Thursday, November 27, 2008

Design Within Reach Black Friday Discounts!

Design Within Reach doesn’t hold many sales during the year, but when they do hold a sale, they do hold a sale. From Black Friday, November 28th to Cyber Monday, December 1st Design Within Reach is giving customers 15% any purchase in their stores or online. You must use the Black Friday discount code DWRFF8 for your online or in store purchase to get the 15% discount.

Design Within Reach is also having a Floor Sample Sale where you can save up to 50% off. The email I received from Design Within Reach says that their Floor Sample Sale starts November 28th but some stores may be marking down items and selling them early. Last weekend while Husband and I were doing some Christmas shopping recon we visited our local Design Within Reach Studio and saw that they had many floor samples already marked down. (And sweetie, if you’re reading this, it was the Nelson Crisscross Pendant that I repeatedly mentioned how nice it would look in the living room. Christmas is coming hint, hint!)

If you don’t live near a Design Within Reach Studio, or like me, some of the items you want to buy aren’t available in the brick and mortar store, the online store is holding a clearance sale.

Happy Shopping!

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Jumpstart to Green Giveaway

Everyone likes to save a little bit of money whether you want to live a more environmentally friendly lifestyle or not. If that’s the case, then scoot on over to Focus Organic. She is giving away one Jumpstart Complete kit that can help you save approximately $90 a month. The prize pack includes:

  • 4 compact fluorescent bulbs (75w equiv)

  • 2 zip-top insulated grocery bags

  • 1 Klean Kanteen water bottle

  • 1 toilet tank bank

  • 1 shower timer

  • 3 Euro Sponge cloths

  • 1 junkmail reducer kit: 4 stamped, addressed envelopes and forms

  • 1 Guide to Green: 6 laminated pages brilliantly organized for easy use

  • 1 Jumpstart Tracker: track your bills, waste and progress

  • 5 clever around-the-house reminders

  • 1 car static sticker to subtly encourage your friends to jumpstart their green living

  • 1 Smart Strip powerstrip

  • 1 refrigerator thermometer

  • 1 hot water temperature card

Who couldn’t use an extra $90 a month during the holidays?

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Monday, November 24, 2008

The KOR ONE: Reusable Water Bottle or Swanky Hydration Vessel?

KOR set out to redesign the reusable water bottle and make it appealing to the nonsporty crowd because let’s face it most of the reusable water bottles out there are designed for the sporty folks. KOR managed to combine my teenage love of fashion with my adult love of product designs (seriously folks, I’ve geeked out over the posh design of an orange juice squeezer) and put it into one gorgeous looking water bottle. Wow. (OK. OK. They call it a Hydration Vessel when really it’s a reusable water bottle - but who am I to quibble with marketing semantics?) Imagine my delight when KOR sent me one of their BPA-free plastic Hydration Vessels for review.


The KOR ONE is a one of the few water bottles I have that I can but in the dishwasher. Given the rounded bottom, the bottle is surprisingly sturdy and doesn’t tip over easily. And just for fun, the KOR ONE features a “stone” cap insert with inspirational sayings such as “Never Settle” or “Laugh Often.” They also include a blank stone so you can create your own message. I got all Alice in Wonderland and made a “Drink Me” stone for my - oh, geez, I’ll just say it - my Hydration Vessel’s lid.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Have You Ever Put An Active Dog On Complete Bed Rest? It’s Not Easy…

cat ball muzzle on
makes dog look like Spaceman Spiff
all to check his back

Blitzkrieg is a very active little dog. And he’s smart. He knows tons of tricks sit, speak, down, wait, shake, and high 5 with his left and right (blind side thankyouverymuch) paw and the favorite of the neighborhood kids, dance on his hind legs, which Peke people commonly refer to as The Pekingese Dance. Teaching Blitzkrieg these behaviors has helped us use positive reinforcement training turn the shy and fear aggressive abused dog we rescued into the confident and well-adjusted goofball we have today. One of the Blitzkrieg Rules is that if Blitzkrieg wants to join a human who is already sitting on the sofa then he has to “ask” permission by sitting first before the human (me) tells him “OK, hup”. This is Blitzkrieg’s cue to jump up on the sofa for a good snuggle.
As of last Saturday, Blitzkrieg couldn’t hup.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

20% Home Utility Reduction Challenge – October Update

My goal is to reduce my home’s natural gas and electricity use by 20% in 2008. I also want to reduce my utilities as inexpensively as possible. We had a mild summer and that helped keep my electrical usage low. Unfortunately we had a colder than usual October. I’m curious to see what that did to our utility usage.

October Natural Gas UsageThe Condo uses natural gas for heating, hot water, and a natural gas burning fireplace. Again, we didn’t use the fireplace this summer. Normally I don’t turn on the heating system until the outdoor temperatures reach 40 degrees (F). In Central Ohio that happens around mid-November. Not this year. We had a crazy cold snap with temperatures in the 40’s the week before Halloween and needed to fire up the furnace several weeks early. In October 2007 we used 12 CCF of natural gas. In October 2008, we used 15 CCF of natural gas. Not too bad given the cold weather.

Then I noticed that October was one of the months that Columbia Gas estimates our gas usage. From my records, I know that they estimate our usage high. I have to admit that I haven’t been keeping up with calling in my meter reads on estimate months during the summer. Therefore, I might have had a lower numbers if I didn’t let summer fun get in my way of household chores. Rest assured now that we have the gas furnace running for winter, I’m going to read my gas meter and report it to my gas company on estimate months.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Skil Power Cutter Review

It’s no secret that I love high quality power tools. I know the big names and as I’m slowly building the tool collection in my DIY workshop, I tend to check those out first. That’s why I was very excited that the fine folks at Skil sent me their new Skil Power Cutter for review because up until now, the only experience I’ve had with Skil brand power tools is drooling over their XBench Portable Workstation in the hardware store. Unfortunately, the Power Cutter is such a specific tool that I could only use for maybe one or two specific DIY or craft jobs around The Condo, that I can’t justify drooling over it. Maybe you might though.

The Power Cutter’s designed to cut material that is up to ¼” thick such as carpeting, vinyl flooring, wallpaper, heavy fabric like canvas, window screens, plastic pond liners, or items that are a little too thick to cut with regular scissors like cardboard, foam core board, or heavy cardstock. I tested the Power Cutter on cutting cardboard, paper, canvas, and a remnant of vinyl flooring the builder left at our house and that I will someday make into a floor cloth. I found that the Power Cutter works best on straight cuts; it didn’t do too well on detailed curvy cuts. The Power Cutter didn’t take very long to charge up and they say keeps it charge up to 18 months (which due to deadlines for this review I can’t test that, so I’ll have to take Skil’s word for it.) That’s impressive because there’s nothing I hate more than to grab a rechargeable tool from my toolbox for a quick DIY task and find that the battery’s dead.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Three Easy, Natural, and Free Fall Centerpieces

Some people see raking autumn leaves as a chore. I look at it as an opportunity to redecorate my home with some unusual (and free!) natural fall elements.

My first centerpiece couldn’t be easier to make. I literally tossed a small collection of leaves, crabapples, seedpods, and a couple of buckeyes that I gathered from my yard and neighborhood park (always make sure that you have permission to take anything from property that isn’t yours first) around a paraffin free candle on an old tray.


Since I’m working with natural and dried elements near an open flame, you’ll notice that I have the candle in a protective glass holder so I don’t accidently set my centerpiece on fire. I also make sure that I do not leave burning candles unattended.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Microfiber Towels and Sponges (Review)

I’ve read a lot about cleaning with microfiber towels. But until now, I haven’t taken the opportunity to try cleaning with microfiber products because my current batch of cleaning cloths are worn out kitchen towels that I cut in half as a reminder to keep them out of the general kitchen towel population. I figured that once I wore out my worn-out-towels-turned-cleaning-rags that I might give cleaning with microfiber sponges and towels a try. Lucky for me that day came early because Marcia of and was kind enough to send me a full compliment of microfiber sponges, washcloths, bath and kitchen towels to review.

First off, I was surprised that there were so many different applications for using microfiber. Honestly, I thought that they just made microfiber towels for cleaning up kitchen spills. Apparently, that’s not the case because Merry Microfiber also offers microfiber wash cloths and towels for not just general household cleaning but for personal use in the bathroom as well. The microfiber bath towels and washcloths were surprisingly soft. However, if you find the texture of a regular microfiber towel a little weird, they also have a waffle weave microfiber washcloths and towels (who knew?) that work just like the traditional microfiber towels. So how did they work? Let’s take a look.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

How to Winterize a Rain Barrel

If you live in an area that gets ice, snow, and/or freezing temperatures in winter, you should add one often overlooked task to your Fall Prepare for Winter Checklist: drain any standing water from your rain barrel.

During the winter, if the standing water you currently have in your rain barrel freezes, it could cause the rain barrel to crack or split, and well, then you’re out one rain barrel. Given the cost of those things, a rain barrel is not something that I personally would want to replace every spring or summer. Ouch.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Help Me Help You This Holiday Season!

The holidays are fast approaching. In fact, for the first time in my life I turned on the radio this weekend and heard Christmas music! I have never heard Christmas music playing on the radio during the first week of November!

That got me to wondering what kinds of things do you, the readers of my blogs AKA The Best Readers In the World (seriously, the diversity of people who read this blog rocks my world!), want or need to know for the upcoming holiday and winter season?

Holiday crafts?
Holiday decorating tips:
-On a budget
-Environmentally friendly
-Current trends
-Mocking insane holiday kitsch?
DIY projects?
Money saving tips or gift suggestions?
Greening your holidays (Please be specific, I’m leaving this one open on purpose because this topic covers a lot of ground)?
Green gift ideas for teens, pets, guys, gals, kids or ???

Something I haven't mentioned?

As always, if you don’t want to leave a public comment, you can always email me privately at condoblues [at] gmail [dot] com.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Earthlust Contest – We Have a Winner!

The mystical and magical Random Number generator selected Jennifer of The Dirty Shirt blog the winner of my Earthlust Reusable Stainless Steel Water Bottle Contest! I emailed both Jennifer and the folks at Earthlust so they can send Jennifer her prize. Thank you to everyone who entered the contest and above all – Congratulations Jennifer!
I forgot add in my initial review that I think these bottles would make a great holiday gift. You can check the Earthlust Website for a list of local and online retailers.

After evaluating the product, I added it to the list of recommended products that are available for sale through The Condo Blues Amazon Affiliate on-line store. If you purchase anything from through the Shop link on my blog I get a percentage of the sale that I will use to keep Blitzkrieg in kibble in between freelance writing and design projects.
Everything in my Amazon store is either something that I have personal experience using and would recommend to others, is something I think is either hip or cool, or something that I really, really, really want and is on my personal wish list. In no way shape or form has a company paid me to put these items in my Amazon Affiliate store list (except for the commission I get from the sale of these items from of course.)

Friday, November 7, 2008

Natural and Organic Cleaners: Baby Girl All Purpose Cleaner Review

Now that I’m a dog mom, I’ve found that I have to careful with the types of cleaners I use to clean The Condo because the ingredients of some household cleaners are toxic to pets. My research shows that even some ingredients in some natural cleaners, like tea tree oil are poisonous to pets. Of course Blitzkrieg wouldn’t mind if I stopped cleaning altogether and used that time to play with him because he thinks baths and general household cleanliness is overrated. However, the other inhabitants of The Condo don’t feel that way. Therefore, I’m always on the lookout for cleaning products that will keep the humans happy with a clean Condo and keep the dog happy by doing it such a way that it won’t possibly infringe upon his health.

The makers of Baby Girl Products feel the same way. They say:

"Then I switched to “safer” products on the market, only to find out that those products weren’t safe either. I was determined to find a way that I could keep my house clean without putting my family’s health in danger. I researched every homemade formula that I could find. I spent hours mixing and cleaning until I found a safe product that worked well. I consulted several chemists and the EPA to ensure that my products were effective and environmentally responsible. The demand from friends and family grew so I began to market my products by starting this company.”

Baby Girl Products sent me a bottle of their All Purpose Cleaner to review. I noticed two things about this product right away. The first, that they listed all of the ingredients of the cleaner right on the front of the bottle (water, vinegar, organic coconut oil, organic olive oil, organic jojoba oil, peppermint essential oil blend, organic aloe vera, rosemary extract, calcium carbonate), something that is not required by household cleaner makers in the United States and something I really appreciate. Secondly, I had to add water to the solid ingredients in the spray bottle. Shipping the cleaner without the water added makes shipping the product less expensive and uses less gasoline to ship. I like that. I only wish that more manufacturers would do the same thing.

I used the Baby Girl All Purpose Cleaner to clean everything in The Condo for a month. Here’s what I found.

The Good
The All Purpose Cleaner cleaned everything in my house very well. Sinks, counter tops, floors, toilets, bathtub, shower stall, and even did well on my nemesis, soap sum on the glass shower door. I even used it to clean the bathroom mirrors and Blitzkrieg’s nose prints off the siding glass patio door. The patio door was a little streaky but was better than when I’ve used other all purpose cleaners to clean mirrors or windows in a pinch. However, based on how well the All Purpose Cleaner did the job it really wasn’t created to do, I’m sure that Baby Girl’s Window Cleaner would do the job a little better and streak free.

The Not So Good
There’s very little that I didn’t like about this product. Some people might not like that you have to add 3 cups of water to the container and shake it up before using it the first time, but that didn’t bother me at all. That only negative I found with this product is that I tended to use a little more of the All Purpose Cleaner to get the job done but not due to performance, largely due to the fact that I like that it smelled like essential oils and not like a bunch of fake flowers.

If you’re interested in a good natural all purpose cleaner with certified organic ingredients, then Baby Girl Products All Purpose Cleaner is the household cleaner for you.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

2 Rice Bags Turned into Shopping Tote Bags

Husband and I had some empty rice bags in our stash of reusable shopping tote bags. However, we rarely used them, or even worse, we got the passive aggressive stink eye from clerks at the grocery store because the rice bags were much smaller than the rest of our shopping tote bags.

I decided to make my small rice bags into larger shopping tote bags.

Shopping Tote Bag#1

I opened up the seams and removed the handles from this burlap rice bag with a seam ripper. Then I cut two 5 inch (3 inches wide + 1 inch seam allowances) rectangles out of a way too-faded-to-donate-to-charity 100% cotton curtain panel and sewed them to the sides of bag. I made and attached handles to the top of the bag for easy toting around town. I like how the green reclaimed curtain panel coordinates with the green lettering on the burlap rice bag.


The zipper is not functional. I just left it in the side of the bag so everyone knows that yes, this was once a small Basmati rice bag.

Monday, November 3, 2008

I’m in Love with Earthlust Stainless Steel Water Bottles

We have several BPA free reusable plastic sport bottles hanging around The Condo largely due to Husband getting them as promotional freebies in his 5K, 10K, and ½ marathon race packs. I’m not a big fan of these bottles because of the sport tops – it’s just too hard to drink water through them. Either I have to squeeze the plastic bottle and/or suck like a manic baby on the sport top to get the water to come out of the bottle. Even then I still don’t’ get a decent drink of water. In most cases, I just unscrew the sports top and drink straight from the bottle because I like to live dangerously.

Since I have some freebies and I generally not a fan of the reusable plastic water bottles we currently have, I’ve been slow to jump on the metal reusable water bottle bandwagon. Especially when I saw that some of those supposed-to-be-better-for-you-and-the- environment metal water bottles have plastic liners. So if you want me to ditch my current #2 plastic-but-bad–reusable-water-bottle for your metal-but-supposed-to-be-greener-but-lined-with- #2 plastic-reusable-water-bottle you had better offer me something that’s much better than what I currently have sitting in my cupboard.

Earthlust did just that. They make a naturally safe stainless steel water bottle that is not only unlined (no plastic in this reusable metal water bottle!) but uses non-toxic paints, and looks good.

I got to try an Earthlust water bottle and I’m hooked. First, I like that the Earthlust bottles are just plainer prettier to look at than some of those other reusable metal water bottles. In fact, some Earthlust designs are inspired by what the owner sees around her during walks with her child. I love that. I’m a total sucker for something that has both good design and an interesting back story.