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Monthly Archives: November 2012

Dear Facebook, I Give Up

Last night, I posted this status update on Facebook:

I was tired from the day. The kids were in bed and I was alone in an empty house without adult conversation – which happens often when your significant other travels a lot.

I was just trying to spark a little conversation. And not post something like “So glad this day is over. It was a bad one.” I am not a fan of generic stuff like that. You think “Well, why was it bad? What happened?” Or you just don’t care and move on. Either way, what’s the point?

Also, I feel like people are always posting about all the great things that happen, sometimes it’s nice to see the other side. That way, you aren’t always comparing your insides to other people’s outsides. I am a big fan of transparency – the good, the bad, the honest truth.

I thought maybe I would find someone who had a bad day too – and could commiserate – “Yeah, that happened to me too”, or “Let’s chalk it up to a loss and try again tomorrow.”

I was NOT saying that my life is bad. I know I have a great life and I am fortunate in many ways.

I was NOT saying that other people don’t have problems. Everyone has problems – some fewer, some more, some the same, some different.

I was also NOT saying there is something wrong with my kids reading the Bible. Back when I was writing the post, I thought about including a disclaimer: “I’m not saying there is something wrong with the Bible. It just shouldn’t be forced on kids in public school.”

But, I didn’t, thinking that most people would already agree – because groups of men should not be waiting outside of our public schools for ANY reason. And bibles should NOT be handed out to kids in public schools. Both of these things are NOT okay. There is separation of church and state (By the way, if they were passing out the Koran to kids, I’m thinking people would feel differently).

Okay, off my soapbox now…

I have to admit, sometimes I feel like giving up on Facebook. But at the same time, I love it as a way to connect with people near and far, and stay current with what’s happening in their lives. I also love finding new friends, and discovering things we have in common.

Instead of giving up entirely, I’m going to start utilizing Facebook’s “friend list” feature more, which let’s me customize posts for different groups of friends – like school friends, close friends, work friends, family, etc. I’m going to make a list called “people who get me”. I’m not kidding. I’m already working on it now.

So, another lesson learned for me. Wow, they just keep coming, don’t they? Now the next time I want to stir up a little evening conversation, I’ll just post to this group of people who know me, love me, and most of all “get” me. No disclaimers required.

Source: laundryfoam.tumblr.com via Allison on Pinterest

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Journey to Solar – Part Three, Auditing & Evaluation

After determining that you want to go solar and deciding how you want to finance your project, you move on to making final decisions about your system and energy needs.

At this point, the solar company sends out an engineering team to verify that the initial architectural plan is doable and feasible. The team gets up on the roof, crawls through the attic, checks the current electrical system, and takes lots of lots of measurements and pictures.

This all leads to the final architectural plan. In our case, it did vary slightly from the original plan. The actual capacity of our roof to house the panels was a bit off, and our system is going to be just slightly less powerful than the original plan.

After the final solar architecture is done, the next step in Solar City’s process is to conduct a Home Energy Evaluation, a comprehensive audit of how your homes uses – and loses – energy.

During the evaluation, a team of people arrive your house, crawl through your attic, check your heating and air conditioning systems, and use crazy contraptions like these…

…to analyze the “leakage” of your heating and cooling systems.

They also check every appliance, every light bulb, and every window and crevice of your home.

They crunch all that information and provide you with a report card of the energy usage of your home.

The good news for us is that overall, our home is pretty efficient. It is well insulated, with little “leakage” of air from the outside in, and vice versa. Our dual-speed pool pump is a huge savings, as well as our LED and CFL light bulbs.

A few things they did recommend: eliminate one or more refrigerators (we have a kitchen fridge, garage fridge, wine refrigerator, and kegorator – yes, I know, it’s total over consumption – perhaps the next episode of ecofessions?); upgrade to more efficient air conditioning units; add an extra layer of insulation in the attic; and continue replacing any remaining incandescent lights with LED or CFL bulbs.

The good news is that although our system is slightly smaller than originally planned, by incorporating some of these energy-saving measures, we can keep our solar energy to on-the-grid energy ratio in tact from the original plan.

So now we are one step closer in the process. One step closer to our goal of living off-the-grid as much as possible. Getting closer…

Next up…part four, applying for government rebates and getting association approval (the most entertaining part so far, I promise).

Related Posts:

Journey to Solar – Part One, Making the Decision

Journey to Solar – Part Two, Financing

Why I Put Myself in Timeout

I’m been lying low on all things social media (and all things social for that matter) for about a week now.

Things were getting a little too heated and ugly for me. I needed to take a break. My “ness” and I crawled back into our protective little shell.

It all started last Tuesday, with the announcement of the winner of the Presidential election. When I heard the news, I was elated. After celebrating with friends at home, I was feeling great. Then, I made the mistake of checking Facebook to connect with friends and family. That’s when things went downhill – fast.

It wasn’t the “I’m disappointed” or “feeling sad” comments. I totally get that. I was aware that just under half of the population of our country was disappointed. They did not share my enthusiasm.

It wasn’t that, but rather the cries of “the idiot vote won”, “were all f*cked”; along with the name calling – “Muslim”, “Socialist”, and “The Anti-Christ”. All of these posts from people I actually know – like in real life.

I don’t know why I couldn’t ignore it. I don’t know why I let it bother me. I don’t know why I didn’t just put down the iPhone and move on. Instead, some combination of stress, too much celebratory champagne, and a raging case of PMS, led me to respond to a few people. I regret that.

The thing I regret the most is that I let them steal my joy. Which is not their fault. Nope. That’s all mine.

The next day I woke up feeling sad and depressed and embarrassed by my outburst. I tried a couple of times to get back on Facebook to apologize, and even wrote what I thought was an inspirational blog post. But, it didn’t make me feel any better.

I realized that what I really needed was to put myself in a timeout…to take a break from all things social media, until cooler heads (mostly mine) prevail.

I’m not sure why I take it all to heart so much. It’s not that I expect everyone to agree. I don’t even think that we should. I certainly don’t expect people to see things the exact same way I do. As a self described “tree-hugger” living in South OC, I’m used to being in the minority most of the time.

I think it’s that I just so desperately want people to be reasonable, and rational, and deal in facts and numbers and math.

I also want people to not be hateful. And every once in a while, approach problems with an open mind. And if they are going to use words like “Muslim”, “socialist”, and “anti-Christ”, have some idea what those words actually mean.

Maybe it’s too much to ask. I don’t really know right now…

Hey, I was no fan of George W. Bush, but he was our President. When he was re-elected, I didn’t think the world was ending, or that it wasn’t fair, or that people who voted for him were all morons. I just realized I was not part of the majority vote, hoped for the best in the next four years, and vowed to make a difference locally with the issues that were important to me.

While I didn’t like Bush’s policies, I didn’t hate him as a person. I tried to make light of the situation. Here is a picture I took one time in the Houston airport. I was staring down a statue of Bush Sr. I captioned it “making peace with the man who brought us GW”.

I still hold out hope that instead of fueling more hatred and division, this election will cause us to pull together to work on the things we agree on. Every time I see a clip from Fox News or an interview with John McCain, that hope dies a little bit inside, but there is still an ember burning there.

In my mind, the short list of things we agree on goes something like this – healthy, educated children; stable jobs and some security in retirement; clean air and water; and a democracy that really does work by and for the people.

The good news is that polls suggest that the vast majority of American people do want this. In the real world (not the extremes we see on TV), most people lean more toward the middle.

If we agree that we want a government that works for the people (rather than special interests and companies that spend the most money on lobbyists), there must be compromise – on both sides. If everyone digs their heels in and doesn’t budge, nothing will get done. Which, I can’t imagine is good for anyone – except maybe the cable news networks pumping their audiences full of propaganda and carefully manipulated numbers (which does not equate to facts and math by the way).

I also don’t take myself so seriously that I believe anyone cares about my political opinions. But it’s my blog so I figured, I can write a post just for me – and I feel a little bit better now.

Maybe even better enough to dip my toe back into the Facebook waters again. With a little more trepidation and a little bit thicker skin this time.

Keeping my fingers crossed. Wish me luck…

Wordless Wednesday: Perspective

On my drive to vote yesterday, I pulled over to snap this photo.

This drive (back in Trabuco Canyon) is simply stunning.

Pausing to enjoy it helped ease the stress and anxiety I was feeling.

It also reminded me that no matter who or what we vote for, we all have similar reasons to vote. We vote for freedom. We vote for democracy. We vote because we have hope (for a better future, a better planet, a better world for our children). Our definitions of what that world looks like may be different, but the feeling of hope is not.

You can choose to see the rays of sunshine finding their way through the trees, or you can choose to focus on the shadows.

Either way, both of them always have been, and always will be there.

I choose the light.

Ecofessions: Episode I – To Color or not to Color

I am starting a new feature on my blog that I’m calling ecofessions (a word, which I may have invented, or maybe I heard it somewhere else, anyway that’s not the point)…

Ecofessions is where I “fess up” to the things that I do that are not so green.

I just think sometimes, life is hard enough, that sweating over every little thing – is it good for me, is it going to cause cancer, is it bad for the environment – is all just too much sometimes. And then things happen like Hurricane Sandy, and you see that life is really about the big stuff, not all the little things we worry about most of the time.

Believe me, I’m the biggest offender. Shopping with me is no picnic (just ask my hubby). One trip through the store with me (is it organic? is that coffee fair trade? do those eggs say free range?) and he’s just about done. “I’m so glad you do this during the week when I’m at work.” I think was his most recent comment.

But, those are the pressures I put on myself. I’m not here to load guilt on to you. So, just thought I’d start sharing some of my sins to all things green and eco-friendly.

I’m still new to this whole vlogging thing, so excuse my imperfect editing. I’m working on it. 🙂

Here is Episode I of Ecofessions:

Happy Friday everyone. Go enjoy some Halloween candy and a great glass of wine. Life is short. Count your blessings and enjoy!

Allie’s List: Wahoo’s Fish Tacos

Those of you who know me probably know I’m a big Wahoo’s fan. I am there atleast once a week with the E-man (my son) when he has minimum day. It’s our “weekly date” now that he and his sister are going to different schools for the first time since Kindergarten.

The reasons to love Wahoo’s are many – quality, healthy food, fresh ingredients, fast service –  all at a reasonable price. We can feed our family of four for around $20.00! Or $25.00 if my husband and I splurge on a beer-of-the-month (just $1.95 each).

But upon closer inspection, Wahoo’s does pretty well when measured against some green, eco-friendly criteria. I wouldn’t rate is at a ten, but it’s not an offender either.

The food is fresh, with healthy, quality ingredients. My favorite thing is the fresh salsa – a blend of fresh tomatoes, cilantro, onions and peppers. I always order extra, and they happily bring it to my table.

The fish they serve is mainly wahoo. A cousin of mackerel, wahoo is found in warm oceans around the world. In the Pacific, they’re harvested as non-target catch in troll and long-line fisheries – meaning they are caught as fisherman target tunas and other fish. Most of the wahoo in the U.S. market comes from Hawaii, where the fish is nicknamed “Ono,” the Hawaiian word for “delicious.”

No regulations currently apply to wahoo specifically and they are not found on Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Sustainable Seafood Guide. So we can only go with what we know – wahoo fish grow quickly and their biology makes them resilient to fishing pressure. Catch trends have so far indicated that this is true, and regulations are not yet necessary. However, because they are caught on longline, they are subject to several regulations put in place to reduce the impact of troll and longline fisheries in general, as to their impact on other species.

For these reasons – current lack of wahoo research and possible sea turtle bycatch (as a result of longline fishing) – The Monterey Bay  Aquarium Seafood Watch (the expert voice on this subject in my opinion) considers wahoo a “Good Alternative” rather than a “Best Choice.”

Okay, good but not best. I can live with that.

For non-meat eaters, or those (like me) reducing their meat consumption, Wahoo’s also has a number of vegetarian options of the menu. My favorite is the mini Wafu bowl, a mixture of sauteed polynesian tofu, mixed bonzai veggies and a choice of white or brown rice – I always go with brown. I throw my extra salsa on the top, and it’s a good, healthy meal for under $6.

I am also very pleased that all the serving pieces in their restaurants, from cups to plates to utensils are reusable – not something you generally find in a “fast-food” environment.

And they have great community promotions – like the one they are running right now. From November 1-4th, you can trade in your Halloween candy for a free kid’s meal. Just load a bag up with candy, bring it in along with a printed card for the promotion, and get a free kid’s meal. Don’t have a card? No problem, just go to this link on Wahoo’s blog, and print one out.

We went today. My son said goodbye to some of his candy – he wouldn’t part with all so I let him keep some of it – and hello to a free kid’s meal.

Candy is donated to a charitable organization. I inquired at my local Wahoo’s and they said it was a “children’s charity” but weren’t sure of the exact name. I have sent a tweet to Wahoo’s for clarification and will update this post when I hear back from them.

With all of that said about the good side of Wahoo’s, there are a few areas where Wahoo’s does not rate well on my green scale.

The first is on their to-go packaging. Most locations that I have visited still use styrofoam – boo! If you order in bulk, like for a party, it comes in aluminum trays, but individual to-go orders are in styrofoam containers.

Also, I would like to see Wahoo’s be a bit more transparent in their food sourcing – more like the Chipotle model.

Changing to a more sustainable packaging for to-go items and improving their transparency in ingredients would be two changes that would fit perfectly in with their surf, beach culture, and I think would seriously boost their customer trust and loyalty.

Considering everything, Wahoo’s still lands on the “good” side of Allie’s list. Not a ten, more like a seven or eight, but for a healthy, sit-down meal for a family of four, for just $20, how can you beat it?

And remember to always leave a tip for those nice servers who bring and clear all your food from your table. It makes them happy and you can count it as good karma. 🙂