Orleans French Roast and some Decaf Molten Chocolate. The French Roast was my choice and the Molten Chocolate was Shannon's. He's more of a chocoholic than I am! So...we'll try out the coffees and cast our vote. Perhaps it will become a regular thing until we've tried all the varieties.

Speaking of coffee, we are on a virtually caffeine-free diet. No caffeinated sodas, tea, or coffee will be found in our house (except for the box of tea I found at triples for $.14 and couldn't resist). But Shannon works with a guy who roasts his own coffee and gave Shannon three samples for us to try, so we've been drinking regular coffee for the past ten days or so. Today I didn't drink my usual morning cup because I felt dehydrated and opted instead for water. Well, as a result I had a killer headache all morning and into the afternoon. Stupid caffeine, messing me up! Hopefully by tomorrow I'll be back to normal, no headaches and perfectly satisfied with a good cup 'o Joe and curling up in the papasan to read a good book. Ok, maybe not a good book, but a book that I have to read for class.

Oh, so after we went to The Fresh Market, we headed to Old Navy because I needed to return something. While we were inside I noticed that a couple of things I'd bought last weekend were now on sale. So I asked if they gave refunds if something went on sale within a certain period of time, and they said yes! If an item goes on sale within two weeks, you can bring your receipt in and they will refund you the difference. I just happened to have my receipt with me, so I got back $12! I went in to return one thing, pocketed that money, and simply let them scan my receipt while I bought a couple of smaller things (which I also had a 40% off coupon for), so I left with two things and an extra $1.60 or so in cash. That was fun. I love saving money.

Shannon playing football with a new "friend" while I'm checking out at Old Navy.

This weekend will be spent doing homework and cleaning our apartment. We're having company for dinner on Monday, so the much-neglected housework will finally get done, and I have about 40 pages of reading and two quizzes to do for one of my classes and then as much reading as I can manage to do for my other class, plus menu prep and grocery shopping on Sunday. Oh, and going to REI's Garage Sale to hopefully buy new running shoes. The ones I like are a whopping $125 (or $135 after tax), so maybe, just maybe they'll have Asics' Gel Kayanos in my size for only $50 or so. Here's hoping...I really need new shoes!

Since this seems to be an extraordinarily long post, I think I'll quit before everyone is too bored to read any more. Maybe Tropical Storm Hannah will give me something interesting to write about, although hopefully not of the "my car got smashed by a tree branch" variety. Until then.