Friday, April 25, 2008

The Arbor Day Thirteen


Three holidays in one week--Patriots' Day, Earth Day, and now Arbor Day.

In honor of both Earth Day and Arbor Day, I'm posting a list of thirteen easy suggestions for greening up your world:

1. If you're looking at cars, consider a hybrid. Not only do they save gas, they have much lower emissions, which means better air quality for everyone. (I'm proud to say that both my husband and I drive hybrid cars, and we do it as much to keep the air clean as we do to save $$ on fill-ups.) In the short term a hybrid might be more expensive. However, if more people drove hybrid cars, the costs of production would go down, and so would the price of hybrid cars. And if you're like me and keep your cars for years and years and years, you'll certainly save $$ in the long run since you'll save on gas.

2. When you're running errands, combine trips to cut down on your total driving. Walk or ride a bicycle when you can, or use public transportation. (I ride the T in Boston, the light rail in Denver, and the subway in New York--the three cities I'm in most often.)

3. Use cloth grocery bags. I keep mine in the back of my car and use them all the time. Try them and I bet you'll prefer them. They're stronger than paper or plastic, so they hold more and don't rip. If you don't use cloth grocery bags, go for paper--they're easier to recycle and re-use. Re-use any plastic grocery bags, and any Ziploc-type bags. (Especially those thick, gallon-sized bags. They wash out easily and can be re-used for all kinds of things.)

4. Put a filter on your kitchen sink instead of buying bottled water to cut down on your use of plastic. Ditto on buying economy sizes of the items you use most often (one big bottle is less plastic than two or three smaller bottles.) Then recycle those bottles you do use.

5. If you must dry clean clothes, search out an eco-friendly dry cleaner. When you're shopping, go for washable clothes, linens, curtains, pillows, and rugs rather than those that must be dry-cleaned. Then use an eco-friendly detergent, like Seventh Generation or Method (tip: you can get great prices on all Method cleaning products at your local Target.)

6. Save on air-conditioning by being smart about shade. I had UV film put on the windows of my house, and it stays much cooler in the summer. I also placed my patio umbrella to keep the morning sun from heating up my house. If you live in a house where you can plant trees, consider planting for optimum shade on the house. (Arbor Day's the perfect time to plant a tree, you know!)

7. Save on heating bills by insulating your house or apartment as best you can. Check windows for leakage and get weather-stripping (it can make a huge difference!) for drafty doors and windows. There are some great tips for insulating your house at this government website.

8. Recycle your batteries. Many cities and towns have a place you can drop off batteries. My local Whole Foods has a bin right by the exit where I take all of mine.

9. Recycle your computers and electronics instead of tossing them. If there's not a local organization that can use them (a school, day care, or senior center, for instance), contact the company from which you purchased the item. Hewlett-Packard and Apple both have recycling programs. (I've written all my books on Apple computers and I love their recycling program. Thanks, Apple!)

10. If you're shopping for new electronics or appliances--whether it's a dehumidifier, a laptop computer, or even a fridge--look for the Energy Star label and/or check the Energy Star site before you buy. These products are the most energy-efficient, so they'll save you money, too.

11. Don't put paint, stripper, or other chemicals in the trash. Ditto fluorescent lightbulbs, thermometers, or anything that contains mercury. Check with your local community recycling center--most have special days where they take these items so they don't end up in trash dumps (which may allow those chemicals into our air and into the water supply.) If your community doesn't offer this service, ask them to do so. Get your friends and neighbors to ask, as well. Letters do matter.

12. If you have a lawn, try to use the most eco-friendly products you can. Don't overwater (lawns really don't need as much water as you think!) If you have an automatic sprinkler system, consider installing a rain gauge that will shut off the sprinklers if you've gotten rain in recent days.

And finally, a lucky number thirteen: When you do your spring cleaning and come across items you no longer use, don't dump them at the curb. Instead, check out Freecycle. Most communities in the U.S have Freecycle lists, and they're also in certain places in Canada and Europe. Freecycle is an easy way to give those items you no longer need a new life so they don't end up in a dump. Clothes, books, toys, electronics, old furniture, plants, you name it, you can Freecycle it. You list the item, and someone local who can really use it comes and picks it up. (You can usually leave items on your porch, etc.) If you find Freecycle's not for you, remember that groups like the Vietnam Veterans of America, the Salvation Army, Goodwill and local senior centers and homeless shelters may be able to use your items, too. It's far better than throwing them in the trash.

These thirteen aren't expensive suggestions--they may actually save you money. And they'll certainly help save the planet. Happy Arbor Day!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Patriots' Day

Yesterday was a government holiday that's little-known outside of Massachusetts. The third Monday in April is officially Patriots' Day. I always think of it as a sports holiday, even though--despite the name--it's not the day on which Bay Staters celebrate the New England Patriots. (You'd think with all the Super Bowl wins...assuming one ignores last year's fiasco...but no.)

Rather, it's the day of the Boston Marathon, and all 25,000-plus runners go by Fenway Park while the Red Sox play a home game. I drove in early, and counted 110 buses full of runners making their way out to the starting line in Hopkinton. (The runners mostly stay in Boston, then take buses out to the start the morning of the race.) Lots of cars on the highway had their windows rolled down to wave at the runners and cheer them on. Pretty cool.

Being a holiday, it was a perfect day at Fenway. I got there early and spent some time hanging around on Yawkey Way. The team is raffling off a World Series ring to raise money for the The Red Sox Foundation, so they were letting kids try on the rings (near the 2007 World Series banner, of course. Gotta show off that banner!)



After ring-ogling, I watched NESN's Tom Caron doing his pregame show from a perch alongside RemDawg's, then stood in line in Autograph Alley to meet the ├╝ber-cool 1967 Cy Young Award winner Jim Lonborg. (BTW...I rate Lonborg particularly high on my personal cool meter because, after he finished his baseball career, he went to dental school and became Dr. Lonborg. Realize, though, that both my dad and one of my brothers are dentists, so your cool mileage may vary.)



He was kind enough to sign both a ball and a photo for me, and no, they will not be appearing on eBay.

However, the best part of the day was the game itself. Have I mentioned how much I love my seats? Fenway is one of those places that feels like a second home. I know which of the Aramark guys are generous when handing out mustard for the Fenway Franks, which guys are quickest with the peanuts, and which are most accurate when they hurl the Cracker Jack across two sections. And then there's the view. Took this shot of Jacoby Ellsbury at the start of the game:



Then snapped this photo of David Murphy and Gerald Laird just before the Sox took the game from the Texas Rangers, 8 - 3:



I've gotta say it again. I love my seats. I feel extremely lucky to have them. Of course, apologies of the day go out to my buddy, author Geralyn Dawson, who happens to be a Texas Rangers fan. (They'll win their next one, Ger!)

After the game, I walked along the Boston Marathon route to cheer on the runners. The winners had already finished, but at the 4 - 5 hour mark, there were still plenty of people making the last push along Beacon Street toward the finish line:



Congrats to all who entered the race. Running a marathon is a huge accomplishment, especially the Boston Marathon with all its hills. Hope that, in the end, your Patriots' Day was as enjoyable as mine!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Twenty-two

Ouch. Anyone watch all six hours and sixteen minutes of the Rockies and Padres game last night? I gave up at 1 am ET, about the middle of the eleventh inning, but did get a kick out of seeing the twenty-first inning stretch on SportsCenter this morning. Both teams are in transit today. Makes me tired just thinking about it.

On the bright side: Not only did the Rockies finally win thanks to Troy Tulowitzki, I had the Padres pitching staff on my ESPN Baseball Challenge roster. (Thankfully, I dumped the Detroit Tigers pitching staff awhile back.) Between the long game in San Diego and my current third baseman, Chipper Jones, doing some serious damage with his bat, my fantasy team earned ninety-one points yesterday. Sadly, I'm still in sixth place out of the (you guessed it) twenty-two players in my Challenge league. But the season is long, and I have the Cubs pitching staff tonight. I'm planning on a slow and steady climb.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

BOLO

BOLO being cop-speak for "Be On The Lookout."

The official release date isn't until May 5th, but guess what Terri Clark spotted in a Colorado Barnes & Noble?



Breaking Up (Is Hard To Do) is showing up in stores! I've also had reports of sightings in California and around Seattle, and the book is now listed as shipping from Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble online, Books-A-Million, and dozens of great independent booksellers.

Breaking Up features stories from Terri Clark, Ellen Hopkins, and Lynda Sandoval, along with yours truly. You can get more info and read an excerpt of my contribution, "Last Stand", right here.

We just learned that the April 15 issue of Kirkus gave the book a fabulous review. It's long, but here's a highlight:

"Although the focus is breakups, each (story) leaves protagonists and readers with the hope of a new and better relationship to come...Often frankly sexy and peppered with teen-friendly references (hip slang, IM conversations), this box of candy for the lovelorn satisfies."

Nifty, eh?

In other good news, the paperback edition of Goddess Games is going to be hitting the stores any day. It has a new, bright blue cover I adore, so again, BOLO!




As always, all the details (a quickie blurb, an excerpt, and some fun behind the scenes info) are right here, on the official Niki site.

And if you see either book in a store, snap a pic on your cell phone and send it in. ( Just be sure to use a good subject line in your e-mail so it doesn't end up in the spam folder, and let me know where your shot was taken.) Your photo might show up here on the blog!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Secret to Productivity

Any writer with a new baby understands that their productivity takes a nosedive as the diaper pail fills. However, what (dumb, dumb) people often don't realize is that the same thing happens when you bring a puppy into your house.

I knew a puppy would be a distraction when I brought Tipper home last summer. I just didn't grasp how much. Not only will she chew shoes, she chews door frames, the stairs, cupboard knobs, and even the WINDOWS. No, not the window frames, but she actually tries to chew the flat glass. Don't ask me why.

The upshot is that I'm constantly distracted. Today, however, I found the secret to increasing my productivity:



Yep. Bribery in the form of a meaty bone. Trust me, it works. (At least for dogs. I don't recommend you try this with an infant.) The new bed and the meaty bone are presents she received for her first birthday last week. Turns out they were gifts for me! She even cast aside her favorite donut toy (on the right side of the picture), which NEVER happens.

However, once you give your pup that treat, don't try to take it away. This is the look you will get:



It says, "Don't. You. Dare."

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Foolishness

I have a serious Diet Cherry Coke addiction. (One I've blogged about before.) Diet Cherry Vanilla Dr. Pepper is a close second as far as writing fuel goes. Since I learned (to my dismay) that both of these are seasonal items, I have been scouring the store shelves, waiting for one or both to reappear. I finally found a twelve-pack of Diet Cherry Vanilla Dr. Pepper on the store shelf a few days ago. ONE. Of course, I bought it. Then next to it, I noticed two twelve-packs of this:



I stared at it longer than anyone should stare at soda, thinking, This could be hideous...but what if it's not?

Since I might never see it on a shelf again (a lesson learned when the Diet Cherry Coke disappeared), and I have no idea when I might be able to replenish my Diet Cherry Coke/Diet Cherry Vanilla Dr. Pepper stash, I grabbed both.

Utter foolishness. It is NASTY.

Anyone want 23 cans? This has to be an April Fool's Day joke.