Last year, the Farmers’ Almanac predicted that the winter would “exhibit a split personality, with harsh conditions for the eastern half of the U.S., and milder weather to the west.”  That prediction came true as the Northeast and Great Lakes regions were hammered with many heavy snowstorms.

I usually look forward to each new season.  In Autumn I enjoy putting my garden to bed.  I think of it as an opportunity to clean the slate and prepare for spring’s fresh start.  While I do the work, I daydream about the up-coming winter: the savory scents of home made soups, warm, crackling fires, and the distant sounds of my adult children making snow angels in the yard.   I have to admit I’m not feeling it this year.  The summer was not long and hot enough to erase my 2010 winter memories.

I made a promise to myself to be better prepared for the 2012 winter season.  For me that means plenty of Ice melt and snowblower parts on hand.   What’s on your winter to do list?  Perhaps you’re considering converting from oil heat to gas heat.  If you’re like me, you’ve done a lot of research and you know the conversion can cost between $2000 and $7000.

Last year, NewsCenter 5  compared the costs of heating a 2,500-square foot home with oil using current prices for the 6-month heating season.  If a homeowner used 800 gallons, it would cost about $2,800 for oil heat.  Using an average of 166 units of gas a month, at a cost of $255 per month natural gas would cost a total of $1,350 for the season.  Oil dealers pointed out other factors to consider; not every neighborhood has gas available and they claimed their fuel is a better choice over all because it burns hotter and is more efficient.

If you do make the switch from oil heat to gas heat make sure to remove the oil fill pipe on the outside of our home to avoid mistaken deliveries.  Don’t laugh, I know it sounds ridiculous, but it actually happens and the results are heart breaking.  Just ask Charlie Garnar of Bethpage, Long Island.  The mistaken delivery at his house dumped gallons of home heating oil onto his basement floor.  “From the cleanup, repair on the drywall, getting the smell out of the house – it’s gonna be thousands of dollars, “ said Garnar.

Believe it or not several errors need to occur for a mistaken delivery to take place; a delivery driver unfamiliar with the area, multiple poorly marked residences (snow could play in this part of the scenario), and a home with an oil fill pipe that’s not connected to an oil tank.  Mistakes will happen, but an oil fill pipe that is not connected to anything?  I wondered who was responsible for removing this during the conversion.

I contacted the National Grid who directed me to the conversion section of their website.  Although they are not responsible for the removal of the oil fill pipe they had an extensive list of oil tank removal experts who were able to answer my question.  Petroleum Management Services, Inc. in Reading, MA explained “The removal of the oil fill pipe is part of the tank removal process.”  They were all too familiar with the mistaken delivery scenario and pointed out that it happened in 1987 to Boston Celtics assistant coach Chris Ford at his Lynnfield, Massachusetts home.  According to reports, Ford’s oil fill pipe had been disconnected for approximately 12 years.

For the winter of 2012 the Farmers’ Almanac forecasts “clime and punishment, a season of unusually cold and stormy weather.”  For some parts of the country, that means frigid temperatures; while for others, it will mean lots of rain and snow.   I’m good with the “above-normal” temperatures expected in the eastern U.S.  Just to be on the safe side, I’m heading out to the hardware store to get prepared.  For those of you making the switch from oil heat to gas heat this season – remove that oil fill pipe.

Looking for a great Holiday gift idea?

In the slow period after lunch, a coworker and I have started trading cookies at work.  I introduced him to my all time favorite cookie; the one that makes me feel like Homer Simpson when he’s thinking about doughnuts.  The Red Barn Coffee Roasters Raspberry Shortbread cookie is that good.  It’s a buttery shortbread cookie filled with the perfect amount of raspberry jam.  Each bite is pure delight.

Earlier this week, Bruce gave me a cookie from a party he and his wife had attended over the weekend and it was fantastic!  Bruce and Maria had shared their cookie, but I had greedily gobbled down mine without a thought for my husband.  It was a Mexican Chocolate Cookie made by the Dancing Deer Baking Company.  This cookie is a real treat.  Each cookie is individually packaged and tied with a bow so that it makes a great simple gift or party favor.  Truly, I was thrilled to receive it.

The clever packaging tells the story of the cookie and it’s not what you’d expect.  Dancing Deer’s Sweet Home Project helps homeless families find jobs and homes of their own by providing funding and support for homeless mothers to finish their education.  It helps parents transform their lives by attaining economic self-sufficiency.

The Sweet Home Project is an alliance between Dancing Deer and One Family, Inc.  Dancing Deer donates 35% of its Sweet Home product line retail revenues to these efforts.  One family is a nonprofit organization created by the Paul and Phyllis Fireman Charitable Foundation which is committed to ending family homelessness and promoting self-sufficiency nationally.

The Mexican Chocolate cookie not only tastes great, its adorable house shape completes the packaging story.  It has a delicious, balanced, chocolate spice flavor that’s not as sweet as American chocolate, so if you are not a big chocolate lover, don’t shy away from this cookie.    The hint of spice is similar to gingerbread but not as strong.  Really, it’s a sublime combination.

If you are looking for inexpensive Holiday gifts -these cookies are perfect for teachers, coworkers, and clients.  I have college age kids, these cookies will help stretch their tight Holiday budgets.

What a Storm!

For those of us living and working in the Connecticut Valley between central Connecticut and central Massachusetts  the past week has been something out of the Twilight Zone.  Last Saturday afternoon I was sitting at my home computer preparing the write-up of the PCB presentation I made at the UMass Soils Conference.  At about 4 PM, the lights blinked once, the computer screen went dark and all the electricity disappeared from north central Connecticut.

The freak pre-Halloween snow storm has caused a remarkable amount of damage; much more than hurricane Irene did in our area.  So this year  we’ve had a tornado, a hurricane, a minor earthquake and now an October Nor’easter.   Hopefully that’s all the strange events nature has planned for us this year.

From what I have heard, we may have power back at home by this coming Sunday at 11:59 PM, but who really knows?  I’d like to say thank you to the power companies and all the people out working long days and nights to get us wired-up again.  Yes, there are some whiners out there who believe the power companies aren’t doing enough, but most of the public is deeply appreciative of all the hard work that is going on to restore the electricity we all count on.

So this week we’ve slowed down on the blog as we scramble to get our lives our put back together.  Hopefully by next week things will be back to normal.