Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘saving money’

We’ve finally managed to get all the boxes (mostly) unpacked and I can tell you it feels VERY nice to be settled. The furnished apartment was pleasant, but it wasn’t home. Now those things that make a home what it is are in their proper places and I feel like I can breathe deeply…

…and get to work on transforming this place into sustainable central. First, the worm bin. We picked one up for free on Craigslist. And I found a red wriggler supplier in Marilyn, the owner of Zippy’s Java Lounge. (I’ve heard she has the best in Everett. It’s good stuff). I plan on stopping by this weekend and picking up a pound or two. Then we’ll start converting our table scraps into brown gold. The worms will love us, especially when we start giving them the leftovers from our gorgeous new stainless steel Juicelady that Denette picked up at Goodwill for $20. Have you ever had fresh carrot juice? It’s the nectar of the gods. Seriously. You have to try it.

Next, the garden…and beyond. I’m going to go a bit more Permaculture up here—create an edible environment throughout the yard. And speaking of yard, I talked with one of the landlords and he said we had creative free rein. He might not have said that if he was aware of my knack for yard transformation. We have a beautiful section of south-facing lawn that—once leveled—will make a perfect spot for some raised beds. No tomatoes, though. I’ve been told by a couple of old salts that it’s just not hot enough for them. Of course, that sounds like a challenge to me, so I’ll have to find a solution. I like my fresh tomatoes too much to give up without a fight!

Speaking of transformation: Denette transformed an empty house with little furniture into a fully-furnished home in three weeks. And virtually for free. We now have a couch, a guest bed, an entertainment center, two chairs, and an end table, all acquired through craigslist/freecycle. Now when I get home from work I can collapse on the nice comfy couch instead of the hard wood floor.

I can’t tell you how nice it is to be four blocks from my place of employ. I walk down in the chill of the morning and arrive with lungs full of fresh air and my heart pumping. People at work think I’m irritatingly chipper at 7:30 AM. I just smile and nod. Even better is the return home, when the kids come racing down the hill on their scooters to meet me. Then we go for a walk. Well, I walk, they ride their scooters or their bikes. I have to take my bike in for repairs (Kaia has grounded me because of my lack of brakes), but once I do I plan to use it as my primary means of transportation to both hospital campuses and around town on the weekends. The city center in Everett is perfect for biking.

Not only am I four blocks from work, the kids are four blocks from the home school facility. I know, it sounds a little oxymoronic, but the home school program up in WA is an extension of the public school system, though they have considerable autonomy. They offer structured classes for those who want them. It’s really kind of like college for primary-age kids. Logan is loving his classes in math, science, social studies, and tae kwon do. He spends an hour a week in class, the rest of the work he does independently. Kaia should be in the program as well, but she just missed the cutoff date for kindergarten, so the goal is to get her tested into 1st grade next year. When one of the teachers at the home school facility saw her reading, she thought Kaia was already in 1st grade.

Final topic for this post: when we moved up here I set a goal of creating a home gym for free. When we were still in Cali, we had canceled our gym membership and I had created a pretty nice setup with cinder blocks, a couple of iron bars, and some free weights. I wanted a bit more up here, but I was determined not to pay for it. I knew of there were lots of people who had bought a treadmill, used it for a week, and then were desperate to get rid of it to assuage their guilt for letting it gather dust. Well, I’m proud to say that we accomplished my goal within the first two weeks! We now have a Nordictrack, an elliptical, a multi-use home gym (pulldown, bench/flye, leg extension/curl, low row, and stair stepper), a flat/incline bench with a preacher curl connector, a barbell, and two dumbbells with about 190 lbs in plates. This incredible haul was due mostly to Denette’s amazing craigslisting/freecycling skills. She would find it, I would call on it, and we would go and pick it up. I’m totally inspired. In fact, I think I’m going to have to get a quick ski in right now.

With that, I raise one well-muscled arm to you in farewell. Until next time!

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

We have a wonderful, shiny new episode for you! It’s summer garden planting time, and that’s just what we do. We’ve learned a lot from last year’s planting and we use that to make this year’s garden even more prolific.

But wait, there’s more! In this episode we have a lively discussion about sustainability and government with Adam Hill, newly elected county supervisor. He’s also a former English professor of mine from Cal Poly, so the conversation is an easy and a fun one to have.

And if you act now we will even throw in a segment about building a clothesline, complete with all of my struggles, mistakes, and brilliant recovery. In the end, it actually works. And five months on we’re still hanging clothes exclusively. FYI, major money savings! Check out the Project Expense Tracker and our Energy Savings Tracker to see how our savings are adding up.

But you must act now! Hurry, my mom is standing by to hear your opinions of our latest endeavor!

Read Full Post »

Logan goes to a school that does not have a school lunch program, so a few years ago a mom of one of the students started what is called the “Lunch Bunch.”

Essentially the Lunch Bunch is a group of moms that volunteer their time to get vendors together, put out lunch menus, collect money, pick up and serve the kids hot lunches.  The program is amazing because the restaurants are generally locally owned and we as parents get a huge input on what is being served to our children.  As a result our kids get a lot of fresh fruits and veggies and healthy snacks.  Every Thursday I get the honor of picking up the food and serving it to the students.  I love it for many reasons, I get to spend time at the school, I get to know the students, I get to see Logan in “his” environment and I get to try different restaurants.

This past Thursday we got to sample Evos.  Our locally owned Evos has just recently opened and I never had the chance to try it, even though I have heard nothing but raves about it.  I decided that we were going to get lunch there and then pick up the food for the school, I am so glad I did!  The chipotle turkey burger I had was magnificent, Kaia loved her air baked chicken strips and french fries and Samson raved about the Tomato Basil chicken wrap.  We got our choice of mesquite, garlic, spicy, or original Ketchup, and got a thirst quenching ginkgo ginger tea to wash it all down.

I kept hearing that it was great food, but a little expensive and so I did some quick math: for the 4 of us to eat there it would be about $21 as opposed $18 at a fast food restaurant.  For those extra $3 I get fresh red and green leaf lettuce instead of iceberg, a red juicy tomato instead of one that is tasteless and hard, french fries that actually taste like potatoes instead of oil, sugar and salt, and a sense of feeling comfortable with the fact that my child is eating at a fast food place, instead of wondering what kind of poison I just put into my offspring.

As a huge added bonus the owners are the sweetest people you could come across and spent I don’t know how long packing 115 bags with chicken strips, sun chips and a ziploc baggie of grapes!   The kids at the school loved the food and kept trying to get extras!

I will definitely be going back to EVOS and am thrilled to recommend it.

Read Full Post »

Apparently, so many people are interested in buying locally-grown produce that even the big guys like Pepsico, Foster Farms, and ConAgra have taken notice. They’re releasing marketing campaigns that tout their “local” credentials. You can read the whole NYT article here.

What do you think?

Read Full Post »

Hi all!

It’s been three weeks since we planted, and the garden is officially taking off! Here’s a list of everything we put in the ground:

I finally got Denette in a photo!

In the big bed:

  • Tomatoes
  • Anaheim chili
  • Cilantro
  • Garlic

In the right bed:

  • Carrots
  • We were also going to plant leaf lettuce where the spinach is, but the spinach will not die

In the left bed:

  • Sugar snap peas
  • BeansThe garden is UP!
  • Zucchini
  • Cucumber

In the mound:

  • Watermelon
  • Cantaloupe
  • Pumpkin

Out of sight:

  • Potatoes

Since water is the next big issue on the horizon (if it isn’t here already), we’re looking for ways to conserve water. The straw keeps the soil moist and, as a side benefit, it keeps the birds off my shoots until they’re hardy enough to resist—I hope. We already lost a couple of pea sprouts to a perceptive winged assassin before I laid the straw down. But that okay, because I left the packet of pea seeds outside to help identify where the seeds were—and all the seeds in the packet sprouted. Now we have more sprouts than we know what to do with. Anyone want some pea starts?

We also started a small container garden, to see how much someone living in an apartment might expect to produce. Right now we just have a single tomato plant, but we’ll expand this week.

We’re going to be covering the summer planting in detail in episode 5, which I should have done in about a week. Wish me luck.

Read Full Post »

This is the first paragraph of wikipedia’s definition of planned obsolescence:

Planned obsolescence or built-in obsolescence[1] is the process of a product becoming obsolete and/or non-functional after a certain period or amount of use in a way that is planned or designed by the manufacturer.[1] Planned obsolescence has potential benefits for a producer because the product fails and the consumer is under pressure to purchase again, whether from the same manufacturer (a replacement part or a newer model), or from a competitor which might also rely on planned obsolescence. [1] The purpose of planned obsolescence is to hide the real cost per use from the consumer, and charge a higher price than they would otherwise be willing to pay (or would be unwilling to spend all at once).

I had a 1940-something Maytag wringer washing machine that I bought  in the 80’s at a garage sale for $5.

I used it for the next 12 years. The only part I had to replace was the motor belt that would wear out. Our local appliance dealer had them in  stock. Planned obsolescence was NOT the marketing strategy  for this company in the ’40s.

I dare say the opposite strategy was the intent. The idea back in the beginning  was to get people to buy their product. Innovation was key; that and offering a product that filled a need. One of the main selling points was longevity for both the product and the company that was selling it.  Start-up companies had to  build a reputation and a name for themselves. Quality, durability, and reliability were the hallmarks. Maytag has been around since 1911. To write this post I checked out the History of Maytag, which was very interesting. F.L. Maytag had a great philosophy and created quite a few firsts for his company.

Quality and trust were paramount. Fredrick Louis Maytag 1909 said, “There is a factor that can not be measured in dollars and cents…the spirit and love that a true craftsman holds for his job.” If this is any indication of what it takes to be a success—and Maytag was very successful—I am hard-pressed to find anything comparable in today’s marketplace.

I am reminded on a daily basis how planned obsolescence plays a major role in my life, a constant reminder of things that just give out or give up, just quit or malfunction because of some minute computer chip, glitch, or flaw. I can not reasonably expect that my laptop, or even my stovetop,  is going to behave in a reliable manner given all the variables that sustain it.

When I was using the old Maytag washer I always had several spare belts on hand.  If one morning I needed to change the belt it was not an event that involved calling or making an appointment with a “genius”, getting into my car and driving somewhere, find and pay for a parking space, wait until my name is called only to learn that they will have to keep it for a week to “reprogram it.”

If I needed to change the belt I went into the junk drawer where the belt and pliers were. I loosened one nut, slid the old belt off, put the new belt on, tightened the nut, put the pliers away and I was good to go.  The part cost me $2.59 which I had on hand and 15 minutes of my time.  It was as good as new.

Why can’t today’s products and  technology make things that last?    Why does it have to be sooo expensive and so hard to maintain and keep up?  I had to throw my first laptop away because the screen started to get lines in it.  The hard drive was fine.   It would cost over  $800 to replace the screen.   I replaced the whole computer.  I could change the spark plugs, oil and pretty much maintain my vehicles which made life a lot easier and less expensive for me.   Now I can’t even find the spark plugs on the newer vehicles and it takes special computerized equipment I don’t own to talk to the on-board computer to find out where the spark plugs are.     I have a 1982 Toyota pickup. It runs great. Everything works great but it will not pass smog.  Why?  The one and only  computer chip that sends air to the carburetor is broken.  The chip cost $230 and the labor is $200.   I can’t do a thing about this.  It cost me $90 to have a mechanic tell me what the problem was.  The State says throw the truck away.  It is not worth fixing.  Again, what a waste.  But that is what planned obsolescence is all about isn’t it?   I grew up with an old saying you do not hear much anymore, Waste not, want not.  It made sense back then and I think it still does.

A disposal, throw-away, get-a-new-one mentality,  is what is making the world go round.  I think I liked it better when things were built to last, workers were proud of their work, and companies planned on being around as a trusted reliable source of goods and services for a long time.

To add insult to injury I tried to extend the warranty on my new computer. The company said no, you missed the one month window to renew.  We don’t want your insurance money.  This does not give me a lot of confidence. They know something I don’t.   They know I will be back in 3 years to replace this one.   I will have to pay 4 times as much for a new computer instead of them repairing the old one on my extended warranty.  In the mean time every upgrade, download, which I don’t want or need,  causes a chain reaction which causes more bugs, and more upgrades and things just get worse instead of better.  Not like replacing a worn out belt and making it as good as new.

Like I said at the beginning. And then, of course, there’s…

Style obsolescence

Marketing may be driven primarily by aesthetic design. Product categories in which this is the case display a fashion cycle. By continually introducing new designs and retargeting or discontinuing others, a manufacturer can “ride the fashion cycle”. Examples of such product categories include automobiles (style obsolescence), with a strict yearly schedule of new models, and the almost entirely style-driven clothing industry (riding the fashion cycle) and the mobile phone industries with constant minor feature ‘enhancements’ and restyling.

Don’t get me started on the switch from analog to digital.   This stuff drives me crazy.

Read Full Post »

All right, gang, we’re back with another jam-packed episode!

One of our goals has been to make this into a collaborative effort, and it continues move in that direction. Jeff Jensen, my friend from High School (that place I went to nearly 20 years ago!) sent me some music to include in this episode, and I’m thrilled to add him to our growing collection of great artists. (Now if only I could get Fear Factory. What, not the right tone? Okay, fine.)

It’s also really cool to see the progress we’ve made on both the filming and editing front. We’re actually improving. Although we can only improve so much with me in front of the camera….

This episode sees us doing a little catch-up to get on schedule with the seasons: we pack the summer garden tearout in with the what I call a “winter garden medley”—photos of the garden as it grows over three months. Now our filming schedule will only be a month off instead of six….

We also take a trip to Mt. Olive where I learn a LOT about organic farming, and, inspired by their worm bins (200 tons of compost?! Seriously?!), I set out to build my own.

Join us! And let us know what you think!

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »