Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Christmas Shopping Tips that Save Time and Money

Here’s a big tip to help you save money this Christmas. Start your holiday shopping now. Early. Way early. July early even.

Don’t go hating. At first, I thought this was nutty too. And of course I mocked the friend who told me that he finished his Christmas shopping in September because it seemed waaaaaay too early to think about such things.

That was about the time that Husband and I were getting serious in the relationship department. Well, we’re not usually serious (ever!) so let’s be more truthful and say we were moving from the boyfriend-girlfriend stage into this could be THE ONE stage.


That meant that my Christmas shopping list doubled because Husband’s family was added to my own list. That’s a lot more people than I was used to shopping for. And it's grown. After many years of marriage, I now have 35 people on my gift list and that’s just immediate family and their offspring. So yeah, I have incentive to shop early and year round for all of my holiday gifts.

Especially since Husband hates to shop and I end up doing most of it.

Monday, July 20, 2009

I Made a Polka Dot Buttercup Bag!

I wanted a new summer purse. Something cute and fun because hey, it’s summer! I tend not to go vintage with purses because when I’m done with them they are so worn out they are completely trashed. I figure others may be the same way. This is another reason why I wanted a new summer purse – my old one served me for several summers before recently giving up the ghost.
Of course me being me, whenever I have cash in hand and start shopping whether it be online or in a brick and mortar store I can’t find anything I like.

It. Never. Fails.

Consequently, whenever I’m pressed for time, or not ready to lay out cash the perfect item that’s been on my wish list for a very long time will practically throw itself at me from across the store, “Take me home! I’m perfect! I should be yours! And I’m on sale!”

Does that happen to you?

I’m also fairly picky about my purses. Not too big, sort of small, but not itty bitty. And fun. Did I mention I wanted fun? And cute. It must be cute. But not too cutesy because I’m short and too cutesy makes me look like I’m 6 years old.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

6 Bottled Water Alternatives

Bottled water is a greenies worst nightmare. The plastic bottles take a lot of energy and resources to make and the bottles aren't always recycled. Especially in areas that don’t have municipal recycling programs.

That goes double for soda, which can contain artificial sweeteners and high fructose corn syrup.

If you buy water that’s packaged in an aluminum can or glass bottle or are diligent about recycling or find a creative reuse for that plastic bottle you’re good, right? Well, maybe not because the problems don’t stop with the packaging.

A recent government report found that the Food & Drug Administration's (FDA) rules for bottled water are less strict than the Environment Protection Agency's (EPA) strict rules for municipal water (tap water.) Bottle water companies aren’t required to disclose to the public what is in the water they are selling or where they get it, which more often than not is the bottling plant's local tap water. That gives me cause for concern.

Fortunately there are alternatives to bottled water (or should I call it much more expensive tap water?) These methods will save you money too.

1. Water glass – This one’s simple and cheap, yet, nobody mentions it as an option. Grab a glass from the cupboard and fill it up with water. I often bring a glass from home for the office and use that to drink water at my desk. When the glass gets dirty, I wash it out in the sink at work or at home.

2. Pitcher of refrigerator water – Prefer your water ice cold? I do. I fill up a container with tap water and put it in the refrigerator. Here’s an example of the containers I use.


A #5 Rubbermaid drink container (plastic number #2 and #5 are the safer plastics that don’t leach into your food), a glass Williams Sonoma pitcher, and a Brita water pitcher (which I use without the filter because I got lazy about changing it.)

3. Filter it yourself – I’ll admit that there are places where city water may be tested and deemed safe to drink but tastes a little odd, has scale, or gives you uh, gastric distress (hi well water my tummy’s talking to you.) If thats the case, filter it yourself. On the lower end of the coast scale (or if you rent) there are pitchers and water bottles with built in water filters (like my Brita pitcher.) At the upper end of the cost scale is installing a whole house water purification system. Personally my city water tastes fine without filtering, (as always, your mileage may vary) so I don’t have much personal experience with choosing which water filter works best for which situation, but this water filter comparison chart is a pretty good place to start.

4. Reusable water bottles – I’ll admit that bottled water is convenient. Especially when I’m out and about or have a couple of thirsty kids around who tend to knock over or drop glasses full water. When I have kid visitors I fill up a bunch of water bottles and put them in the refrigerator. Then the kiddoes can easily grab a cold one when they want it. I’m getting better about bringing my own water bottle to outdoor events thanks to the economy. I find that if I don’t have to buy a beverage; I have a few extra dollars in my pocket to squander on the BIG funnel cake! As you can see in the photo, we have quite a collection of water bottles – even Blitzkrieg has his own water bottle with a dog dish attached!


Like most things Condo, some of our bottles are a little pricey like the BPA-free KOR one (I reviewed the KOR one here ) and stainless steel Earthlust bottle (I reviewed Earthlust here.) Some are not, like the white freebie #2 plastic water bottle Husband got in a race pack. We keep it because it’s #2 plastic and it’s much more practical to use in the water bottle carrier on our bikes.

Don’t think that all swanky stainless steel/BPA-free reusable water bottles are out of your price range. Market demand means the prices are coming down. I recently saw stainless steel reusable water bottle for sale at CVS for $3.99.

5. Big water jug/cooler for groups – When Husband and I are picnicking, traveling, or with a group we use this large water jug made of #5 plastic.


This works well for our family of 3. Bigger families may want to consider the large drink coolers with the spout on the bottom. There are glass and metal options available if you look around a bit. Sure, the large coolers aren’t cheap (OK, mine was fairly cheap. It was an Big Lots special because Rubbermaid discontinued it) but once you make the one time purchase, it will pay for itself in the amount of money you save because you don’t have to keep buying expensive bottled drinks for events.

6. Make your own sparkling water - Husband likes fizzy water. It’s one of the main ingredients of his homemade Orangina. We’ve given it up because of the bottle waste (sad, I know.) Apparently there are ways that you can make your own carbonated water from tap water with gadgets like the Soda Stream system. I haven’t personally tried one, but it interests me and it’s something that’s on my To Investigate Further list. The Soda Stream might solve our fizzy bottled water problem. It might also help us to reduce soda bottle waste and cost when we have guests because it allows you to make your soda too. If anyone’s tried one please me know your thoughts!

I’d be a total hypocrite if I said that I never drink bottled water because, on occasion, I have. On those rare occasions when I can’t bring or refill my own reusable water bottle from home and don’t want to drink soda (pretty much annually after doing Race for the Cure.) That makes the fact that the FDA doesn't require full disclosure of bottled water even more disturbing. However, by using the 6 methods above I’m able to make plastic bottle drinks a rare occasion.

However, I’m also proud to say, that 99% of the time, I’m a tap water gal. What about you?

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Make Business Cards from Wallpaper Samples

I needed some business cards to promote Condo Blues at BlogHer.

I opened up Photoshop and stared a hole through that stupid blinking cursor on my computer screen. Nothing I came up with said creative reuse, decorating, DIY, crafty things, clever things, let alone green things. I just wasn’t feeling it.

I HATE picky clients.

Especially when they are me.

I considered writing all of my blog information onto post-it notes and sticking them all over Blitzkrieg because he’s the real rock star of this blog, but Blitzkrieg wasn’t very interested in helping me promote Condo Blues at BlogHer. He was much more interested in the prospect of getting boozy at the cocktail parties in the evening. That meant we had to have a little sit down (again!) and discuss how alcohol is not good for dogs (seriously) and that the legal drinking age is counted in chronological years not dog years which means he’s too young to drink booze.

Fine! Don’t take me to meet my public! Post-It notes mat my fur anyway! Harrumph!”

Hmmmm. Think. Think. Think.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Martini Tote Bag Revamp

I got a freebie tote bag with a mesh water bottle pocket at The Pet Expo. This bag would be perfect for carrying around town if it didn’t have a big ol’ logo on it.


I contimplated sewing some sort of decorative patch like thing over the logo. The Queen left the following comment on that post:

"You totally inspired me to cover up the fugly logos on my shopping bags. I was always having to explain to cashiers that no, I'm not a librarian, I just went to a book conference, etc. I did NOT have a giant needle punch kit laying around (sad), but I do have a sewing machine and a giant box of scraps! DH thought I had gone nuts, and I did. In good way. Really. I took all my giant fugly-logoes totes and put pretty pretty pockets on them. Yay, place to put coupons and no more logos. Thanks for the idea."