Giveaway Time!
Like gift cards over cash? That's cool. Enter my $50 Kroger Gift Card Giveaway for a chance to win a $50 gift card to Kroger from All You! The giveaway begins April 7, 2014 and ends April 28, 2014. Good Luck! Click to enter the $50 Kroger Gift Card Giveaway here! Good luck!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Why I Went to BlogHer '09

There are so many things both good and bad that I could write about my trip to BlogHer 09. I even got an insiders peek at some of the goings on because I was on the BlogHer Green Team. I was also a mic handler for the sessions. I and learned so much about social activism in the Leadership: Hope and Change in Action session it isn’t even funny.

I have to admit I was leery about going to BlogHer. Why? I heard rumors about accusations, squeeing, drama about getting STUFF, wild parties - was there any learning going on? and perceived snubs that went on at past BlogHers. (This one wasn’t any different.)

Oh and because I’m not a mommy blogger. Even though I’m The World’s Most Fabulous Aunt (I’m thinking about trademarking this) since I don’t have Mommy or anything related to children in my blog title, people don’t know what to do with me. I heard of bloggers who don’t blog about their families or children (even if they are moms) being snubbed because this or that event or sponsor is “only for mommy bloggers.” Fortunately this never, ever, ever happened to me.

The same goes for the enviros. Since I don’t have green, crunchy, eco or such in the title of my blog the cool kids don’t find me or read me. Or maybe they do find me and don’t like me because while I give green living, and money saving and DIY tips I also blog about the audacity of garden yetis. Not because they are big hunks of plastic resin that have a negative impact on the environment but because it’s a 2 foot tall Sasquatch as d├ęcor in your freaking garden. It must be mocked. I’m just the gal to do it.

So since I put these marketing obstacles in place I felt that I should go to BlogHer and learn how to promote Condo Blues in a world where if you don’t have the right keywords in your blog title you are largely ignored. I also considered test marketing a rebranded blog title Condo Blues Mommy Green Metatag Metatag but after giving out so many Condo Blues business cards I decided against it. Until I get home from Chicago and Husband casually suggests the new blog title Condo Blues and Greens. Great name! What do you think?

OK, moving on to the touchy feely. This is why I really went to BlogHer


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I met over 135 really great people and got their business cards. I gave out 252 of my business cards to people who wanted them. I networked my face off.

I helped make BlogHer less wasteful by being on the BlogHer Green Team. We offered suggestions about reducing waste, for doling out useful/more eco swag (it did happen. It wasn’t all about the drama), and even participated in a conference call with Pepsi one of the major sponsors about what they planned to do at the conference. I’ll blog more on that later.

One of the greatest things I took back from me is what Elisa from BlogHer said to me in the lobby right before I went home. She thanked me for being on the Green Team. I tried to apologize for some of the team's rather, ahem, intense discussions regarding a few things that transpired right before the conference. She wouldn’t let me. She told me that I did my job. The team challenged and pushed BlogHer and the sponsors to be more environmentally friendly. She said magic words, “You made a difference.”

Me?

I made a difference? Big corporations listened to me? As an expert? In a nonprofessional setting?

I have a voice.

I made a difference.

Wow.

You don’t get that feeling of pride and empowerment from a free camera people.

And this:


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Top Row, LtoR - Lynn of Organic Mania; Micaela of Mindful Momma. Bottom Row, L to R: Maryanne of Not Quite Crunchy Parent; Me! Lisa of Condo Blues; Beth of Fake Plastic Fish and Diane of Big Green Purse. Missing: Sommer of Green and Clean Mom and Jennifer of The Smart Mama.

I met some of my fellow bloggers of the Green Moms Carnival up close and in person. We became fast real life friends when I saw them in the lobby Thursday evening. There were hugs and squeeing (in my head) when I saw them.

This too.


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This is my new friend Vanessa from Chef Druck Musings. I made a new blogging and local real life friend because she moved to Columbus right before the conference started! I didn’t know about her or her blog until we drove in the same carpool thanks to Chevrolet and BlogHer. We’re making plans to check out our local farmers market and ethnic grocery stores once she’s settled in.

I was so surprised to see that she was the live blogger and I was the mic handler for the Blogging Identities and YOU session. It was a great session. It was fun working together.

So yeah, those sponsorships are nice to have as in I am very, very grateful for the opportunity. I don’t think sponsorships are an entitlement because I’m an optionated dork with a high speed internet connection (most people call them bloggers.) I tried to do right by Chevrolet since they gave me that opportunity out of the goodness of their own heart. Which means I didn’t crash the car they let us drive.

Volunteering as a mic handler meant that BlogHer paid my conference fee. I did not get any extra anything for volunteering to serve on the BlogHer Green Team but I’d do it again in a heart beat because I made a difference.

BlogHer selected me to fill one of the few volunteer spots out of the 150 people who applied. I wanted to do good by them too. I literally ran around meeting rooms making sure that participants could be heard and recorded while not interrupting the flow of the discussion in my assigned sessions because I wanted to be deserving of the conference fee scholarship BlogHer awarded me. Thank you BlogHer for the opportunity to go to some great sessions I may not have otherwise, those were my favorites.

Also thanks to my BlogHerShip, I didn’t have to get up early to run the BlogHer 5K and I still got my cardio workout in!

However this drama, I could do without

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There’s a lot I could say and will say about SwagGate. Most of it comes down to parties allowing more RSVPs than they had room or gifty things for the attendees. Once word got out quickly via Twitter, a few feral attendees felt the need to get there super early, swoop in grab THE STUFF and leave. The majority of us were there for fun, networking, and some wacky behavior.

My next post about BlogHer I will tell you about the fun stuff. Like how I partied with Mrs. Potato Head (she’s a wild woman!) and had an in depth discussion about the comedic potential of the word “Hobo” with none other than The Bloggess.

Forming relationships, making a difference, and partying with a giant potato. That’s why I went to BlogHer ’09.

Monday, July 27, 2009

EcoSmart Organic Insect Repellent Giveaway

Mosquitoes find me tasty. Being covered in welts is embarrassing, not to mention itchy. While I want to keep the bugs away, I don’t want to do it with chemical laden repellents full of DEET if I don’t have to. I’m leery about using DEET on myself and definitely don’t want to use around Blitzkrieg.

Fortunately the folks at EcoSmart came to my rescue - again. They asked me if I wanted to try their non toxic plant based mosquito repellent. Since I had a very good experience with EcoSMART Ant and Roach Killer and read from time to time about organic insecticides on their blog (including many DIY remedies) I said bring on the EcoSMART Insect Repellent.

EcoSMART Insect Repellent is made from non toxic plant oils (rosemary oil, cinnamon leaf oil, lemongrass oil, and wintergreen oil) that are natural bug killers. EcoSMART Insect Repellent is safe to use around children and pets. I wore it to an evening street festival down by the river – bug central. I came back home without a bug bite or welt in sight.

The following day I didn’t wear any insect repellent when we watched the Doo Dah parade and spent time at the dog park afterwards. The result? Dime sized mostiquto bites on my arms and legs – which is normal for me if I don’t wear some sort of insect protection.

Since then I’ve worn EcoSMART Insect Repellent to an outdoor picnic in a city park and as well as a family reunion in the country. The bugs stayed away and all with a pleasant wintergreen scent. Great for me because I’m not very fond of the smell of citronella that’s was in the first natural insect repellent I tried.

I give EcoSmart Insect Repellent big thumbs up.

EcoSMART Organic Insect Repellent Giveaway! *Closed*

ECOSmart is generously offered to sponsor a giveaway on Condo Blues. I’m giving away the EcoSMART product bundle of your choice to one lucky reader! To enter, visit EcoSMART, take a look around, and leave a comment on my blog about which product bundle you’d like to win. Easy!

You can earn extra chances to win by doing any of the following after you’ve made your initial comment on my blog:

1. Follow me on Twitter AND tweet about the contest. Please leave the URL of your tweet and Twitter username in your comment so I can verify it.

2. Write a blog post about my giveaway with a link back to this blog post. Please leave the URL of your post in your comment so I can verify it.

3. Subscribe to the Condo Blues RSS feed.

4. Put the Condo Blues button on the sidebar of your blog.

You must leave a separate comment for each method you used to enter the contest. If you choose to use every method of entry, you have up to five chances to win!

Remember you need to leave a separate comment on my blog for each method of entry because I will use a random number generator to select the winner. The contest will run from July 27 – August 9, 2009.

This contest is open to US residents only. I will not share your email address with any third parties because I hate email spam probably more than you do. Seriously.


Updated 7/28/2009 6:45 PM EST: With all of the brouhaha over reviews and giveaways I want to reiterate that even though I receive money for advertisements, my editorial content is not for sale. I always give my honest opinions, findings, beliefs, or experiences on those products I review.

In other words, I only write reviews for products that I can test personally and write my honest opinion about the item. I require companies to give me a sample of the product, so I can test it. If I get that item for free, I tell you. EcoSmart gave me a bottle of insect repellent for free. If I write a positive review, that means I really do like the product. Which means right now that bottle of EcoSmart Insect Repellent is sitting under my kitchen sink waiting for use to use it before going outside because I really do like it and think it works.

I just thought you should know.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Creative Battery Recharge via Vintage Furniture Shopping

When I’m in need of a creative battery recharge a trip to Flower Child does the trick. The first time I walked in the store during a Gallery Hop night and saw that they carry vintage (that’s $200 more than “used”) mid century and Danish modern furniture my heart went thumpa thumpa. Husband and I popped in to look at chairs for the living room. Fortunately I brought my camera because there were treasures a plenty!


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I love the design of this sweet little TV set. I think it’s the bright orange color that does it for me. Since I don’t have use for another TV, this photo will go up on the inspiration board in my craft room.

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A whole case of old school sparklies – drag queen’s delight!


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A glammy gal to go with the glammy jewels. Yep, it’s Miss No Wire Hangers herself – Joan Crawford in an art deco frame.


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Me: Hey honey, what do you think about this chair for the living room?

Husband: (fends deafness)

Because…


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He found a big stack of laser disks and the player for sale! It’s a sad, sad day when you realize the uber technology of your childhood is for sale in a junk shop that uses the words “retro” and “vintage” to describe its wares.

Pass the Geratol please. *sigh*


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Yes, it really is a condom machine. Because who doesn’t need one of those in their bathroom?!


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Me: Wow, that’s something you don’t see every day. A chandelier made out of tacky dolls with pink and blue hair.

Husband: Wow, that’s something you don’t see every day. A chandelier made out of tacky dolls with pink and blue hair with rings impaling their foreheads!

For $425 it can be yours.

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I love the use of monochromic blues in this display. Makes me lust after those (possibly) Fiestaware pitchers – and I don’t even use the color blue in my kitchen!

Creative batteries back at full charge.

Minus one living room chair.


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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.

Awwwwww.

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.
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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.


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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!



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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.


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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.

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

Hmmmm. Think. Think. Think.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Does Your Washing Machine Smell Musty? (Review and Giveaway)

Since I wipe it down the inside gaskets on my washing machine and let it air dry after each use, I figured I was OK in the musty smelling washing machine department even though I didn’t run the cleaning cycle on my new washing machine monthly like the manufacturer recommended.

That is until Smelly Washer contacted me and asked me if I wanted to try their product. Through the power of Google I found out that many of you have stinky washers and that made me wonder about my washing machine. The clothes come out smelling clean, so I’m good, right? To be sure, I stuck my head in my washing machine (the lengths I go to for you people!) and took a sniff. My washing machine smelled like detergent with a faint end note of funk.

Urm, send the Smelly Washer please.

Turns out that even though I let the washing machine dry out between loads I still do a few things that cause washing machine smells. Oops.

I added one capful of Smelly Washer to my washing machine and ran the cleaning cycle. Once it finished I took a sniff – no more detergent and slight funk smell. Yay!

If you have a particularly smelly washing machine, you may have to do an overnight soak/run it though twice.

You can use Smelly Washer top loading, front loading, and HE washing machines. Smelly Washier is made from natural citrus based ingredients and is biodegradable. In addition to airing out my washing machine and wiping down the inside door gaskets, I’m going to start running Smelly Washer through my washing machine once a month just to keep any possible funk at bay.

Smelly Washer Giveaway! *Closed*

I’m giving away one bottle of Smelly Washer to one lucky reader! To enter, leave a comment on my blog with either a laundry tip or tale of laundry woe.

You can earn extra chances to win by doing any of the following after you’ve made your initial comment on my blog:

You must leave a separate comment for each method you used to enter the contest. If you choose to use every method of entry, you have up to five chances to win! Please make sure that you leave a separate comment on my blog for each method of entry because I will use a random number generator to select the winner. The contest will run from July 12 – July 28, 2009.

This contest is open to US residents only. I will not share your email address with any third parties because I hate spam probably more than you do. Although Spam’s not too bad if served with eggs and a side of crunchy toast for breakfast, but that’s just me.

Friday, July 10, 2009

I’m a Superhero!

I’m a 4R’s Superhero. What’s that you ask? It’s an award that Rob of Rob’s World gives to those who do something to repair, recycle, reuse, or reduce waste. And Rob was kind enough to bestow his award on yours truly.

Here’s how Rob described his award and has some kind words to say about little ol’ me (and yes, I’m blushing.)

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"It's time for a 4R's Superhero award. This one goes to Condo Blues. Whether it is re-using her father-in-laws scrap bricks for a flower bed border or reusing broken concrete (he/she broke the concrete themselves) for a raised flower bed, Ms. Blues and her husband work and show how to re-use building materials in the garden. And I am sure Blitzkrieg, their cute as a button dog helps with all this heavy construction going on!"

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Anyone who has kind things to say about Blitzkrieg has my heart. Moreover, Rob's right. Blitzkrieg has a supervisory role in all projects Condo. Especially projects that involve making foodstuffs in the kitchen.

Rob goes on to say:

"The 4R award goes to individuals who do something great for the planet by reducing, re-using, recycling or repairing, thus keeping items out of the waste stream. Not a meme, the recipient is allowed to post the fancy logo on the website, they don't have to print anything, pass it on or divulge any secrets of their lives. Just accept the award and know in their hearts they are a "4-R
Superhero""
If you’re not familiar with Rob’s blog, you really should pop over and see his great DIY ideas. One of these days, I’m going to make his DIY self watering planters so the plants on my patio don’t die a horrible dry death.

Thanks Rob!

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.


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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."

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Forth of July Doo Dah Parade!

This Independence Day Husband, Blitzkrieg, and I celebrated our First Amendment right (that’s Freedom of Speech for all of you who flunked history) and watched the insanity that is Columbus’ Forth of July Doo Dah Parade!

What’s a Doo Dah?

Got me.

Seriously.

OK, for the initiated, the Doo Dah parade is whoever or whatever you can cobble together to make a float, group, or bizarre WTF? thing. It’s a lot like street theater in parade form. Many of the groups/floats/I-have-no-idea-what are political or social satire. Like the Marching Fidels (yes, as in Castro) - a Doo Dah staple. They haven’t let Castro’s “retirement” stop them. They carried shovels and signs and chanted that that they are “Shovel Ready.”

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Sometimes politicians march in the parade, but if they do, they are required to wear funny hats and have something funny to say. This is State Representative Dan Stewart in a funny hat that is shaped like the Ohio State House. He marches in the Doo Dah parade with a sign that says “Got vote?”

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Photo courtesy of Doo Dah parade

The Doo Dah disorganizers (don't look at me, that's what they call themselves) swear that marching in the Doo Dah parade cinched the election for Stewart. Who can argue? That's a mighty fine hat.

We also saw a whole bunch of art cars. This one was my favorite – a luau and art car all rolled into one! With flaming Tiki Torches on the front and a smoking Tiki God on the roof I’d get out of this car’s way in a traffic jam. Wouldn’t you?

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Then I’d invite them over to the Condo for a barbeque.

I have no idea what the hell this was supposed to be.

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But whatever they were they were nothing short of enthusiastic. They sang Camptown Races - a lot. Loudly. And badly. Very. Badly.
This weird dude marching at the end of the parade made me take his picture.
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Joke’s on you weird dude – I put you on the internet! Baw-hahahahahah!

You don’t expect me to celebrate the birth of our nation normally now you do? Well, actually we did. Husband and I went to the big normal very patriotic 4th of July fireworks celebration – yesterday. On July 3rd. In Columbus we call that the not-quite-our-nation’s-holiday-let’s-make-it-a-holiday holiday. Odd? Yes, but that’s how we roll in the city we call Cowtown. Mooooooo.

How you are celebrating The Fourth of July?

Friday, July 3, 2009

Craftsman Tool Innovation Showcase Contest

I’m always amazed at inventors and inventions. Some of my favorite TV shows are ones where they feature the latest and greatest drooblables at industry home and garden expos. I look at some of these brilliant ideas and think, “How did they come up with that?” or “I’d totally buy/rent/borrow-and-not- return that to my neighbor!”

If you’ve ever had one of those “I wish I had a tool that did… and this is how it would work” moments Craftsman Tools is holding the contest for you. They sent me information about their Craftsman Innovation Showcase where you can submit your ideas for a new type of hand tool, power tool, lawn & garden tool, or tool storage idea and if they like it Craftsman will make and sell your idea!

To enter you need to send a brief description (100 words or less per product) that indicates which category your idea falls into and the market need it fulfills, to Louise Chang, Craftsman Innovation Showcase Coordinator, at lchang1@searshc.com by July 13, 2009. You don’t need a prototype to enter and you can submit as many product ideas as you like.

If Craftsman likes your idea, they’ll invite to you to travel on your own dime (yeah, I know) to Sears’ headquarters in Hoffman Estates, IL and register for the Innovation Showcase. There you will have 30 minutes to an hour to privately present your product idea to a panel of judges. If they like it, your product could be chosen to be put in development by Craftsman.

Pretty cool, huh?

Now only if I can come up with a new tool idea. The only thing I can think of would be some sort of magic wand that will complete any DIY project or job with a snap of my fingers when I’m too busy (or lazy) to finish it myself.

However I think we already have that. Most people call it making spouses/children/contractors do the job for you.

I guess I’m not that innovative after all.

What about you? Are you going to enter the contest? What would be your perfect tool?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

8 Tips for Great Staycation Fun

Staycations don’t have to stink! Really. I should know I’m veteran of staycations. Sometimes by my choice and sometimes the choice was made for me by outside forces, for example on my honeymoon. I had to have ankle surgery months before my wedding. I was off of crutches by my wedding day. I diligently did everything the doctor and physical therapist told me but still couldn’t do a lot of walking by W–day. At the last minute Husband and I had to ditch our honeymoon plans of the Guggenheim and shopping in New York for something less walking intensive – a bed and breakfast and the World's Largest Wheel of Real Cheese in Ohio Amish country


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Photo courtesy of Roadside America

Romantic, no?
I learned a few things from that vacation experience:

1. Vacation fun can be had whether you’re traveling far from home or staying in town. Either way vacation fun is how you make it. It really depends upon your attitude. A pity party poor-me-we-can’t-take-a-big-vacation attitude is guaranteed to put a damper on your staycation fun.
2. When life hands you vacation lemons find a way to make fun of it (not of the Amish people. That’s rude.) Making light of your circumstances – like checking out a few cheap and cheesy attractions you’d most likely skip over if you were visiting from out of state can go a long way in the fun department.

Since then, Husband and I have staycated by choice – right in our own city. A few summers ago with an ever growing list of “hey that looks like an interesting place” and some use them or lose them vacation day as incentive – we both took a few days off during the middle of the week to play and crossed those things off our list.
It was fun and it felt a little naughty - like playing hooky from school (not that I never, ever did such a thing!) Even better, some of those things like visiting The Short North Arts District and a bunch of local ethnic grocery stores (we’re big foodies) we liked so much that they are now things we do regularly.

8 Ways to Have a Rockin’ Stay at Home Vacation

1. Get the whole family involved in the decision. This can help you avoid the poor us pity party attitude when everyone is allowed to contribute to the decision. Sometimes the younger family members can come up with some great ideas like doing a picnic chill out afternoon at a park with a fun and different-to-them playground.
2. Decide what type of vacation you want. Lie around and relax? Lots of site seeing or activities? Fresh country air? Woods? More city? Less country?
3. Decide how far you want to travel from home. Do you want to stay in your own city or are you open to driving an hour or so for an overnight stay or day trip?
4. Set a Budget. Just like a regular traveling vacation budget is going to dictate what you do and how you do it.
5. Food. Determine if you plan on eating in or dining out for most meals. Personally, we do a little of both. We try to make things up ahead of time and freeze them like pizza dough, grill out, or resort to (gasp!) frozen
-->convenience food or dining out (it may not be the most nutritious food in the world but isn’t that part of being on vacation?) That way the family cook doesn’t get stuck doing regular life cooking chores – it’s their vacation too!
6. Unplug. Make a family pact to not use the computer, video games, Twitter, Facebook, while on staycation. Its way too easy to park your butt in front of the TV or computer for a week and not get out an enjoy anything as a family.
7. Lodging. Do you want to sleep at home or not? For some folks it’s really about not being home with all of life’s distractions. Maybe a night or two in an in town hotel, bed and breakfast, or campground is what you need in order to relax and get away from it all that’s OK. There are no rules. Do what you want - after all it’s your vacation.
8. Activities. What are you going to do? Well that depends on how you like to spend your vacations.
  • If you’re a relaxing outdoors kind of person, maybe a day (or 7) at a local beach or pool would be fun, rent a boat or canoe, go horseback riding, or camping. If the thought of an evening in the hot outdoors with bugs swarming around you doesn’t appeal (or it’s raining,) how about setting up a pup tent indoors and doing an indoor campout? Don’t have a tent? Do one better; make one out of sheets and chairs in the living room big enough for the whole family to sleep in and your kids (or nieces and nephews) will think you are the coolest parent (or aunt) ever!
  • Check your city visitor’s bureau. Even most small town have them. It’s certainly worth your while to check in just in case a new place, festival, or activity pops up.
  • Check your state and other city’s visitor’s bureau. If nothing in your own city looks appealing, check out visitor’s centers of other major cities in your state. I did that recently and found this little Ohio gem. The Christmas Story house lives in Cleveland!

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Photo courtesy of A Christmas Story House
A Christmas Story is one of my all time favorite movies. I had no idea that I lived so close to the actual house used in the movie and it is open for tours! A pilgrimage is order.


  • Plan it around a local festival or fair. Especially if it’s a festival you’ve never been to or is a little out of your comfort zone like my trip to see the butter cow. Maybe it could serve as an incentive to save your pennies for a big splashy vacation. For example, Husband, Blitzkrieg and I spent a weekend at the Asian Festival. We saw a lion dance, ate real Philippines food (not that Americanized wok in box fast food stuff), and joked that Blitzkrieg got to learn a little bit more about his Chinese heritage. (Let me tell you taking a Pekingese into the China heritage pavilion is always a hit!) It was an excellent incentive to start putting money away to see the real thing in person.
  • Buy a few souvenirs. Personally I’m not a buying souvenirs for souvenirs sake type of gal but I’m not opposed to the idea either. Usually I’ll get something useful like a t-shirt or something unusual that I can’t buy at home. At the Asian Festival we bought some yummy green tea cookies from a Japanese bakery. The big bonus of doing it on staycation is that we found out that the bakery is close to our house and we can easily go there again! You can’t do that with an out of state vacation (sorry Magnolia Bakery.)

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  • Take pictures just like you would during a regular vacation! If you’re going to play tourist do it all of the way and take some pictures. The goofier the better I always say. For example, here’s Blitzkrieg in a play Japanese tea house in the kids area at the Asian Festival.

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  • If all else fails – go kitsch! No matter where we go vacation I always look it up on Roadside America and check out if there are any crazy kitschy tacky touristy things in the area. Looney things. Cheap or cheesy things. For example, on a drive about the city to find bizarre public art we found a building that looks like giant picnic basket, and a Field of Giant Concrete Corn. I only wish I had a giant stick of butter and shaker of salt to go with all of that corn…


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Photo courtesy of Roadside America
Staycations like vacations can be as fun or boring as you want to make it. Have you taken a staycation? What did you do? What are your staycation tips?


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This post is part of Works for Me Wednesday.