Thursday, June 26, 2008

Enormous Edacious Electric Eater

My electric bills are enormous. Every month it seems they get bigger and bigger. No matter what I do my habitat keeps edaciously eating energy. It's an Enormous Edacious Electric Eater. Sucking down more and more and even more. The electric conditioner of the air is eating all my earnings. Gobbling $$$$ bills like there's no tomorrow. And that cold food box seems to never stop it's gluttonous gobbling. I hear their voices day and night, whirling, whispering and whining their ravenous 'feeed meeeee'. Like giant stomachs growling their desire for more fuel. Then rudely making belching noises... ssscccuuueeww bbbuuuurrrpp... and turning themselves off. For now.

My artist friend refuses to feed the monster. He's opted to sit in 105 degree hot. Shake and bake. Rather then fork out the extra cash for cooling. So he sweats or freezes in blissful misery. He told me the other day, "It's so hellaciously hot my oil pastels melted and ran together. Now I've got an oil shadowbox by G_d. Think I'll frame it for posterity to remember this hell. Oy vey! " Clicking my tongue I replied, "Stop your kvetching! Turn on the cooler so YOU don't melt." Sheesh!

The next door neighbors on the other hand have the air cranked up so high you instantly turn into a giant popcicle upon entering. Told them so and they replied, 'Naw, you're a Creamcicle... cold and tart on the outside with a sweet creamy center." Gawd, now I'm blushing. Hate it when I blush.

My habitat is in between freezer and oven. Comfortable. But have an enormous electric bill. Got to ease it. Hiss a sigh, rubbing my mouth and neck in utter frustration. My roommate is watching this drama unfold from the sofa. "What's got you so flustered" she says. I reply, "I've got an Enormous Edacious Electric Eating apartment. My bills are so high, my wallet's going dry." She says, "There are lot's of things we might be able to do. Let's think about it for a while."

We got our heads together, wrote down our ideas. Then looked online to see what others were suggesting. Here's our finalized list things with a we opted to do:

Air conditioning / heating

Thermostat. Temperature.

  • In Summer turn off the thermostat and open the windows at night and use ceiling fans. If night temps fall into the 60s, will cool the house down. Close the widows at dawn to retain. House may stay comfortable until early afternoon without air conditioning. In Winter turn down heat to 55 degrees at night. During day set at 65 degrees and wear a sweater. Use space heater if needed as supplement.
  • 10 degrees (cooler or warmer) at night or whenever no one is home. 8 hours per day can save 10% on electric bill.
  • Install new thermostat Allows automatic adjustment.  8 hours per day can save 10% on electric bill.

Air-conditioning/heating unit.

  • Regularly maintain air-conditioning/heating unit have system checked and maintained yearly. Our landlord does yearly maintenance of all heating/cooling units.


  • Replace filters regularly check heating/cooling system filters monthly and clean or replace if necessary. Our landlord provides filters and asks us to change them monthly.


  • Close shades (blinds or curtains). if it's cold or hot closing shades insulates the windows and can reduce costs. We have double cellular translucent shades and vertical blinds that we close during the afternoon or whenever we are gone.
  • Upgrade Shades to special shades or curtains with R value saves even more.

Ceiling Fans

  • Ceiling fans will balance the temperature in a room and help it feel cooler. Our landlord provides ceiling fans in living room and bedroom and we utilize them.

Plant trees.

  • Plant Trees can cut heating/cooling bills up to $250 annually by shading and insulating the house. We asked if we could plant a few shade trees. They were yearlings so will take a while to mature into full shade trees. One fast growing tree we planted was a mulberry. We get to enjoy the fruit too.


  • Leaks find and fix around windows and doors. Find with smoke or candle flame, when flickers there is a leak. Caulk or install weather stripping. Can save up to 30 percent annually on utility bills. We caulked around all the outside doors and windows, installed weather stripping and door sweeps.
  • Replace windows with more energy efficient ones if possible.
  • Leaks in HVAC ducts. Sealing and insulating ducts may save 10% annually.
  • Close chimney flues. Our apartment has a wood burning fireplace. So we opted to always keep flue closed when it's not in use.


  • Inspect insulation levels. 12 inches of insulation in the attic can save 20% on energy costs.
  • Solar attic fan removes hot air from attic. May save around $100 during the summer season.
  • White roof reflects heat, black absorbs heat.  Our landlord recently coated the roof with a white sealant to waterproof and reflect some of the heat.

Light bulbs.

  • Compact fluorescent bulbs (called CFLs) use 75% less electricity and last about 10 times longer then incandescent bulbs. Replacing four 100-watt bulbs with  23-watt CFLs (equivalents) will save up to $200 in three years. We replaced all of our bulbs throughout the apartment with corresponding wattage CFLs. Sometimes the out put wasn't as great, but it was satisfactory.
  • 20-watt desk lamp. light desk instead of room. One 20 watt bulb (vs. one 60 watt) will save $5 every 500 hours. We already had and used a desk lamp and opted to keep it off as much as possible.
  • Turn off lights when not needed or when leave a room.
Home Electronics

VCRs/DVD players. TVs. Stereos. Telephones.

  • Unplug home electronics. Home electronics continue to use electricity even when turned off. In fact anything with a clock, remote control or an on/off light drains power.  Idle TVs alone cost around $5 annually. Easy solution: Plug electronics into a power strip and use as on/off switch. We bought 3 surge protector strips with on/off buttons. Plugged electronics into them and turn the strips off when not in use.


  • Invest in LCD TV Want to replace your TV with a large screen? Consider LCD TV, uses half the power of plasma TV.
  • Turn off and unplug the Television if no one is actively watching it.
  • Watch less or no Television Since there really wasn't anything we wanted to watch and we spent most of our time watching reruns or flipping through channels, we canceled the cable TV. Still use the TV set to watch movies that we own or rent. Gave us a bunch more time to read, talk and spend time with family and friends.


  • Laptop computers. use 85% less power so can save up to $140 annually. 
  • Set PC to automatically 'standby'. after 10 minutes being idle. All programs and work is still on the desktop ready to utilize again when mouse moved or key depressed. We have 2 computers and they 'standby' in 10 minutes and turn off if not in use 1 hour.
  • Flat panel computer monitor. uses 1/3 less electricity then CRT monitors. We're half way there. One computer has a flat panel. The other has the older style monitor.

Energy Efficient Appliances

  • Energy Star appliances are energy efficient so use less power. All of our appliances are Energy Star rated. But all are older models so most likely we could do better. Maybe when our landlord replaces them.


  • Refrigerator temperature. set to 38-40 degrees Fahrenheit. 5 degrees lower costs around $5 annually.  Defrosting freezer saves a few $ more.  Open doors less often. Freezer temperature. set to 0 degrees Fahrenheit. We bought a thermometer and monitored settings until they were optimum.
  • Clean condenser coils. dusting coils helps refrigerator run efficiently.
  • Replace old appliances. older model refrigerators and freezers can cost more then $100 annually. Energy Star refrigerators use about same power as a light bulb.

Stove / Oven

  • Small kitchen appliances. Instead of range/oven using microwave, toaster oven and/or slow cooker can save up to 75% in power costs. Plus kitchen stays cooler too.
  • Electric teapot or microwave for quick boiling water.


  • Wash clothes in cold water, dry full loads. Clean dryer lint filter after each load, stop dryer just as clothes are dry. Line dry when/if possible.
Hot water

Hot Water Tank

  • Water temperature. Set to 120 degrees. We checked the temperature and turned it down from 125 to 120 degrees.

Shower heads and faucet aerators

  • Water-saving shower heads and faucet aerators can reduce electricity costs for a family of 4 by $250 annually. Our landlord already provided water-saving (restricting) showerheads and faucet aerators.


  • Shower instead of bathe. Taking a shower instead of a bath uses less water and energy. Except when one of us want the luxury of a bath with bubbles, candles, wine and full relaxation.


  • Washing by hand. When washing dishes by hand use a basin filled with hot soapy water. Rinse with cold water. We don't have a dishwasher in our apartment.
  • Dishwasher. Wash full loads. Let dishes air dry.

We did all of the things we could do and began to see savings almost immediately. The electricity bill was almost cut in half. I'm dazed and amazed. Show my roommate the electric bill.

We jump, slap palms in a high five, start dancing and singing (to the song 'Jump for Your Love' by the Pointer Sisters)...

I'll take you down, I'll take you down
Where no one's ever gone before
And if you want more, if you want more
More, more, more
Jump feel my touch
Jump in and you'll go down
Jump I turn you down and my wallet feels alright
Jump, jump feel my touch

We reduced our carbon footprint again. I'm happier. My wallet is happier and the earth is happier too. Whoo Hoo!!!

A couple of links:

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Ichy Scratchy Sneezies

I've never been the sickly type. But for the last couple of years I've had Itchy Scratchy Sneezies. Once in a while I'm covered in bumps. My skin itches, eyes are itchy, red and watery, nose runny and I'm sneezing. I'm just generally miserable.

My artist friend came by for a visit, saw the state I was in and said, "Allergies." I reply, "Me! Can't be. Must be stress. Hives! Need antihistamine." My friend said, "I've got allergies and take Zyrtec and/or Benadryle. Just happen to have some you can try." "What are they?" I asked. "Powerful antihistamines" he replied. Tried one, then the other. Dried me out. Didn't touch the Itchy Scratchy Sneezies. And I felt weird too. The next door neighbor dropped by, he recommended Quercetin, a natural supplement. I thought "Natural smatural! If super Zyrtec or Benadryle had no effect... that sure won't work." He handed me a bottle and said, "A friend of mine had itchy eyes, it helped him. Give it a try."

Quercetin helped. Drastically. Told him so and thanked him profusely. Now a bottle lives on the kitchen counter. Temporary relief!

My gardener friend called said she's upset about something called terminator seeds, GMO's and cross pollination. What ever that is? Said she's concerned that crops downwind will damage her seeds forever. Yea Right! Like something downwind can do anything to your seed. Bunch of hooey. Grunted acknowledgement at her. She then started talking about GMO's, and never being able to trust seed producers again. I sighed. Get out the violins, let's have a pity party! Like seed producers would do that. Right! Bunch o' crap, that's what it is! Said she knew GM corn and soy beans were in the products we consume and she'd never knowingly buy them. Why not, geez!

Enter a new organic, veggie, earth friendly room mate sometime soon after that conversation. One morning I made breakfast for us. Opened a can of grapefruit sections. Scrambled some eggs and buttered some rye toast. When it's served up my roommate looks at the grapefruit, pushes it across the table and says, "You want mine?" I ask her, "Why? You don't like grapefruit?" She replies, "I do but that contains corn syrup. I don't eat that." I say, "Oh?" Here comes some cockamamie story. She says, "Corn syrup is made mostly from genetically modified corn (GMO). It's bad for us and the environment." How could food be bad for us or the environment?

I've heard that somewhere. Oh yea my gardener friend. So I Google it... GM or GMOs. First webpage said
75% of genetically modified (GM) crops worldwide are engineered to tolerate glyphosate, with Monsanto's Roundup brand holding the biggest market share. Went to read 8.25 million farmers – 90 percent of whom farm in developing countries – choose to plant biotech crops. Farmers have decreased pesticide applications by 172,000 metric tons. GM crops benefit the environment and conserve natural habitat for wildlife. Kept reading. It is glyphosate’s ability to translocate to the growing root and shoot tissues - where it shuts down growth - that makes it useful for killing not only annual weeds, but perennial weeds as well. Ability to translocate means it is a systemic so it goes everywhere throughout the plant. Ok. Continued reading. The Roundup Ready® seeds contain in-plant tolerance to Roundup® agricultural herbicides, allowing growers to spray Roundup agricultural herbicides to kill the weeds without harming the crop. Roundup Ready varieties provide unsurpassed weed control, proven crop safety and maximum yield potential. Many Roundup Ready products are stacked with other traits such as Bollgard and YieldGard to add insect protection. Good right? It means spraying less pesticides and herbicides. Which is good for the environment. Continued reading. Consumer benefits are advantages such as increased protein, healthier oils or carbohydrate enhancements. Product Stewardship Safety: The legal, ethical and moral obligations to ensure our products and technologies are safe and environmentally responsible. That's great. Healthier food that's better for us. Products that are safe. A company that is environmentally responsible. Sounds almost too good to be true.

Searched deeper. Another website.
The study – carried out over the past three years at the University of Kansas in the US grain belt – has found that GM soya produces about 10 per cent less food than its conventional equivalent. If that's true it would lessen the available crop yields not increase them. Hunger would worsen. Hum! I continue to read. Last week the biggest study of its kind ever conducted – the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development – concluded that GM was not the answer to world hunger. Humm.

Another page says
a team of scientists led by Gilles-Eric Séralini have produced a peer-reviewed scientific paper stating that their statistical analysis shows significant levels of liver and kidney damage in some rats fed with MON863.... MON863 is a GM crop. Another page says In the recent case of the GM forage maize, Chardon LL, the herbicide used was glufosinate, a neurotoxin and a teratogen (ie it damages embryos). What is particularly worrying is that there seems to be a 10 per cent reconversion rate of the degraded herbicide back to the original toxic form in the gut. Hum that means it gets more toxic after it enters the body. Not good.

Continued deeper
In fact, while Roundup and similar products were originally used against weeds, 'they have become a food product, since they are used on GMOs, which can absorb them without dying,' maintains the biochemist Gilles-Eric Séralini. A member of the French Commission on Biomolecular Genetics (CBG). A herbicidal food product? Kept reading From the Centre for Agriculture and Environment. "Residues of the commonly-used herbicide glyphosate have been found in a variety of fruits and vegetables. Residues can be detected long after glyphosate treatments have been made. Lettuce, carrots and barley planted a year after glyphosate treatment contained residue at harvest" Yuck! That's a disgusting thought.

Searched further.
"The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods" With input from more than 30 scientists over two years, presents 65 health risks of GM foods and why current safety assessments are not competent to protect us from most of them. Whoa. Why are they still grown? Read another page. The potential of genetically engineered foods to cause allergic reactions in humans is a big reason for opposition to such crops. Lights start flashing, things begin clicking... OMG. I'm having major allergic reactions which I've never had before could it be the GMOs I didn't even know I was eating? And another website exclaimed. GMO’s are present in approximately 70% of processed foods and have been consumed widely in the U.S. since 1996 (GEO-PIE, 2002). The list of products containing GM foods were staggering.

Frustrated, I start singing, "I can't get no... satisfaction. And I've got a... food reaction."

My roommate asks me why I'm sitting at my desk singing about no satisfaction. Told her what I discovered in my online search. Said, "I'm helpless. It's hopeless. The foods I eat are full of GMOs from ketchup and cookies to soup and even spaghetti sauce. There's nothing left to eat. What will I dooooo. May be allergic to GMs. I'm gonna die in itchy-scratchy agony. I just know it. Oh whoa is me!"

She said, "Stop silly. You can go all organic. You're halfway there already." I say "Organic is so expensive I can't afford to eat it. Bwahah!" She hands me a kleenex saying, "Here dry your eyes, stop crying. It's not hopeless, just a change in lifestyle. You can buy locally grown produce. And organic products don't cost THAT much more. Besides if eating organic food stops your itchies it'd be cheaper than a visit to the doctor or hospital." Dried my eyes, sniffed. Better than a poke in the eye. Ah huh! Replied, "Logical Ms. Spock." She counters, "Nowhere am I so desperately needed as among a planet-full of illogical humans." We smile at each other and break into laughter.

EPIPHANY 1 - Quercetin = less itchy-scratchy sneezies
EPIPHANY 2 - Organic products = no itchy-scratchy sneezies

I'm happy, my body is happy, the planet is happier too. Makes sense. Back to basics the way it used to be. Still get itchy-scratchy sneezies once in a while 'cause I can't stop myself from an occasional sinful meal out.

Strummin' an air guitar singing...

Oh yeah, just call me Mrs. Organic
Just as healthy as I can be
But sometimes I'm a junk food junkie
Good lord have pity on me

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Bloated Bulging Belly

I've got a Bloated, Bulging Belly. It's getting bigger and bigger. No matter what I do... how much I change my diet or exercise. My belly still bulges. It's an epidemic. I've caught some strange disease. I know it.

Fast food... forget it. Micki D's, KFChicken Lickin or Taco (no hundred $) Bell, can't eat it. Haven't visited a fast food joint, oh since the early-90s. Used to love an Egg McMuffin, and hash browns; original recipe meal, coleslaw and mashed potatoes or a chicken taco. It's different now. Not just don't want, can't bring myself too. Strange.

Eat out elsewhere from time to time. Abandon half the food. More often then not leave billowing. Beginning to bloat like a great balloon. A parade float. Blowing up, bigger and bigger until I feel like I'll just float away. Quick somebody grab my feet! Can't wear a belt. I depart the house with baggy pants, eat, then literally have to peel my pants off. Sigh!!! I'm resigned to wearing elastic waistbands. My grandmother wore elastic, for cripes sakes.

This got me wondering about food generally. Stopped buying Sara Lee, Banquet, Doritos, and Oreos. Read labels. Buy food with less stuff in it. Less is more. Should be good for you. Noticing... feel better at home, no bloating. Eliminated transfat, chemicals and preservatives. Stopped drinking Coke and am cooking more from scratch, mostly veggie dishes, light on the meat. Became ovo-lacto vegetarian for 5 years, but still excess poundage. Wondering.... what's the deal Lucille?

So I'm still a little plump. Ok I look preggers. My belly almost reaches my boobs. But hey I'm alive right? Gotta celebrate! Live! Enjoy life! Instead of dread and diet. I began buying full fat, cream top yogurt, real sweet cream butter and whole milk cheeses. For the taste of it. No Atkin's Diet for me. Complete, balanced meals with full fat. What a luxury. It was so satisfying I ate less. But the Bloated Bulging Belly remained.

One day my neighbor brought me a gallon of Horizon organic milk. He said, "Thought you'd like to try this, it doesn't have rBGHs or antibiotics." I said, "rBG what?" He replied, "Hormones so cows make more milk. Most dairy products have them." "Huh. Thanks." I grunted. Hormo nees! Like I care. I poured a cup. It tasted just like I remember getting from the glass bottle at my Gran Gran's house as a child. Sweet, rich and creamy. Got rid of my evaporated canned milk and began using Horizon for my tea, coffee and cooking too.

It tasted so good I even had a hot milk before bed. Never thought I would EVER do THAT! My artist friend commented, "Hot milk at night? My Bubbie did that. You getting OOOLLLDDD. Oy!" We laughed. I poured a little milk for him and said, "Don't knock it till you try it buddy. No Hormo nees. It's organic." He pushed his palm toward me adamantly and said, "Don't wanna'! Won't drink it, can't make me! No organic! Never! Too expensive! Besides I like testosterone baby." I say, "rrr bee gee Hormo nees." He replies, "gee what?" I say, "Growth." He retorts, "Growth is gooood." Patting my bulging belly I say, "No more, got enough." We roll our eyes and laugh at each other.

Changed my butter, cream cheese and yogurt to organic too. I noticed in a couple of months that my bulging belly began to not bulge quite so much. Could cow hormonees effect humans like that? Nah, couldn't be. Called a gardener friend, told her about my pondering. About a month later she called me saying, "Connect the dots... holds true for me too! Ate 40 Tillamook individual yogurts this month. Gained 14 pounds. Last month I ate much more plain full fat Mountain High and actually lost weight. If it's not the hormones it's something else." She looked at the label on a Tillamook yogurt she was eating, it contained modified corn starch and pectin among other things. Mountain High isn't certified organic but it only contains milk and cultures. Could the other ingredients also have something to do with it too? Naaa...

EPIPHANY - No hormones = less bulge. Plus, organic milk tastes better too. Whoo Hoo!

Seems Dr. Weil agrees with me too. In his newsletter sent 6-11-08 he says: "Organic Cattle Make Better Milk - new study indicates that organic farmers who let their cows graze as nature intended are on the right track, as their cows produce better quality milk. The results are in the current online issue of the Journal of Science of Food and Agriculture."

I'm bobbing my head, clappin' my hands, chantin', "

Don't give me no pop, no pop
Don't give me no lem on ade
Just give me that milk,
moo, moo, moo, moo
Organic milk
moo, moo, moo, moo

I tried other organic products. I'm on a roll. A can of beans. Jar of jelly. Some soup. A frozen thing. Sometimes they were great, sometimes not so good. Par for the course. Buy what's good. Say by-by to rest. When mood strikes, try something new. But still balk at the cost of organic produce. Have always bought local when available. I'm happy, my shrinking belly is happy and the earth is better for it too.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Raunchy Rotten Roaches

Roaches.... darn! I saw a couple the other day. Where there's one you can bet there's a slue more. Scurrying across the floor or up the walls. They're elusive buggers. Only come out at night. Mostly. In Arizona we have 'em as big as shot glasses, flying slow and steady.... humming 'Nanny nanny boo boo you can't catch me' as they fly by. Arrogant bugs! We've got 'em in all sizes too, from little bitty one's to those flying shot glasses. Raunchy Rotten Roaches!

My roommate interrupts my mental enumerating saying, "Eeooww, gross! There's a roach in my bathroom. I couldn't get it with my bug cup. It was too fast and ran under the floor board." Squirming she says,"They really creep me out." She ran into her bedroom. Pulled out what looked like a bundle of weeds. Lit it and started filling the house with smoke. I said, " Whoa! What in tarnation are you up to? What IS that stuff?" She said, "It's a sage smudge stick. There is negative energy associated with roaches." I say, "A sage what stick? Negative what?" She continues, "I'm cleaning the space. Lifting the energy." I retort, "Just cleaned the other day. More likely, you're smoking us out." She just smiled. When the job was done and house full of smoke she said, "Ah, there that feels better."

Coughing I say, "Ah yeah, thanks?" As I'm walking to open the doors and windows to air the place out, a particularly large roach zooms by. I say, "Duck and cover. Roach at 3:00." My roommate grabs her bug cup running after it. I'm ducking... she's jumping, we collide landing in a pile on the floor. Boy that was fun. We look at each other and start laughing hysterically.

I say, "Ok, ok there's got to be a better way." I rack my brain. Somewhere back there I have a memory. Flash! Right, my grandmother. Triumphantly I say, "Monkey balls!" My roommate gasps, "Monkey Balls! I won't have anything to do with animal products! No. Nope. Not!!!" Laughing I say, "No. Not animals... hedge apples! Osage Oranges, also known as 'Monkey Balls' in my neck of the woods. Work great for roaches. They grow on a tree and there just happens to be one down the street. Let's go for a walk." She says, "Oh? Whew! OK."

We gather up a whole mess of monkey balls and put them in our handy canvas totes. Back at the house we put a couple of the fruit in each room and one in each closet. Within a day or so we were roachless. And not just roachless; mostly spiderless, cricketless, flealess, knatless, flyless and mosquitoless too. They all skittered out of the house faster than slick lightening.

EPIPHANY: Most insects can't stand monkey balls.

Thanks Gran Gran, I remembered what you did to keep bugs at bay. What a great idea! Another earth, people, animal and bug friendly solution.

Tips: Osage Oranges ripen in July and will last 2 - 3 months in air-conditioning. For best effectiveness throw away after most of the green has disappeared. Sometimes they continue working even after they have completely dried out. If you don't have a tree near you, you can purchase them at: