Both our girls made it home for Christmas. We lit some candles and exchanged a few presents on Christmas Eve. The highlight is a custom we picked up in the Netherlands, where the present exchange came with quirky, poems that hint at the object inside the wrappings and tease the person unwrapping it.
Ideally, the poems would be crafted at one’s leisure in the weeks leading up to the ritual, but in practice a flurry of high literature is produced during the morning and afternoon of December 24. Reading the poem before opening a package lets each gift to be savored and puzzled over and laughed about and enjoyed with gusto.
Here is one I wrote for Doug:
Knowledge is power, as we all know
Knowledge of power and where it flow
Will help us decide what stay – what go.
So let the experiments begin
And watch the dials and numbers spin.
The more we know – the more we win.
That bit of elevated verse accompanied a Kill-A-Watt energy monitor.
We’ve been talking about getting one for a while. A LOT of electricity runs through the ancient wiring in our 1920s house even though I have retrained myself to see a darkened house as soothing, and I am trying to remember to keep the toaster and other such appliances unplugged when not actually in use. My protocol is as yet far from perfect, but I look forward to making strides in 2010 – thanks to our new device.
Another Christmas tradition around here is music, music, music! We have been building our Christmas collection since cassette tapes were the cutting edge. From the day after Thanksgiving to December 26, we only play Christmas music, and we have interpretations of the old chestnuts for every mood from Ella Fitzgerald to Chicago. This year we added Sting’s new album If On a Winter’s Night. (a fine addition)
So, where else to begin learning the bitter truth from Mr. Kill-a-Watt than with our stereo system?
The news wasn’t good. Our stereo has amps that play in the living room and the kitchen – who can cook without music? Horrors! Our system is sucking down 110 watts to operate on soft, and when we crank it up, it can go to 200 watts.
We have two electric waffle makers, and we got them out for Christmas breakfast. One makes thinner, heart-shaped waffles and one makes thicker circular ones. Evidently the thinner waffles are a better energy choice. That iron cranks them out with 550 watts while the thicker waffles require 850 watts.
The TV with nothing turned on is quietly sipping 7 watts just to keep all its internal clocks and gizmos happy. Turning the TV on jumps to 120 watts. Turning on the DVD player adds 18 more. We have a separate sound system to capture every nuance of noise, and that amp takes 20 watts – gulp – another 20 when turned up loud.
I wanted to bring a Kill-A-Watt into the house so we could learn how to be more mindful energy consumers. There are more gadgets to test, and gradually we will get to them all. It’s a great mental exercise. What a pile of electricity eaters they would make if I stacked them all outside in the yard.
I ordered Doug’s Kill-a-Watt on line, and it was here in days for a price in the low $20s. It was remarkably easy to let this little trouble maker into the house. What I’m learning is a little less easy.
Sometimes I feel like Cinderella’s step sister – trying to fit my big, fat footprint into that tiny, little idealized glass slipper. I’m not there yet. Not even close. But I don’t need to go stomping around in oversize army boots either, and the Kill-A-Watt seems like the perfect sculpting tool to whittle that foot print down a size or two.
If you have ventured into wattage testing, what are your big surprises? Please share.