Dehumidifiers come in handy for January thaws

I’m heading back to Connecticut to celebrate my mom’s birthday this weekend, and so I’ve been in touch with my folks quite a bit to iron out the details of my homecoming. So far, our family has a fun weekend planned, partaking in all of my mom’s favorite activities to celebrate her big day. But, when I was on the phone with my dad today, he told me that the weather has been causing a bit of worry at home.

While temperatures hovered around zero degrees last week, today, much of the Northeast experienced what is called a January thaw, with temperatures nearing 60 degrees. That, combined with the fact that it has recently snowed in Connecticut, could be the recipe for a flooded basement. Rather than just allow all of the melting ice to wreak havoc on the cellar of our house, though, my dad decided to get proactive. 

His opinion is that if there’s moisture coming into the room, he may be able to stop it from becoming a flood using a dehumidifier. Additionally, this tool is very helpful for preventing mold once you’ve cleaned up floodwaters that may have cascaded into your basement. Therefore, as soon as my dad saw a drastic rise in temperature in the weather forecast, he got out his dehumidifier, and even went out to get a second one so that the entire space might dry out more quickly. 

But, after glancing at the predictions for this weekend, it seems that he doesn’t have to be that worried about the hot temperatures after all. Things are supposed to get cold enough to snow in just a few days. Hopefully, this brief swing into unseasonably warm weather will be just brief enough to avoid causing any trouble, but in case it does, my dad is happy to know that he’s prepared. 

It’s time for my Super Bowl brew to go in the refrigerator

When I decided to brew my own beer as a part of my New Year’s resolution, I had no idea how much fun the process would be. But even though I have yet to enjoy the finished product, the process has been so much fun. Yesterday was possibly my most exciting step yet, since in just two days time, my beer will be perfect for drinking. 

After a long day at work, I arrived home, took off my shoes, and had dinner. I was getting ready for a quiet evening in, when I remembered that my home-brewed beer had finished its one-week fermentation and carbonation process, and it was now fully brewed. Obviously I’m excited to find out how it tastes and show if off to my friends at our Super Bowl party, but the directions recommended that the beer be chilled for two days before drinking so that it is at the optimal temperature. 

So, I cleared out some space in my refrigerator and moved all of the bottles of my own hand made beer onto the shelf. Then I called my friend Jason, who helped me with brewing the beer, and let him know that the process was now complete, and the beer was chilling in the fridge getting ready to drink. We made a plan to sample the beers on Friday afternoon so that we know if our product is good enough to bring to the Super Bowl party. 

I can hardly wait until Friday to find out how the beer tastes, but I’m sure it’s going to be delicious. I can’t wait to show off my new hobby to all of my friends, and if it goes well, I’ll start doing it regularly! 

Bring a game for a last-minute babysitting activity

Last night, I had only been home from work for a few minutes when I got a call on my cell phone from Mrs. Johnson, who lives up the street from me. When I answered, I could tell she was stressed out, but she sounded glad that she could reach me. 

When I asked her what was wrong, Mrs. Johnson told me that her daughter Katie’s babysitter had just called to cancel on only 15 minutes’ notice and that she and her husband had an important parent meeting to attend at Katie’s school. Then, she asked if I would be willing to come over and watch her daughter. 

I never mind being helpful and babysitting, and Katie’s a really great kid, so I said yes right away. I knew I would have to bring a fun activity for us to do, however, since the Johnsons are strict, and don’t let their daughter watch any TV on weeknights. It’s not as if they want her to spend every waking moment in her room studying, but they are worried that kids these days are becoming too media-dependent, and want Katie to spend her free time interacting with other people instead. 

Normally when I go to babysit Katie, I take some time to prepare a fun activity that the two of us can do together, but I told Mrs. Johnson that I would be right over to her house, and didn’t have time to come up with anything. Instead, I grabbed my game of Suspend, knowing how much fun I find it to be, and guessing that Katie would be good at it. 

When I got there, I got out my set, and Katie and I played a really good game together! After her parents got back home, they thanked me for bringing a fun, engaging game, and said they would definitely have me back. 

Electric heaters provide an important source of warmth for Hurricane Sandy refugees

A few months after Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on New York City and New Jersey, most of us have continued on with our lives. Distractions like the holiday season and the general passage of time have put the focus back on our own lives, and taken it off of those who lost so much in this devastating super storm. 

But this weekend I was looking at the news online, and I came across an article about the recent arctic blast that shuddered its way across the Northern portion of the United States. While many of us were staying indoors to keep out of the temperatures that hovered around zero degrees, numerous refugees from Hurricane Sandy were facing much bigger problems. 

Because of problems with insurance or a general lack of funds, a great many people whose homes were rendered uninhabitable due to the storm have been sleeping in makeshift shelters or trailers, while they rely on an electric heater to provide them with protection from the cold. 

Fortunately, these portable devices were able to keep the victims of Sandy safe from hypothermia during the cold temperatures, but I’m certainly not envious of their situation. Whenever I hear about people who have been displaced from their homes like that, I remember that I’m fortunate to have a roof over my head and an electric heater of my own. 

I like my space heater because it keeps me warmer when my radiator isn’t doing the trick, but it’s nice to know that this same device could one day save my life. Either way, I’m hoping that the worst of winter is over, and I’m looking everywhere for signs that spring is coming. That way I’ll soon enough be complaining about the hot weather again. 

A pedometer has put the focus back on my daily workout

A few years ago, I would never skip a day in my workout routine. It didn’t matter what I needed to get done, I always carved out at least a half hour for cardio or strength training. Because I was in shape, I loved my daily workout, and looked forward to it as a relaxing point in the day.  

But, like so many others, I went on vacation during one summer, and stopped working out. I thought I was just taking a day off, but soon enough a day turned into a week and then I was out of my routine and out of shape. It has been on my to-do list to get back into shape for a few years now. I missed the physical activity as well as the time to myself, but starting back up seemed like an insurmountable task. 

This weekend, I was talking about this problem with my roommate Veronica, and she told me that she’s trying to begin exercising again as well. I suggested that we hold each other accountable for our daily workouts, since it might be easy to get back into shape if the goal depended on someone else. Veronica agreed, and we started that day. 

On Monday, I came home from work and was already thinking about giving up on my new resolution. After all, I was tired and it was freezing outside. When I got to my house, Veronica was waiting for me. She had gone online and bought pedometers for each of us so that we can compare the amount of steps we’ve taken and calories we’ve burned. 

I think it’s a great idea, since this brings out my competitive streak. Now, I don’t go anywhere without my pedometer, since our calorie counts have been very close, and I know every step counts!

Bottling my handmade beer

Ever since I finished step three of my home brewing project, I have been excitedly checking the keg every day in order to see if the fermentation has finished. And, when I got home after work and looked at the beer yesterday, I could tell that it was done! There were a few dime-sized bubbles on the surface, and it was easy to tell that the yeast had settled because there was a layer of sediment at the bottom of the keg. 

The final way I could tell that the brewing was complete was that the liquid was no longer hazy, but instead clear to look at. I was thrilled to realize that the fermentation was complete, because this meant that I could bottle and carbonate my beer! It also means that I’m right on track to have hand-brewed beer in the fridge for Super Bowl Sunday. 

After following the instructions and carefully sanitizing the bottles, I added two-and-a-half teaspoons of white sugar to each one. After that, I filled each bottle from the keg, leaving about an inch and a half of room at the top for carbonation. 

Then I had to screw on all of the caps, and carefully turn each bottle over so that the sugar could mix in. The directions made it clear that I must not shake the containers at this point, so I did this very deliberately. 

Then I put the bottles right back in the closet where I had been keeping the keg so that they could carbonate and further ferment. According to the directions, this process takes between seven and 14 days. I can’t wait until I get to try my hand made beer next weekend! It’s sure to make the Super Bowl a more exciting event for all of us. 

My microbrewery experiment

This year, my resolution is to try new things. I really want to make sure that I’m getting everything I can out of life and that I continue to find  new challenges to take on, even if I’m not doing anything crazy.

Since I’m settled in my current apartment and job, this is the first year in a while where my resolution didn’t directly have to do with my home or work lives. Instead, I want to make sure that I don’t become bored by my situation and work to make myself more interesting.

Because of these goals, I thought I might try brewing my own beer at home. I have always loved to try new craft beers while out for drinks with friends or on a brewery tour, but it never occurred to me that I could do this myself as well.

In honor of my resolution, I ordered myself a Mr. Beer Deluxe Brewing Kit, and plan to have my first batch completed in time for the Super Bowl. It took me a while to decide which home brewery kit to try, but this one makes two gallons of beer – which is definitely enough to share with my friends – and has everything I need.

In addition to having all of the ingredients and materials that I need, this beer brewing kit has a refill so I can make two batches of beer without needing to buy new ingredients. Plus, it comes with an instructional DVD about the brewing process, which should be very helpful, since I’m a novice. I can’t wait to kick my year off right and get started!

Suspend is a fun game the whole family can enjoy

I’m heading back to Connecticut in a few weeks to spend some time with my parents for my mom’s birthday. It’s going to be really nice to see her and my dad and to catch up with a few friends that still live in the town where I grew up. 

Mostly, I’m excited to play games after dinner. Throughout my childhood, we played a game after dinner every Friday night no matter what. Even during high school, the rule was that my older sister and I weren’t allowed to go out and see our friends until dinner and game night were both finished. This was a great way of staying close with my family, and it also made me really appreciate games. 

Though we would rotate through all of the games that we had, my current favorite is from the game company Melissa and Doug called Suspend. The rules are simple, so you don’t have to worry about sore losers (like my dad) trying to cheat, and playing is a fun challenge for everyone. 

The game comes in a cylindrical tin, which contains the setup and 24 notched wire pieces. Once the tabletop stand is ready, everyone tries to hang their wire pieces on top of one another. And with each additional piece that is added, the balance shifts a different way. 

It’s really fun to see how my family and I can create a cool-looking statue out of the wire bars, and we get very competitive toward the end, trying to see who will win! 

I like playing suspend so much that I bought a set of my own to play with. A few of my friends and I got together last weekend and we had a blast. 

A pedometer is an excellent motivational weight loss tool

About a year ago, my mom decided that she needed to focus on cardio workouts more. She has always had a slight frame, and kept her workouts mostly to strength training and muscle toning. However, when she had a bone density scan, the doctor told her that she was in the early stages of osteoporosis.

Since she’s always been focused on health, my mom was surprised. But the doctor told her that it wasn’t cause for alarm just yet, but rather a sign that she needed to do more for her bone health. Her doctor told her to take an easily absorbed calcium supplement, and to focus on impact workouts.

According to Dr. Levine, my mom’s physician, impact-based workouts, like walking or running, are good for maintaining bone health and strengthening joints. As soon as she found out that there was something she could do, my mother was on board, and went out that afternoon to buy herself a new pair of sneakers and running clothes.

These days, my mom tries to go out for a speed walk or run with the dog every day, and makes sure that no matter what, she walks a mile. She figured out that three complete trips around the school where she works would constitute this distance, and will hand deliver messages to her colleagues instead of sending them an email.

It occurred to me that my mom’s goal of walking a mile every day would be a lot easier for her to maintain if she was counting every step she takes. And that’s when I realized that a pedometer would be perfect! I found a really nice one onlinethat counts steps, distance in miles as well as calories burned. Plus, it counts aerobic steps separately, so she can easily keep track of her goal.

Her birthday is coming up soon, and I can’t wait to give her this present!

Things are looking good with my home-brewed beer

After completing the brewing step, I had to put my Mr. Beer keg away and wait for the fermentation to take place on its own over the course of a week or two. For me, this has been both the most exciting and the most nerve wracking step so far, since I still can’t try the beer I made to find out what it’s like yet.

The directions told me that after 24 hoursit is possible to see the fermentation actually taking place within the keg with the help of a flashlight. I have taken it upon myself to check the keg (which I placed in my hallway closet so that it would be out of the way and avoid contamination from the light) every day.

Today, I came home for lunch because I had a long break at work. I couldn’t resist taking another peek at the keg of beer, since it’s almost ready. I could really see the bubbles swirling around, and if I placed my ear up to the keg, could even hear the noises of fermenting beer. It’s so exciting!

I texted Jason to thank him again for helping me to start this process, and let him know that things seem to be going well. Of course I won’t know for sure until this stage is over with and I’ve bottled and carbonated the beverage, but I think it’s going to turn out really well.

Best of all, I’m right on track to finish brewing by the Super Bowl, and my team is still in the running! The next few weeks should be so fun, and I can’t wait until I get to try my very own brew!