Going Greener

My great grandfather prided himself in having the latest gadgets, but Grandma’s father did not have the financial means to indulge in any luxuries except for the 10-inch television he bought through easy monthly payments. Beyond that, he was lucky that he was able to provide for the basic needs of his large family, although sometimes relying on income from his children.

Look around today and you will see how common it is for even young children to have gadgets such as the IPad and electronic toys. It is a different world.

This past week, we had solar panels installed on our roof and extra insulation added in our attic. We are now awaiting the official A-Okay from the country electrical inspector so that we can begin producing our own electricity. This is definitely the coolest gadget we ever owned.

While I am a bit uncertain regarding the science of how this will work, we have done enough research and spoken to several very happy solar customers—one who is producing so much electricity that he gets a rebate from the local electric company—that I agreed with Dad to move forward with the installation.

Bryce stopped by today and saw the panels on the roof for the first time. Naturally, as is customary for a four year old, he asked what they were, and I pathetically attempted to explain the process, which was difficult given my lack of total understanding of the science. For now, he was satisfied in knowing that the sun was helping us to power everything in our house which is plugged into the wall.

I look forward to seeing the fruits of the work as exemplified by my very low electric bills. Maybe my home, which is in the sun over 12 hours/day during the summer, will produce all my electricity.

Watch here in a few months for updates.

Going Green Back in the Day

We all have different ways to choose our credit card companies. It may be because of an affiliation with our bank, the cash-back rewards or airline miles given for our purchases, or maybe because it is just the only one who will give us their card.

There was a time when our grocery and gas purchases resulted in a different reward, which was both a reward and an activity. We were given stamps, which we then had to paste into a book. There were 24 pages in a book and 50 stamps on each page. Do the math and you will see that each book contained 1200 stamps.


We would redeem these stamps for gifts such as towels, glasses, jewelry, furniture, and toys at your local Green Stamp Store. It was probably one, if not the, first customer loyalty reward of its time. People would choose their grocery stores based upon the number of stamps one could get for their purchases. It could take close to a year to fill two or three books.

Like the JC Penney catalogs you are all familiar with, the S&H Green Stamp company had catalogs filled with their products, including the amount of stamps needed to get such treasures.

I remember going to a Green Stamp Store with Grandma as a kid, and then later with Dad. He recalled getting Green Stamps when he would rent cars during his business trips. Dad thinks we “bought” a small grill with our stamps.

Although no longer available in the original stamp format, the company still exists and has gone digital in stores such as Barnes and Noble and Sephora, which give Greenpoints. It’s something to consider if you want to go modern retro.

On a Clear Day

In a little more than a week, at 2:41 pm on August 21, we will be experiencing a total solar eclipse. If all goes as planned and the sky is not encumbered by clouds, the stars and planets will be visible, farm animals may return to their barns, owls may awaken, and bats may take flight.

So in anticipation of this extraordinary event, visitors from four states are descending on our household to experience 2 minutes and 36 minutes of darkness in the middle of the day. I have cleaned every room, planned our meals, baked, shopped, and even created a playlist of sun/moon related songs such as “Here Comes the Sun”, “Don’t Let the Sun Come Down on Me”, “Mr. Moonlight”, and “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine”. Obviously, I bought plenty of beer, wine, and soda.

Dad and I went to The Columbia Visitors Center and picked up fifteen pair of eclipse-viewing glasses. I checked to be certain they were not counterfeit, which would have been disturbing considering the source of the purchase.

When you are expecting houseguests, suddenly you look at your home with a different eye. I realized my towels were a little ragged, and the sheets on the guest room beds were thin, so I replaced them.

I made reservations at some nearby restaurants, and planned excursions around town. So in our small way, we are helping the local economy.

It should be a fun-filled weekend. I am hoping that our guests are compatible with each other, but my biggest worry, which I cannot control, is what if the song of the day is “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head?”


Here’s What Really Happened at the White House

It turns out that my memory erased some of the “uncomfortable” details of my first visit to the White House. (InspiringNot a Dump)  Cindy’s more youthful brain was able to fill in the blanks of our evening visit to that magnificent house, and her version explained why I was so uneasy when I arrived at the side door.

Don’t you remember when “someone” had the great idea, as we were passing the open gate of the East Entrance of the White House, of just walking onto the grounds? Suddenly, two agents jumped out at us—one with a gun—and stopped us and wanted to know what we were doing there.

We told him we had come to get the tickets, and then I admitted (ok, so it was MY great idea!) that when I saw the open gate, I decided we should enter the grounds. That’s when the one guard called ahead and sent you in to get the tickets while I waited.

When you came back, they asked us if we were interested in going to some club in Georgetown later that evening. I thought you were going to kill me after that!

I remember one of us asked if President Ford and his sons were in the White House, and they said the president was out of town but flying in that evening. That’s why the gates were open. The helicopter came in that way, so I guess they needed to open the gates for more room—or did back then.

So I guess I can now understand why I felt so unsettled. You must admit that Cindy’s version is far more exciting than mine. Boy, security has certainly gotten tighter since those days. Our little escapade did not even make the evening news.

Inspiring—Not a Dump

I heard the recent comments attributed to our president in which it was claimed that he referred to the White House as “a dump.” As someone privileged to have visited this historic home twice, I beg to differ.

The first time was during the summer of 1975, which was approximately one year into the presidency of Gerald Ford. I went with my friend Cindy.

When Grandpa learned of the trip, he told me that he had a friend who had some White House affiliation at that time. I cannot remember if the person worked there or just had some inside connection. All I know is that Grandpa said he could get us the special White House tour passes, which were quite different from the easy-to-get public tours available to anyone who got up early enough to obtain a ticket at the booth located on the Ellipse.

Since Grandpa’s request for the tour passes was at the eleventh hour, they could not be mailed to us. I was instructed to go to White House to obtain them.

The night before the tour, Cindy and I went to the side gate, where I explained to the guard that we were there to pick up our tickets. We were told that one of us could go inside to retrieve them. My dad got the tickets, so there was no discussion who would go. Surprisingly, I was permitted to walk up the driveway unescorted.

I arrived at the closed door, my heart pounding with excitement at being at the doorway to this historic building. I recall hesitantly knocking, and then being ushered inside.

“What do you want?” I was asked by a uniformed man at the desk.

“Oh no, I thought. I shouldn’t be here. Am I in trouble?”

Then the guard laughed and told me that I was at the right place. I looked around, hoping that one of President Ford’s attractive sons would appear. I was in awe just being inside “the dump.” I left with his card.

The tour the next day was incredible. Having gone on the tour twenty years later with the three of you, I can confirm that my first tour was much better than the general public tour.

We saw many more rooms, the group was much smaller, and I did not feel at all rushed. I remember lingering in the China Room, and felt honored to be viewing china used at state dinners dating back to George Washington.

                  http://bit.ly/2v3JGVW  1975

As we were guided into each room—identified by color such as the Green Room, Blue Room, and Red Room—I remember feeling honored to be inside, and impressed with the elegance and beauty of each room of the iconic mansion.

Incidentally, the architect of the White House was an Irish man named James Hoban. The very old family Bible which sits on my dresser was owned by a woman named Jemima Hoban. Are we related to the man who designed America’s house? I am still working on that.






Now You Get Nothing!

As we prepare for our influx of out-of-town guests for the big eclipse next month, Dad and I have been thinking about what to feed everyone and what to do with them before and after the big event. My little southern city is allegedly expecting 600,000 visitors to pour into town. I told one of the visitors to my house that she can no longer come because it is rumored that I can rent my house for big bucks. The heck with the friends.

I decided that I want to take it one meal at a time, beginning with the most important meal of the day. This is easy: eggs, fruit, muffins, yogurt, cereal, coffee, tea, and juice. Maybe I will pull out the old waffle maker too.

Cereal is an interesting breakfast-food, which has undergone many changes since I was a kid—before the days of Count Chocula, Honey Nut Cheerios, Franken Berry, and Chocolate Lucky Charms.

When I was a wee one, I remember sitting down to a bowl of Rice Krispies or Corn Flakes, then grabbing the sugar bowl, and sprinkling my morning nourishment with a very generous spoonful of the sweet stuff. Grandma never objected. The best part was drinking the heavily-sweetened milk at the end of the meal.

I also recall sitting down to a bowl of sweetened bananas and milk. The recipe was quite simple:

Slice 1 banana into a bowl

Sprinkle with a generous spoonful or two of sugar

Add milk



I also admit  to enjoying a healthy bowl of Frosted Flakes or Post Alpha-Bit Cereals, but my main morning staple was the self-sugared cereal. This was so much better than Frosted Flakes, since I could add as much sugar as I desired instead of what Post thought was sufficient for a growing child.

Personally, I think that most kids enthusiastically ate their breakfast cereal because of the prizes in each box. I specifically recall the tattoos in my Frosted Flakes and Kool-Aid packages in my Alpha-Bits.

Now you get nothing but the cereal!