Utility Expenses: Power

Jen and I have been moved into our new home for 8 months now and I couldn’t be happier with the setup. It’s open, homey, and secluded enough to offer a pleasant release from the sounds of traffic. Unfortunately, we are secluded enough to be too far away from natural gas pricing to have that option available to use for heating; I’m expecting a high heating bill for the winter. In preparation for increased expenditure I figured I’d take some time to try and minimize our utility usage. First place to look? electricity.

Lightbulbs:

Our home is overabundantly lit. I suspected a surplus when I noticed there were three bulbs in a single fixture. Three bulbs in one fixture? Extravagance!

This past weekend I went to each fixture and reduced the quantity of bulbs down to one per fixture. The surplus? 17 BULBS!

Holy cow!

Holy cow!

SEVENTEEN! After the extraction the only obvious area where we noticed a dimmer atmosphere was in our mud room closet. Hardly worth the extra bulbage.

We also found the half dozen most used areas in our home and replaced those with LED bulbs. Now we’re talking! There are a lot of data websites out there that provide analysis on whether or not LEDs are worth the investment. I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader to come to their own conclusion. Still… lighting is small peanuts compared to the larger power consumers like appliances.

I touched base with our electric company. Fun fact! I thought that all houses were on variable pricing (with on and off peak hours). This is not the case. The default for residential is a fixed rate plan. You can switch if you want but the advantages are mixed at best.

For Connecticut Light and Power the fixed rate is ~$0.10/kwHr. Switching to variable rates drops the off-peak rate (8pm-noon) to 9 cents a kwhr… BUT! the on-peak rate skyrockets to $0.12/kwHr. Yikes! Making the decision even harder, I’m told you have to switch for a year resulting in risk of high monthly bills due to AC usage in the summertime. I’m going to take a look at energy analysis tools to see if I can determine what our usage rate is across various hours of each day and for each appliance.

Brushes

New Hobby

I’ve decided to try my hand at painting.

My maternal grandparents left me a whole bunch of carving equipment after their passing. It was a much appreciated gesture as my grandfather and I shared an interest in wood sculpture. Included in the inheritance was a huge box of paints. Only a month or two ago when I started casually looking at painting did I begin to recognize the scope of this inheritance.

The stockpile includes 30-40 tubes of acrylics and paint brushes aplenty – it’s a mammoth supply. To help organize the collection I fashioned a custom paint-brush/pallet knife holder. Check it out:

Brushes

What brought about this new interest? Mainly the fact that we’ve been looking for art for our home. I have a special appreciation for contemporary pieces – bold stretches of colors across big canvas and that’s the type of thing that I might be able to mimic. So let’s learn!

To start, I found a youtube video that provides a tutorial. This guy is great! I tried to mimic as much as I could, and I’m pleased with the results but I have a long way to go:

PalletPainting

I learned a bunch through this process. Pallet knives are tricky to work with. So easy to clean, but difficult to manipulate for fine detail. This is likely why there’s an impressionistic feel to many pallet knife pieces. The swipe of a knife provides a very rewarding swath of color and it’s fun to overlay different colors and generate a warm gradient.

Next up I’m going to try and use a photograph from our recent Italy trip as a template. I’ll keep you updated with my progress!

Business Travel and an Unexpected Guest

Business Travel:
This week I’m in Atlanta on business. Just a quick jaunt, I expect to be back on Friday.

An Unexpected Guest:
This past weekend in chatting with the neighbors we learned that there are some river otters living in the pond in our backyard. Sure enough, this morning as we ate our cereal (JIf cereal – surprisingly tasty) some splashing caught our eye and a little river otter could be seen swimming along the shore.

What a treat!

The Cheese Files Vol. III and Vol. IV

This week we have two cheeses. The first is Piave Vecchio the second is a Camembert. First, let’s talk Piave. This one is a dense cows milk cheese from Northern Italy. We were suspecting Florence what with the Ponte Vecchio… but we were guessing the origin off the wrong word. Our focus shouldn’t have been the ‘vecchio’ as much as the ‘piave’. Piave is a river in Northeast Italy. The cheese is named after this river. The ‘vecchio’ is a clue that this particular cheese was aged for more than 6 months. In our case with our red label there is further definition of this cheese’s age. Ours is considered a Piave Vecchio Seleziono Oro (Italian for “I choose Gold”) which was aged for over a year.

Piave

The cheese itself is hard and has a very pleasant sweetness. For this cheese we tried our our new cheese plane. Perfect for hard cheeses, the plane shaves a thin slice of cheese off a block. I recommend this tool to all cheese fans. Let’s rate the cheese!

Worthwhile for the price, this one is fun and independent. It also gets a bonus for having a long shelf life. That is always appreciated.
Taste 3/4
Price $$
Independence: High

The other cheese in that picture is a basic French Camembert. Camembert is a soft milk cheese. Creamy deliciousness in every sense. Fromage’s Camembert has a favorable nutty flavor.

Completely delicious but for me it requires a carrier.
Taste 4/4
Price $$
Independence: Low

Long live Cheese!

Silvertone

Silvertone

My paternal Grandparents were all sorts of deep into the world of music. My Grandmother was a pianist and my Grandfather played a handful of instruments from the guitar to the accordion. This weekend my father bequeathed to me my Grandfather’s guitar and amp.

NewGear

The guitar is a 1960(ish) Silvertone tobacco sunburst archtop guitar. It has three pickups with independent tone and volume controls that give the guitar a versatility close to (if not surpassing) my PRS513. The Silvertone is rich with evocative scratches and dings that lay out a history of active use versus display case claustrophobia. The action is great and the sound is raw and metallic in a pleasant retro way.

The amp is a vega tube amp. It’s adorably small but still has bite. The outside has been completely redone and it has a beautiful new fabric cover and leather handle. It’s got some whitenoise issues but I’m hoping with a little electrical TLC that the sound will clear up. It is the perfect practice/small gig amp.

Vega

I love the look of this setup. Both pieces are beautifully aged. The ‘tobacco sunburst’ and the fabric covered Vega suggest a dim lit smokey jazz or blues bar. The Silvertone guitar series were sold by Sears Roebuck up until the 70’s. They were cheap guitars at the time with surprisingly good sound.

For the past few years I’ve been practicing exclusively on my Carl Barney archtop, usually without an amp. The Barney looks so modern compared to the Silvertone. The two guitars make a great pair.

These DiDonato heirlooms will see much attention in the years to come.

The Cheese Files vol II

We continue with our second edition of the Cheese Files as we explore the offerings of Fromage in Old Saybrook.

This week’s cheese? Pratomagno.

Pratomagno is a mountainous region in Italy southeast of Florence so calling a cheese ‘Pratomagno’ by itself is probably uncouth. My uneducated pallet would compare this particular cheese to a parmesan or a romano. This fact with a little internet searching results in my guessing that perhaps this is actually some variety of Pecorino Pratomagno.

As a firm Italian cheese, this Pratomagno cheese is decent. It’s firm and fragrant and a pleasure to grate. Our primary method of consumption thus far has been via the grater on bruschetta or pasta. That said, I don’t think it’s anything overly special.

Taste 2/4
Price $$
Independence: Low

Enjoyable but not overly memorable.

Non-marbits

The Non-Marshmallows

Jen and I coupon as much as we can. The efforts of couponing often fill our pantry with unique foody pleasures that we would never otherwise pause to appreciate. So here I am, writing a post about Lucky Charms.

Quick now, let’s test our memories. How many of the Lucky Charm marshmallows can you name?

click on ‘read more’ to see the answer

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