Project: Reclaimed Bookshelf

Our living room has kind of a strange layout, and we’ve experimented with various places to put the TV. We started with the large entertainment center we had in our apartment, but it was quite deep, and we wanted more floor space. We found a china hutch on the curb, and spray painted it gold for a shabby-chic look (previous posts), but we lost the storage space. The final solution? Make a custom piece, of course.

My inspiration was seeing antique doors used as headboards and under glass as desks. I thought that it would be really interesting to make one into a bookshelf. So we went to our favorite store, Community Forklift, to look for supplies. We picked out one elderly 6-panel entry door, found three lengths of  6″ tongue-and-groove pine planking, and a few old Ikea shelves. We came home feeling like we’d robbed a hardware store, because we probably got the greatest deal in the world.

Step 1: Measure, measure, measure. Then cut, cut, cut. I ripped the door down the middle (promting the purchase of a table saw, of course) and cut the tongue and groove down to size. I then figured out where all the shelves needed to go, and cut a notch into the side of the door for the ends to fit in. Without a dado blade, it was necessary to do it using a circular saw and chisel out the junk left between cuts.


Step 2:  Glue the shelf parts together and lay-out to see how it all fits.


Step 3: glue together – I had to get pipe clamps and two really long pipes to get the shelves clamped.


One year between posts!

Well, I’ve had a few emails in the last two weeks where I’ve had a password reset request for my account here, so I logged on just to re-familiarize myself with my blog. I was looking at my posting log and … woah … it’s been almost a year since I posted “Hiatus.”

I’m not promising anything – I’m in my second job since my last posting, and it’s in the energy efficiency field, but I’ve got a lot of work related crunch time coming up. I’ve also been spending more time taking and editing photos with my *ahem* our new camera. Those are online at

so, I’m thinking of things that I can put up here, but I can see the attraction of Twitter – no thought involved, instant updates!


So, for the last few months, posting to my blog has been kind of the last thing on my mind. I have been looking for a  job since March, and have been really busy with travel and activities.

So, I have some filling in to do: I’ve done some around-the-house projects, somewhat completed a new tv stand from re-claimed wood and an old door, have various plants growing in pots in the back yard, am close to finishing a basement room with mostly re-claimed materials, and am doing an internship with the DC Department of Recycling. 

First up – the new TV bookshelf.

Spring Clean Up

Every year, Alexandria has a couple of weekends where residents put out their unwanted bulky items to be picked up by the department of public works. There are always useful things out there, and it’s very interesting to drive around and see what people are throwing out. Last year we picked up an antique chair and an electric lawn mower.  This year, we were trying for some more seating… so we kept our eyes out for more chairs like last year’s. We ended up picking up 5 outdoor chairs in very good condition, a fairly modern ladder-back chair with cane backing, an amazing 1950’s chair that needed some repair, and a wrought iron make-up stool thingy (I don’t know – ask my wife?).  We found a vintage 24-inch-wide stove that we are planning on putting into our space-challenged basement, if we ever get to that point. We also picked up an Ikea dresser that needs new drawer supports and knobs, and happened across an antique store that had a bunch of old hardware, and picked up six very nice glass knobs.

The best explanation: PICTURES!





Success: lowering bills

We’ve been trying to consume as little as possible recently… our bills for April are rolling in, and I’m pleased to report that they are all significantly below our average. The weather helps out a bunch this time of year, making it possible to be (mostly) comfortable without using either our heat or AC. Even with the extra charge for wind power, our electricity bill was only $33.67 for 284 KWH! We also cut back on our water use (probably because of our massive pile of dirty laundry?) using only 200 cubic feet, or about 1500 gallons.

Long time absent

I’ve been pretty lax about putting stuff up here in the last few months. There have been some other things I’ve been putting ahead of this – studying for and passing my LEED AP exam, and full-time looking for a new job.

Meanwhile, there’s been very little happening on the house and the greening front. I’m working on a salvaged wood furniture project, which will be revealed in good time – it’s my first real woodworking project and I’m surprised by how well it’s turning out. Meanwhile, the prospective lack of income has really slowed down things we’d like to do with the house, but not halted. There’s always NO-cost ways to cut back on things, like putting a soda bottle in your toilet tank. I think our tank holds about 5 gallons, so I went with a bit larger milk jug and a brick. I wish there were a way to get more filler material in there, but there has to be enough water to flush the ancient design, and anything else I tried interfered with the moving parts.  At least now each time we flush we only use a whopping 4 gallons, but if you look at it as a 20% reduction, we’re doing great! Now, why did it take me so long? We’ve been in the house for over two years now, and it must have just been laziness and reluctance to take the lid off the tank and splash around in there. What? that’s not gross – it’s the same water as comes out of your tap! Anyway, if you really REALLY want to save H2O, you can always try to keep the flushes to a minimum – of course everyone has a different level of comfort with this approach, so it’s not something I’m going to push.

Anyway, some pictures:



Dell and Goodwill double up on recycling

Dell computers and Goodwill are teaming up to bring electronics recycling to a Goodwill store near you. It’s a program called Reconnect ( You’ll be using it pretty often if you actually have a Dell (ok, just my experience), but they take all sorts of electronics and computer-related equipment. Some of the donated computers are usable as complete systems, some are usable for parts, and some are only good for material, but it’s all handled here in the good ol’ USA, and there’s a guarantee that no environmentally sensitive material will be put in the landfill. Guaranteed! That’s something – and it’s even ensured by a third party auditor. Let’s hope they’re more on-top of it than the SEC.  I know that I have a lot of chargers and two old laptops that we don’t / can’t use anymore that I’d feel better taking to Goodwill than the local D.C. electronics recycling program, which happens to be at the transfer station, where I see everything jumbled together… this might just be citizens dumping the stuff all together, but it’s not encouraging. My closest (participating) Goodwill store is at 10 S. Glebe Rd in Arlington, so maybe I’ll take a little trip and do a little recycling and shopping all in the same trip!

R… R… Recycle!

Okay, so those First Two R’s… the most important ones… I’m working on those.  From turning off the power strips (with the printer, router, TV, phone charger, etc.) to TRYING to remember those nice grocery bags, to packing my lunch in old containers that used to hold, say, sliced ham (okay, they’re really knockoff Glad containers, but I like the idea), I’m slowly chipping away at lowering my consumption and reusing what we’ve already got.  I’m also recycling what I can, as well. About half of our waste stream is actually recyclable. If only we could recycle dog poop we’d only be throwing away food packaging, which I’m going to try targeting next. Here’s a list of everything that the good ol’ District of Columbia picks up for recycling:

  • Aerosol cans
  • Aluminum foil and aluminum pie pans
  • Aluminum food and beverage containers
  • Books (including paperbacks, textbooks, and hardbacks)
  • Brown paper bags (Kraft)
  • Cardboard and paperboard boxes (including cereal boxes without liners)
  • Computer printouts
  • Corrugated cardboard boxes
  • Ferrous and bimetal food and beverage containers
  • Glass containers such as jars and bottles
  • Junk mail
  • Magazines and catalogs
  • Milk and juice cartons
  • Narrow-neck plastic containers (other than for motor oil) that carry plastic resin identification codes 1 through 7
  • Newspapers (including all inserts)
  • Non-metallic wrapping paper
  • Office paper (including typing, fax, copy, letterhead, and NCR) and envelopes
  • Plastic bags, e.g., grocery bags, newspaper bags, and shopping bags. Please put your plastic bags into one plastic bag then place it in your recycling container. We will accept more than one bag of plastic bags.
  • Rigid plastics including plastic milk/soda crates, plastic buckets with metal handles, plastic laundry baskets, plastic lawn furniture, plastic totes, plastic drums, plastic coolers, plastic flower pots, plastic drinking cups/glasses, plastic 5-gallon water bottles, plastic pallets, plastic toys, and empty plastic garbage/recycling bins
  • Telephone books
  • Wide-mouth containers such as peanut butter, margarine/butter tubs, yogurt, cottage, cheese, yogurt, sour cream, mayonnaise, whipped topping, and prescription (remove the identification label) and over-the-counter medicine bottles. (note that the lids and caps do not need to be removed.) Please do not include Styrofoam meat trays, lunch “clamshells” or foam packaging, such as “peanuts.”

I’ve highlighted some of the exceptional things in GREEN because that’s how I roll. I’m excited about the wide-mouth containers, like the used yogurt container that I wiped out and put back in my lunchbox, just so I can take it home to recycle (work only has aluminum/glass, and only in the cafeteria, I’m so disappointed.)

Note the last sentence about foam packaging, packing peanuts, etc. Luckily, there’s a drop-off for EPS (expanded polystyrene) foam (# 6), although apparently the recycling process is very sensitive to contaminants like leftover food, etc., so food containers are out.

There’s a (fairly) local organization – the Alliance of Foam Packaging Recyclers based in Crofton, MD. They recycle EPS foam (expanded polystyrene) number 6, and have a list of drop-off and return-mail places that accept used, clean EPS #6 packaging (and maybe packing peanuts?).  The list is incomplete, though, so they refferred me to to find the location nearest me. There’s actually a number of them in the area, but it’s also dependent on where you live. Since I’m a resident of DC, I can take my stuff to Ft. Totten, but non-residents can’t. There’s three locations for residents of Fairfax Co. VA, a place in Silver Spring, MD, and the list goes on. I was a little surprised not to find the City of Alexandria, Arlington, or other Northern Virgina counties / cities listed, though. Maybe they ‘count’ as Fairfax Co. and can take them to the Bellvue or Annandale locations.

DC Auto Show

Everybody loves cars. They look so sleek and shiny and new, and the new ones always have the craziest styles!  This year the focus was shifted a little from the usual. Sure, there were still super-sports cars, and the race car section, and the mustang club of the greater Washington Area (and I did drool over the Saleen parked front and center, as well as some of those classics – like the ’66 fastback), but it seemed like every display had it’s hybrid, hydrogen, or electric car prominently displayed.  Tesla was there – showing off it’s finished roadster and it’s powertrain / battery pack. dscn8572


I was excited about Toyota’s display – they had the 3rd generation Prius, which is stylish and sleek, and comes with the option of a sunroof (and maybe plugin ready?) but I was very happy to see their Smart-Car resembling FT-EV (from the iQ concept) with it’s lightweight Lithium-Ion battery pack and citified 50 mile target radius. Hey, that sounds like another car I saw there – a converted 1985 Pontiac Fiero. Destiny 2000 was converted by a professional company years ago, and now gets 50 miles to the charge, and a top speed of 75 mph… the 18 6-volt Trojan R-125 lead acid batteries add up though. It’s got a curb weight of 3,200 lb, compared to the Toyota concept’s… well, they didn’t exaclty have that info out there.



I may be even more excited about some of the other cars and trucks that are even closer to market. In the “Green Cars Pavilion” there was a selection of locally owned electric or alternative fueled vehicles –  like the solar assisted Destiny 2000, or the 1993 Kewet EL-JET 3, or one of the rare Toyota RAV-4’s from the early 90’s.  Promising was the Chrysler Town & Country EV. I really hope that they actually get to production with a few electric models.  I’d hop in an electric (w/ range extension) minivan as a replacement for my hatchback any day.




One of the most exciting technologies was in the Green Car pavilion – in-wheel electric motors. There are a few companies that are researching and producing these  new motors, including Michelin’s Active Wheel prototype, still a few years away from scalable production, this takes a pancake motor and puts it within the wheel hub, and also internalizes the suspension system with a neat little gadget that I’ll have to learn more about.  This means that all one needs for a vehicle is 4 (or 3) solid attachment points for the wheel and a place for batteries. There’s no suspension structure or drivetrain considerations, leaving a blank slate for maximizing the use of space for the car.


Closer to market is the new Hi-Pa Drive in-wheel propulsion system from PML Flightlink. They’ve taken a few production cars and retrofitted them with in-hub motors.  The four motors produce more torque than the 320-horsepower gasoline drivetrain they replaced, and there are claims (though not that I could find on the hipadrive website) that at top current they can produce 600 horsepower. Besides looking really really cool on the F-150, these motors could do more for the electric vehicle industry than a whole fleet of Teslas if they were to come out on the market!



Founding Farmers: true food and drink in Washington, D.C.

Wednesday night I went out to a happy hour at Founding Farmers, the first LEED certified restaurant in Washington, D.C. It’s a Certified Green Restaurant™, recognized by the Green Restaurant Association for eco-friendly operational measures. These include front-of-house and back-of-house recycling, high-efficiency water and energy usage and using recycled paper products whenever possible. The restaurant is 100% carbon neutral, buying green energy and offsetting through

The restaurant features re-claimed and recycled wood, LED lights at the bar, and low-energy halogen lighting (for ambiance) elsewhere, as well as motion-sensored and low-flow fixtures in restrooms, and, more importantly, back of house. The kitchen uses Energy Star wherever possible (refrigerators, freezers, etc). Founding Farmers is paper-free front of house, using organic cotton cloth napkins (I’m not sure about receipts, because I ended up not signing one). The furniture is all FSC harvested hardwoods from PA, milled in Canada, assembled in N.C., and it’s gorgeous.  All of the furniture was produced entirely within a 500-mile radius from D.C., to achieve LEED MR Credit 5: Reigional Materials – extracted, processed and manufactured reigonally.

The farms that the food comes from are all family-owned small farms, ranging all across the country (for a variety of dishes) and I believe it’s all organic.  Even the wine and beer are from small family owned breweries/wineries from a variety of different places. I wish that more of the food was local, but then again, it’s the middle of winter and there are no local crops to speak of right now.

I can’t wait to go back and experience this place at a little less hectic pace – actually sit down and have something to eat. It was a great place to be, and packed to the gills on a Wednesday night, but next time I think I’ll try to experience it in a group of less than the thirty-something that we had for the happy hour.ff_logo

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