Thursday, December 22, 2011

Found artwork

One of my favorite pieces of artwork was saved from the trash. After salvaging parts from some old computers, I hung a couple pieces on the wall that I found particularly captivating.

There is no need to purchase expensive prints, original work, or posters to decorate your home. Display whatever you find beautiful.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

How to Have a Lower Gas Bill

Shortly after the first winter gas bill arrives, many people vow to keep the thermostat set lower to avoid paying a third of their income to the gas company. If these lower temperatures are too uncomfortable, the thermostat will quickly be adjusted back up to its normal setting. Even if not, no one should spend an entire winter feeling cold, uncomfortable and possibly sick. There are some ways that you can feel more at ease in a lower temperature.

Drink lots of warm beverages. Hot tea, coffee, hot chocolate, hot cider, and warm lemonade are all great beverages to warm your insides. And a shot of whiskey is wonderful on a frigid night.

Crochet/Knit an afghan. Working with the yarn will keep your fingers warm, and you can snuggle under the work in progress as you go.

Move your bed. Move your bed to an interior wall, rather than an exterior wall. The exterior wall puts you closer to the elements, and subjects you to drafts. By putting your bed on an interior wall, you are closer to another warm room instead. If you live in an apartment, this can be a great way to lower your bill. My neighbors run their heat constantly, so I move my bed to a wall next to their apartment and make use of the heat wasted. One winter, I only had to turn my heat on three times.

Switch your bedroom. During the summer months, I sleep in one room of the apartment that has lots of big windows so I don't use the air conditioning. During the winter, however, I move my bed into another room that has smaller windows. There's fewer drafts and it is upstairs which works great as heat rises.

Wear socks constantly. Cold feet are one of the greatest trials of winter (besides digging your car out of a snowbank, catching a cold, and paying the gas bill), so by keeping those toes warm, you can bump the thermostat down a bit. Get thick wool socks for the greatest benefit. If you are a knitter/crocheter, you can buy wool sweaters when you find them cheap, unravel the yarn and make your own!

Eat appropriate foods. This is not the season to eat ice cream. Period (unless it's your birthday, then it's a judgment call). You also should avoid any frozen blended drinks, cold cut sandwiches, jello, pudding, etc. Soups and stews are perfect as they are warm and yummy, and you can cradle the warm bowl in your hands.

Bake lots of goodies. During the summer, baking isn't very pleasant as it requires excessive use of the air conditioning to compensate for the heat lost from the oven. In winter however, that heat is wonderful! So plan a day of baking and enjoy the warmth of both the kitchen and the yummy breads and sweets. You can freeze some to eat during the summer when you don't want to bake.

Try to stay active. You may be stuck inside, but you can still be productive. Tackle those tasks you mean to do all year long, cleaning out the closets, organizing the pantry, high dusting, caulking around windows, cleaning out closets. You'll warm up quickly, and by staying active you'll be better able to battle the winter blahs.

If you have to be still, cuddle under a blanket. You can find afghans and lapghans at thrift stores for a few dollars.

If you have a big house, use a space heater (while you are awake and in the room) close to where you are, so you can turn down the thermostat significantly. Your electric bill will be a bit higher, but if you use it correctly, your gas bill will be lower. Turn down the thermostat for the rest of the house down significantly, say to around 45-50 degrees. Don't run the space heater on high constantly, turn to low or medium as you can. If you live in an apartment, this will likely not be of much use to you. If you work from home, this can be a great way to stay comfortable.

Turn down the thermostat significantly when you leave the house. If you'll be gone for more than an hour, turn it town ten degrees or so. The house will be a bit uncomfortable when you first arrive home, but the savings on your bill will more than compensate. The U.S. Department of Energy says that for each degree you turn down your thermostat for 8 hours, you'll save up to1% on your bill.

Exercise. Winter tends to lead to weight gain since you're cooped up inside all the time. Battle this by lifting hand weights, walking up and down the stairs, doing pushups or situps or jumping jacks/rope. You'll not only save money by not buying new clothes, but you'll feel warmer.

Dress for success. If you think that you can wear shorts and a tank top in winter, you deserve to be cold. Instead, wear warm pants, a long sleeved shirt or two, thick socks, and maybe a hat.

One of the great, beyond money benefits is health. I've found that when I keep the thermostat set at a lower temperature for a winter, I get sick fewer times than in previous years. I am not walking out of an 80 degree house into 5 degree weather, which is definitely less shocking on my body.

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Use It Up: Socks

Many things are tossed into the garbage can when they still have lots of good life left in them. Use It Up is a section on how to use this "trash" to make new, useful items for your home or to re-purpose items to avoid a purchase.

If you have ragged socks or that lonely sock who's partner was eaten by the dryer monster, here are a few ideas to divert them from the landfill.

*First, if it's just a little hole in the toe, mend it. If its got a larger hole, darn it. Learn how over on youtube. A search for "how to darn a sock" yields over 150 videos.

* Two words: Sock monkey.

Use socks in good condition that are missing their mates. Use thread bare or hopelessly torn beyond repair socks as stuffing. You can use these as gifts for that beloved puppy in your life.

* Dusting. Put an old sock on each hand and run your hands all over walls, windowsills, shelves and trinkets for easy dusting.

* Window and mirror cleaning. I use an old cotton sock to clean my mirrors and windows with glass cleaner or vinegar. It's free and doesn't leave the little bits of paper that a paper towel would.

* Pet toys. Sew or tie old knee high socks end to end and use as a tug-o-war rope with your dog. Take an old medicine bottle or panty hose egg and throw in a few dry beans. Place in the toe of a sock and tie or sew it in place. Use as a fun toy for your cat to wrestle with.

* Use really old socks as BBQ mops. This tip comes from Facebook reader Sheri.

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