Dryer lint

Dryer lint can be the bane of my existence at times.

I have a small double stack dryer/washer mechanism that was not of my choosing, it came with the apartment. The lint trap is in the door, and it wasn’t well designed.  It catches perhaps half of the lint my laundry produces, the other half leaps out and onto the floor when I open the dryer, or all over me, or it jumps onto the clean laundry in a confetti-like fashion, which is impossible to pick off.

Sometimes, the lint trap will trap my underwear instead, and the lint will catch onto the garment, which would only be useful if I were making a gray, fuzzy superhero costume.”Have no fear, my dear. The highly flammable and itchy Wonder Fuzz is here to save you.” Um, no thanks. Once I reclaim my lost article of clothing, it has to start the cleaning process all over again.

Other times, late at night, when I am heading to the restroom and not paying too much attention to my surroundings, the lint that escaped onto the floor, and somehow survived my sweeping, will jump out in a cockroach-like-fashion scaring the be-jeezus out of me. I feel like a fool when my husband runs to save me from the fearsome lint-bunny.

But the worst is running the dryer more than one time to dry a load. This is usually because the lint has mission-impossibled itself around the trap and collected everywhere else, blocking the air flow. I used to think I had overloaded the dryer when it would take to long to dry. But now, I know to check the path of the dryer’s exhaust. I just recently cleaned it and can now enjoy running a load of laundry only once. It saves time, electricity, and wear and tear on my clothes. Not to mention I am removing a fire hazard.

Consumer Reports says many house fires that began with the dryer were preventable and that the dryer ducts should be cleaned regularly.

It is amazing how we as humans sometimes have to learn something over and over again to apply that knowledge. I am sure I knew to check those things regularly before, but the lesson wasn’t etched in my head until I had to tango with a problematic dryer.

If your dryer is giving you a headache, check the exhaust vents for lint build up. It’s a pain, but well worth it in the long run. Better yet, schedule a thorough cleanup once a month, that way the lint is caught before any large buildup begins.

 

 

Fighting the hunger demon

Today I fought another battle in a long standing, internal war. I had a craving for fast food.

My current favorite is to stop by McDonalds for a small fry and hamburger, which costs around $3. This little tasty dish is not only fast, easy, and cheap, it also instantly quells the hunger demon I have inside.

When I become hungry, it happens instantly and severely. I go from perfectly fine to voracious faster than Formula 1 cars can get to 60 mph. It is an all-consuming hunger that turns me into a single minded gargoyle that will rip off anyone’s face who stands in the way. Bottom line, she isn’t pleasant.

Because of that, sometimes I can make the worst food choices when hungry.

I love food, and all types of food. I love healthy foods as much as the unhealthy ones, and can happily eat either. However, what seems to tip the scale, sending me into the bad decision realm, is the convenience.

I could say it is cheaper, but based on how much money I spend compared to the nutritional value, I am just tossing money out the window and ensuring I will pay more money in doctors bills down the road, too. Plus, there are many things that can be bought at the grocery store that would make a great lunch around $3. Most notably are sandwiches.

And that is exactly what I succeeded at doing today. I am proud to say I drove right past McDonalds and made a toasted roast beef sandwich at home, instead.

The roast beef cost about $6 for half a pound, and makes about 4 sandwiches, costing $1.50 per sandwich. The loaf of whole wheat bread — with only recognizable ingredients — was $3. At 20 slices per loaf, bread for each sandwich costs $.30. The Mayo was $4 for the jar — the olive oil version. The jar says 60 servings per container, and I believe it, it takes me forever to go through a jar of mayo.  Each serving is about $.07. Then, I added tomatoes and butter lettuce. I paid $4 for 5 vine ripe tomatoes, each tomato makes 3 to 4 sandwiches, which is about $.35 per sandwich. The lettuce I picked myself from a garden I volunteer at, so there was no monetary cost. In total, my sandwich cost about $2.22.

However, on the nutritional side…

• The McDonald’s small hamburger with small fry are:

480 calories

31 percent daily value of fat (based on a 200 calorie diet)

14 percent fiber

15 grams of protein

2 percent vitamin A

10 percent vitamin C

12 percent calcium

19 percent iron

• Compared to the sandwich:

218 calories

8 percent fat

19 percent fiber

7.5 grams of protein

24 percent vitamin A

8 percent vitamin C

17 percent calcium

8 percent iron

2 percent potassium

(Nutrient information gathered from Caloriecount.about.com and from McDonalds websites.)

After I calculated the nutrition information, I was surprised to see so many nutrients listed for the burger and fries. However, the sandwich still won overall with more vitamins and having less fat.

Making healthier food choices are better, even if it costs a bit more. It is hard to factor the quality of life from having energy and feeling fit, and a healthy diet is key to improving both.

Working at a desk job, and eating plenty of snacks while I was there, brought me to the heaviest weight I have ever been and a BMI of 35 percent. Over the past year, my husband and I have made incremental changes like this to our diet, and it has improved our health immensely. And although I still have plenty of bad food habits — mainly sugary sodas — I have reduced my BMI to 26 percent. In that time, I also quit smoking, a task that usually is rewarded with unpleasant weight gain.

By making many small changes,  I don’t feel like our lives are lacking either, we eased into a new normal.

Here are some changes we made:

We traded the cheap white bread for whole wheat bread, with real ingredients.

We stopped going down the cracker and cookie isle.

We stopped buying cereal. (It is loaded with sugars and not much else.)

We traded potato chips for pretzel sticks.

We make our own pizza with whole wheat flour and stopped ordering pizza from restaurants.

We stopped buying margarine, and since butter is more expensive, we use it sparingly or substitute with olive oil.

Instead of sauteing chicken, we bake or broil it.

We go to the produce section first, and pick as much as we want. The half-full basket discourages over filling it with processed foods later on.

And the biggest improvement is we cook together and share ideas with each other and friends. There is nothing like a shared, tried and true recipe to get you excited about new ways of eating.

Food is a central part of our lives, whether we live to eat, or eat to live. The diet choices we make effect every aspect of our world, from our budget, to our health, environment and even happiness. Although it might not seem as important in today’s civilization, food is paramount to our survival, and quality of life.

I would love to know how you make healthier choices with your food. Pease, feel free to share your tips with me below in the comments.

Tip to keep the hunger demon at bay:

When I was planning a weeklong camping trip for July, I bought apples for us to eat every day as a simple fruit to have. Best part is, It keeps long and doesn’t need to be stored in a fridge. Since then, I have kept up the practice and carry an apple and a granola bar with me in my bag where ever I go for when that sudden bout of hunger hits me.  The snack gives me enough nutrition and sustains me long enough to plan a proper meal.

The entertainment factor

“Take your tattoo budget, buy a plane ticket, get off your ass and go somewhere. Get rid of your video games and stop entertaining yourself so much. Be self-reliant, bold, risky, conniving, ambitious, and most of all, curious. If you are too cool to be interested in things, then you have become boring. What is happening in your life right now is what matters. Don’t borrow money, just work more: Remember, everyone who wants you to be in debt is making money off you.”

— Katie Pell. 

In July, I read this quote in a San Antonio Current article about artist Katie Pell. The story originally caught my eye because of an image where she was posed on a surfboard and wave statue in front of Splashtown, a water park where I spent many of my childhood summers. The quote stuck out boldly from the rest of the article. Then it wouldn’t leave my mind. Her words hit hard, as if they were spoken directly to me, pointing out my flaws.

I have been known to spend too much time entertaining myself. I know it is a bad habit, but I love stories. I love spending my free time reading, or watching a TV series. There are many times I have thought, “I should go for a walk to see that sunset,” or  “I should go out tonight to practice my night photography,” but didn’t move because my couch potato inertia has already taken hold.

Then, to add insult to injury, I would reflect on my week and wonder why I felt as if I had no time to do anything. I would get frustrated at everything, except for my glaring bad habits. 

Not only do those bad habits cost in time wasted, but many of those habits cost money, too. I know people who can buy a $60 video game, spend 20-40 hours playing it, and have it completed in a week or two, never to pick it up again. Also, the resale value is extremely low — and don’t forget to factor in the initial cost of the gaming console. Cable television — a big time eater — can be $50, $100, or more per month, depending on the provider and number of channels selected.

Why are we pouring our time and money into these things? Sure, they are fun, but couldn’t we still get our entertainment craving met if we dramatically reduced how often we used them?

In addition, as far as forms of entertainment go, passive entertainment is the worst for the body. Actively entertaining oneself, such as dancing, or jogging, or playing sports, is much better for our health, provided we keep within our physical limits.  Those activities are doing something good for us, while also meeting our desire to have some fun.

Of course, well written stories can expand our intellect and knowledge of the world, but too often that is not the case. Many things available to watch these days are equivalent to the empty calorie, high fat foods placed in handy packaging for our convenience.

The experiment 

For the past few weeks, I have been turning off my TV for 2 to 3 day spans once a week. I have my entire entertainment console plugged into one power strip. After the devices shut down, I turn off the power strip, which saves a little more on electricity (the extra bonus is it turns off all those glowing lights that devices have nowadays).

Results

With the exception of laundry days, which use a lot of electricity, turning off the TV has cut my Per Diem energy consumption in half.

In our small, one bedroom apartment,  when the TV is on we will use about 10 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per day. When the TV is off, it hovers around 5 kWh. If I continue to turn off the TV just two nights a week, I will have reduced energy consumption by 520 kWh in a year.

The current rate for electricity in my area is $.14 per kWh, which would amount to saving $73 in a year. Depending on the fuel used to create the electricity, (I cannot find the source on my bill) in twelve months, I would save about 520 pounds of coal, or 520,000 cubic feet of gas, or 41.5 gallons of oil (amounts calculated from the U.S. Energy Information Administration website).

However, the most remarkable saving is time.  According to Nielson Ratings, in 2011 the average amount Americans spend watching broadcast TV per day is just over 5 hours. Watching recordings on DVR, DVDs, playing video games, or using the computer wasn’t included.

Sadly, I can believe it. I have easily spent hours in front of the TV at one sitting, many times. Plus, with the advent of things such as DVR, where we can record broadcast TV, and online streaming, such as Hulu and Netflix, we now are not tied to a fixed broadcast schedule. We can watch as much TV as we want, when we want.

I can get addicted to a TV show and will stream one episode after another, caught up in the story — I once disappeared for a month watching 7 seasons of Doctor Who.  But, shouldn’t I get a reprieve for a show that awesome? No. Instead, if I had paced my viewing, only watching a couple episodes per day and turned off the TV two times a week, I would still have new episodes to watch and not have to wait four months for the next season. The responsibility lies upon us.

Five hours a day is 30 percent of a person’s waking hours, if they sleep 8 hours a night. By turning off the tube two nights a week, I am freeing up 520 hours of my life, every year. That amounts to about 21.5 days.  The amount of time is staggering.

Perspective

Television, the internet, smart phones — all of those tantalizing devices are great. But we need to remember that they are just tools, tools we can use to navigate our world.  Limiting the use of the glowing rectangles is important for our sanity, health and stress levels. Exercise is needed everyday, it aids digestion, circulation, weight management, and more. The best course is to shift the use of devices to be a productive, healthy part of our lives.  All things in moderation.

What do you do? 

What are some things you do to limit the amount of TV you watch? Or the amount of potentially unhealthy entertainment in your life? Please tell me in the comments.

Rediscovering the American Spirit; Walking away from the commercial American Dream

The idea for this blog came to me in small subtle bits, like symptoms do before you get sick. I had become a slave to my desires to better my life and simultaneously was digging myself deeper, instead of digging myself out.

I am talking about the cycle of going to work to make a paycheck; spending the paycheck to buy things; not having enough free time to play with the things I bought; then feeling cramped with too many things; spending more time to have garage sales to sell said extra things; then spending that money to buy more things.

Why on Earth do we do this?

There are several related cycles too. Time. I never felt like I had enough time, but then would allow my evenings to be eaten up watching TV, doing nothing. The perceived lack of time would also lead to poor food choices, both in price and poor nutritional value. And the last bad cycle: exercise. I didn’t make time to make better choices, I allowed my laziness to squander my hard earned everything.

In two years at a desk job, working the weird revolving hours required of reporters, I had barely budged my dept problem, I gained 20 pounds and a bad back, was unhealthy all around, and felt both that there was nothing I could do and/or I wasn’t doing enough. Plus, I am only 31, without any children — yet.

I needed a change. A big life-overhaul sort of change, and just in the nick of time, I was granted the opportunity to make it happen.

I have created this blog to document this experiment in reduction.

We were sold an American Dream that is killing us slowly. It is killing us in spirit (rise in depression), it is killing us in health (obesity and heart disease, to name a few) and it is killing our ecosystem.

The CDC reports that 1 in 4 deaths in 2009 were from heart disease, alone. And the Center estimates heart disease costs our nation $108 billion a year in medical costs, medication, and lost productivity. Our obsession with disposable plastic has created a floating trash island somewhere in the Pacific called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. And, depression has become a real problem in our society — which is most likely linked to our increasingly solitary and sedentary lives.

We could blame corporations for what our culture has become, but it is just the whipping boy. The true culprit is our species’ innate desire to make things easier, faster, cheaper, make more money, have more fun, etc.

And perhaps, it isn’t just our species. One can only imagine what a marmoset or hamster would do, if put in our shoes.

However,  just because we are capable of something, doesn’t mean we can’t learn how to do things another way, which is what I intend to do. I am embarking on a school of hard knocks, teaching myself and my husband how to live with less, everything. And I am doing this while taking the giant leap from a two-income household to one.

With the help of National Geographic’s 360 Energy Diet Challenge, internet research, common sense, plus some tips from great out-of-the-box-thinkers, I hope to document our finances and health improving, while also reducing our carbon footprint.

Tune in each week, I plan to have a new post about some lesson I learned.