Celebrate Earth Hour

Today is the annual Earth Hour celebration sponsored by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).  It takes place every year in cities, towns, and homes around the world where people and corporations turn off their electricity for one hour.  That's just sixty minutes to substantially help the environment!  The hour chosen (between 8:30 and 9:30pm local times) allows power to be shut off at its generally highest usage point during the day.  This is usually when people are home from work or activities, families are watching television, or the laptops and other gadgets are out in full force.  Since this is such a peak time, it's the perfect opportunity for people to show their support for the environment and commit to conservation for just one hour.

Why is this important?  Well, in the U.S. alone, commercial and residential buildings account for 40% of energy consumption (Secretariat of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation , 2008).  This contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, overconsumption of resources, and long-term degradation of the environment.  By everyone doing their part for this one hour, we can save a substantial amount of energy and resources contributing to the decline of our natural environment.  So, don't forget!  Switch off those TVs, I pods, laptops, and even the lights at 8:30pm wherever you live.  It'll give you a fun thing to do with the family, a bit of time to be social with friends, or time to just hang out and meditate for a while.  There are some great "how-to" guides on the Earth Hour website for suggestions on what to do along with lots of pictures to check out from around the world after Earth Hour is complete.  Happy Earth Hour!

Bandung, Indonesia

Bangkok, Thailand

Edinburgh, Scotland

(Photo sources: WWF/ Earth Hour Global and Maverick Photo Agency)


St Patty's Day Trifle

To celebrate this St. Patty's Day, here's a little treat that is sure to please.  This chocolate trifle includes layers of brownie, chocolate pudding, and cool whip dyed green for this festive occasion.  It can be adapted for any craving, but these ingredients give the best consistency for a chewy, creamy mouthful.  If you'd rather have a crunch in your dessert, just add some Heath bars, graham crackers, or peanuts to your layering.

St Patty's Day Trifle


* 1 oz. unsweetened chocolate
*1/2 cup butter
*1 1/2 cups sugar
*2 eggs
*1 tsp vanilla
*1 cup all-purpose flour

*Jello instant pudding mix-chocolate
*3 cups milk

Cool whip:
*1 carton cool whip
*Green food coloring (about 25 drops)


*Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease a 9 x 9 inch pan.

*Melt butter in microwave or on the stove and pour into a bowl with the chocolate.  Stir well until the chocolate has melted into the butter.

*Add in the sugar and eggs.  Then, mix in the flour until just blended.

*Pour into the greased pan and bake for 25-30 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

*Set pan aside to cool.

*Follow the directions on the Jello package.  Mix the packet into the milk in a medium bowl.  Whisk well to remove lumps.

*Place in the fridge to set for at least ten minutes.

*Mix the green food coloring into the cool whip.  Use as many drops as needed until the desired color is achieved.

*Cut or crumble the brownies into small bite sized pieces.

*In a deep bowl or several small cups, layer the ingredients in the following order: brownies, pudding, cool whip.  Make sure to spread each layer to the edge of the bowl or cup.  Repeat the layering a second time.

*Chill until ready to eat.  Enjoy!

(Brownie recipe from Allrecipes.com)


Tiered Cake Stand Project

I recently went to a tea party where the host showed everyone how to make tiered cake stands.  It was a great little afternoon project that was really quick and easy for such a great end result.  Any type of plates, bowls, or mugs can be used for the cake stand, and the final product works well for formal or casual events.  Here are some instructions to make your own:

Tiered Cake Stand


*2-3 dishes of your choice (plates, bowls, saucers, or tea cups)
*Cake stand stems pack (can be found at craft stores and online)
*Tape measure
*Screwdriver (or drill if preferred)
*Power drill 
*Tile (diamond) bit for drill

*Choose two to three dishes to include in your stand.

*Mark the center of each plate with a tape measure and a marker by making a small dot in the center.

*Using a tile drill bit (may be called a diamond bit) and a power drill, drill a hole in the center of each dish in the spot marked. Tip: The end of the drill bit may need to be dipped in a very tiny bit of water between drilling to cool off the bit.

*Using the purchased stem kit, secure a washer and then a screw to the bottom of the first plate.  Put a soft washer on the top side of the plate on the screw and then apply the stem fitting to this.

*Repeat until all dishes and stems are secured together.  The top tier will have the embellished stem on top.



Women in the Built Environment

It's International Women's Day!  Since there are few women in the built environment fields, I'd like to honor those who have made significant contributions to architecture, urban planning, or engineering.  These women have put their hearts into their work and shown a substantial drive to make our surroundings better.  It's easy to forget just how important designing our built environment is when people do their jobs as well as these women.  Let's take a moment and recognize some of the outstanding efforts of women who make our daily lives easier, more efficient, and more enjoyable because of their contributions to the built environment.

* Urbanist, writer, and activist
*Wrote The Death and Life of Great American Cities
*Organized grass-roots efforts to preserve local neighborhoods

*Architect and first female winner of the Pritzker Prize
*Known for:
 Vitra Fire Station, Germany
Terminal Hoenheim Nord, France
London Aquatics Centre, UK

Vitra Fire Station
(Photo by Rory Hyde)

*Architect and urban planner
*Founding member of the Congress for the New Urbanism
*Advocate for improved neighborhood walkability and reduction of sprawl

*Architect, landscape designer, and artist
*Known for:
Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington D.C.
Civil Rights Memorial, Alabama

Vietnam Veterans Memorial