Carova Beach, N.C. Requires 4WD Cars – Good luck getting one

Picture-7I recently went on vacation with my wife’s family to Carova Beach in North Carolina.  Carova Beach is at the northern most point of the outerbanks up 168.  It required 4 wheel drive as the only way to access the houses are by driving on the beach.

We decided to fly to Norfolk and rent a car to drive there.  I wanted to make sure I had the best deal so I did what I always do and booked a car with a few different rental companies.  For those that don’t know, most rental car companies do not reaquire you to give your credit card information so there is no harm booking at more than one place.  I do this as its easier for me to see the final price after they figure in all the extra fees and then I can compare the rates.

To make a long story short, I booked a “CRV” and then called 2 of the 3 locations that I had booked with (Thrifty and Budget).  I wanted to make sure the vehicle that I had booked was going to be 4WD as I know that not all CRV/SUVs are 4wd.  After calling both companies I was told by one company that they could not guarantee a 4wd vehicle although the CSR said most of their SUVs were 4wd. The other CSR told me that the class of car I had booked would be just fine and that it was a 4wd vehicle that I had booked.

When I arrived in the Norfolk airport I went down to the car rental area and went to the first rental car company that I had booked with that was the least expensive and with the shortest line.  I walked up and showed them my reservation and asked to confirm if the car was 4wd.  They checked and said “we have no 4wd vehicles”.  I wasn’t too worried until I had gone through all 3 car companies along with every other company in the airport…all of which said “we have no 4wd vehicles and you cannot off-road rental cars”.  After regrouping and speaking with one of the final rental car companies I had decided I would just take an AWD vehicle so I went back to my first car rental company. Luckily I was waited on by a different employee who looked again and said they did in fact have a 4wd vehicle.

If we ever go to that part of North Carolina again, I’m pretty sure we will just drive from DE and rent a car in this area as I doubt we will have trouble finding one this far away.  Most of the employees said that you cannot request a 4wd vehicle in the Norfolk Airport or possibly at any car rental company as they are first come first serve.

This was one of the worst parts of the vacation as it added an extra hour of my time trying to scramble to get a 4wd car….what happened next ate up more time and really got on my nerves.  I’ll blog about rental car companies and what a joke their car seat fee is later this week.

Washing machine that uses one cup of water

Picture-5Professor Stephen Burkinshaw of the University of Leeds has developed a washing machine that uses one cup of water. According to the article I just read, “It uses less than 10% of the water of conventional machines and 30% less energy by replacing most of the water with thousands of tiny reusable plastic beads to attract and absorb dirt under humid conditions”. Xeros, the company behind the technology, will begin selling the washing machine to hotels & dry cleaners before entering the consumer market.

For more information check out their site:

US Airways Concerned more about Preferred Members over Child Safety?

caresI recently booked a flight on US Airways for our trip to North Carolina. I booked the flight and purchased an FAA approved Child Restraint device for my daughter. A few days before the scheduled flight I thought I should check US Airways policy on the Child Restraint device and came across the following restrictions:

The child restraint system may not occupy an exit row or the row forward of or behind an exit row.

Upon reading this rule, I logged on to check our seats.  I found that are seats were in front of the exit row but luckily I noticed there was an empty row 2 rows up from ours. I attempted to change our seats online but was unable.  I called US Airways and explained my situation about the child restraint and initially the CSR said “Those seats are available to “preferred members” but I might be able to get them if I asked when I check in to my flight”.  At that point I got a little irritated. I did not want to wait until the day of the flight to find out those available seats had been taken. I could understand if they wanted to charge me more for the seats if they were “first class” seats but the plane only has 13 rows and from what I can tell the only difference between row 7 (the row we were booked for) and row 5 (the “preferred seating row”) is 2 rows.  I did not think I was going to get anywhere with the customer service rep until I asked the following question: “Are you telling me that “preferred US Airways customers are more important than the safety of a child?” The CSR put me on hold and said that a new seat assignment would be made for me at the gate.

I’m not giving them an F for customer service yet as they sound like they are going to take care of the issue but what bothers me is that it wasn’t until I got a little perturbed by the issue that the CSR offered to do anything.  I’ll update this post after flying on the fight and let you know how everything goes.

Update: When we got to the gate I spoke to the US Airways representative and she told me to speak to the flight attendant.  When I got on the plane, I spoke to the flight attendant and she told me to take my regular seat and she would move us. A few minutes before the flight was getting ready to leave the gate I went back up to her and asked her what to do and she said she couldn’t help until after everyone had boarded.

Basically what happened is that every US Airways employee left it up to another employee to remedy the situation and none of them ever did.  I ended up getting tired of waiting for someone to assist us and asked the people that were a row up from us to switch. Luckily they were more than happy to help us.

Info about the CARES Kids Fly Safe Child Safety Restraint

  • Stands for Child Aviation Restraint System and is a harness-type safety device
  • Can be used for children who weigh between 22-44 lbs and are sitting in their own airplane seats
  • Takes the place of a car seat when traveling by air
  • Weighs 1 pound
  • Takes one minute to install on any airplane seat and augments the regular lap belt
  • Is currently Certified by Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore and is FAA approved

Where to Buy:
Available online at for $72 (as of this post), or in-store at select locations.

Monitor Energy Usage from your Computer via Google

bd_powermeterI got a B&D EM100B energy series power monitor for my birthday a few months back which helps monitor your electric usage. It works by attaching a device to your electric meter which then sends usage information to a wireless device in your home (similar to the wireless weather stations). I set it up in a matter of minutes and had fun watching it spike whenever I turned on certain appliances however my biggest pet peeve with it is that I can’t access it from my computer.

googlepowermeterI recently stumbled across an article in a magazine that mentioned Google is in the process of trying to work with many major utilities to offer a similar feature online.

Here is how it works:
Google PowerMeter receives information from utility smart meters and energy management devices and provides customers with access to their home electricity consumption right on their personal iGoogle homepage. We are currently testing Google PowerMeter with a number of utilities and plan to expand our rollout later this year.

Here is a video explaining how it works:

Here are the utilities they are currently working with:
Glasgow EPB – Glasgow, Kentucky
JEA – Northeast Florida
Reliance Energy – Mumbai, Delhi & Orrisa, India
San Diego Gas & Electric – San Diego County and Southern Orange County, California
Toronto Hydro-Electric System Limited – Toronto, Ontario, Canada
TXU Energy – Texas
White River Valley Electric Cooperative – Portions of Christian, Douglas, Ozark, Stone and Taney counties in Missouri
Wisonconsin Public Service – Northeast and Central Wisconsin and an adjacent portion of Upper Michigan

#1 Buyer of Organic Cotton – Walmart!

walmart_organicAccording to a recent Organic Cotton Market Report by the Organic Exchange, international retail sales of organic cotton grew 63% from 2007 to 2008.  At the top of the list for retailers / brands that are purchasing organic cotton is Walmart (believe it or not). I haven’t been in a local Walmart in some time however I just did a search on their site and found 136 men’s, women’s & children’s apparel items all featuring organic cotton. The best part is that all of the items are actually reasonably priced. I found a boys tee for $3, men’s tees starting at $4, women’s tank tops starting at $4 and women’s skirts / dresses for as low as $10.

Also on the list of top ten retailers / brands is GreenSource (#9 ), Pottery Barn (#8) and Nike (#3).  For the complete list, check out Tree Hugger.

If you have no idea what organic cotton is or why you should purchase it, here is a chart to show you the differences between conventional and organic cotton.


Cash for Clunkers Bill Passes House

clunkerThe House on Tuesday passed a $4 billion plan to subsidize new car sales for consumers called the “Cash for Clunkers” program.  The program would give consumers up to $5,000 to turn in older gas guzzlers and buy new cars if also passed by the senate.

How would it work?
The government will send up to $5,000 to the selling dealer on your behalf if you meet ALL  of the following criteria:
1. You trade in a car that has been registered and in-use for at least a year
2. Your trade in has a combined city/highway fuel-economy rating of 18 or fewer miles per gallon (Check your vehicles combined rating)
3. Your trade in is at least 8 years old
4. Your new car is less than $35,000

Original Article –

A Healthy Salad from Moes Restaurant?

My co-workers and I are picking up Moe’s for lunch today so I decided to check out their salad options. Below are the 2 options I found on their site:

closetalkerpersonaltrainerThere is the Personal Trainer which weighs in at a whopping 880 calories and 62g of Fat along with the Close Talker which somehow found a way pack in more calories and fat. It has 1030 calories and 68g of fat.  If I chose to eat either of these I would have already met / exceeded my Fat for the day and had 70 – 90% of my sodium for the day along with approx 50% of my calories for the day.

I instead opted for a soft taco called “The Funk Meister” which has chicken, black beans, cheese, lettuce and pico de gallo for 280 calories and 10g of fat.  I’ll most likely have something else along with this however I try to keep each meal I eat to between 300 – 600 calories.

I’m not sure how popular these salads are at Moes but would bet that if the calorie / fat information were posted along side the price on the menu, these items would not be ordered nearly as much.

Eating healthy at an Italian Restaurant

We went with my family to Lamberti’s, a local Italian restaurant, this weekend. As I mentioned in a previous post, I am currently in a biggest loser competition at work and am trying to lose weight / make healthier decisions while I’m out.  I would love it if every restaurant offered nutrition information however it seems only big chain restaurants actually offer that information.

I did however do a little research about Italian restaurants and healthier choices prior to going to dinner.  Here are some of the items to avoid along with some items to look for if you are looking to make healthier decisions.

Avoid Any Meal with the following:
Alfredo (as in fettucine)

Anything Stuffed with Cheese (bummer for me since i love cheese)

Healthier Selections:
Marinara Sauce
Neopolitan Sauce
Minestrone Soup
Marinated Vegetable Antipasto
Piccata (lemon-based sauce for either chicken or veal dishes)
Plain Pasta
White Wine Sauces

img_7420I decided to go with the Cappellini Primavera which had the following description:
Seasonal vegetables and tomatoes sauteed in olive oil and light garlic marinara

I’ve been counting calories for a few weeks now and have become much more aware of serving sizes.  When I got my dinner delivered I was somewhat disturbed by the massive amount of cappellini they gave me.  Don’t get me wrong, the food was delicious and I enjoyed eating dinner however what disturbed me was that I used to eat almost the entire meal and now I realize how many serving sizes I used to eat.

After eating approx 1 serving which is a little over 1 cup of cooked pasta (8oz), I had the rest put in a to go box.  When I got home I decided to weigh the remaining amount on my food scale. As you can see my leftovers weighed in at 1lb 10 oz which is a little over 3 servings of food.  I am basing the serving size on the cappellini (1 serving = 1 Cup or 8 oz).

Here’s the scary part.  Lamberti’s does not have the calories mentioned on their site however here is my best estimate at how many calories are in this entire meal:

Estimated Calories in Cappellini Primavera from Lamberti’s
800 Calories for the Cappellini (4 Servings x 200 calories)
476 Calories for the Olive Oil (4 Tablespoons x 119 Calories)
160 Calories for the Lt Garlic Marinara (2 Servings x 80 Calories)
1,436 Calories

Earth’s Unbreakable Lightbulb

solatube2Let me first start by saying this is much more expensive than a lightbulb. With that in mind, the Solatube is 1/2 light bulb and 1/2 skylight. It uses the suns rays to produce an indoor light in almost any place. We picked one of these up online at They come in 10″ and 14″ diameter however the salesperson I spoke to at my local Green Depot said the 14″ solatubes are mostly for commercial use. I’ve seen this product installed in a few homes on HGTV. We decided to try it out in our spare bathroom that has no windows on the 2nd floor. I’ll post pictures in the next few days.

Why Purchase A Tubular Daylighting Device?

  • It provides as much light as you would expect from a skylight many times its size.
  • It is cost-effective. Tubular Daylighting Devices cost considerably less than other daylighting options, such as windows and skylights, including both product and installation costs.
  • Installing it is fast, clean and easy. They require no structural reframing, tunneling, drywalling or painting. A professional can install the product in less than two hours and most Do-It-Yourselfers can finish the project in one day.
  • It can go almost anywhere. The compact and flexible design of TDDs allow them to be installed in just about any room, including rooms without direct roof access and smaller spaces where daylighting would usually not be an option.
  • It is “Green.” TDDs allow you to switch off electric lights during the day, which provides savings on energy bills and also reduces environmental pollution.
  • It is actually good for you. It has been shown in several prominent studies that increasing daily exposure to natural light can enhance mental and physical well-being, boost concentration and energy levels and a variety of other unexpected perks.

Red Robin Low Calorie Choices?

redrobin2As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m in a biggest loser competition at work, if you can call it that since there are only 2 of us in the competition. Last night I went to Red Robin for dinner which I knew was possibly going to make me go over my calories for the day.  I decided to go to their site prior to visiting the store so I could plan out my meal.  I first looked at their “Lighten Up” menu which is supposed to be their low cal offerings.   The 2 lowest options were their “Lettuce Wrap your Burger” for 422 calories and the “Garden Burger” for 517 calories.

Lettuce Wrap your Burger
422 Calories
27G Fat

The Garden Burger
517 Calories
18g Fat

Crispy Fish Burger
603 Calories
28G Fat

Grilled Turkey Burger
700 Calories
43G Fat

Grilled Salmon Burger
745 Caolries
38G Fat

I did not want the “lettuce wrap your burger” or the garden burger which left me with fish, turkey and salmon burgers.  I instead opted for a standard cheeseburger but had them not put on the seasonings / mayo.  Below is what I ended up choosing:

Red Robin Gourmet Cheeseburger w/o mayo & seasonings
740 Calories
37g Fat

Red Robin Steak Fries (shared with my wife)
195 Calories (390 calories for entire serving)
27G Fat (54G Fat for entire serving)

All in all I ate approx 935 calories and 64G of fat for dinner. That does not sound that good but to put this in to perspective I will show you what I would have normally picked at Red Robin.

Chili Chili Cheeseburger + Steak Fries
1367 Calories
74G Fat

Mudd Pie (eat 1/2)
695 Calories (1390 for entire serving)
34.5G Fat (69G Fat for entire serving)
2062 Calories
108.5G Fat

My plan over the past few weeks during the competition has been to not cut out foods that I like but to make better choices at home and while I am out.