Thursday, January 30, 2014

Life Pledge #4 - Recycling

This fourth Life Pledge is super simple. I've been recycling now for 25 years, basically since it was invented! So it's no surprise that I am making a Life Pledge to Recycle as much as possible and to find alternatives to the containers that are handed out in stores.

One cup Durobor French Press
My parents gave us a Keurig Coffee pod Machine for Christmas. They may be all the rage but we returned ours to the store after researching online that over 10 Billion one cup containers were dumped into the landfill last year alone! We tried the reusable filter that can be separately purchased but we could not get the coffee to taste any better than instant and loose tea has to steep which is not possible using a Pod Machine.  I can see the convenience of the machine if you need to drive a long distance to work but that doesn't fit our family situation.

Still using a paper coffee filter? Get a reusable filter or French Press (<= learn how to use one).  Your coffee will taste better and no filter is required.

I also stopped accepting paper to go cups, I simply bring my own insulated ceramic cup with rubber lid.

No more paper cups, I bring my own.
Last year I decided to refuse plastic bags at any stores. I made it through 2013 with only accepting 4 bags! I am pretty amazed that I was able to accomplish such a feat given it's such an automatic practice in the US.  Even more amazing is the fact that we have a rack stuffed with bags even though I never accepted any last year. They trickle in when people give me something or when my husband makes his very few shopping trips. At least I can use the extras for the copious amounts of Cat Poo generated in our household. It has taken me many years to finally realize that my reusable shopping bags must be in my purse in order to actually have them make it into the Grocery Store.  I kick myself when I don't have one and cashiers simply do not understand my request to just put the Bread, Chips, or Broccoli (all in a bag already) in the cart without inserting it into another bag. What is with our general mentality of wastefulness in the US? It's such a bad habit we've created. It seems every year a .05 a bag tax is attempted through the State of Virginia legislation but fails.  2 Billion bags go into our landfills each year. I've gotten smarter and to avoid any funny looks at the grocery store, I self scan my items. I'm used to it and it doesn't take that much longer and I can pack my items exactly as I like them.

All my shipping boxes are from others.
Locally, only 34% of our trash is recycled.  That is shocking for a town touted as "progressive". It's so easy to recycle.  Trash pickup companies now offer a co-mingled service.  I've read it is not as good as doing it yourself but it's better than no attempt at recycling.  I separate our recyclables and take it to the McIntire Recycling Center in downtown Charlottesville. It's fun to see the activity and you never know what treasure you will find. There is even a book exchange trailer (only in Cville huh) where it is reported that valuable books have been snagged.

Do your part, use those reusable shopping bags that we all have but forget to take to the store - GET THEM INTO YOUR CAR and out of your house. Set a goal and stick to it - if you forget your bags, run back to your car and GET THEM! Think about the packaging your are bringing home - the less you bring in the less you have to recycle later.  Buy in bulk, it saves on packaging materials.

Have a recycling tip, I would love to hear what you are doing! Leave a comment on my blog post.


Saturday, January 11, 2014

Historical Levy Lion Library Research

Early Humane Society Activists, 1915 by Holsinger
My continued research of the Levy Lions has educated me as to where to find local historic information. I'm impressed to learn that there is a wealth of cataloged articles and photographs online. I couldn't help but pick up facts about not only my topic of research but other local trivia. At the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society (ACHS) around the backside of the Main Library downtown, Librarian Ms. O'bryant immediately steered me in the right direction. She presented to me a wonderful book with photographs taken from 1887 - 1925 by "the" local professional photographer, Rufus Holsinger. Two photos in the book stand out in my mind, Charlottesville's First Automobile and Women Distributing Pamphlets for the Humane Society. It's so easy to travel off topic down another thread. For now, I'm focused on obtaining the detailed history of the four life size Levy Lion statues that were once standing at Monticello. With each blog post, I discover a bit more and sort out the oral details with corresponding published accounts.

1950s Rear of Lions w Ellen Buckner Wills & sons at Belle M.
My original blog post about the two pairs of Levy Lions that were at Monticello led me down the path to determine what happened to these historic statues. In my last blog post about the Lions, I questioned if the oral history was true that the pair of Ball Foot Lions resided at Belle Meade Plantation in Nashville. The Curator at the plantation, John Lamb, has verified that the owner of the Lions, that donated them to Cheekwood Gardens, also owned Belle Meade Plantation from 1938 to the early 1950s. John provided two photos of the lions. In one undated photo they were nearly lost in overgrown brush but in another they were positioned at the entry into the Gardens.

Microfilm Reader at Main Library
The Daily Progress newspaper microfilm located in the reference room at the Jefferson Madison Regional Library holds a wealth of information. Scanned images of the newspaper from 1893 - 1923 are online without an index. The difficulty is that you can not keyword search and have to visually examine each page. But fear not, fortunately an experienced Librarian can aid with your search and Ms. O'bryant at the ACHS handed me a gem of a find - an index of "some" key headlines and amazingly it led me directly to the Lions. Because my search was for articles published in the year 1928, I had to search "old school" through a microfilm reader. Actually this process ended up being easier than online (sometimes older is better)!

My closeup of one of the ball foot Lions from Holsinger 1912
I also checked out one of the most interesting libraries in Charlottesville, the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library. To access material you have to show an id, log in and materials are brought to you. No coats, handbags, paper, pen, backpacks, etc can be taken into the reading room. You are provided their pencil and paper and that's it. You really do have a sense that the materials that you are handing are special and protected (and they are). Thankfully, many photographs that I was searching for were located online, accessible from my computer at home.  A quick save to my hard drive was all that was required to obtain wonderful images of the Lions which allowed me to enhance and crop.

One of 2 Lions at New York Public Library
Interestingly, I unearthed several published columns in The Daily Progress from 1928 and 1929 referring to the whereabouts of the Levy Lions. Published on Friday, November 16, 1928 was an ad for the November 17 auction that was to sell off furniture and furnishings not belonging to Thomas Jefferson. Librarian O'bryant planted a seed that may be the auction did not happen at Monticello and interestingly I found a short column in the November 17th newspaper that mentioned as part of the sale, "some garden statuary that came from Italy was shipped to Plaza Art Rooms in New York City for exhibition and sale." Wow, that is an amazing discovery! Some items were sent elsewhere and not auctioned on site at Monticello. Gives me a good excuse to go back to New York to do a bit of research.

November 16 1928 The Daily Progress
Apparently in 1929 local citizenry became curious as to the disposal of the two Ball Foot Lions that were pictured on the back of the $2.00 bill.  It was remarked that they were printed on the bill but were not currently at Monticello or even there in Thomas Jefferson's day, that the lions were placed shortly after purchase of Monticello by Mr Levy. The famous Lions went a missing at some point - who had them? It was published a few week later that Mrs. Mark Henderson purchased them from the foundation (no reference to "at auction") and gave them to her sister in Nashville. Hence, the future fate of two of the four Lions was to reside in Nashville. I'm concluding that this was the same Mrs. Mark (Josephine) Henderson that owned Michie Tavern and coordinated the Tavern's move, board by board, from Earlysville to its present location down the road from Monticello.

One of the 2 Lion Statues w Shield Holsinger 1912
I've still not been able to sniff out the location of the pair of lost Lions with Shields. Did they end up being shipped to New York? There was an oral reference that the Ball Foot Lions were found in a junkyard. May be instead the shield pair ended up in a junkyard and not the ball foot pair.  Time to head back to the Small Collections Library to search meeting minutes of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation for clues.


Friday, January 3, 2014

What's the Plan, It's a New Year

A cool Leo the Lion pin Brooch for sale in my Etsy Shop.
As a new year begins it's time for reflection and future plans. It's the perfect time for me to cozy up beside the wood stove and tie up loose ends for my online business. Tax submission is always last minute for me and I enjoy it like a root canal but at least I have a jump on it with all income and expenses logged online in my accounting software,  I would die without this free online software, it has really made tax preparation a breeze. 

TV Room before painting.
TV Room after painting.

Now that we have been settled into our home for 4 years, I anticipate 2014 to be the year for tweaking. We've checked off many of the major home repair projects but there are a few small jobs still on the list.  Several rooms need paint touch ups, our little shed needs to be painted, our kitchen still needs decent flooring, and we need to lay some tile in front of the wood stove. This past Fall while I was in New York City my husband painted the dark paneling in our TV room a bright neutral color.  It seemed like a project that would never be completed since it's the most used room in the house and room deconstruction seemed improbable. That was a major undertaking as was installing a liner for our wood stove, the prior year, but thankfully both are behind us now. 

Annual patch of Cosmos we grow from seed each year.
This gardening season, I'm going to try and not to add new plants or beds and simply tweak what I have and grow my usual tomatoes, peppers, and herbs from seed. Last year I found a wonderful seedling lamp at a yard sale that I'll put to good use. I hope to visit more gardens this year and my husband and I even talked about a trip to Nashville to check in on the Levy Lions at Cheekwood Gardens. That all depends on if we can find a chicken sitter that wants to rise at the crack of dawn to let the girls out!

NEW cute patent leather black shoes I'm selling for a friend.
In reflecting on last year, my online business continues to grow. I have 5 online shops now, 2 on Etsy, and shops on Storenvy, Bonanza, and Ebay. I have three consignment clients which makes it all the more interesting and it's fun to see who buys what and where it ships. We now have a tablet that cha-chings whenever I make a sale - how fun is that! So far, each year I sell 100 more items than the prior year so I hope to continue down that path as momentum and experience sets in.

Dear Simba

Sweet Sally

We experienced several losses last year in the pet department. Our dear old doggie, Simba, finally passed at 16 years and we lost several sweet chickens of natural causes. My favorite chicken, Sally the Comet died a week after Simba, most chickens only live 5 - 6 years. 

As far as saving money, I did a fast tally on what I saved last year by couponing and buying on sale.  I was happy to discover savings of over $1,300. This year I am going to try and do more crockpot cooking, and of course continue to seek out organic and non-GMO foods.  It's my own personal protest again what is happening to our seed diversity and purity! I've found that vegetables really DO taste better organic (compare some bananas or potatoes for starters). We eat mainly vegetarian and non-prepared foods so will continue down that path as well. 

Ivy Creek Natural Area where River meets Reservoir.
To welcome in the New Year, my husband and I hiked along the Peninsula Trail at Ivy Creek Natural Area. It's a hard time of year to find something green to photograph but I always seem to snag that perfect unexpected shot. The only wildlife we spotted was one lone deer, some Chickadees, and across the Reservoir the green heads of several male Mallard Ducks. I hope to exercise in some manner each day but that continues to always be difficult, it's only day 3 in 2014 and I couldn't manage to get off the computer yesterday to meet that goal.

My favorite photo I took last year, Kevin Floodlight Dahlia
Wishing you a Happy New Year and find something meaningful to submerge yourself into during 2014 but only tweak not twerk... you wouldn't want to hurt yourself!


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