Monday, February 28, 2011

E-cycling (Electronics Recycling)

Recycled 2 very very old DirecTV receivers today!

Electronics are becoming a HUGE source of waste! Most people have no idea what to do with their non-functioning old electronics. You can read more about "e-cycling" (electronics recycling) on the EPA's website here:

Did you know it's very easy to find a place to recycle your old electronics? Some stores like Best Buy and Staples (you already KNOW about my Staples love!) take electronics- most of them charge fees. Click the names of the stores to visit their e-cycling sites. At Best Buy they charge $10 to recycle certain things, but you get a $10 gift card in return for some specific electronics... not bad.

You can try these sites to find out more about electronics recycling:
My Green Electronics
ECycling Central

Also Google is a wonderful, wonderful thing. To find a place to take my electronics I just Googled "electronics recycling [my city] {state}" and results popped right up! If you don't live in a big city, try searching for your town and state anyway. You might be surprised! If nothing pops up in your immediate area, try searching for the biggest city closest to you. You may find somewhere relatively close where you can drop things off, and most recycling places don't charge a fee (at least that is what I've been told).

Friday, February 25, 2011

More 2011 in 2011

Adding more items to my 2011 goal for 2011 (read about it here).
Finally ran errands and made some donations today! And threw away one thing that wasn't recyclable (at least not in my area)...

For a total of 42 items today. And these are without even trying- for the most part, things that I set aside as we unpacked in the fall and just kept piling up. Finally got them out of the house today! :)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

2011 in 2011

My friend Jen (over at Jen and Joey Go Green blog) posted recently about a "2011 in 2011" challenge. The idea is to get rid of 2011 things in the year 2011! "Get rid of" meaning: donate, recycle, throw away, sell, give away. Since we just (ok 5 months ago) moved, it's been the perfect time to really unpack and analyze everything we have and why we need it. Of course we don't need it all. The office (in this case 'my' office because it's all my mess) is crowded and cluttered and I can say the same for other rooms in the house. The problem is I don't even know what to do with some of the stuff. Participating in this challenge will force me to FIGURE OUT what to do with the stuff! :)

So here are the rules, from KidStuffWorld:

What Counts
Anything that has taken up residence in your home. Any item using valuable floor/counter/table space you could be using or areas you could be not using in a more calming, soothing way. This could be stacks of papers and magazines, clothing you no longer need or wear, items in your cupboards you haven’t touched in years, toys no one plays with, hair and body products you have never opened … you get the idea.

What Doesn’t Count
The only items not included in our challenge are things you will be replacing with an item of a similar nature (i.e, – food, recycling, beauty supplies you use on a constant basis, laundry detergent) and items you bring in your home after you start the challenge, like mail, new clothing, etc.

The only exceptions to these guidelines are 1) when you leave mail lying on the counter for a week (or more) and it takes control of your kitchen. Go ahead and toss it and count it. Or 2) when you find 5 empty TP rolls in your guest bath or 3) large empty bottles of laundry detergent in your laundry room just junking up the place. Don’t be hard on yourself, just tally them in with your other items and be done with it. Vow to do better the next time around.

 While I didn't actually commit to participating until this morning, since the challenge is for 2011 and not just the rest of 2011, I'll count up some things I've gotten rid this year of that were cluttering up the house thus far:

3 picture frames (sold via Operation Fill-A-Frame project)
2 cell phone chargers (mailed out in a Cell Phones For Soldiers envelope)
1 cell phone (mailed out in a Cell Phones For Soldiers envelope)
1 canvas print (had it for 3 years and hadn't sold it yet, so gave it to our new rental tenant as a housewarming gift)

So that's 7 items without yet trying :) 
I also have about 10 old towels bagged up downstairs to deliver to an animal shelter (they're bleached and/or stained from cleaning) and a few other items like that, but won't count them yet since they're not actually out of the house. 

I'll be sure to post updates on this and try to remember to keep it updated. Let me know if you're doing the challenge, too!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Another great item from BuildASign! :)

I received the last of my promotional items in the mail from! It's a fully customized aluminum license plate!

You can go on BuildASign's website and create a fully customized license plate, or personalize one of the many templates they have available. Way cool!

While I can't legally put this on my car and drive around in the state of Virginia (a REAL plate is required on both the front and back of the car here), it's going to be a wonderful item to have with me for people to touch and feel when I'm out promoting the plates. I was squeeing with delight when it arrived in the mail and I pulled it out of the packaging! It's so cool to see it in person, to get a real feel for how it's going to look when I finally get these things passed into legislation, and BuildASign did a great job with the print. The plate is sturdy and feels like if I have to it around to a lot of events, it won't get scratched up in the process; the ink most certainly does not feel like it's going to easily start rubbing off or anything like that.

(Oh, one thing my husband pointed out- he asked why Virginia wasn't centered. That was definitely not Build-A-Sign's fault, that was all me- when I was building the template I just tried to make sure everything that I wanted to fit on the plate was within the bleed area, I didn't even really look at where things were centered. My fault, not theirs!)

I haven't mentioned the plates much since I created their own special website, . Right now the goings-on focus only on the state of Virginia, and I know I have readers from other places :)  But if you're in a state that you think would enjoy showing its love of pollinators via fancy-pants vehicular accessory, by all means let me know. We can research how to get one passed in your state and I'd love to work on another new and unique design!

Friday, February 11, 2011

"In The Waiting Line" Operation Fill-A-Frame #6
Operation Fill-A-Frame #6 is complete! This one is very similar to #5 and thus has the same title (with a 2 at the end). "In The Waiting Line 2" is another butterfly and caterpillar study, this time featuring the Tiger Swallowtail, also known as the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail.

Just like the Monarch "In The Waiting Line 1", the mat of this picture is outside of the glass, not under it. (It feels like a hard wood or plastic and is painted.) The two drawings are on a single sheet of Canson Recycled Bristol art paper, and the drawing was created with ink and my Forest Choice colored pencils.

This was another quick one, and thus, is a cheap one! $25 for this framed original drawing in my Etsy shop- you can see the listing here :)

Man, oh man, did I learn a LOT while researching this piece.

First of all, let's talk about this caterpillar.
Years and years ago I painted a swallowtail caterpillar- does this guy look familiar?

He is, indeed, a swallowtail caterpillar. When I took the original photo of him and looked him up, that's what I learned. It made sense because the year I found him, our yard was covered in yellow tiger swallowtail butterflies.
It turns out, he's NOT the caterpillar of the tiger swallowtail. Nope. (It's very easy to get confused because if you do a Google image search for Tiger Swallowtail Caterpillar, just "swallowtail caterpillar" is included in the search and pictures of those guys come up!)

He is the caterpillar of the Black Swallowtail butterfly, seen here:

Photo by Derek Ramsey (Ram-Man)
So if those caterpillars weren't from the tiger swallowtail, then where did all those butterflies come from? And why were they staying??

Answer- because their host plant is (....drumroll....) the Tulip Tree! Well, that is one of their host plants (this should look familiar, too!) Our house was surrounded on all sides by Liriodendrons (I also learned the Tulip Tree has a bunch of different names!)  :)
And their caterpillars look way, way, way different than the guy above that I painted! What's very interesting is the variation in the caterpillars themselves. I was looking all over the web for clarification of the different caterpillars and didn't understand why so many different looking ones were all tagged as the tiger swallowtail.

Some are bright neon green. Some are brown. Some are multicolored. This is due to the different instars of the caterpillar. Each time the caterpillar sheds its skin, it looks slightly different. This happens to a lot of caterpillars, but this one seems quite dramatic to me.

Imagine my world being turned upside down upon finding out this whole time I've been telling people this caterpillar grows into the wrong butterfly!  (Sorry!)

Imagine my confusion when I found out that all male tiger swallowtail butterflies are yellow and black, but only some of the females are yellow and black. The rest are just plain black! (There is also a rare morph of the two.)
See great pictures and the explanation here:
Eventually I'll learn the differences.... but in my confusion and endless searching for which butterfly was which, I found out there are Black Swallowtails, Black Tiger Swallowtails, Spicebush Swallowtails, and Pipevine Swallowtails


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

How To Tuesday: Signature after your blog post!

I'm sure that a lot of you have visited blogs where people post and at the end of each blog post is their signature. Or something that looks like a signature. I know when I first saw it on a blog I thought, "Hey, I want that! That looks cool!" It makes the blog seem more personalized... almost like you're reading a real letter from a person. Which is funny... because adding a signature to your post is a completely automated process :) One which I'm sure Blogger will simplify and have a gadget/option for in no time at all.

But until then, what's a blogger to do?
...Fake it.

1. Before you can add a signature to your blog post, you'll need... a signature! An image (.gif, .jpg, .png, etc.) hosted somewhere online. You may even be able to use the Picasa album that Blogger sets up for you- but I'm not too familiar with how that works. Anyway, create your image, then upload it and save it somewhere online.

2. After you upload your image, right click it and copy down the address (or open it in a new window so the address is visible in the address bar.)

3. Go to your Blogger dashboard page and click on "Design" at the top. Then click "Edit HTML."

4. If you want to be safe, click on the "Download Full Template" link at the top of the page and save it in case you screw up. If you want to live on the edge, skip this step!!

5. Check the box that says "Expand Widget Templates."

6. Click your mouse in the HTML code window.
(Note: Apparently the blog code is done in XML, which kicked my butt a little when I was trying to do this, since I was using HTML....)

6a. At the top of your web browser's main menu, click Edit, then click Find
(in most browsers you can hit CTRL + F or Command + F on a [much cooler] Mac!).

6b. Then enter this in the Find:  
<div class='post-footer'>
(you can copy and paste from here to be sure to get it right.)

7. If you found that code in the HTML code window, insert the following code above it, on the line before it: 
<br><img src='http://www.YourImageAddressOnTheWeb'/></br>

Be sure to include the file extension of your image at the end of the address! 

You're basically going to add <br><img src=''/></br> and then insert your complete  image address location between those two single quotes :)

* * * * * * GEEKERY ZONE * * * * * * * * * * GEEKERY ZONE * * * * * * *

The <br> and </br> put your signature image under your blog post, on a separate line (instead of next to the text).
The <img src=''/> tells the internets where to find the image you want to display.

* * * * * * * * RESUME NORMAL NON-GEEKY ACTIVITIES * * * * * * * * *

8. Click Save Template. If you don't get any mean bright red error messages, congratulations! You did it right!
Now view your blog.
If you want more space around your image, you can try
<br><br><img src='http://www.YourImageAddressOnTheWeb'/></br></br>
instead. The extra <br> at the beginning and </br> at the end will give your image another separate line before it.

That's it!
If it doesn't work, and you keep playing around with it and it still won't work, you can either click "Clear Edits" or upload the file you saved of your original HTML... if you saved it!

*PLEASE* Let me know if this works for you, or if it doesn't, or if you have questions. Different blog templates work slightly differently and I used the coding that worked for my template... but I can't test them all.
If you comment here I'll try to come back and respond! I hope this works for at least someone out there who finds it and is helpful to you! :)

Monday, February 7, 2011

"In The Waiting Line" Operation Fill-A-Frame #5

Operation Fill-A-Frame #5 is complete! This was one of the frames I was looking forward to filling the most. "In The Waiting Line" features a big (4th instar) Monarch Caterpillar, crawling and munching his way among the Milkweeds, awaiting the time to turn into a chrysalis and become a beautiful Monarch butterfly!

The title seemed appropriate for a caterpillar and was also the name of a song I listened to while creating the art- listen here:

The mat of this picture is outside of the glass, not under it. (It feels like a hard wood or plastic and is painted.) The two drawings are on a single sheet of Canson Recycled Bristol art paper, and the drawing was created with ink and my Forest Choice colored pencils. I hadn't done a colored pencil drawing with ink in a long time- maybe not since my 30 bugs in 30 days project! I yearned to do something a little realistic, a little cartoony, and so this was created.

This was a quick one, and thus, is a cheap one! $25 for this framed original drawing in my Etsy shop- you can see the listing here :)

I have another frame identical to this one and will probably do another caterpillar/butterfly combo drawing. I'm thinking an eastern Yellow Tiger Swallowtail butterflies for the next one!

Friday, February 4, 2011

UPCYCLING on the brain!!

It must have been giving new life to all these old picture frames* that got me slightly obsessing over upcycling recently.
I've found myself second-guessing almost *anything* I'm throwing out!
(* Technically my Fill-A-Frame project isn't really upcycling, more like "fixing up" since I'm just either filling up existing frames that are already in good condition, or re-painting those that aren't in such good shape.)

First of all, you may ask, what's "upcycling"? Is it different from recycling? If so, how?
Upcycling is to giving new life to something that otherwise would have been thrown out- thrown out into the trash or the recycle bin, whichever. We've all heard reduce, reuse, recycle. Upcycling can be thought of simply as the reuse part of that.

You don't even have to reuse it for what it was originally intended. For example, you don't have to take an old plastic bottle (from soda or water) and fill it back up with something else to drink. You could cut it in half and make two little domes to put on top of seeds you've planted and are awaiting germination!

The difference with recycling is that the bottle would go to a processing plant where it would be melted down with other plastics and eventually formed into something else. (You could still recycle the bottle after using it for your seed-greenhouse, of course.)

Back in December I started learning about Winter Sowing. Have you heard of it? In a nutshell, you fill a container with dirt (make sure it has drainage holes or add your own), plant seeds in it (most times native seeds or plants that reseed themselves in your gardening zone work best), cover it with clear plastic (with holes in it), stick it outside, and at the appropriate time in Spring the seeds will figure out when to germinate and do so!! Then you can plant little clumps of the seedlings right in your garden. There's no worrying about wildlife eating them, there's no hardening off, there's no taking up a ton of room in every warm windowsill of your house.

Here is a whole page about it if you want to learn more!

Upcycling is HUGE in the winter sowing community! I have occasionally poked drainage holes into the bottom of a yogurt or margarine container to try and grow a plant big enough to be planted outside. I had no idea there was a whole cult of people who do it every year- sometimes with HUNDREDS of containers in every shape and size- to get their seeds started for their gardens. Amazing!


I've always had such terrible luck with seeds, even back when I had a greenhouse. I planted many many seeds and ended up with only a handful of plants to show for them- some lime green zinnias and okra and tomatoes. It was the hardening-off process that did them in, but with winter sowing the seedlings were born outside, so they're completely ready for the outdoors!

My collection of random seeds in my repurposed pottting station
I've started a few flats of seeds myself- so far, just 3.
A plastic tray from some edamame became a greenhouse for some Campion seeds.
A plastic tray from Ortega taco shells became a greenhouse for some Larkspur seeds.
A plastic tub (with holes already in the top and bottom!!) from grape tomatoes became a greenhouse for Black-Eyed-Susan seeds.
I've got 2 empty strawberry tubs to use, also with drainage and ventilation holes already in them. I plan to put Pink Coneflower in one and.... not sure about the other.

I have so many seeds saved up I don't even know what some of them are!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Banner from is here :)

I just got my Pollinator Plates custom banner from!

I am so happy with it!

Here it is!

What's great about this banner:
  • The banner material itself feels super strong and durable. Honestly, for the prices online (this one is a 24" x 48"- that's 2'x4'- and only $23 and I'm not even kidding), I was expecting something flimsier that might tear easily and probably not last for very many uses. I was very pleasantly surprised!
  • The colors came out very true-to-life. Colors usually vary from monitor to monitor, and a slight variation wouldn't have disappointed me. Again, another pleasant surprise! It looks exactly the same as the image that I sent to them! The colors are so bright and vivid!
  • It also came with 4 grommets, one in each corner. Again, for something so inexpensive, I expected maybe one grommet in each top corner for hanging. 

I am so pleased with this!

It will be the perfect size for a 6-foot table or a 10-foot booth spot, the sizes I've seen most commonly at various events. My little table is 5-feet long, so it will work with that as well. Once I can start the official process of collecting license plate applications, I plan to go "out in the field" as much as I can, to as many events as I can, to obtain as much interest as possible. I will even dress up in my bee costume if that is what it takes... (But hopefully with an eye-catching banner like THIS, the bee costume won't BEE necessary.)

So if you're in need of a banner, I highly recommend! You can order from their templates, or use their online design software (VERY easy), or create your own custom design (like I did here with this one).They have lots of other fun stuff besides banners, such as personalized street signs and license plates, stickers, signs, magnetics. Playing around on their website made me miss my days of working back at the sign shop.... Le sigh.....