Friday, November 19, 2010

My Lunch With Smart Grid

About a year ago our neighborhood was notified that PG&E was going to be replacing our existing meters with Smart Meters. I didn’t think much of it, but I did notice that I was beginning to hear a lot of sound bites on the news – discussion of controlling air conditioners from remote locations, being able to gauge our energy price as we use it – all tied to these Smart Meters. The only shift in my personal experience had been that one day I saw my meter replaced, and what had once been a monthly visit from the meter man abruptly stopped. My bill was not significantly altered so I didn’t think much about it.

Then a few weeks ago, I received an email from Matt Schuierer, at Mom Central, asking if I wanted to attend a discussion with Silver Spring Networks, at one of my favorite San Francisco restaurants, Greens, while dining with fellow Bay Area bloggers,and learning more about the Smart Grid. How could I resist? Good food, good company, information on this transformational technology that I knew I was already personally affected by –

Of course I said, “Yes.”

Silver Springs Network, is a Bay Area based company that has partnered with energy companies around the country to create energy efficient solutions to our currently aging infrastructure.

Our current electrical grid is aging, with most substation transformers being about 42 years old, 2 years older than their expected life span. Not only are they aging, but they are less effective than what our current technology allows for. In the next ten years, approximately 60% of the current electrical will need to be replaced.

We learned that when electricity was first invented, use was determined by the number of light sockets the building contained. It didn’t matter whether all of those sockets had light bulbs, the tenants were charged by the socket regardless. That might seem ridiculous by todays standards, but our current structure is nearly as ridiculous. Our current metering and payment system, is equivalent to that of doing our grocery shopping without knowing the price of the items or what’s on sale, and waiting to be billed at the end of the month.

The Smart Grid is an overlay to our current system that makes our energy consumption interactive. We will have the ability to make intelligent choices about how we use energy by checking time-based rates on our computers to find out the most cost effective times of day to do laundry, run our dishwashers, etc. We will be able to set our appliances to timers to automatically run during the most energy efficient times (energy prices vary throughout the day based on demand) and we will be able to turn off appliances from remote locations through our phones and computers if we realize that we’ve forgotten to turn them off before leaving the house. Eventually, we will be able to control energy use of our appliances with chips the size of a magnet that will be tied to our home area network. In studies so far, consumers have been shown to reduce their energy consumption by 10-15%.

As we already know, power grids get overwhelmed during high use times and this leads to power outages. In the late 1990’s, there were 41% more outages, affecting 50,000 or more people, which was more interruptions than in the entire first half of the the decade alone. These interruptions comes at a high cost to everyone, averaging out to $500 for every American per year. $36 billion a year could be saved by using more energy efficient systems and renewable sources of energy.

Currently, when we experience a power outage in our neighborhood, it takes calls from several neighbors to get a truck to come out and a repair tech to look at the outage. With the smart grid, the electrical company will immediately be notified of the outage allowing them to repair the situation more quickly.

By understanding, and having more control over our energy use, we will be able to reduce our energy consumption signifcantly.By using the Smart Grid, it is estimated we will reduce our carbon from electrical power by 25%, the equivalent of removing 140 million cars from the road.

I found all of this interesting from an environmental standpoint, and as a penny pincher, I can’t wait to get started. Now when you get your Smart Meter, you’ll know what it’s all about.


“I wrote this post after attending an informational luncheon on behalf of Silver Spring Networks and Mom Central Consulting and received a gift bag and gift card as a thank you for taking the time to participate.”

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


This is a compensated review
by BlogHer and Loft.

When I lived in New York, one of my favorite indulgences was to stop at Loft on my way home from work. Their clothes are classic enough to meet my work needs, but with a young and sassy flair that makes me feel cute, even when I need to look professional. They have lasting value, too (I just retired my favorite cashmere sweater after eight years of continuous use), and they fit my budget. So, I was only too thrilled to accept BlogHer’s invitation for an Loft
shopping spree with my own personal stylist and professional photographer to document the experience.

When I arrived at the store, everyone was incredibly welcoming, and the store was hopping with a DJ and festive treats. I acquainted myself with their newest collection, which was sophisticated, while also fun and flirty.

I readily turned myself over to the stylist, Hailey, telling her that I wanted to break out of my “Mom Jeans,” and, having recently lost twenty pounds, I wanted to show off my newfound figure. She encouraged me to try on pieces that I never would have considered on my own,

and got me into my first pair of “Skinny Jeans,” which were two sizes smaller than the jeans I was sportin’ last May. Woo-hoo!

We were presented with a Style Challenge, which was really fun and filled me with fantasies of fancy parties and cocktails after work.

For the first ensemble, called “Look Pretty At Every Party,” Hailey dressed me in a fabulous little black dress that showed off my arms and made it even more fabulous by adorning me with a chunky gold necklace and bracelet cuff. I felt quite glamorous.

For the “Perfect Desk-To-Dinner Look,” she paired classic gray wool trousers with a black, rose-covered cardigan, glistening with rhinestone buttons, that left me feeling elegant and feminine.

Finally, for the pièce de résistance, “Have a Perfectly Casual Holiday,” I found myself in a pair of rinse-wash modern skinny jeans, fitted black ruffled jacket and sequined lined cami. At this point, I was feeling young and chic and ready to go out on the town.

Before I could go out on the town, however, I had some decisions to make. I loved all of the choices that Hailey had presented, but I’m practical by nature, so had to really think about which clothes would fit with my current lifestyle. That’s when Loft Sales Associate Kristen swooped in. She recognized that, these days, I’m more of a jeans and t-shirt kind of gal, so while she convinced me to keep the rose-adorned cardigan for those days when I need something extra special, we decided I’d wear it with the skinny jeans, and, to be on the safe side, I got a pair of tulip wash boot cut jeans as well.

She spent the next couple of hours showering me with comfortable yet flattering camis and tees, and, by the time I closed the place down, I felt like I’d been shopping with one of my very best girlfriends. I came home with a flattering new collection of tops that were casual enough for every day wear, but each containing elements that make me feel extra special and pretty.

Thank you to everyone involved. I had a wonderful time getting to be Queen for a Day.

You too can be spoiled by Loft and BlogHer. Leave a comment with your vote for the best outfit choice, and you will be entered for a chance at a $200 Loft gift card. To get you started, Loft is also offering 20% off to all of my readers with the coupon code below.

20% Off Coupon

Be sure to check out other reviews on's review/ giveaway/round up page. You have 15 chances to win! special offers page

To enter for the $200 gift card, leave a comment stating your favorite outfit choice and an email address to contact you. Contest runs between Dec. 10 - Dec. 25 2009. Winner will be chosen through Random Numbers Generator.


* No duplicate comments.

* You may receive an additional entry by linking on twitter and leaving a link in the comments.

* You may receive an additional entry by blogging about this contest and leaving a link in the comments.

* This giveaway is open to US Residents aged 18 and older

* Winners will be selected via random draw, and will notified by e-mail.

* You have 48 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected.

* Please see the official rules here:

Official rules

Don't forget to leave your email address or a link to your blog. It's the only way we can contact you.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Take the GroGood Challenge!

Plant a Row for the Hungry, Scotts Miracle Gro, and Feeding America have joined together to form the GroGood Challenge. If you are a gardener, they are asking that you take the grogood pledge and plant a row for the hungry this year. 1 in 8 Americans go to bed hungry every night. Use your garden to help end hunger by planting more than you need this summer and giving the excess to your local food bank. As your garden grows, you will recieve gardening tips by email, and information on your local foodbank and where to donate your extra produce.

In addition, I was sent a grogood kit, and one of you could recieve one too. If you would like to participate in this wonderful cause this summer, go take the grogood pledge  and leave me a comment with your contact info, and I will choose one lucky winner on Sunday May 17th to recieve this beautiful starter kit.

The kit includes: 
A beautiful copper toned planter box
A copper toned metal trowel
1 bag miracle gro organic choice plant food
$10 gift card for seeds or soil
A GroGood produce bag

Enjoy your garden this summer, both for what it brings to you, and for what you can bring to your community. Let me know about your progress and be sure to check in with us for ours.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

And the Earth Day Winner Is...

Congratulations Deb!

You are the Ecostore USA winner! 


Are you familiar with Random.ORG? I used their list randomizer to choose today's winner. I listed the contestants in the order their comments were recieved and BINGO... We have a winner.

Check them out. It's fun!

Happy Earth Day.

List Randomizer

There were 8 items in your list. Here they are in random order:

  1. Deb
  2. 4square
  3. Patricia
  4. Casey
  5. Bri
  6. Dana
  7. Michelle
  8. Kari

Timestamp: 2009-04-22 20:42:39 UTC

* I have no idea why this post is gray and in all caps. It's not how I wrote it. Just one of those Wednesday Mystery's I suppose.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Ecostore USA + Giveaway!

Growing up in a health conscious family, I've always been a label reader, and concerned about the quality of both the foods I consume, and the products that I use. When I was contacted by ecostore usa, to review their household cleaners, the first thing I looked for was information on their ingredients. Impressively, I had to look no further than their website home page to find a link to the ingredients of their entire line. The New Zealand developed products are plant and mineral based, which intrigued me, because I'm very concerned about exposing my children to the high levels of toxic chemicals found in most commercial cleaners.

From the recycled packaging the cleaners arrived in, down to the products themselves, I was very impressed with the integrity of the ecostore line. 

I was sent a bottle of the Lemon Cream Cleanser, and the Naturally Antibacterial Spray Cleaner.

Immediately, I put the Lemon Cream Cleanser to use. We live in a 60+ year old house, and I believe the tub is just as old. I have tried and tried to remove the soap scum and stains that have accumulated over the years, but, I'd resigned myself to the fact that it was just old, and something we'd have to live with. Creamy, with the look and feel of a gentle soft soap, the Lemon Cream Cleanser, restored my tub to tip top conditions. Minimally scented, there was only the faint fresh smell of lemons after cleaning, and because it contains no harsh abrasive chemicals, my hands were left soft and unscathed.

I then used it on my kitchen sink, and the splatter guard on my stove, and the outside of my refrigerator, all with fantastic results.

The Naturally Antibacterial Spray Cleaner came at the perfect time, considering I have two little boys who are still perfecting their aim, shall we say, and whether it's in the bathroom or beyond, I feel safe following up after all of their spills and messes with this fantastic cleaner that contains no nasty chemicals.

Please check them out, and let me know what you think. One of you will be chosen randomly, on April 22, for a $25 dollar gift certificate, so, don't forget to comment with a link so I can contact you. (This is limited to the U.S.)

In honor of Earth Day, they are offering free shipping through the end of April, for purchases of $25 or more.

If you would like to meet one of the founders of ecostore, Malcolm Rands will be touring Meijer Stores, for the ask Ecoman tour, through the end of the month, in the following locations.

4/13 Chicago - McHenry (5-7 PM)

4/18 Detroit - Wixom (5-7 PM)

4/20 Fort Wayne - Illinois Road (5-7 PM)

4/21 Indianapolis - Carmel (5-7 PM)

4/22 Cincinnati - Harrison Road (4-6 PM)

4/23 Grand Rapids - Cascade (2-4 PM)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Are You Sweet and Tangy?

Look good?

It tastes good too!

I may have mentioned before that pineapple is one of my favorite fruits. I actually cut it up into smoothies, which are my mainstay, every day. 

So when the guys at, who are famous for their beef jerky, asked me to try out their pineapple jerky and tell you what I thought about it, I said yes.

It’s very good!

For better or worse, I have a terrible sweet tooth, and while I’m pretty good about eating healthy, I never turn down dessert. That gets me into trouble, particularly since I run after Z and T all day, and tend to stay up way too late, and even if I’ve already had dessert, at various times throughout the day, I always seem to think it’s the perfect time for more.

This thought process is, obviously, a recipe for disaster.

The pineapple jerky they sent me from is like candy. It’s sweet, and tangy, and  fragrant, and chewy, which means I have to slow down, enjoy it in all its pineapple-y goodness, AND, it’s simply made of pineapple and honey. That’s it. No preservatives, or stabilizers or chemicals you can’t spell, much less pronounce. So I can eat more than a few pieces of it and feel no guilt. It’s also very portable, which means it can live in your glove compartment or hand bag and go everywhere you go. Mmmm!

Did you know that pineapple is an excellent anti-oxidant? And a fabulous digestive aid?

I already knew that, which is one of the reasons I eat it every day, So, not only is the pineapple jerky delicious, it’s also very good for you!

I asked Brad what he thought, and he said, “Mmm, It’s good. It really is.”

And then I asked Zip what he thought, and he said, “It’s mine!” And I had to struggle to get him to share.

And then I asked Tizzy what he thought, and well, never mind... We all know Tizzy doesn’t eat fruit. Which is one of the reasons I’m hoping that they’ll send me some of their exotic jerky’s that they sell in their beef jerky gift basket, because while he may not eat fruit, he might get a real kick out of eating an alligator, or a buffalo, or an ostrich for goodness sake.

But don’t take my word for it, go check them out for yourself, and don’t forget to come back here and tell me which of their exotic, or tame, jerky’s gets your mouth watering.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Clean Mean Erasing Machine!

With two very active boys, I'm not a huge fan of the phone. On the rare occasion that I do make the mistake of picking it up during waking hours, all hell breaks loose. Immediately, my house is filled with the sounds of screams and crashes. When visions of your children wrestling with lamps are the only images that could possible fit the clamor going on in the next room, it's hard to remain cheerful and attentive with the person on the other line. Occasionally, however, I've tried to converse while one child was sleeping and the other pleasantly distracted with a hundred piece puzzle. 

HA! That actually doesn't happen here. 

One day, Zip was sleeping, and I thought that Tizzy was satisfactorily distracted, so I called my neighbor. After we’d talked for about fifteen minutes, I became eerily aware of a profound silence. 

“Something is definitely not right,” I said. “Let me call you back.”

“Tizzy?” I called.

“In here, Mama,” he replied pleasantly from the far reaches of the bathroom.

I opened the door, and our creamy white bathroom was now brilliant shades of orange, fuschia, purple, blue, turquoise and red. 

I stood there stunned as I took it all in. He smiled at me, pleased with his artwork. Not a single surface had been neglected. In his hands were two micro-thin pens and on the walls, the toilet, the bathtub, the cabinets, and even the mirror, were skinny, squiggly lines, infinitely spiraling upward toward the far reaches of wherever his lithe little body could reach.

While I’m all for expressionistic art, we rent our house, and I’m ultimately hoping to reclaim our deposit, though that’s looking more and more doubtful each day.

When I first discovered Mr. Clean Magic Erasers, I was more than a bit skeptical. When it comes to cleaning products, I’m more of a lemon, baking soda, and vinegar gal, so I found it hard to believe that these dense white sponges could be so effective without being horribly poisonous. Yet, there are no warnings of toxicity, only against harm due to abrasion. Showing them to my husband, he determined they must be a made of a magical micro-fiber, to which I said, “Hallelujah!” 

Fortunately, I had one in my cabinet, and, if the darn thing hadn’t warned against handling by toddlers (due to abrasion), he’d have had as marvelous a time erasing his masterpiece as he’d had creating it.

We’ve also had the pleasure of erasing a pencil-etched “storm” in the hallway, ball point, pen graffiti tags on my mom’s computer screen, and endless footprints marched across the boys bedroom wall.

Now, I’m thinking that, as long as they don’t throw a rock through the window or kick a hole through the wall, our deposit may, in fact, be safe after all, thanks to Mr. Clean.