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All articles here are written by Melinda Briana Epler (that's me!) unless otherwise noted. I'm a documentary filmmaker, writer, and brand experience designer - I've dedicated my life to living a sustainable lifestyle and helping others do the same. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions or thoughts for articles. Welcome!

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Our New Home

As many of you know, we’ve recently moved from a small 1-bedroom in a 1920s building to a brand new LEED-certified (green-built) 1-bedroom plus office.  We’re a bit closer to downtown, the space is twice as large as our previous apartment, it’s very energy efficient, we have a small balcony, plus access to 2 rooftop decks and a fitness room… We LOVE it.


We haven’t quite finished decorating, but here is a peek at our new home…

 

Living Room - Toward Window

Our Living Room/Dining Room

 

Living Room - Plants and Books

Our Living Room/Dining Room

 

Our Kitchen

Our Kitchen/Dining Area

 

Everything looks a bit compressed here, but these two rooms are the size of our entire former apartment.  Not that big is always good, but in this case, small was too small for comfort…

 

Bathroom

Our Bathroom

(You can see Raisin has found many new places to hide!)

 

The bedroom and office aren’t quite up to par yet, so you’ll have to wait to see those.  I’ll also show you our rooftop view later - it’s just down the hall, and I’ve found it is an absolutely perfect place to write.  So lastly, here is the view from our apartment:

 

Our View Looking North, to Lake Union

Our View Looking North, to Lake Union

(The crane is one of many building the new Amazon campus)

 

Our View Looking East, to Capitol Hill

Our View Looking East, to Capitol Hill

(Where we used to live)

 

Our View Looking Southeast, to Downtown and First Hill

Our View Looking Southeast, to Downtown and First Hill

 

And lastly, our two very happy animals…

 

Raisin and Ellis

Ellis and Raisin, who both love the new place

 

Coming to Terms with Your Own Variety of Sustainability

We are in the final stretch of unpacking our boxes and arranging our household in our new home. I’ll be back soon with photos and more!


In the meantime, I’ve posted at the co-op and I’d love for you all to come read my post: Coming to Terms with Your Own Variety of Sustainability.

 

Matt and I at a friend's wedding

 

See you soon.

 

Surprise….!

We moved!


Here’s the scoop:  Matt and I have been ever so slowly saving up a bit of money while living fairly frugally in a small apartment.  Small?  Yes.  A bedroom, a living area, a kitchen, and a bathroom – for a grand total of around 500 square feet.  It is a lovely old building, but overall we were just not quite where we wanted to be.


Our apartment was above an alley that is unfortunately a bit too crazy for our tastes – a bit of drugs, a lot of alcohol, and generally too much mayhem at all hours of the day and night.  And it’s small.  And our building has been through 6 managers during the time we lived there (a little over a year), and not a single soul in the building lived there longer than we did (yep, a little over a year).

 

So we have been waiting for an opportunity to move somewhere a little nicer, quieter, and more permanent….


Two and a half weeks ago, we encountered the deal of a century.  Matt and I have had our eye on these new condos that were built in a revitalization project at the edge of downtown (South Lake Union, for those of you who know Seattle).  We didn’t want to buy in this economy, but they were beautiful, built green, and in a perfect location.  Basically, we just gawked at them and sighed every time we passed by.

 

Well, fortunately the economy has worked in our favor for this particular situation, because nobody is moving to condos right now. So, there is a crazy local law that says by the time it opens, a condo must have sold 50% of its spaces, or they have to convert the building to apartments.  Voila!  The condos we had our eye on became apartment buildings!

 

On top of that, because there was an overbuilding of apartments and condominiums in Seattle over the last couple of years, there are amazing deals on apartments right now (2 free months rent, extremely low deposits, etc).


So in a whirlwind, Matt and I decided to move to a brand new condo-turned-apartment building in a nicer area, that is built green (LEED silver), twice as big as our old apartment, super energy efficient, on the top floor (down the hall is a rooftop garden), and our apartment even has a little balcony (bigger than our fire escape) with a little view!  All for just a bit more than what we were paying before.  Yeehaw!! 

 

I have been bursting to tell you all about it, but right after we decided I to move I became ill, and then it truly became a whirlwind of packing, moving, and unpacking.  I feel I have betrayed you all by being gone so long without a peep!  Well, know you know where I have been – and I can’t wait to share with you the details of our new place.

 

Already, I feel my blood pressure dropping, my stress level diminishing, my contentedness increasing.  Raisin and Ellis love the new place – there is a great ledge for Raisin to look out over her domain (the city), and Ellis is happy to have more space where he can be a crazy dog.  Plus nearly every household here seems to have a dog, so there are lots of neighbors to meet and sniff!

 

My walk to work is almost exactly the same distance (and I like the new route better). The round trip from home to the p-patch, office, and then back home is exactly the same distance it was.  So I just have to make that my new routine. There is a p-patch in our new neighborhood, so I’ll put us on the wait list for that one – but it will likely be a year or two before a spot opens up.

 

There you have it!  I can’t wait to tell you more!  Oh yes, and our Walkscore?  It’s 100.  : )

 

Pictures soon….

 

How Is Your Walking??!

Hello everyone!  I’m alive but not particularly well.  I’ve been fighting off the flu.  So please forgive the intermittant posts this week.  I’m severely lacking energy.


But I wanted to learn how your walking is going!


10,000 Steps Challenge


Here’s a Bit from My Experiences:


I pledged to walk just about 5 miles every day:  from home to work, then from work to the community garden and back home.


Up until a few days ago (when I became ill), I was really enjoying the walks.  I walk right through the heart of downtown Seattle, passing walking commuters, bicycle commuters, bus commuters, and of course some cars, too.  I LOVE being a part of the hustle and bustle of life, and wondering with interest how different (and at the same time how similar) people are.


My walks consist of daily observations, smiles to friendly people, and a whole lot of good thinking.  It has become quite a meditative experience.  I’m able to clear my mind of many stresses and really focus on things that matter to me.  The brainstorms I’ve had while walking have been incredible!


I love it!


That said, it hasn’t been perfection.  Or rather, I have not been perfectly on top of walking.  A couple of times I’ve been running late – or feeling ill – and have taken the bus about 2/3 of the way to or from work.  And I have yet to make it to the community garden on the way home.  I’m thinking I need to re-evaluate that and do it on the way to work when I’m fresh, rather than on the way home from work when I just want to go home, see my husband, and eat dinner.


So I need to change my original plan a bit.  On Monday, assuming I feel better, I’ll begin my routine with walking to the garden in the morning, and then going to work from there.  Then I need to figure out how to eke out a bit more time in the day – it seems crazy, but that extra hour of walking has taken its toll on my schedule, so I need to rearrange my daily schedule a bit.  Live and learn.


How Are You Doing With Your Walking Schedule?


And if you’d like to join us, please feel free!  Good for your health, your emotional well-being, and brings you closer to your community!


Tour of Our Garden

It’s so fun to hear about all your gardens – please continue to check in!


This weekend my mom and I spent a good deal of time working on the “Family Allotment“, so I believe it’s high time for a garden tour.  I should say beforehand, though, that our garden is quite a bit behind most of yours for a couple of reasons:  1.  The weather in the northwest has been atrocious this spring, and we are only now warm enough to plant a lot of crops out, and 2.  Even if we could have planted earlier, my parents had to do some major work in the backyard over the last 6 months to keep their house from (very slowly) falling down a hill – so the backyard was unplantable until very recently.  Those are my excuses, and I’m sticking to them!


Pile Driver

The gigantic pile driver digging 18 feet down into the ground,

to stabilize the house and yard


As a part of the backyard transformation, my mother had some old cedars cut down.  In general, I am not a fan of cutting trees, but these trees were not only ugly, they were also damaging the house and making the soil so acidic and shaded that very little else would grow.  Can you believe that not one of us took a “before” picture?  Here is the closest I can find:


June 21, 2008

June 2008:  If you click to enlarge the picture,

you can see 1 of the 4 cedars in the background (to the left),

as well as the large crack in the concrete from the backyard slowly falling down the hill!


In place of the cedars, we planted a fruit garden:  10 blueberry bushes, which will get about 10 feet tall each, plus tayberries, raspberries, salmonberries, grapes, lots of strawberries, tomatoes, and peppers.  So exciting!!


Blueberries in the evening sun

Newly planted blueberries in the evening sun


Side garden - tayberries, blueberries, bamboo, grapes, tomatoes, and peppers

Side garden – tayberries, blueberries, bamboo, grapes, tomatoes, and peppers


Side of house - salmonberries, raspberries, strawberries

Side of house – salmonberries, raspberries, strawberries


Tea, camelia sinensis

Tea, camellia sinensis

(instructions to grow these are here, if you’re interested)


We also spent a long time in the main back garden:


Squash hills:  acorn, tromboncino, and patty pan

Squash hills:  acorn, tromboncino, and patty pan;

with little cauliflowers, peppers, tomatoes, and blackberries on the left.


Left to right:  potatoes, flowers, tomatoes, peppers

Left to right:  potatoes, flowers, tomatoes, peppers;

with rhubarb and flowers in the background


Tomatoes and peppers on the left, 3 beds of potatoes on the right

Tomatoes on the left, 3 beds of potatoes on the right


Looking back the other way: broccoli and peppers on the right, potatoes and apple on the left

Looking back the other way: broccoli and peppers on the right,

potatoes and apple tree on the left


Far end:  herb pots in front, garbanzo beans, apple trees in back

Far end of the garden:  herb pots in front, 2 dwarf apple trees,

garbanzo beans (one is already large, a volunteer from last year), potatoes in back


Looks like I was getting a bit exhausted by the time I took the pictures – they aren’t particularly good, but hopefully you get a sense of the garden.


We’ve also been spending time on the front yard and the community garden p-patch.  The front yard will soon be full of herbs in addition to my mother’s ornamentals, and next time I’ll give you a quick tour of our p-patch plot!  I hope your garden is growing well.


A Wonderful Spring Surprsie!

It has been nearly a year now since we moved to Seattle – my how time flies!  Well, I was sure this would not happen until at least next year, but I have come upon a wonderful surprise….

 

My Little P-Patch Plot

Our New Plot

 

We have a community garden plot!!  One became available at the last minute, and I jumped at the opportunity.  It’s not at any of the three gardens for which I’m wait listed, so it’s a bit further from our home – over a mile away.  But it’s ours, and it’s ready to be weeded and planted.  So exciting!

 

On a beautiful sunny day yesterday, I walked to meet the garden coordinator and to be formally introduced to the plot.

 

Squire P-Patch

 

I’m really looking forward to gardening in this community setting.  I’ll be participating in some work parties throughout the year (it’s required), and I look forward to composting and gardening side by side with other food growers.

 

Squire P-Patch

 

Oh, I’m so excited I’ve already mapped out the plot with all the things we didn’t have enough space for at my mom’s, or that my mom just wasn’t inspired to grow.  Want to see?

 

Our P-Patch

 

Soybeans, beets, eggplant, bulb fennel, arugula and other greens, kohlrabi, kale, onions, carrots, rhubarb, and amaranth.  Wahoo!

 

I’ve been trying to go on daily walks, and now I have a destination….  This makes me very happy.

 

What Did You Do For Earth Hour?


On Saturday I wrote about the many reasons our family participated in Earth Hour.  What I didn’t mention was how enjoyable our time was last year.

 

Last Year


During Earth Hour 2008, we ate a homemade dinner by candlelight, we watched the stars, and we talked as we sipped local wine.  Our hour turned into an hour and a half.  It was peaceful, relaxing, and we were saving power.  And we were doing it along with millions of other people.  In fact, we had such an amazing time that we continued to do this once a week for two months afterward!


This Year


Just as our life and lifestyle here in Seattle has been incredibly different from our life in the country, so was our Earth Hour this year:  we turned out our lights and then took Ellis for a stroll through the neighborhood, checking out all the lights that had gone out for the event.


We can see the Space Needle from our street corner, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen it dark before.  It was intriguing to see.  There’s an expensive restaurant at the top, and it, too, had it’s lights turned off – we could see tables lit by candlelight alone. Several downtown buildings also turned off their exterior lights. Though truthfully, it wasn’t as dramatic as I’d expected.


Then we walked through the business streets of our neighborhood, to see if we could see evidence of Earth Hour – we envisioned apartment buildings darkened, restaurant lights dimmed, people huddled indoors by candlelight…  But we didn’t see a single sign of the event during our entire hour-long walk.


That was a bit difficult for me to take.  Millions and millions of people are taking part, but here in a very environmentally-friendly city, in a particularly aware neighborhood, there was very little evidence it was taking place.


This reminds me of the feelings I have some days, where I leave my home and enter a world where people don’t care very much about their energy usage, their waste, their spending, nor the climate as a whole.


Do you ever feel isolated in your actions, in the changes you’re making in your lifestyle?

 

The Future


We have found solace in our community here on the internet, we have lifted each other’s spirits, we have all pushed one another harder to do more, and we are a wonderful community.  So let’s keep bringing people into our world: the one that cares, the one that is mindful, the one that is trying to make a difference, big or small.


Let’s make our community bigger and stronger.  And let’s help it spread throughout our neighborhoods!


How?  It’s a good question, and I think it’s answered differently for each of us.  We are all different, living in unique places and having unique talents.  So let’s use each of our talents to bridge awareness and spark action!


I’ve written some about how to build and strengthen communities, and I will continue to write more about this.  I would love any ideas you all have – as well as any questions we might be able to help answer.


And to be sure, there were some wonderful things that happened on Earth Day.  Check out the photos and videos if you’d like to see a snippet.


So… I walked, fretted, pondered, and looked for solutions during Earth Hour….


What Did You Do?