Grounds for a New Keurig?

By Mary Pat Baldauf

The last few weeks, I’ve noticed coffee grounds in my coveted cup of coffee at work from my desktop Keurig, which I’ve had for about five years.  First world problem, for sure, but annoying enough to investigate. Given the popularity of Keurigs these days – who doesn’t have one, right — I wanted to share the solution in case you, too, have grounds in your cup.

It turns out that the needle was clogged, and the fix was as easy as finding a paper clip. Lift the handle of your brewer to expose the brew basket (the area that you put the K-Cup® pod in). You’ll see the needle that punctures the bottom of the coffee pod.  Put the straightened end of the paper clip into the needle and gentle move it around and down to attempt to clear any debris.  For good measure, I also removed the brew basket and flushed it thoroughly with water.

While I’m on the subject of my Keurig, I also have to mention their recycling program, Grounds to Grow On. More than once, one of my green friends has chastised me for creating excess waste with those leftover pods. Grounds to Grow On offers workplaces an easy way to collect their brewed K-Cup pods to be recycled.IMG_20180209_165117_846

The process is simple: place your brewed pods in the Grounds to Grow On bin. Once the bin is full, present the bin with its pre-paid shipping label to UPS for pick-up, or drop it off at to any UPS location. Keurig takes it from there, turning the pods into recycled products – like aluminum cans and shipping pallets – and the coffee grounds into compost. There is a small fee for the boxes, but if you’re hard core tree-hugger like me, it’s a small price to pay for a guilt-free cup of coffee.

I heard about Grounds to Grow On from a member of the Midlands Green Business Program, Shealy Electrical. The Midlands Green Business program is a partnership between the City of Columbia, Lexington County, Richland County and Keep the Midlands Beautiful.  This free program recognizes businesses who adopt sustainable and eco-friendly business practices, thus keeping our community cleaner, greener and making it a more beautiful place to live. There are quarterly free networking breakfast meetings, which is more than worth the effort to complete the form and join the network. For information, visit Keep the Midlands Beautiful.

God’s Way of Remaining Anonymous

By Mary Pat Baldauf

Every so often, I am reminded that there are no coincidences, just intriguing and earthly manifestations of God’s love. I got one such reminder this today, and I thought it would make for a timely blog post.

After an anxious Monday morning, while stopped at what has got to be Columbia’s longest traffic light, I did a quick search on my smart phone for books about faith and anxiety. One book in particular caught my eye, Anxious for Nothing: Finding Calm in a Chaotic World by Max Lucado. I decided at lunch that I’d check Amazon to take a closer look at it and the other options listed.

The morning got away from me, and as it turns out, at lunch, I was asked to drop something off at church. As long as I was there, I decided to look at our church library. I walked in to find the volunteer librarian, who asked if she could help me. When I told her I was looking or a faith-based book on anxiety, she said that she’d just checked one in and scurried away to find it.coincidencealbert-e1504531764133-680x330

Imagine my surprise when she handed me Anxious for Nothing: Finding Calm in a Chaotic World. (And, wait, it gets better.) As I checked it out, she mentioned that there was a new small group starting to study the book. She gave me the details and promised to connect me with the group leader. Long story short, I’m now signed up for the small group. I have to miss the first class for an evening work event, but I’m going to read the first four chapters this week to be ready for next week’s class. (God is so awesome!)
Have you ever had a coincidence that you knew was really just God’s way of remaining anonymous? If so, and you’re the sharing type, please tell your story in the comments.

Introducing the Nation’s Newest STAR: Columbia, South Carolina

By Mary Pat Baldauf

Allow me to introduce the state’s first STAR certified community, my employer, the City of Columbia.LOGO_Best_star_seal_3star_r

STAR Communities, the nation’s leading framework for sustainability and certification program for evaluating local sustainability, recently recognized the City of Columbia for achieving a three-STAR rating. This achievement makes Columbia the first STAR-certified community in South Carolina and only the 64th in the country.

STAR Communities provides support as localities benchmark progress, and a robust third-party verification process ensures accountability. STAR helps communities evaluate their strengths and weaknesses across seven areas: the built environment; climate and energy; economy and jobs; education, arts and community; health and safety; and natural systems. There are over 500 outcomes and actions that comprise the evaluation.

Several items stood out among Columbia’s sustainability initiatives:

The December award presentation was the culmination of a two-year journey that began in September 2015. Personally, this was the first major project I took from start to finish after returning to work from my rehabilitation from a ruptured brain aneurysm in March 2015. And while the certification is certainly a personal victory, it’s also a big darn deal for the City of Columbia and our community partners.

STAR Award to City Council

With the certification, Columbia becomes a member of a pretty exclusive club. Fewer than 70 local governments have been certified with STAR Communities. Other STAR certified communities in the Southeast include Atlanta, Birmingham, Louisville, Memphis, Raleigh and Winston-Salem.

“We are incredibly excited and proud to be the first city in South Carolina to achieve a STAR rating,” said Mayor Steve Benjamin. “Our City staff and community have proven their commitment to making Columbia increasingly sustainable across a variety of performance areas, and this recognition provides us with an assessment backed by data that will help us determine our next steps. Through our Climate Action Protection Campaign (CAPC) and other programs, we will continue in our bold commitment to protecting our planet and fulfill our responsibility to our children, their children and beyond.”

The City’s participation in STAR was underwritten by grant from Siemens Cities Center of Competence (CoC), which is dedicated to working with cities to undertake key challenges as cities strive for economic growth and long-term sustainability.

For additional information, check out the City of Columbia’s STAR dashboard.
 

Toast the Season with Christmosas

By Mary Pat Baldauf

I have always enjoyed a good mimosa, the classic mix of champagne and orange juice, so I was intrigued when I saw a recipe for “Christmas Mimosas” on Pinterest.

Aside from a shot of Bailey’s in my morning coffee, Christmas day is generally pretty quiet for my family. My sister and I, both single without children, spend the night with my mother. We eat, sleep, put together puzzles, take a ride to see lights and exchange gifts – mostly relax and spend time with one another. But something about those “Christmosas” caught my eye, so I added them to my to–do list.

The ingredients are pretty simple; I picked up the grape juice and champagne during one of my many shopping trips and asked Sister to get the rest during hers.  I chilled the juice and prosecco and used frozen pomegranate seeds. I pre-chopped the grapes and bought sliced green apples and chilled those, too. I also popped the bag of cranberries, which are so plentiful during the holidays, in the freezer.

Come Christmas morning, I just tiptoed into the kitchen and put everything in a pitcher. (I did make a couple of adjustments. I didn’t have time to chop the apples finer, so didn’t add them. The cranberries were lovely, but not so good to eat, so I’ll probably add fewer next time.) Once Sister and Mom were up, we made a toast to my father, who passed away six years ago, and mark the passage of another year of fun and antics as the “Baldauf Chicks.”

This could definitely be the start of a new tradition. They were as pretty as they were delish, Sister and I sipped on them all day. (Mom was dizzy from a holiday illness, so we limited her to one.) So whether you save this to your holiday folder or make a batch for your next winter event, you can’t go wrong with these Christmosas.

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Christmas Mimosas (aka Christmosas)

Ingredients

  • 2 Granny Smith apples, chopped
  • 1 c. whole fresh cranberries
  • 1 c. green grapes, halved
  • 1 c. pomegranate seeds (also known as arils)
  • 1 c. sparkling grape juice
  • 1 bottle champagne, prosecco or cava

Directions

  1. In a large pitcher or punch bowl, add apples, cranberries, grapes and pomegranate seeds. Pour over sparkling grape juice and champagne just before serving.

 

 

 

 

Shop Late, If You Must, But Don’t Forget to Shop Sustainable

By Mary Pat Baldauf

There are still a few days left for holiday gift shopping, and if you’re like me, you’ll be using every last hour. A shopper at heart, I love buying gifts for the special people in my life. As a “green girl,” I shop with sustainability in mind and wanted to share some tips so you, too, can be a more sustainable holiday shopper on the last few days of this holiday season.

Think local. Studies show that every dollar spent generates twice as much income for the local economy, and who doesn’t like that? Because locally produced products are created here – not shipped in from across the country or even across the world – the footprint of your gift will be smaller and result in a cleaner, healthier environment.  Working for the City of Columbia, I do a lot of shopping in the Main Street District. My favorites for local goods include Soda City, Columbia’s Main Street market, and Uptown on Main, who also wraps gifts for free.

Consider consumables. Having issues with clutter myself, I refuse to create more for the holidays, for me or for others. My standard gift is usually a recycled-content ornament, but this year I’m only buying gifts that can be eaten or experienced. The Cotton Mill Exchange at the SC State Museum has a great selection of Palmetto State gifts, including gourmet foods produced within our borders. Or select a gift card to a local restaurant, bakery or micro-brewery. Personally, I’ll be asking Santa for a gift certificate to Spotted Salamander, a downtown Columbia café featuring inventive Southern cuisine with fresh, high quality local ingredients. And don’t forget Blue Flour Bakery’s fat and fabulous sugar cookies; with locations in Columbia and Irmo, they’re always a convenient treat.

Another favorite consideration? Think experiential. In the Midlands, it’s easy to find Nickelodeon Marquissomething for everyone on your list to enjoy, like tickets to a play or attraction you know they like. A donation in the name of your recipient will go a long way, too. At the top of my list is a membership to The Nickelodeon, Columbia’s art house theatre on Main Street. Experience gifts are true memory makers, and they don’t take up space on a shelf or need wrapping, either.

 

When you buy gifts, do you consider its impact on the environment and/or local community? Where is your favorite place to buy sustainable holiday gifts? And what is it you recommend there?  

Becoming a Better Adult by Taking Baby Steps

By Mary Pat Baldauf

Have you ever heard of Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University (FPU)? It’s a nine-lesson class on money management taught by financial guru, Dave Ramsey. The class focuses on the basics of budgeting, dumping debt and planning for the future. My boss had referred to it so much over the years that when my church offered it, I registered right away.1000-dave-ramsey-quotes-on-pinterest-dave-ramsey-financial-176713

Financial Peace University is offered nationally at different locations, many at churches and faith-based organizations. I was a little skeptical of a money class offered at a church, but it’s a non-denominational program offered at different churches in the Midlands, from my Presbyterian USA church (Eastminster Presbyterian) to United Methodist with a lot of churches in between.

Our class met on Wednesday evenings, and consisted of 10 people: three couples, a mother and son, and me. We met from 6:15 to about 7:30, where we watched DVDs and then held group discussions. For the $99 course fee, we received a book, workbook and a year’s access to a website featuring the video lessons, budget sheets and other online resources.

Ramsey breaks his class into the following seven baby steps. None of these steps are anything new or earth-shattering, but he presents them in such a way that really motivates you to think about things differently.

  1. $1,000 to start an Emergency Fund. (This was the hardest step for me, and I just completed it.)
  2. Pay off all debt using the “Debt Snowball.”
  3. Three to six months of expenses in savings.
  4.  Invest 15% of household income into Roth IRAs and pre-tax retirement.
  5. College funding for children.
  6. Pay off home early.
  7. Build wealth and give.

One thing that wasn’t a baby step was the recommendation to use cash to “feel” your purchases. Ramsey says, and I agree, that when you use cash, you tend to be more careful of your purchases and automatically spend less. Still, it’s taking some time to get used to using cash. (Thankfully, you can also use checks and/or a debit card for those purchases that don’t work as well with cash.)

The hardest part of the course for me was committing to nine Wednesdays in a row. Going to class every Wednesday decreased my eligible gym days by one, which most weeks left me with no “rest day.” I ended up missing two FPU classes, but was able to watch the videos online at my leisure.

Another hard part, I’m embarrassed to say, was saving $1000. I’d started an emergency savings account a few months before I took the class, so I had a small head start, but it’s not easy to find additional money in your paycheck. I played games with myself to find it: if I passed on spending anything, such as a new lipstick or dinner out, I’d transfer an equal amount to savings.

Completing baby step one, the $1000 savings, has been quite empowering. I know that if I have a true emergency, such as car trouble or a leaky toilet, I will have the money to cover it without having to use a credit card or ask Mom or Sister for help. It’s such a relief to know that it’s there, and thankfully I haven’t had to even think about using it yet.

I completed the class just before Thanksgiving, but I already feel so much better about things. I feel like a grown-up, in a good way, being prepared and thinking toward the future. I’ve now started on Baby Step Two, paying down debt with the snowball method. You rank your credit cards from lowest balance to highest, and start on the lowest one first. As you pay one off, you add that money to the next account, and so on until the debt is gone. Dave recommends starting with the lowest first to have some successes and build on that momentum. This will take longer than a couple of months, but I’ve budgeted to pay off one credit card by the end of December. (YAY!)

 

Getting Back to My Roots

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

No, I’m not doing one of those DNA “Who Am I” things that I keep seeing on TV. I have a cousin who does a lot of family tree researching, and that’s enough for me. Instead, I’m working on getting back to my hair color roots. I’m in the process of growing out the color and going back to my natural color – whatever THAT is.

I started coloring my hair as a teenager, starting with an innocent summer experiment with “Sun In.” It turned my dark brown hair a brassy orangey blonde. Next was my first professional “color correction,” and from there, I was hooked. I’ve been coloring my hair so long I don’t really remember the actual natural color.

After the aneurysm rupture, I said that if I’d had my head shaved for surgery, I would’ve started over with my hair color. I meant it, even though I continued to have it colored when I returned. I often admire and become a little jealous of friends who’ve bucked the temptation to color and sport their gray as it grows in. I also have a good role model; my mother has beautiful white hair (even though it took her some 40 years to flaunt it.)

After nearly 10 years with the same stylist – I’ll spare the drama – it was recently time to find a new one. Thankfully, I was able to get a quick appointment with my friend, Erin, who I’ve wanted to try for a while now. (I don’t know about you, but when I’m ready for a cut, I’m ready, and I don’t like to have to wait more than a few days.) Sometime during the haircut, I started telling Erin about my silver hair coming in, and before I left, we were talking strategies to go gray gracefully.

Because I’d already been a while without a cut and color, I had a good head start, no pun intended. And Erin went a little shorter than usual to give it another boost. To take the edge off the color and soften the contrast between the light and darker shades, she recommended that a glaze for my next appointment, which I made before leaving. After what seems like forever and a day, the appointment is next week, and I can hardly wait.

Right now, I still have quite a bit of blonde, so I’ve gotten no comments on the color. I’m waiting, though, and I’m sure as folks start seeing the gray, I’ll get plenty of feedback. Since I really want to do this, I’d like to think it won’t bother me. But society is so focused on youth and beauty, that I know not all of the comments will be positive. I’m determined to stick it out, though. (One caveat. If I get there and hate it, I won’t hesitate to have it colored again.)

Attached is a selfie after my cut with Erin. You can obviously see the darker roots, but the gray isn’t really showing yet. I’ll be taking pics throughout the process, and look forward to sharing one with more gray soon.  For now, I’m curious. Do you color your hair? Would you (or have you) decide to go gray? Any words of wisdom as I undertake this project?