Archive | February, 2011

Plastics: The Good, the Bad, The Ugly

February 27, 2011

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I seem to be on a roll these days regarding plastics, toxins, and the environment. I am by no means a “tree hugger,” as I do feel that modern technology has its place. Modern advances in manufacturing, technology and health have significantly improved our lives. But I will say that profligate abuse of the good earth God gave us is bad. I recently blogged about planned obsolescence and the toxins that are heavily incorporated into our lives and products. Plastics and materials such as styrofoam are in the news again. I recently saw on USAToday that there’s a developing move into “bioplastics.” Bioplastics are a biodegradable plastic derived from plant matter, not petroleum as most plastics are currently. This is from Wikipedia:

Bioplastics or organic plastics are a form of plastics derived from renewable biomass sources, such as vegetable oil, corn starch, pea starch, or microbiota, rather than fossil-fuel plastics which are derived from petroleum. Some, but not all, bioplastics are designed to biodegrade.

Interesting, no?

While I think biodegradable plastic is superb for many things, there are some things that I would not want to use it for. Take, for example, polyethylene sheets. These came on very handy for my renovation– I used them as drop “cloths,” tarps, covering furniture, and– most importantly– as my vapor barrier with insulation when I rebuilt the gutted walls.

DRinsulation

I surely would not want these to biodegrade over time! Nothing provides a superior moisture and air barrier than poly sheets.

Yet, I would think that plastic bag manufacturers could use biodegradable plastic, and make a WHOLE lot of people happy. The current petro-based bags NEVER degrade. Which reminds me, one of the kids place a couple of these bags in my compost bin and I have the pleasant job of digging then out this spring. :-p

Cups, packaging containers, package wrap, etc– these all are perfect candidates for this new wave of plastics. But I do think there’s a place for petro-plastics, still. I am very happy to see companies becoming more conscientious about reducing waste and toxins in our environment.

What do you think? Would you be more inclined to shop at a store that had biodegradable plastic bags? Or go to a coffee shop that served drinks in biodegradable coffee cups?

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Snow Shovels and Planned Obsolescence

February 26, 2011

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The Husband and I are rather sensitive to planned obsolescence. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, see this post I wrote, Watch This Stuff. It’s a real eye opener!

Planned obsolescence is that deliberate scheme by a manufacturer to intentionally build a product that will become obsolete or nonfunctional after a period of time. I know you’ve encountered planned obsolescence. If you are older than 40 years old, you remember the good old days where if the toaster or VCR or RV or umbrella broke, you’d fix it, not throw it in the trash because it was unfixable. Well, manufacturers make things deliberately unfixable. That’s called “planned obsolescence.” And we just added another product to the list: the snow shovel.

Show shovels are PRICEY. And they do not last very long, either. The handles are pretty sturdy– and The Hubs loves the fancy handles with the thick spongy neoprene on them– these handles don’t hurt his back and give him superior grip. But the scoops of these shovels break. Like, after a few weeks! :-p The scoops are flimsy plastic.

My husband likes his fancy handle, so he attempted to remove the flimsy plastic scoop from the nice handle, and replace the scoop. No can do. The manufacturer glued and pinned and bolted and sealed it together. You have to buy a completely new shovel, another $35, please.

UGH.

That’s just wrong.

Oh well, spring is coming, spring is coming! I know it is! 😀

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Find the Kitty Friday 2/25

February 25, 2011

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Can you find her?

ftk 02182011_1

How’s this for a clue? Hint: laser eyes!

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Livvy was rather depressed while I was away on a short trip last week. I was very surprised at how low she was acting. The kids said she whined a lot and kept peering out the windows. It’s so sweet to be loved, but sheesh, I feel awful! She’s still a little edgy (so it seems to me!) and it seems as though her sleep pattern is “off.” Which means that MY sleep pattern is off, too, since she sleeps in my bed. :S I’ve tried giving her lots of loves and all. 😀 She’s perked up a little with that. Hm.

I think I won’t even be able to go ANYWHERE unless I take her with me! I can’t come home to a depressed cat every time I travel!

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Oh No. More Snow.

February 25, 2011

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We expected it. It’s still *only* February in Upstate New York. :S We really can’t breathe a sigh of relief until about mid-April, really. And I honestly don’t mind the snow, except that… well, this late in the season, it’s not that nice, fluffy Lake Effect snow from Lake Ontario. It’s monster snow, loaded with moisture chugging up the Eastern seaboard from the Gulf of Mexico. It’s obese snow, it’s snow that weighs about 100 pounds per shovelful! (Well, it feels that way!).

I’m watching it, before my eyes, turn from a grainy, misty kind of snow to flakes that are increasing in size. Last night, the weather dudes said maybe 5 inches. Today, it’s been upped to 10 of 12 inches.

Whoa!

Here’s a quick 1-minute video I took of the snowfall this morning. If the weather dudes are correct, multiply this by 10 and that’s what we’ll have by the end of the day. Yeehaw.

Winter is nice, I think. The fresh snow covers all the mud and debris left over from fall. I’m pretty happy right now about it, because all the ice dams are gone from the roof. 😀 Last week, it was over 50 degrees, which melted everything off the roofs! I was elated. Then, the next day, it was near 0! Such is New York.

Have a great weekend. 🙂

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What’s In Your Household Products?

February 24, 2011

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The kids and I have been learning more about the toxins in our environment as part of a health course we’re taking. Some of the information just BLOWS my MIND. Did you know that, 30 years after PCBs have been banned, the toxin is found in our bodies in huge amounts, still? That our drinking water is filled with pharmaceutical drugs? And that, mixed with the unsafe doses of flouride and chlorine make a toxic soup? It’s all pretty scary stuff. The book offers ways to reduce our exposure to toxins. In case you’d like to look it up, it’s called The Seven Pillars of Health by Dr. Dan Colbert. Pretty eye-opening stuff.

The most recent chapter in the book suggested we visit SafeCosmetics.org to see which health and beauty products are safe (or toxic) to us. Yikes, there are carcinogens in our shampoo, toothpaste and deodorants! What the heck is all this junk doing on our shelves?

The website features an interesting video by Annie Leonard, the same lady who did The Story of Stuff videos.

The lady has been attacked by conservative groups because she is a member of the kooky group Green Peace. But you know what? I care not if the information is coming from a socialist in this regard. Is what she is saying TRUE?! Are we in danger from all these toxins? I’d say the answer is yes! Now, I don’t necessarily agree that we should become a socialist nation with a law for every ingredient that goes into shampoo, as Annie here suggests. I think she goes overboard when she says that. Because even in this video, she says there are companies ALREADY purposely making products WITHOUT the toxins, without laws that force them to do it! What companies and government need is PRESSURE from We the People. But if We the People says nothing, then they are just as complaisant in the poisons as the companies and governments. I don’t think we need the federal government regulating shampoo.

Anyway, it’s sure eye-opening. We need to change this, and pronto.

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Amazing Treehouses

February 22, 2011

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Did you ever have a treehouse when you were a kid? We didn’t. We had an old shack (“the fort” we called it) made out of scrap wood from my stepdad’s building projects. It was a pretty cool little shed. But I always wanted a treehouse. My neighbors’ dad built one for his boys, and WOW did I love that. I think I spent more time in that than they did!

I always wanted to built a treehouse for my kids here, but there were no suitable trees. Still, we may just built one, anyway, even though we are all older. I don’t think I will ever outgrow a treehouse, would you? And here are some very, very cool treehouses I found on the web!

This is interesting, and it brings up a good point– what about winter?

The next treehouse is lovely. They are “prefab” houses– all the parts are pre-made, all you do is snap it together, kind of like those cheapo laminate board shelves from Walmart, eh? I love the spacious feel and the colors of the wood. I think I would love one of these in my yard!

Photo courtesy Freshome.com

Photo courtesy Freshome.com

This is a video of a Free Spirit Sphere, designed to fit seamlessly and naturally within a forest environment. It’s pretty cool, but it looks way too cramped for me. And I don’t like the idea of a porta-potty 50 feet from the house– what if it’s raining at night and ya gotta go? You’d have to slog through the mud and snakes and bugs! No thanks. And what about the “natives,” huh? And I like electricity and running water as much as any gal, too. So while I would love to live in a treehouse, it doesn’t mean I want to live like a monkey.

Still, the design is cool. It would be nice to stay for a day. Maybe two.

So what do you think? Would you build a treehouse just to play in it when you felt like it, or maybe build something lrger and live in one? I always admired The Swiss Family Robinson– their treehouse was COOL. I think I would do both. JUST as long as there was a bathroom in the house. And NO snakes.

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Things Your Mail Carrier Won’t Tell You

February 21, 2011

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My husband is a part-time mail carrier. It’s not an easy job, especially in Upstate New York in the winter. Since the United States Post Office is in the news a lot right now (with all their financial problems and the threat of cutting Saturday delivery to make ends meet), I thought it would be cool to mention a few things about the post office– things you may not know because the media fails to report it.

Just for the record, I am against the USPS ending Saturday delivery. I think it would be fatal to the USPS, a really stupid move. What they SHOULD do is end the mandatory (super-expensive) pensions and perks that they dole out to retirees and veteran workers. [Note: I know this is a touchy subject, especially in light of the hooplah going on in Wisconsin. I feel the same way about things in NY– it’s too expensive to maintain a top-heavy government, and painful choices are being made.] There’s also quite a bit of waste in the USPS that can be slashed, but it takes acts of Congress to make these changes. The USPS is under government control, but they don’t receive a PENNY in tax money. Another example of waste is that some postal areas blend delivery areas– this doubles the expense of delivering mail because TWO or more offices serve ONE area.

Anyway, I saw a list at rd.com/13-things/13-things-your-mail-carrier-wont-tell-you/ 13 Things Your Mail Carrier Won’t Tell You at the Reader’s Digest website, and thought it was very worthy of passing on. These are all things my husband has brought up in one way or another. I include the best here. My own comments are in regular type.

  • Maybe your dog won’t bite you. But in 2009, 2,863 of us were bitten, an average of nine bites per delivery day. That’s why I wince when your Doberman comes flying out the door. My husband has told me quite a few stories of some VERY close calls he’s had with dogs that “wouldn’t hurt a flea.” Uh huh. Folks, do you want your mail? Keep the dog inside. My kids need their dad home, not in a hospital.
  • Remember this on Valentine’s Day: It takes our machines longer to read addresses on red envelopes (especially if they’re written in colored ink).
  • Photo from Wikipedia

  • Media Mail is a bargain, but most of you don’t know to ask for it. Sending ten pounds of books from New York City to San Francisco through Media Mail costs $5.89, compared with $16.77 for Parcel Post. Besides books, use it to send manuscripts, DVDs, and CDs; just don’t include anything else in the package.
  • The USPS doesn’t get a penny of your tax dollars.
  • UPS and FedEx charge you $10 or more for messing up an address. Us? Not a cent. My husband will even make up the difference if an envelope is not properly stamped.
  • Paychecks, personal cards, letters—anything that looks like good news—I put those on top. Utility and credit card bills? They go under everything else. Junk mail, flyers, and mail for stuff like is cased at the bottom.
  • Mail carriers also have to endure- day after day– the smut and glut of porno and “ladies” magazines. Some magazines, like Playboy, are required to conceal their magazine covers with plastic or paper, but the “ladies” mags like “Shape” or “Cosmopolitan” do not, and those covers are sickening. I feel so sorry for mail carriers who have to endure that junk. You know, if the USPS forced such magazines to pay a little extra to cover their stuff, I’ll betcha that would solve the USPS financial problems in a one week, not to mention a whole lot of consciences and marriages.
  • Sorry if I seem like I’m in a hurry, but I’m under the gun: Our supervisors tell us when to leave, how many pieces of mail to deliver, and when we should aim to be back. Then some of us scan bar codes in mailboxes along our route so they can monitor our progress.
  • Yes, we do have to buy our own stamps, but a lot of us carry them for customers who need them. Very true! My husband always has a stash of stamps and he adds them gratis. He’s such a swell guy. Sad thing is, no one ever seems to realize how generous he really is. He also gets out of the car and moves your trash cans that have blown out in front of your mailbox, even though he does not HAVE to legally deliver your mail if there’s an impediment to your box.
  • Please dress properly when you come to the door. A towel wrapped around you doesn’t cut it. And we definitely don’t want to see you in your underwear—or naked! My husband has had a few very uncomfortable encounters with ladies who treat the mailman as if he was some kind of nobody, not worthy of respect. It’s not fun to have to deliver mail to jiggly ladies who wear less cotton than an aspirin bottle. :-p
  • We serve 150 million addresses six days a week, so we’re often in the right place at the right time. We pull people out of burning cars, catch burglars in the act, and call 911 to report traffic accidents, dead bodies, and more. My husband actually came to the rescue of an older, heavyset gentlemen living in a rural area who had fallen and couldn’t get up. His wife was trying to help him, but she was too weak to lift him. Together, my husband and the lady couldn’t even lift him, so my husband waited with the couple at their home until a rescue team arrived, because the wife was so stressed. It took the rescue team half an hour to get there, and that was time out of my husband’s day (and he was late for his second job, too).
  • Most of us don’t mind if you pull up to our trucks while we’re delivering and ask for your mail a little early. But please get out of your car and come get it. Don’t just put your hand out your window and wait for me to bring it to you.
  • We go to great lengths to deliver to every address, no matter how remote. That’s why, in the most rural areas, even UPS and FedEx rely on us to make their final deliveries. True. And some places are VERY remote. I have had to rescue my husband out of some places, too. One rural place, he ran out of gas. And another time, during a snowstorm, the van slipped into a ditch and fell in sideways. I had to try to tow him out (couldn’t) so we called a tow truck. All the while, the mail delivery was delayed. What was really sad was that, while we were out in the storm waiting for a tow truck, a customer on the route with a honking big SUV roared by us, didn’t even stop to help. 🙁 But he got his mail with a smile, anyway.
  • Those plants around your mailbox are beautiful, but I’d like them better if you kept them trimmed back. Please don’t plant flowers because bees and ants like them.
  • Is it hot enough for me? The heat index is 110 degrees. What do you think? (Instead of asking that, offer me a cold drink.)
  • Despite the “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night” motto, we’re instructed not to deliver to a mailbox if the snow and ice around it isn’t cleared. Most of us take the motto to heart, though, and do our best to deliver in even the most hazardous conditions. My husband does everything humanly possible to deliver the mail, even for rude people who do not shovel their boxes out. And you know what? If the mail can’t get delivered that day, it has to be delivered the NEXT day– that’s TWO days mail that has to be delivered in ONE day in the same amount of time. And my husband has actually had to call in unavailable for his second job because the mail delivery was so heavy that day– so, he LOST money because he lost HOURS on his other job, because some folks didn’t shovel their mailboxes out and that made a chain reaction with the mail load. So give the mailman a break.
  • I have people who leave a letter in their box and tape 44 cents in change to it. I’ll take it, but the next day I’ll be waiting in line like everyone else to buy you a stamp.
  • It’s a small thing that makes my job so much easier: Please park your car in the driveway instead of in front of the mailbox. I live on a busy street, and while I never park in front of my mailbox, lots of people do. That means, I don’t get my mail because their car is in the way. 🙁

I hope this gives a little perspective on the USPS and the millions of men and women who work there. These people work very hard and deal with a multitude of mail products, people, weather and animals. I think they deserve our support! Thanks for reading. 🙂

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She Begged. I Relented.

February 15, 2011

9 Comments

GOSH I spoil this cat. Must be old age or something, I NEVER used to be this way. Or maybe it’s Livvy’s adorable face and charm. I’m in love, lol.

Well, the temperatures finally crawled up into the mid 20’s, so she sat and meowed at the door, giving me those dopey sad eyes and batting her feline eyelashes at me. How could I resist? I strapped on her harness and out we ventured into the snow. I figured as soon as she tried to walk around in 2-foot high snow, she change her mind and want the creature comforts of the house again.

Not so fast.

I barely snapped the harness buckle before she bolted out the door. Whoa, talk about cabin fever! She haz it!

Livsnow4

When I talk to her, she ignores me! She wants to be independent, be a Great Explorer.

livsnow5

BIRD!

livsnow6

On a wild goose chase. The snow is deep and only slightly crusty. It can’t hold her weight, so her legs go BOOP into the snowbank. I had to laugh (sorry, Liv!) because she was jerking her legs around to keep them out of the snow. No puss in boots for kitty cats!

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Finding refuge from drowning in snow.

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Getting a little cold now.

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Yeah, ready to come in. 🙂

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As soon as she was back in the house, she groomed her fur all clean, and took a long, deep nap. Ahhh peace and quiet at last!

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Ice Dam Damage

February 13, 2011

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I was pretty happy and contented with winter until the temperatures tumbled into the double-digit SUB ZERO numbers, causing ice and ice dams. I found myself browsing the selection of gorgeous patio furniture at CNS Stores yesterday. *Sigh* They have over 200 stores– stores loaded with furniture and home decor and linens. I’m torn between getting a porch swing or a rocker, because I am going to be OUTSIDE all summer long this year!!

Back to reality. Lots of Northeasterners groaning about the ice dams these days, and no wonder. 4snow2011We got ICE. All the snow on our roofs promptly froze. Then, the temps bounced back up, and the ice melted. Then it refroze. Not to mention that my attic leaks tons of heat because it is a) improperly insulated (another thing I need to fix), and b) there’s no insulation in the second floor walls (we have to renovate that section of the house yet).

Here’s a photo of an ice dam, for those who don’t know. Ice works its way up and under the shingles, where it meets with the warm air from the house. Leaks commence, and can be extremely destructive.

Photo courtesy of lyonscontracting.com

This house has evidence of some very serious ice dams from the past (scars of ugly, patched plaster are on some of the upstairs bedroom ceilings), but we’ve never had bad ice dams until this year. Maybe it’s because the house was never really WARM due to the disgusting forced air furnace system that was here. This year, with the new heating system, it’s downright toasty in the house. But I guess I’m paying a price…

We discovered some damage in our garage. Bad ice dams. This is the ceiling, from the inside:

IceDamdamage2

IceDamdamages

Yes, that IS old tin ceiling. I think it’s about 120 years old, maybe. And above the tin ceiling is even older wallpaper– that probably dates back to the 1870s, I assume. The previous owners before us covered all these ceiling layers over with a 70’s drop ceiling. The drop ceiling has been collapsing, so that explains why we can see the old tin ceiling and old wallpaper and original plaster ceiling.

I’ll betcha there’s a human-sized icicle in the attic above the garage. 🙁 I’m too afraid to look.

There’s not a whole lot we can do. Our roof is too steeply pitched to climb up on it and loosen the ice. I considered throwing rock salt up on the roof…. we tried to get roof rakes, but all the home centers are sold out. Yeah no kidding.

So we want spring to come now. REAL bad. lol. I am SICK of ice!!!!

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Find the Kitty Friday: 2/11

February 11, 2011

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Here she is, not very stealthy these days:

livvy_relax on bookshelf

If anything, she is absolutely demanding my full, unabated attention. This is what she does ALL DAY LONG at my desk.

LivvyintheWay

*sigh* I am unable to work, and I have a lot of work to do! She’s never really aggravated me very much before, but I am finding myself getting exasperated when she does this. I had to make the decision to work upstairs on one of the old laptop computers before I caved in and got myself one of my own….. I recline on my bed to write! Shes very happy there, snuggled on top of my legs with a cozy blanket.

It’s so cute that she wants to be snuggled all the time… but some days I just have a lot of work! How about your cats, are they snuggle bunnies or do they act like real cats, hahah!

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