Saving on Energy BIlls

Homeowner's Journal, Partners

There’s no question that I have a love for travel and new experiences. In order to fund those trips and experiences, it helps when we can cut down on our other bills, especially the unavoidable utility bills.

In our teeny tiny household of two (plus two animals), it is fairly easy to monitor everyday energy use. Based on our monthly PG&E bill, Ryan and I are fairly energy efficient. We had a guest stay with us for a month earlier in the year, and because she left a space heater on all day for days, our electricity bill more than tripled. She used more electricity than the two of us combined.

Aside from not allowing house guests to stay over if they do not care about energy efficiency, here are some tips for saving on energy bills, so you can channel your funds to doing what you love (in my case, travel):

Get Out More:

Saving on Energy Bills
Ryan and I hiking in Point Reyes

Our lowest PG&E months have been when we have spent time away from home, whether on a trip away (YAY travel) or spending time outdoors with the pup or friends. We aren’t really gymgoers, so doing other outdoorsy things keeps us in shape. These days, we have been camping and hiking quite a bit. It’s good for the body, soul and electric bill!

Energy Efficient Appliances:

In order for “getting out more” to reduce electricity bills, you’ll need energy efficient appliances. Ideally, while the fridge just sits there keeping your food cold, it’s not racking up a huge bill. If you’re looking to replace appliances, Energy Star ratings are worth looking at as it’ll help you determine your usage over time. There are some rebates out there that might help with the cost. Do some research to see what you could be saving on your next major appliance purchase!

When we first bought our fridge and stove (and washer & dryer in another instance), we definitely took advantage of available rebates. We didn’t buy a new dishwasher when we moved in since the existing one works. However, it’s time to check out the efficiency and determine if we need to replace it.

Saving on Energy Bills
Hey dishwasher, are you energy efficient?

Window Upgrades:

Windows are the largest source of wasted energy. Even though the weather doesn’t get crazy cold or hot like the rest of the nation, we are still conscientious of our heating/cooling costs. Our largest windows in the front of the house are double pane, but we still have some single paned windows in the back. That’s a project that we’re saving up for, so good thing we’re lowering our costs elsewhere!

Change Your Bulbs:

Saving on Energy BillsWith LED and CFL technology so prominent, there’s no excuse for using incandescent bulbs that not only have a short life span, but are also energy vampires. We bought efficient bulbs in bulk and haven’t looked back since. Since they last so long, who knows when the next time we’ll have to change a bulb will be?

It also makes forgetting to turn off a light much less painful, even though still not encouraged.

Unplug, Hibernate, or Get an Awesome Surge Protector:

Because our living room doesn’t have a light source on the ceiling like most of our other rooms, we invested in a few surge protectors that were remote operated. That way, we could turn on a light on the other side of the room with a push of a button. In addition to the convenience, these surge protectors also completely eliminate wasted power. With a click of a switch, you can essentially turn everything off. Like really off.

Even when electronics are off, if they are plugged into the wall, it’s likely they are draining electricity. It’s funny how something we originally purchased out of convenience became an energy conservation tool.

Direct Benefits of Being Energy Efficient

  • Financial: saves money
  • Productivity: saves time
  • Comfort: improves quality of life

Indirect Benefits of Being Energy Efficient

  • Puts less strain on the grid (reduces outages)
  • Puts less strain on other natural resources (like water)
  • Reduces emissions that can harm the environment

More energy saving tips: here!

Being energy efficient = saving money on utilities = more money for fun moments like photobombing your sister and her boyfriend during your weekend camping trip!

Saving on Energy Bills

#PGEhome Instagram Photo Challenge Contest

From November 17-23, PG&E is giving away $100 Home Depot gift cards. Contest page: here! PG&E Instagram page: here!

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.


Overnight on Alcatraz

Life in SF

About half way into our New Mexico trip in early October, I began checking my email obsessively. I’d entered a lottery around mid-September, and “winners” would be announced that day. The prize? A chance to stay overnight on Alcatraz!

Overnight on AlcatrazI was intrigued and of course, very interested when I first heard about the overnight opportunity. Fewer than 600 people get to stay overnight at the landmark federal penitentiary each year, and only nonprofits can apply. There are about 18 overnights on an annual basis with 200 to 400 nonprofit groups vying for a spot. Selected groups work on a community service project on Alcatraz and are rewarded with a tour and sleepover. Luckily for me, not only did Friends of the Golden Gate (FOGG), the young professionals branch of the Golden Gate Conservancy of which I am a member of, win the lottery for an overnight, but I won a spot for me and a guest!

The day of, we nearly missed our ferry to Alcatraz. Thankfully, I rechecked the email about ten minutes before the official meeting time, and we hightailed it to the pier. Our group of about 30 or so landed on Alcatraz at about 4:30. While we were initially greeted by a raindrops, the cloud did eventually lift. We didn’t encounter more than a rainbow the rest of the evening. Definitely lucked out on the weather.

Overnight on Alcatraz

Our park ranger and expert in all things Alcatraz, Wendy, led us up the hill to watch some videos about Alcatraz and @Large: Ai Wei Wei on Alcatraz. After getting the general overview in the videos, Wendy showed us to Block D in the Cellhouse where we would be spending the night. Block D is the only one suitable as accommodations because the lead-based paint and asbestos have been treated.

Overnight on Alcatraz Overnight on Alcatraz

Ryan and I picked out our cell of choice (#32), left our belongings on the cots and followed Wendy out of the main building for a tour of the grounds. In addition to the best sunset views, she showed us the ruins of a warden’s house, the prisoner gardens overlooking the beach where Doc Barker was shot and killed trying to break free, and the walled-in recreational yard.

Overnight on Alcatraz
The Warden’s House

Overnight on Alcatraz
In the Recreation Yard

After spending some time outside, the group went back inside for the cellhouse audio tour. It’s improved quite a bit since the last time I was on Alcatraz in 2006; it was super confusing back then, and I remember getting a little lost. Before heading down to the dock for dinnertime, we had some time to check out parts of the Ai Wei Wei exhibit, including Stay Tuned in Block A, Blossom and Illumination in the Hospital and Yours Truly in the Dining Hall.

Alcatraz Overnight Overnight on Alcatraz

After dinner and once all the regular park visitors had all gone home, Wendy took us on an after-dark tour. We visited the parts of Ai Weiwei’s exhibition in the New Industries Building, including Trace, With Wind and Refraction.

Overnight on Alcatraz
With Wind

Overnight on Alcatraz
Viewing Trace in the dark

Ryan and I had picked out two prisoners of conscience to write postcards to in the Yours Truly exhibit. We sought them out in the darkness and found their Lego photos in Trace.

Alcatraz Overnight Overnight on Alcatraz
Overnight on Alcatraz Overnight on Alcatraz

While it would have been nice to see the pieces in the light of day, there’s definitely something about going through the exhibit with only flashlights. It was nearly impossible to capture the experience of viewing Refraction through the half-broken windows in the darkness.

Overnight on Alcatraz Overnight on Alcatraz

We meandered around the buildings, through tunnels, and even made a stop at the morgue. We were learning about Alcatraz from the time it was a fortress to the time it was occupied by Native Americans.

Overnight on AlcatrazIt was nearly midnight when Wendy checked to see if the group was ready for bed or if we wanted more. She’d had coffee during dinnertime, so she was ready to dish out more Alcatraz knowledge. Her usual tour groups consisted of scouts, so I think she was ready for that level of energy. Even though I was pretty tired from all that walking, I knew we had to forge on. This was an opportunity that wouldn’t come along easily again.

Another hour or so was spent outside in the gardens originally planted by the wives of officers and inside in the kitchen and up in the gun galleries. Eventually, our aching bodies were telling us that it was time for lights out. After brushing our teeth, Ryan and I headed into cell #32 for the night. I slept on the cot, while he took the floor beside me. The green foam pads (both on the cot and on the floor) were surprisingly comfortable, but the sounds of sea lions, snoring, and footsteps kept bringing me in and out of consciousness.

Around sunrise, Ryan and I headed outside for photos. We weren’t the only ones out there capturing the experience.

Overnight on Alcatraz
The Warden’s House at sunrise

Overnight on Alcatraz
The Bay Bridge at sunrise

When it was time to head down to the dock for breakfast, we packed up our sleeping bags and strolled down the hill. By 8:30, visitors from the first ferry over were already arriving at the park. Our group, along with our ranger guide Wendy, were the only folks taking the return trip. And just like that, we’d spent the night on Alcatraz. It will be one I’ll not soon forget.

Overnight on Alcatraz – View of San Francisco at Sunrise

Overnight on Alcatraz

Overnight on Alcatraz

Overnight on Alcatraz

Overnight on Alcatraz


PopSugar Must Have November 2014

Around the Web

PopSugar Must Have November 2014It has been quite some time since I posted my monthly Must Have box from PopSugar. I scrolled through my posts, and it’s been over a year! I am still, in fact, receiving these boxes on a monthly basis, though it’s set to expire pretty soon.

I still want to share the latest boxes since I am working on updating more frequently. So for as long as I still receive them, I’ll try to post a reveal. They arrive a little later in the month than they used to, so it seems like the contents are already revealed elsewhere on the internet. Oh well!

Here’s the box in all its glory. It showed up at my office on Wednesday. As a heads up, they no longer categorize the items in the same way.

PopSugar Must Have November 2014

PopSugar Must Have November 2014

  • Simon & SchusterThe Secret Recipes by Dominique Ansel
  • Sorial – Saffiano Wallet on a Chain
  • K. Hall Simpatico – Ambergris Shea Butter Cream
  • Tiny Prints – Thoughtful Heart Stationery
  • Wine Glass Writer – Custom 3-Pack
  • G.H. Cretors – Chicago Mix Popped Corn
  • In this box, a few items stood out. I knew that I was going to put the Saffiano Wallet to use right away. The following evening, I brought it with me to a black tie dinner. My phone and our parking ticket fit perfectly inside, no more no less. The strap allows for you to wear the wallet across your body – very minimalist.

    PopSugar Must Have November 2014

    While I haven’t tried these out yet, I am incredibly curious about these Wine Glass Writers. I’ve never been a fan of using wine charms – half the time I forget to anyway. Most of the time, I hand each person a different glass. Going to tasting events has added to our collection over the years. I did check out some Amazon reviews, and it sounds like they smudge if the glass is wet in any way. I can totally work around that by writing on the stem or base of the wine glass. Can’t wait to try these out!

    PopSugar Must Have November 2014

    Overall, I liked the box. I will use most of it – at least the wallet, stationery, wine pens. I haven’t looked through the book yet, but it’ll find a home in my bookshelf for now. I’m a little over fancy popped corn, but it doesn’t mean I won’t devour it.

    If you have thoughts on the Must Have box for November, I’d love to hear ‘em!

    PopSugar is an online lifestyle brand targeting women between the ages of 18 and 39. The Must Have box curated by its editors really struck a chord with me. If you’re interested in giving the MUST HAVE box a try, sign up here. Use code REFERFRIENDS for $5 off your first order (new subscriptions only)!

    Check out my other PopSugar Must Have reviews: here!


    KEIKO à Nob Hill – A Seafood Lover’s Dream Come True

    Life in SF, Restaurants

    Ryan did an incredible job by selecting KEIKO à Nob Hill for my birthday dinner. He’d heard about it from a coworker, and the way she described it to him enticed him enough for him to research further. When he saw that the menu was mostly seafood-oriented, he knew that it would be perfect for me.

    And it was! He went straight for the stomach aka the heart! :) Excuse the fuzziness of the photos because the ambiance was definitely on the “romantic” side.

    KEIKO a Nob Hill KEIKO a Nob Hill KEIKO a Nob Hill

    (L to R): Iwashi – Japanese Sardine; Uni – Hokkaido Sea Urchin; Mejimaguro – Baby Bluefin Tuna

    The sardine was smoked with cherrywood and probably the best sardine I’ve ever had. The uni was melt-in-your-mouth goodness paired with delightfully salty roe. If the first three dishes were an indicator for the rest of the meal, I was very excited to see what else was coming up.

    KEIKO a Nob Hill KEIKO a Nob Hill KEIKO a Nob Hill

    (L to R): Zuwaigani – Snow Crab; Hotate – Hokkaido Scallop; Abalone – Monterey Abalone

    I love chawanmushi, which is what the snow crab came in. I was disappointed for just a second by the scallop, only because I love it raw. It came deep fried, but was delightful.

    I think the final three were considered the entrees as they were portioned to fill you up just a little bit more.

    KEIKO a Nob Hill KEIKO a Nob Hill KEIKO a Nob Hill

    (L to R): Tenjo Buri – Wild Amberjack; Cornish Hen Galantine; A5 Wagyu – Yuzu-Soy Foam, Honwasabi

    The Wagyu stood out above the rest. It was the most tender beef I’d ever had. Even though the menu of seafood was what got us in the door, it was the beef that made the lasting impression.

    KEIKO à Nob Hill – Desserts

    KEIKO a Nob Hill KEIKO a Nob Hill KEIKO a Nob Hill

    (L to R): Cheese Course; Pear Parfait; The Ambiance

    Dessert also came in three, but we took photos of only two. I’m not normally big on desserts, but I pretty much finished every bite of mine. It was an interesting combination of flavors and textures without being too sweet of a dessert. Not one component overtook the rest of it, so it was very enjoyable.

    Thankfully the dress I’d rented for the evening (Rent the Runway!) was flowy. Fancy buffet pants! In addition to the outstanding dinner, the actual dishes (plates, silverware, etc) were incredible. Loved the texture and look of every piece.

    There is one seating each evening, and the menu is the same for everyone. Add-ons available are mentioned at the beginning of the meal. On the evening of our dinner, a fancier truffle was available for fifty extra dollars. We opted out and though we didn’t even pair our meal with wine, it was quite the enjoyable birthday meal.

    Good job on restaurant selection, Ryan!

    Keiko à Nob Hill on Urbanspoon


    October 2014 in Pictures

    Creativity Strikes!

    October was the birthday month. I took advantage in terms of day-to-day activities, but didn’t focus very much on the #365infocus project. Much of what was done wasn’t documented in photos. I hang my head in shame.

    October 2014 in Pictures

    October started out with a trip to New Mexico. Each year in early October, the largest hot air balloon festival in the world takes place in Albuquerque. We were able to time our trip perfectly for the Balloon Fiesta. It was even more impressive in person because without going, it’s difficult to imagine the size of the event (~600 balloons!).

    During the days that we weren’t catching the balloon festivities, we hopped in our rental car and drove around. Places of interest included: Madrid, Santa Fe, Taos, Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument, White Sands National Monument. We stayed with a friend of a friend who had a dog, so plenty of puppy time even while we were away from our Fresca.

    October 2014 in Pictures

    The following weekend, I was in Anaheim with Team Fresh Summit. I was getting the lowdown on the produce industry.

    October 2014 in Pictures

    My birthday was on a Monday this year. We still managed to fill up a local bar with friends. My birthday dinner the following evening was incredibly enjoyable. Ryan did a great job picking out the place. At the end of the week, we packed up our bags for an overnight stay at Alcatraz. It was awesome. We were able to check out the Ai Wei Wei exhibit while we were out there.

    October 2014 in Pictures

    By the time the month was over, it was beginning to look more like fall. We had a little bit of rain, but certainly not enough to bring us out of the drought.

    October 2014 in Pictures

    I’m hoping to document more of October’s outings soon; it was packed with fun and my kind of adventure. Happy birthday month to me, indeed!