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.

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?  

By Mary Pat Baldauf

The holiday season is getting close, and I can’t wait to kick it off with the Holiday Lights on the River at Saluda Shoals Park. (I’m excited to see that this year’s presenting sponsor is once again Lexington Medical Center – thanks, LMC, for spreading the joy!)

With a million lights sparkling through more than 400 themes, there are a variety of displays, including the Dazzling Dancing Forest, the Twelve Days of Christmas, a Victorian Village, Old Man Winter and much more. I especially like the holiday train, featuring a special car for naughty kids like me.

Depending on your schedule and personal preference, there are many ways to enjoy the lights. You can enjoy the lights in the warmth of your car or bundle up and take a Winter Wonder Ride. Or you can bring a group by van or by bus! (My personal favorite way is the Sleigh Bell Stroll, early in the season, which allows you to get up close and personal to the lights by walking through the park.)

Holiday Lights activities will be available every night except Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas. Nominal fees ($1-$10) for activities apply with Holiday Lights admission. Fun-filled family activities offered at Holiday Lights on the River include:

  • Hayride shuttle to the Wetland Walking trail
  • Saluda Shoals train
  • A laser light show along the wetland trail
  • Tube slide
  • Crafts
  • Santa’s Claus’et Gift Shop
  • Roast marshmallows
  • Visits and photos with Santa (Dec. 8– 23 only)

Holiday Lights is open every evening from 6-10 p.m. November 22 through December 31. If you haven’t been, make plans to visit this year. Or, if you’ve been in the past, it’s time to make Holiday Lights an annual tradition. You’ll love it!

For details on activities, admission prices and other details, visit

What is YOUR favorite part of the holiday season?

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?

The Economic Benefit of Recycling


By: Mary Pat Baldauf 

RecycleMoreSC is a statewide campaign that promotes the economic and environmental benefits of recycling. It’s also a call to action challenging residents, businesses, organizations and local governments to do their part to recycle more. The campaign’s goal is to reach a 40 percent recycling rate by the year 2020.

Recycling is a good practice not only for the environment but also for the present and future economic climate of the state. A study released by the College of Charleston shows that recycling has a $13 million impact on the state’s economy. In addition, more than 50,000 direct and indirect jobs are associated with the recycling industry.

To reach the “40 by 2020” goal, it will take South Carolinians (like me and you) to recycle and to recycle correctly. The process has changed a lot, especially since curbside recycling began some 28 years ago. Even if you’ve been recycling forever, there are some things you need to know. Take a moment to review these three important links before you recycle again.

If you’re rushed for time, perhaps the most important link to review is Recycling’s Dirty Dozen.

Thanks for doing your part to help South Carolina’s economy and the environment through recycling.

Do you recycle? Why or why not? Does RecycleMoreSC motivate you to recycle and/or recycle more?  

Brush Up on the Basics During National Brain Aneurysm Awareness Month

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

Every year over 30,000 US families lose someone from a ruptured brain aneurysm. About 40% of those experiencing a ruptured brain aneurysm will die. Those that survive often face significant challenges, greatly impacting their lives and the lives of their families. Today, at the beginning of National Brain Aneurysm Awareness Month, I re-tell my story to raise awareness of brain aneurysms.

On the evening of March 18, I noshed on some dark chocolate covered espresso beans left over from a road trip to see Modest Mouse in Charleston. I ate a lot, at least ¼ of a pound. Then later that evening, I felt a sharp electrical-like impulse go down my part line, and then down my head. Then it felt like ice cold water running down the sides of my head. I felt really weird, like I was outside of my body; I even told my sister that I thought I was dying.

She said that I threw up and felt better; I don’t remember that, but I do remember refusing her suggestion that we call Mom or go to the ER; I said, “No, I just ate too many espresso beans,” and went to bed. She found me unconscious by my bed the next morning.

Aside from being a woman over the age of 40, I had few of the risk factors. I’d lost and maintained an 80 lb. weight loss. I had LOW blood pressure, so much so that I had taken meds to prevent me from having constant vertigo. I never smoked except for one or two cigarettes in college. So I had no idea I may be having an aneurysm. (Unaware to me until after the event, which could’ve been far too late, I did have a family history. My father’s sister, Rose, had one and survived, and they lost two cousins to aneurysms.)

The doctors say that my aneurysm was about as bad as they get, and my family didn’t know if I would survive for three long weeks. Even then, the doctors couldn’t predict a full recovery. I was fortunate to have wonderful care and to go to a rehabilitation hospital in Atlanta for follow-up care. My story ended well. I’m still alive, and while I do have some very mild deficits, I’m a living, breathing success story.

From someone who’s been there, I urge you to use this month to learn more about aneurysms, including the risk factors and symptoms. If you have a history of aneurysms in your family, make it a point to talk to your doctor this month.

There is plenty of information available about brain aneurysms. You can talk to your doctor or consult the internet; my favorite site is the Joe Niekro Foundation. I’m not a doctor, but I’m also happy to answer any questions you might have or speak with you or your small group about my experience.