Thursday, August 16, 2012

10 Ways to Lower Your Electric Bill

1. Use The A.C. Less

Seems like common sense, right? But we get hot and uncomfortable and we drop the temp another couple degrees on the thermostat and the electric bill climbs. During the day, to regulate the temperature—making it more efficient to cool later—and to protect your pets, keep the AC on but turn the thermostat up. We usually keep our daytime temp around 80ºF and close vents in rooms, we aren’t using, like guest rooms. During night and evening hours most power companies charge a significantly lower rate for electricity because the demand is lower. So go ahead and cool your house at night when the rates are cheap. 

2. Dress The Part

If you are at home during the day, wear fewer clothes. Get your hair up off your neck and wear lightweight, comfortable things and as little as possible. Take off the T-shirt and get into a sports bra, ladies. Guys, we don’t mind at all if you parade around in your boxers. Who knows, it might even lead to a little hanky panky! 

3. Let Mother Nature Do The Work

When you do the laundry, wash on cold water whenever possible, then skip the dryer. Instead, install a clothes line. Here in the desert in August its regularly over 100ºF. I’ve put up two clotheslines in the garage (because it’s too hot outside!) Yes, it does take a little more effort to hang and then pull down each individual article of clothing, but its worth it because you’re not heating your house unnecessarily.

4. Eat Smart

There are two ways to do this. My favorite is to eat cooling foods like cucumbers on cold salad. A cold deli sandwich or some yogurt topped with granola and ripe, refrigerated fruit. Or how bout a home-made popsicle? I made the most recent batch by blending a watermelon into juice and freezing it with a few leaves of mint in each popsicle. Iced and cold foods will keep you from heating up from the inside out. The second way—the one favored by many nations that suffer constant high heat conditions—is to eat spicy food. The food makes you sweat and then your body’s natural cooling system is kicked into effect.

5. Cook Smart

Oven less, grill more. Try not to use the oven, wait for cold winter days for that. Instead, invest in a grill and take the heat outside. Grilling isn’t just for hamburgers and hot dogs, you can also grill up a pizza, or peach halves for dessert. When you do cook inside, make an effort to minimize using the stovetop. For example, if you just have to have noodles, buy rice noodles (available in the ethnic foods section of most grocery stores). To cook them you need only boil water, which you can do in a kettle, then pour the water over them and let them sit for a minute or two.

6. Reduce Unnecessary Usage

When you aren’t using an electronic device, unplug it. Even if your phone isn’t connected to the charger, the charger is still drawing power from the outlet. Keep what you have plugged in to a minimum. Things like televisions pull tons of power. Plug the whole TV/movie setup into a power strip and unplug the strip when you aren’t watching. Lights are another big power drain. Make it a habit to turn them off when you leave the room. My dad who used to follow us around and do this when we were kids would be so proud. We have track lighting in our bedroom and we recently took out half the lights on the track. Its not enough light to read by, but its plenty to light the way. I don’t read standing in the middle of the bedroom anyway! There’s a light next to the bed for that. 

7. Adjust Your Water Heater Setting

When its hot outside, its likely you won’t be taking a really steamy shower. I want mine almost cold to keep from overheating. You can easily adjust your water heater’s setting to a cooler temperature. Most have some form of knob or dial you can turn by hand, no screwdrivers or handyman prowess necessary. And if you’re going out of town for any length of time, simply turn it off. Why heat it when you aren’t there?

8. Escape To Cooler Climates

Speaking of going out of town, give yourself a break from the heat by going somewhere colder. You don’t have to fly to another country to do this, but you do have to leave the house. Take a trip to the beach, sit under a big shady tree in a breezy park or travel to a mountain stream for a refreshing dip.
Of course, it will cost you a little money to get there (in fuel, if nothing else) but you’ll be happy you got out. If you really can’t afford a trip, you can always go to the mall or the movies or even the public library. Let them pay for the AC, just remember to turn your thermostat up before you go.

9. Go Low-Tech

Haven’t you noticed how hot your computer gets when it runs for an extended period of time? Lighting up that monitor creates heat. Same for the television. Go low-tech and read a book instead, or draw a picture or practice cooling yoga poses or listen to music on your ipod, that little screen won’t be nearly as hot as the big ones.

10. Open Up

Windows and doors that is. If you live where it cools off at night, take advantage of it. Open your house to the chill air, get a fan or two and circulate it. Fresh air also decreases the chance of catching a cold. Instances are higher in summer and winter when we are boxed into buildings with no fresh air. At home, when it starts to heat up during the day, close up the house again and consider closing the blinds and curtains to deflect the heat from hot sunny windows, too.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Baby, You Fugly.

Most babies are cute, right? Most of them—even if you aren’t a fan of the little ones—inspire oohs and ahhs or, at least, a deepening smile from on-lookers. And I had just such an experience recently when I saw a sweet little girl in the airport. She was smiling and giggling and looking right at me with an unabashed grin of enthusiasm at meeting another human. “She’s so cute,” I said.

And then I looked at her, I mean looked right at her, and I tell you, she was ugly! Not just ugly, but really ugly; she looked like Gollum from the Lord of the Rings. Big ol’ pumpkin of a head with thin straggly hair hanging over her broad forehead and big ears that stuck dramatically out to the sides. I looked at her parents, neither of whom was terribly ugly, and it seemed that she had gotten the worst traits from them both. Yet they were all just happily loving each other, a little family in the midst of a crazy airport, smiling, talking together and completely unconcerned about the busy world around them. They loved each other, it was obvious.

Baby Gollum leaned her way over to me, inch-by-inch against the row of seats. The whole way she looked at me, she just looked at me and smiled. Not a half smile or a smile of uncertainty, but a giant, ear-to-ear, drool-filled smile. 

She had no insecurity about herself or her actions. She had no fear of being rejected, no thought of what I would think of her and she definitely wasn’t concerned with how she looked. She was simply content in her own little skin, making friends with anyone who was interested. This, I thought, is what makes her so beautiful. It made me grin right back at her and even smile at her parents.

Confidence is beautiful. Confidence is sexy. Confidence can get you a job or a date. Really, it can help with anything. A friend of mine once told me a story. He was tying his boat up to dock when a confident, well-dressed man walked up to the boat next to his. As he started to untie said boat, my friend asked if he’d like help shoving off. The man said yes, they exchanged pleasantries and off they went their separate ways. Next day at the dock my friend was approached and asked if he’d seen anyone or anything unusual at the slip next to his because the boat that docked there had been stolen. Seems confidence can even get someone to help you steal a boat!

Beauty, really, occurs naturally when we truly accept and honor who we are. Sexiness is when we love ourselves so much that we are confident with how we look, even if its not the norm that society or media tells us is beautiful. (And a little reminder, societies differ in their thoughts on what’s beautiful and what’s ugly. One of my friends always says that if you begin to feel your age is making you unattractive, it would be better to spend the money on a trip to Italy—where age is thought to be beautiful and sexy—than on plastic surgery.) Nothing is a bigger turn off than someone repeatedly complaining about themselves and their problems. That makes anyone Fugly!

Yes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But, for a beholder to see the real you, you have to reveal the essence of who you are. Each of us has an inner uniqueness, an essence that we can’t change no matter how hard we try or how many surgeries we have. Some of us are just plain quirky. Who me? Match the color of my clothes to the mood I’m in? And sometimes change three times a day? That’s not strange. It’s just who I am. You have to have swagger enough that says Hey, world, I love who I am, take it or leave it! Actors and models have been doing this for ages. Think J. Lo’s booming posterior, Madonna’s gapped front teeth or Brooke Shields’s thick eyebrows. The quirk, when loved and preened to perfection, becomes a trademark.

To be true to your quirks and true to who you are is one of the most confidence-inducing things you can do. It is to live out your purpose here; be yourself and be happy. That’s your dharma. Most definitions of dharma include some sort of wording about right action or living a proper life. For me, the most “right” thing you can do is just happily be yourself regardless of the most demanding situation or the rudest a-hole. One of my traits, part of my essence, is I am an incredibly loving person. To live my dharma requires me to be the love-bug that I am even when some jerk cuts me off in traffic. When I react in hatred it goes against the fiber of who I am and all I’m left with is feeling terrible about myself and angry, while he drives away to cut someone else off.

What if all of us were as open as little baby Gollum? What if we stopped being so overly-concerned with what other people think of what we are doing or how we look? Wouldn’t we be more open to meet strangers and make friends? If we could be comfortable in our own skin and turn all of our scars into marks of beauty and honor them, wouldn’t we be more happy?

I know you have funny quirks and cool birth marks. I know you have traits that make you unique. I’d love to hear about them, I’d love to hear about your swagger and your dharma. What do you do that is true to you? How do you show off your marks of beauty? What makes you, well you?