Saturday, February 27, 2010

Five Unusual Ways to Keep Warm in a Cold House

Welcome Weather Channel viewers! This morning I did another 58 Degree Challenge interview on The Weather Channel. I talked about how my family stays toasty warm in snowy Ohio with our daytime thermostat set at 58 degrees (F). Here are five ways we stay warm in a cold house.

1. Dress in layers. Sweaters are good but fleece layered over another long sleeved shirt is my favorite. I must have ice water running through my veins because I get cold more easily than Husband. I sometimes wear long underwear under my clothes too. Not only at home but sometimes in cold office buildings. Because like I said before, I get cold easily.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Bare Escentuals bareMinerals Foundation Giveaway!

One of my New Year’s Resolutions is to green my health and beauty aids, especially my makeup. Now fortunately, we don’t use the lead based creams that gave Queen Elizabeth I her desired pallor (and possible lead poisoning) but when I checked what was in my current foundation there were quite a few chemicals that gave me cause for concern.

Fortunately I came by Bare Escentuals bareMinerals SPF Foundation which is a powdered mineral makeup. Mineral makeup contains nothing more than finely powdered minerals that occur in nature. The active ingredients are Titanium Dioxide, Zinc Oxide Inactive Ingredients are Bismuth Oxychloride, Mica, Iron Oxides, Zinc Oxide, Titanium Dioxide.

My current and not so chemically nice foundation is a powder. I do like the coverage and staying power that I get with a powdered foundation. Powdered foundation is less likely to shine with my oily skin. Which made me want to give the Bare Escentuals powdered foundation a go.

And guess what? So can you! You can go to Bare Escentuals and take the Rethink What Matters  survey and be entered to win some bareMinerals makeup goodness. There is a grand prize as well as runner-up prizes.

 Don’t click away just yet – I’m hosting a giveaway here on Condo Blues!

You will win one bareMinerals SPF Foundation in the shade of your choice!

To enter: Use the Bare Escentuals shade matcher  to help you the best color foundation that matches your skin. Leave a comment on Condo Blues telling me which shade of foundation you would like to win.

You must leave your email address so I can contact you if you win or your entry will be disqualified. If your email address is available via your Blogger profile that counts.

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

1. Blog about my contest with a link back to Condo Blues. Please leave the URL of your blog post so I can verify it.

2. Subscribe to Condo Blues by Email.

3. Subscribe to the Condo Blues RSS feed.

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

5. Put my 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 six chances to win!

I will use a random generator to select the winner. The Bare Escentuals bareMinerals Foundation Giveaway runs from February 23, 2009 – February 27, 2009 12 midnight EST. Good Luck!

Legal mumbo jumbo: This contest is open to US residents only. I will not share your email information any third parties. Bare Escentuals did supply me with a free sample product but did not pay me to run this giveaway or say nice things about their products. All opinions are 100% my own and longtime readers know I can be very opinionated.

Updated 3/1/10: Congratulations go to Julie the winner of the giveaway!

How to Frame a Tin Ceiling Tile the Easy Way

I framed two tin ceiling tiles from the 200 year old church where Husband and I were married. I gave them to Husband as a token of my love.

The frame ceiling tiles hang above the banister in our living room

The tiles were removed to repair a leak in the ceiling in the church parlor. Do you believe that a man on the repair crew wanted to throw these gems away?! Fortunately there was an antiquer among the volunteers working on the project who knew how valuable these sweet babies are and convinced them to not to toss them aside – whew!

I’ll take two please. Thank you.

I cleaned the tiles with a mild soap and water solution and removed the chips of paint before it had a chance to flake all over the carpet. I didn’t want to take any chances of Blitzkrieg sniffing out and possibly eating paint flakes. Bad, bad, bad.

Building the frame was simple. I went to an art supply store and bought canvas stretcher bars in the dimensions of the tin tiles. I assembled the frame, glued it together with wood glue instead of the stapling it together as you would if you stretched canvas over the bars in order to paint a picture. I filled the corner channels with wood filler for an even finish.

Once it was dry, I painted the frames red to play off of the red and white curtains that hang in the living room and in front of the kitchen patio door.

Some people buy t-shirts as souvenirs when they go on vacation. Husband and I buy curtains at Ikea.

I bent the rough edges of the tiles back on themselves with a pair of needle nose pliers. I drilled pilot holes in the tiles and screwed them to the wooden frame with leftover screws from my toolbox.


I screwed in two large eyes into the top of each frame so I could hang the tiles back to back in from hooks I screwed into a ceiling joist.

A discreet loop of wire keeps the tiles standing back to back standing at attention over the stairwell banister.


Husband loved his gift! It has extra special meaning because his parents were married in the same church. Awwww….

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If you are joining us from Trash to Treasure Tuesday,DIY Day, Today's Creative Blog, Penny Pinching Party, The Girl Creative, Toot Your Horn Tuesday, Works for Me Wednesday, and Show and Tell - welcome!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Expensive Energy Efficient Light Bulbs Can Sill You Save Money

Welcome Columbus Dispatch readers! Today The Columbus Dispatch wrote an article about me "Energy Audit First Step to Cutting Utility Bills" in today's paper about how I save money by reducing my use of electricity and natural gas use.

One way I saved electricity is to change the energy hogging incandescent light bulbs in my house to a combination of electricity sipping halogen, compact florescent (CFL), and energy saving incandescent light bulbs.

CFLs come in (from left to right) soft light, bright white, and daylight varieties just like incandescent light bulbs

According to Energy Star, lighting accounts for up to 20% of the average home’s electric bill. That being the case, if you switch at least 25% of the incandescent light bulbs you use most often in your home to energy efficient light bulbs you can slice a serious chunk off of the amount of electricity you currently use to light your home.

You can further reduce your electricity use by opening the curtains and using natural light to light rooms as much as possible. You can even try using the One Person One Light Rule: turn on only one light for every person that is in the room. This isn’t always practical but it might make you think a little bit more about turning on all of the lights in a room when only one or two will do the job just as well.

Lazy environmentalism. Just the way I like it.

For giggles, I counted the number of light bulbs in my house so I could calculate my current household percentage of energy efficient light bulbs before The Great Light Bulb Switch Out I made during my 20% Energy Reduction Challenge in 2008.

I have 58 light bulbs in my house.

Before the Great Light Bulb Switch Out, twenty five of those light bulbs were some form of energy efficient light bulb: a combination of fluorescent, compact florescent, halogen, and Verilux Full Spectrum incandescent light bulbs. The Verilux light bulbs are the most expensive light bulb I have in my house. They are supposed to use less energy than a traditional incandescent light bulb and show colors more accurately than standard incandescent light bulbs. They are also supposed to help combat the winter blues during gray Ohio winter days because they emit full spectrum light. More importantly, I got them on sale, which is why I decided to give them a try.

Now that I have the numbers, was my percentage of  light bulbs in my home were energy efficient?

25 energy efficient light bulbs divided by 58 total household light bulbs = 43% of the light bulbs in my house were energy efficient.


And yet 43% of energy efficient lighting goodness wasn’t reflected on my not-yet-lower electric bill.

I wanted immediate energy saving results. I decided that I did not want to wait until each incandescent light bulb burned out to replace it with a CLF, although you can certainly do so, actually, I recommend it. A couple of times since I made the switch, I’ve walked into a room, flipped the lights and all of the light bulbs have burnt out at the same time, leaving me fumbling in the dark. Because, you guessed it, I switched all of the light bulbs in that room over at the same time in that room instead of waiting until each bulb burned out on its own before I replaced it with a CFL. Don’t be me.

I made the financial hit a little less by buying one three pack of CFLs every time I go grocery shopping. It took a little longer to do the switchover, but at least I didn’t have to shell out the money for 33 new CFLs all at once, which was around $200.

I bought the majority of the new CFLs at Aldi and Dollar General because they were less expensive than buying so many CFLs at the home improvement store. I picked up some store brand bulbs at Meijer too. The cheaper CFLs are working and lasting just as long as some of the more expensive name brand CFLs we have in the house before we made the Great Switch.

Yes, the Sylvania CLF light bulbs I bought at Aldi and Dollar General are still a little more expensive than energy hogging incandescent light bulbs, but it works out in the end because the CFL light bulbs last approximately 10 years. Traditional incandescent light bulbs last approximately three years. So not only am I saving electricity, I won’t have to buy or change another light bulb until 2014. Nice!

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This is a revised version of my original April 8, 2008 Condo Blues post Why a Switch to Expensive Energy Efficient Light Bulbs Will Save Me Money

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase using the Amazon link in this post, I earn a small commission (really small) which will help me with my goal of making Condo Blues a self hosted blog at no additional cost to you.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Best. Snowshoes. Ever.

We got 15 inches of snow last night and an extra three inches today. Add that to the 14 inches already sitting in my front yard – and that’s a lot of snow!

We like to measure snowfall in Pekingese instead of inches.

We have 4 Pekingese of snow in the front yard = 32 inches!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

I’m in the Salada Tea Green Spotlight!

Wow! I’m so honored that Salada Tea chose me to be their Green Spotlight for February because of my home energy saving efforts. Not only did they write the most flattering article about me on their website that made me blush, but I also won a year’s supply of their yummy tea!


Happy dance! While it’s true that I can’t start my day without the kick in the head I get from my morning espresso roast coffee, I generally switch over to tea in the afternoon to keep warm during the winter. During the summer a pitcher of sun tea in the refrigerator is a staple. And when I’m sick, there’s nothing more soothing to a sore throat than hot tea with lemon and honey or even better is hot lemon flavored tea, which Salada has – yippee!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Framed Kid Art

After Miss M. meet Blitzkrieg for the very first time, she sent us this masterpiece.


Not bad for a then 4 year old. I love how she got the divot under Blitzkrieg’s nose and his sorta frowny face. Husband loves how Miss M pulled every brown color crayon and marker to make Blitzkrieg’s fur. It’s pretty accurate.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

How Do You Fight Dry Winter Air In Your Home?

During the winter, furnaces keep our houses warm but they also dry out the air. If you find ways to add moisture to the dry heated air in your home during the winter, it makes you feel warmer because moist humid air feels warmer than dry air, reduces static electricity, and if you’re me keeps your skin from drying out and itching and driving you crazy.

I keep the thermostat set at 58 degrees during the day but the heater still drys out the air in my home.

To add moisture to the air, I have

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Eat Healthy and Save Money: Make Granola Cereal

I am not a big cereal eater. As a kid I was more interested in the toy buried in the box of Technicolor surgery cereal than actually eating the cereal.

Later, I discovered the dried fruit and nut cluster colon blow type cereals. Those I liked. Especially when I topped them off with milk and popped them in microwave for a minute or so – just like warm oatmeal. Nom.

Since husband and I are trying to watch the sugar intake, it’s downright disappointing and almost impossible to find a cereal that doesn’t have high fructose corn syrup in it. When we do the price is more than I want to pay for food that makes me hungry a couple of hours after I eat it.

And then there is the packaging. The box is easily recyclable but the wax paper bag that holds the cereal is not.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

POMegranate Juice is Wonderful!

Have you noticed that pomegranate is becoming popular? Pomegranate flavored candles, soaps, even martinis have all crossed my path recently even though I’ve never had straight up pomegranate juice.

Being big juice drinkers, Husband and I decided to give it a try and taste tested a couple of bottles of POM Wonderful pomegranate juice.


POM Wonderful pomegranate is a juice I wanted to sip instead of gulp. It’s a sweet juice - full boded, tangy but with a tart end note. It took a couple of sips to get used to the tangy tart taste because I expected it to be a full on sweet taste like pineapple or orange juice. Once I got used to the more complex flavor I enjoyed it.

Husband lamented that he wished he knew more about how to describe complicated wine tastes because this juice was a such an interesting mix of flavors. He's the one that described it as "full boded, tangy but with a tart end note" because all I could come up with to describe it was "really good" which isn't much of a description at all.

POM Wonderful pomegranate is a juice is strong enough to use as a mixer but it’s definitely a juice. POM Wonderful has a lot of food and drink recipes on their Web site but Husband and I came up with our own by mixing orange juice and seltzer water with the pomegranate juice. Oh yummy yum yum yum!

POM Wonderful was also very good in homemade pomegranate martinis, BTW. I tested it because I know you’d want to know.

The Pros

  • POM Wonderful is 100% juice. It doesn’t have added sugar, preservatives, colors, or high fructose corn syrup. I really appreciate this because it’s difficult to find any flavor of juice that’s 100% real juice.

  • They don’t use imported juice or fruit. All of the pomegranates they use are grown in California.

  • A glass of pomegranate juice has more antioxidants than a glass of red wine, grape juice, and cranberry juice (who knew?)

  • The elastic and bottle tag makes a great impromptu pony tail band.

This really is the back of my head

The Cons

  • The caps were really hard to screw off the bottles. It may have been only the four bottles I got, but man was it frustrating! I had to wait until Husband came home to open a bottle for me.

  • Since it’s 100% juice, it was a tad more expensive which is understandable since POM Wonderful  doesn’t have any filler juices like cheaper brands of various juices I’ve purchased.

  • The bottles are on the small side. I’d like the opportunity to buy it in a bigger bottle because it’s a nice treat/something different to serve to guests instead of soda. 

The thing I liked best is that POM Wonderful pomegranate juice made for a nice treat on an ick winter weekend when all I wanted to do was eat fatting comfort foods and scheme my way to Hawaii to escape Ohio winter until say, mid-June.

So even though POM Wonderful is a tad more expensive than other juices, it’s still a cheaper pick me up than plane tickets and better for me than tator tots. In that case, it’s a bargain!

FTC thingywhatis: I received complimentary bottles of POM Wonderful pomegranate juice to test for this review because how else would I know what it tastes like? No other compensation was provided and all opinions are my own at the time of this writing.

Further disclosure: Husband made fun of me for not being able to open my own bottle of juice. Your mileage may vary.

Even further disclosure: I really did run around the house and even went to the store with the POM Wonderful elastic tag in my hair as a pony tail holder. In fact, I’m wearing it again in my hair as I type this review a week later.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Condo Blues Blogaversary Awards

Today is Condo Blues second blogaversay! I want to say a big huge THANK YOU to each and every one of you fabulous readers for reading my blog. I can’t tell you how many times one of your comments has brightened a meh kinda day on my end. Really.

One of the benefits that they don’t tell you about blogging is building a sense of community. I’ve learned so much reading your blogs, tweets, and comments. Thanks for letting little ol' me be part of your circle.

I also want to thank you for the support that you showed Blitzkrieg in the Bissell Most Valuable Pet (MVP) Contest. Thank you, thank you, thank you, SO MUCH to everyone who read Blitzkrieg’s rescue and rehabilitation story  and voted for him, Tweeted, reTweeted, Facebooked, emailed your friends, family, and network about him, and especially to those who blogged about my little boy and asked your readers to vote for him in the contest.

There were over 3000 pets competing during Blitzkrieg’s week. Blitzkrieg got 47 votes and made page 3 in the rankings out of the 10 + pages of entries. So while Blitzkrieg won’t move on the finals, Husband, Blitzkrieg, and I see it as a huge WIN because of the support and kind comments we received from all of you. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. While it would have been just wonderful to turn the $10,000 prize money over to our favorite rescue organization The Capital Area Humane Society, we’re still going to work very hard at supporting them and their fundraising efforts. Even if it means making a costume for your dog out of trash that mocks the nightly news.

Blitzkrieg as Balloon Boy

Since I don’t do this nearly enough, I’m going to pass on the Kreative Blogger Award to some extra special bloggers. I really appreciate when someone gives me one of these little awards, it truly makes my day. Unfortunately, most of the time, the person I want to give it back to is the person who gave it to me or I  forget to add it to my blogging schedule/idea list. Oops. I really need to share the blogging love more often.


I’d like to pass Kreative Blogger Award on the following:

1. The Rubbish Diet  – My trashy friend from across the sea (England.) Mrs. Almost Average makes reducing waste and slimming her bin silly, sexy, and fun.

2. Rob’s World – This man can really turn trash into treasure and is a serious gardener! And he has a cute dog named Romano - bonus. His support of Blitzkrieg in the Bissell MVP contest was just wonderful thank you Rob and Romeo for your support.

3. Cheap Like Me -  I could write pages and pages how on useful and creative this blog is. Really. Tons of hints, tips, and recipes on how to live big - and green - on a small budget. She wrote the most supportive post of Blitzkrieg and the Bissell MVP contest that it brought tears to my eyes – and I’m not a crier.

4. Reinvented – Kim makes the world a prettier place – on a budget. And she’s local to me! One of these days, I have no doubt that we will accidentally meet in person at a thrift store as we are fighting over some ugly thing we want to transform into something beautiful.

5. Retro Housewife Goes Green – Lisa’s a good blogging friend who has a lot of heart. She helped me out and wrote a guest post for me on the fly when real life got nuts around here and I couldn’t pay attention to this blog. Thanks.

6. Devastate Boredom  - Proves that little green changes really do add up. Not only to better her quality of life but also her wallet. While I’m grumbling to myself about the high price of organic foods, she’s ferreting out the coupons and deals on it and sharing it on her blog. *bows deeply to her resourcefulness* If you are a LOSTie (oh yes! Guilty pleasure all the way) check out her episode recaps and dish every Tuesday. *love*

7. Morgan Howard  I don’t think Morgan is blogging anymore but I’m giving her an award anyway because she’s awesome. Her comments were always so supportive of me and adoring of Blitzkrieg. Whatever you’re doing now Morgan, I’m sure it’s as amazing as you are and your little dog too! His name is Liam and he is a cutie.

The Rule of the award, which you can follow if you want to, or not, are:

  • Thank the person who gave you the award
  • Place the logo on your blog
  • Link to the person who nominated you
  • Name 7 things about yourself that people might find interesting
  • Nominate 7 bloggers for this award and post links to their blogs
  • Send a message to let them know they've been nominated

Oops I almost forgot the Name seven things about me that you might find interesting. Which I’m not sure if you would or not because those “day in the life” type posts don’t get a lot of comments unless they are about Blitzkrieg, because he's the real star of this show! And I'm OK with that. Here goes:

1. My first real professional job after college was doing programming, promotion, and some production at a television station.

2. I’m still undecided about whether I should go to BlogHer this summer. Any thoughts?

3. I once was a professional jester – not at the TV station.

4. Husband bought me the pink tool belt I’m wearing in my About Me photo and a string of cultured pearls as a birthday present. I often wear both when I’m fixing something because they represent my girly side and my tooly side perfectly.

5. I paid my own way for my college education without help from my family.

6. Our mortgage and my never ending student loan payments are the only debt Husband and I have.

7. I once was asked to play the punk rocker bad date for a dating service commercial. All of the wardrobe, jewelry, and makeup I wore in the spot came from my own closet. I hadn’t wore those pieces together before or since.

And now a big huge question to you. Is there anything you’d like to see more of? Or for me to blog less about in the coming year?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Make Insulated Roman Shades

My bedroom has a pitched ceiling and is cold during the winter because, as all you sciencey people know, heat rises. I’m trying to keep my energy use and bill as low as I can. I didn’t want to use a space heater in that room if I could help it because Blitzkrieg likes to cuddle up to heat sources. While I like that all of the girl dogs find Blitzkrieg smoking hot at the dog park, I didn’t want him literally smoking hot because he decided that his tail and Mr. Space Header should be close friends.

The bedroom is on the south side of my house. I tried opening the curtains to let in the winter sun shine in, basically using passive solar heat instead of a space heater to warm up the room.  It worked OK, but the room wasn’t as warm as it could be. I did some research. Build it Solar had the answer to my problem:

“Adding some form of insulating thermal shade to the window will greatly reduce night heat loss. While windows are very good collectors, they do lose a lot of heat at night, so some form of insulating shade is very important to reduce night losses.”

The Color of Money easily took care of the same problem with a pair of thermal backed curtains. However I already had a pair of unlined curtains that I liked for that room

I decided to make a thermal window shade. Some people call them window quilts. My thermal window shades are the same concept except I didn’t make a quilt pattern on mine. I wanted mine to look like an insulated roman shade.


I made them from materials in my sewing stash – so the price was right. Free! The construction was simple.

1. I measured the length and width of the window and added an extra inch to the measurements for a seam allowance. I added an extra four inches to the length so I could make a little flap over rod pocket hoochie bobber to hide the tension rod I used to hang it in the window.

2. I cut out the exterior and interior liner fabric liner according to my measurements.
  • I used white fleece fabric for the back part of the shade. This is the fabric faces out toward the window.
  •  I used a remnant of purple microfiber upholstery weight fabric for the front of the shade that faces into the room. Side note: What do you think of the wall color? Some days I like it, others I don’t. What do you think?
  •  I used 3 layers of leftover terrycloth for the thermal lining instead of the traditional batting because I was trying to use up my fabric stash. You could use thermal batting too.
3. To make sure that the shades hung straight. I sewed a pocket in the bottom of the shade. I cut an el cheapo curtain rod to size and slide it in the bottom pocket for weight A wooden dowel rod would work too but this is what I had left over from my Early Need Something Cheap Because It’s My First Apartment Dweller Decorating Style so that’s what I used.

I pulled the rod out of the pocket for this photo

4. I didn’t buy ring tape and string or a roman shade kit so I could open my shade like well, a roman shade. When I first made my insulated window shade I didn’t think I’d open it to let in the winter sun and heat. Also the sting and loop kit thingy I bought looked like a pain to install so I returned it.

  • Instead I used a couple of plastic clips from the temporary paper Redi Shades we bought to cover the windows when we first moved in and stayed on the windows longer than I care to admit. I recycled the paper shades long ago but kept the plastic clips thinking I could do something with them.
I pulled back the curtains so you can get a good look at the clips

No one really sees this because the curtains hide the sides of the shades and the clips. Besides visitors don’t come in my bedroom anyway, so I’m keeping the semi-ghetto clip system.

Don’t tell my neighbor the interior designer this OK? He thinks I have a good design sense. If he saw my plastic clips he’d kick my butt 8 ways to Sunday, I’m sure.

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This post is part of Metamorphosis Monday, The Persimmon Perch, Market Yourself Monday, Trash to Treasure TuesdayDIY Day, Today's Creative Blog, Penny Pinching Party. The Girl Creative, Toot Your Horn Tuesday, Works for Me Wednesday, and Show and Tell.