September 16, 2014

Fingerprint Words

Last week Slate had an interesting piece about "fingerprint words"--specific words that we use with such frequency that they are part of our signature speech style--and about how we react both to others' fingerprint words and to other people copycatting our own.

It made me wonder what my own fingerprint words are. I play right into the stereotype of Southern Californians by being an egregious abuser of both "awesome" and "totally." (In my defense, "totally" is pretty versatile!) At the other end of the spectrum are "plethora" and "discrete," along with variations on "regard" ("regarding" and "in regards to").

I've also been guilty of picking up a few choice words and phrases from K over the course of our relationship. Unfortunately, they all seem to be swear words. (Let's just say there's a rood eason people say "cursing like a sailor," not "eloquently expounding like a sailor.")

What are your fingerprint words? How do you react when you hear other people using them?

September 11, 2014

Saving Water in Unusual Ways

Growing up in San Diego, I had the importance of saving water drilled into me constantly from a young age. Conservation is especially important right now, considering the entire state of California is in a severe drought (check out these disturbing before-and-after photos--scary stuff).

But I know a lot of people who don't live in a drought-stricken area but are still looking for ways to save water, whether because they want to be green or just want to save money on their utility bills. There are some easy, painless, and (I hope) obvious ways to save water, such as turning off the tap when you're brushing your teeth and doing laundry only when you have a full load. At this point in my life, I do those things out of habit as much as anything else. Lately I've been looking for additional ways to save water and have come up with a few practices that are slightly less conventional but just as easy:

  • Adjust the way you cook. We eat a lot of beans in our house. I used to buy them dried and cook them myself, because it was cheaper--but between the water used to pre-soak them and the water used to actually cook them, I've decided I'm better off buying canned. Likewise, I steam vegetables instead of boiling them (which saves water and also retains more nutrients). And did you know you can "hard boil" eggs in the oven? Put 6 eggs into a muffin pan (1 in each cup) and place in a preheated 325-degree oven for about 30 minutes. No water required. 
  • Use wet wipes for fur babies, too. We have a pretty large lawn area in the back yard, most of which is now dirt because we've let the grass die off. We have one small area of grass for the dog, but aside from going to the bathroom there, he much prefers to play/lie/roll around in the dirt. I extend his time between baths by wiping him down with a damp washcloth or disposable pet wipe.
  • Invest in more of the items that force you to do laundry. At what point do you do a load of laundry? When you have a laundry basket that's overflowing? Or when you run out of something that you use regularly, even if you don't have much else that's dirty? I was washing gym clothes way too often because I always ran out of clean socks--until I finally broke down and bought another six-pair pack. For a mere $5.99 sale price, I extended the length of time between loads by nearly a week. Likewise, I change the bed sheets weekly; when we upgraded to a queen-sized bed last winter, we initially had only one set of sheets--so "changing" the sheets meant washing them every Sunday. I got a second set at Ross for about $20, and wash them both in the same load every other week. 
  • Put your beverages in the fridge. If they're already cold when you open them, you don't need to add ice. (And if you do use ice but you accidentally drop a cube on the floor, put it in a plant instead of in the sink.)
  • Dump "waste" water on plants. I keep a small tub in the kitchen sink and use it to catch water when I rinse produce or refresh the dog's water bowl, and use the water on plants. I do the same with gray water from the washing machine and leftover water from mopping. 
These may all be small changes in themselves, but I hope that they can add up to big savings over time. What other water-saving tricks do you use?

August 26, 2014

Book Storage at Home

Speaking of books, Design*Sponge has a great post on the best ways to store books in the home. My own house is a mere 850 square feet, and as a huge reader (and longtime publishing professional), I'm something of a hoarder when it comes to books. I've gotten better over the past few years about keeping my collection to a minimum (and getting rid of books that I admit to myself I'll never read again), but I continue to search for practical and attractive ways to store them without letting them take over every surface.
Source: Design*Sponge

I love the look of an entire wall of bookshelves--if K and I ever move, having the space to do this will be one of the top requirements on my new-home list. Lately I've particularly liked the look of rainbow bookshelves--either from painting the shelves, or from the arrangement of the books themselves:
Source: A Cup of Jo
Source: Kitschy Living
What a great way to add some color and interest to a room. What unusual ideas do you have for storing books?