Brita® Back to College Giveaway!

Do you want to send your kiddo off to college with a good Brita® water habit while Back to College shopping? Yes? Good! I am giving away a $25 gift certificate. Click here to enter! The Brita® Back to College Giveaway runs from August 21 to August 29, 2014.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Crock Pot Slow Cooker Lasagna

No matter what you call it - by its brand name Crock Pot or the more generic name slow cooker that bad boy is one of my best cooking friends! I put food in it in the morning and by evening I have dinner for pennies worth of electricity. All on it's own.

It's better than having cookie baking elves living in a tree in my front yard I tell ya.

What does this have to do with making lasagna in a Crock pot? Well, one of the foods I remember my material grandmother making for family dinners was lasagna. However I haven’t made it in oh forever because it is a massive cholesterol bomb and takes a long time to make. Time is something we usually don’t have a lot of in the evenings around dinnertime and who needs more cholesterol in their diet?

I heard that you could cook lasagna in a slow cooker. I did an Internet search. Some insisted you have to use no boil lasagna noodles while others didn’t. Some used jarred spaghetti sauce (cheater!) while others made their own which didn’t sound as good as Grandma’s sauce.

So I decided to adapt Grandma’s lasagna to bake in the slow cooker. I also tried to make Grandma’s lasagna it a little less of a cholesterol bomb too. Several people on Twitter and Facebook asked me for my recipe.

Here it is.

Crock Pot Slow Cooker Lasagna a la Lisa

You will need:

Sauce Layer

Olive oil
1 pound ground turkey
1 chopped onion
3 cloves crushed garlic
2 small cans of tomato sauce
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
1 pinch of hot pepper flakes (My addition. Totally optional)
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
½ package of fresh mushrooms, sliced (optional. I had some mushrooms I needed to use.)


Cheese Layer

1 carton light cottage cheese (instead of ricotta)
1 package shredded mozzarella cheese


Cook it!

1. Strain excess liquid from the cottage cheese if desired. (Mine was very soupy when I opened the carton so I drained it. Depending upon the brand your mileage and desire may vary.)

2. Drizzle olive oil in a frying pan. Brown the ground turkey, and onion until translucent.

3. Drain any grease from the mixture and return it to the pan.

4. Mix in the tomato sauce, garlic, oregano, tsp basil, hot pepper flakes, salt, pepper, and mushrooms to taste and set aside.

5. Mix together mozzarella cheese and cottage cheese in a separate bowl and set aside.

6. If you want to oil the slow cooker, so it doesn’t stick while baking do it now. I didn’t do this because I forgot and it didn’t stick to the sides of the crock. As always your mileage may vary.

7. Layer it. Spoon a layer of the sauce into the bottom of the slow cooker.

8. Add a layer of uncooked noodles. Break the noodles into pieces so they fit into the Crock pot if needed (chances are it will be needed.)

9. Spoon a layer of the cheese mixture over the noodle layer. Make sure you cover the noodle layer completely with the cheese layer.

10. Alternate noodle layer, sauce layer, and noodle cheese layer until you’ve reached the top of the slow cooker. Important: Make sure you begin and end with a sauce layer.

11. Top with shredded mozzarella cheese.

12. Cook on warm/low for 8 hours.

13. Chow down!

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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Coconut Shrimp with Thai Peanut Dipping Sauce

I’ve been dealing with an itchy flaking scalp for the last six months and tag teaming the problem with my hairstylist and my family doctor. Two shampoos and a new prescription later both suggested I add more Omega 3’s to my diet. Translation: eat more fish.

I settled in on shrimp because it is most of the affordable (AKA frozen) type of fish I can get in land locked Columbus that is environmentally OK.  That and I really like to eat shrimp. Cooking shrimp is a slightly different story because it’s easy to overcook. I’m not a fan of stir fried rubbery shrimp bits. I did some poking around the internet and found a recipe for coconut shrimp. Husband is a big fan of all things coconut. However I’m not a fan of the mess involved with hand breading things.

So I cheated. I bought SeaPak Coconut Shrimp.  I wanted to do something a little different and took a recipe suggestion off of the SeaPak site to serve it with Thai peanut dipping sauce instead of using the marmalade dipping sauce that came with the shrimp. I put the marmalade sauce aside and will get clever with that later.

To prove that I’m not completely useless in the kitchen I made a Thai peanut dipping sauce  with natural peanut butter instead of buying a premade sauce. I served the coconut shrimp with brown rice and steamed broccoli. The rice was the most difficult part of the meal because it has the longest cooking time, which really isn’t saying much because it only took 30 minutes. The shrimp took about 12 minutes to bake – let’s hear it for quick food!.

Pardon my plating. I don't know how food bloggers do it. I really just wanted to hurry up and eat dinner, not style photos.

The taste? Pretty darn good. Husband said, "It was light. It was crispy. It was yummy, even better with your dipping sauce."

Pros

  • Mighty tasty and not soggy like our control - Kroger brand coconut shrimp (purchased with my own money), and this comes from someone who routinely and weirdly prefers the taste of generic food over the name brands. 
  • The SeaPak coconut shrimp were butterflied unlike the Kroger brand coconut shrimp they were tiny and sad looking.
  • Not too bad on the packaging. The only thing I threw away is the small plastic bag holding the marmalade dipping sauce. I shredded and composted the paper box. I rinsed and reused the small plastic bag holding the shrimp for Blitzkrieg doggie duty.
Cons

  • The marmalade dipping sauce has high fructose corn syrup in it. That was easily avoided by making my own Thai peanut dipping sauce or just going without the dipping sauce. 
  • The Kroger brand coconut shrimp had 5 more shrimp in the box for the same price as the SeaPak coconut shrimp. Although there was a definite difference in the taste – the SeaPak tasted much better.

This is definitely a you get what you pay for situation. The Kroger brand shrimp was slightly less money per shrimp but failed the taste test in comparison to the SeaPak Shrimp. The SeaPak shrimp are a better tasting product.


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Disclosure: SeaPak provided me with a free sample to facilitate this review because I probably wouldn't have considered this product otherwise and now I'm glad they did. They did not compensate me in any way and all opinions are my own. SeaPak didn’t ask me to compare their product to a store brand. I did that on my own which I purchased with my own money if you were reading this post carefully.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Zestra Natural Nookie Giveaway!

Guys, I don’t blog about women-only topics often but you might want to go and read this post about how I garden with a jackhammer because I’m going to be talk about lady bits.

Oh and if you’re my parents or in-laws you might want to click away too. I don’t think you really want to know what goes one between the sheets with Husband and I.

OK now that it’s just us girls – let’s talk.

When I made my 2010 New Year’s Resolution to green the rest of my health and beauty aids, I didn’t think it would change how Husband and I do things in the nookie department because that department as been well, just awesome. In fact we just celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary. Congrats to us!

But when I got the chance to try something that would enhance that department and was based on essential oils, well – how could I not take the chance to spice things up – for the good the environment – right?

I’m greening my s*x life for you Mother Earth – be grateful.

I mean resolutions are resolutions you know.

I got the chance to try Zestra, an “essential arousal oil” (which I’m quoting Zestra because that’s the best G rated way I know to describe it) that when applied improves your feelings of “satisfaction” ifyaknowwhatImen.


Zestra is hormone free. The ingredients in Zestra are PA-free Borage Seed Oil, Evening Primrose Oil, Angelica Extract, Coleus Forskholii Extract, Theobromine, Vitamin C ,and Vitamin E.

I applied Zestra to my lady bits and felt a rush of tingly things – wow! Then Husband and I began, um, product testing.

Wowie, wow, wow, wow!

Things with Husband have always been good – like fireworks. With the addition of Zestra they were like a fireworks grand finale!

*blush*

I can’t believe I’m blogging about this.


Pro

  • It was good. Real good. Like awesome real good.
  • Zestra’s made of plant based ingredients.
  • If you order Zestra online your order comes in a plain padded envelope with Semprae printed on the return address label. This is good because you never know what would happen when you go the mailbox and one of the nosey old lady neighbors sees you and strikes up a conversation with you after you’ve gotten your mail. Really. *blushing again*
Cons

  • It comes in a box with tiny foil packets for each application - increased waste in my wastebasket but easier to get through airport security travel restrictions.

Zestra Giveaway – Two Winners!!

If you don’t believe me enter my Zestra giveaway and find out for yourself. Zestra has generously offered a Zestra 2-pack for not one, but for two winners!

To enter: Visit Zestra and leave a comment on Condo Blues telling me a tidbit or factoid that you’ve learned about Zestra. 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.

Update 4/28/10: I'm not getting many entries so I suppose that you're shy about attaching your real name or user name to this giveaway. I'm really only interested in having your email address so I can contact the winner - you'd be amazed how many people enter my drawings without giving me their contact information. Which means I can't give them their prize and that makes me sad. So I'm taking a page from Chunky Chicken's book.if you want to enter but be anonymous you can use a Bond Girl name like "Honey Ryder" as your user name. Can't come up with one? Try using the  use the Bond Girl Name Generator

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. Become a fan of the Condo Blues Facebook page
  6. 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 seven chances to win!

I will use a random generator to select the winner. The Zestra Natural Nookie Giveaway runs from April 26, 2010 – May 9, 2010 12 midnight EST. Good Luck!


Here ya go FTC: Zestra provided me with a free sample to facilitate this review. They did not compensate me to say nice things about their product or run this giveaway. All opinions are my own at the time of this writing and longtime readers know I can very opinionated.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Prince of Wails Onsie

I’m going to be an Aunt again! Nephew Number Nine is due in July. Little Mr. H is going to a big brother for the first time and he is thrilled! In fact, he’s so into helping his Mom and Dad pick out things for his baby bro that I joked that it’s really Mr. H’s baby – mom and dad were just responsible for its construction.

*SPOILER* Jennifer if you’re reading my blog you need to STOP READING RIGHT NOW OR YOU WILL SPOIL THE SURPRISE. Go outside and play with Mr. H. Thank you.

I want to make Naughty Number Nine something because I am his Crafty Aunt as well as the World’s Most Fabulous Aunt (trademark pending). Yes, double titles are a tough thing to bear. Especially when they are self inflicted. I persevere.

I came across a new baby snapsuit, some people call them baby onsies, in my craft stash. I’m not sure whose baby I bought it for to begin with. So um if your baby was born nekkid because I didn’t decorate and give this onsie to you I’m sorry. However, it is the perfect last Dollar Store Craft's Stash Bust Challenge project to do for April.

It helped me use up a little turquoise embroidery floss I had left over from a project that I just couldn’t toss because, well, Hello! It is turquoise.



I used an uneven font that was very forgiving of my embroidery skills

It says The Prince of Wails.

*hee*

I’m going to put the baby snapsuit in a gift basket of cool eco baby items. I’m sure they pretty much need everything because as luck would have it, Jennifer sold or gave away all of her baby stuff thinking Mr. H just might be it.

I hear about a lot of cool environmentally friendly baby products from fellow bloggers but I'm not sure what is just nice to have and what is needed. Some of these items I have repurposed for our use (Yes, I steal things from children but it’s for the planet. Or Blitzkrieg. Or because it’s useful for me too. Don’t judge.)

Help a gal out. What items that you find/found useful or were a very cool and unusual and useful for babies or toddlers that I can put in Mr. N’s gift basket?

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If you are joining us from Something I Whipped Up Monday, Metamorphosis Monday, The Persimmon Perch, Market Yourself Monday, Made By You Monday, Marketing Mondays, Craftastic MondaysTrash to Treasure TuesdayDIY Day, Today's Creative Blog, Penny Pinching Party. The Girl Creative, Toot Your Horn Tuesday, Second Time Around Tuesday , or Show and Tell Welcome!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day - Is Your Glass Half Empty or Half Full?

Earth Day. Wow what a long strange trip it’s been since that first grassroots college teach in day in 1969. 40 years later and Earth Day is celebrated and talked about world wide. I guess I could be like others and point to my city’s low recycling rates and get curmudgeonly and say, “See? Things are just as bad or worse, as they were 40 years ago on that first Earth Day!”

But are they?

Really?

I don’t think so.

As a person who studies way too much history – for fun mind you! – I see a lot of big scary environmental problems found and fixed since that very first Earth Day in 1969. For example:

  • We have gotten on the ball, and cleaned up environmental problems and put laws into place to prevent harmful materials to be included into our products. You can’t buy lead paint anymore. Its sale was prohibited in 1978. In 1994 federal law restricted toilet tanks to 1.6 gallons per flush to save water although some states regulated this earlier. You might already have a low flow toilet in your home and not even realize it! 
  • No more river fires and the dumping of toxic chemicals is illegal. Growing up on Lake Erie, I heard about the 1969 Cuyahoga River Fire. A spark from a road bridge set the sludge and waste factories dumped into the Cuyahoga River on fire. Because of this Congress passed the Clean Water Act in 1972, started the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA.) We now have regulations on what we can and cannot do with industrial waste products and the sale and use of many hazardous products are illegal. Whether these regulations are followed, loop holed, or enforced to the letter of the law is another story and may need work. 
  • No more smoggy foggy skies. How many references to Victorian London talked about fog enveloping Good Old London Town? It wasn’t fog – it was smog from factory chimneys. Los Angeles was famous for its smog too. Now I rarely if ever hear jokes about smoggy days from late night comedians located in Beautiful Downtown Burbank. 
  • Items like recycling, reusable shopping bags, reusable water bottles, and green cleaners and more! Are commonly talked about and used. Many cities have recycling programs built into their waste management programs. Where cities have fallen short, local, national, and nonprofit organizations and businesses that have stepped up to recycle items such as eyeglasses, ewaste, cell phones, makeup tubes, batteries and hard plastic bottle caps. Even people who may not agree with recycling or going green are still aware enough of all these things to make fun of them by name :)
  • There is a wider array of environmentally friendlier products available to mainstream shoppers and small town America. Some people may think it’s the end of days now that more mainstream companies are offering environmentally friendlier versions of their products, purchasing smaller green companies as subsidiaries, or at the very least redesigning their packaging to use less material or contain recycled content. Not me. I like that companies that once upon a time thought of green consumers as some crazy hippie niche are trying to serve us because we as consumers are voting with our dollars when a company takes steps in a greener direction. And we as consumers are also willing to stop buying products from those companies that think natural ingredients don’t work as well or are as good as petrochemical mixes.
For the most part, our big environmental worries have been noted and we’ve made steps to fix or prevent them from happening. For example, when was the last time you heard about factory waste causing acid rain?

Are there environmental hazards still out there? Well, of course there are. The thing is, our science has gotten better and with it we are able to find and fight more environmental bad guys, like questionable ingredients in our cosmetics or health and beauty products. Of course, politics plays a role this too. One country can't really march on over to another and make them to stop doing something without incident. Diplomacy is key in solving this matters althought it may sometimes takes more time than we like.

Sometimes we are are own worst enimies. Part of the problem is hat the term “green” is unregulated. Green means something different to almost everyone. While we care passionately about protecting our homes, families, and all that surround them we can get hung up on the minutiae of if something is or is not green. Do petrochemical ingredients in a 100% recycled content container count? What if it's 100% organic ingredients in a plastic container? Or possibily 99% organic ingredients and 1% of synthetic ingredients but created in a factory powered by renewable resources?

You get the idea. The list of parsing components out goes on and on and more time can be spent on aruging that then actually formulating a plan and doing something.

But I’m hopeful. I see it every day. I see kids from a family who’d rather trash toys than donate them get excited when I mention I’m gathering stuff from our event to take home and put in my recycling bin. I see it when even places like Aldi, Big Lots, and Dollar General have reusable shopping bags for sale next to the cash registers and not my just Hippie Mart. I was happily surprised when I went to a blogging event with a group of lifestyle bloggers and one of the women started a conversation about watching Food Inc. and everyone knew what she was talking about or had already seen the movie. I should also mention that I was the only green blogger at the event. And someone else brought up the movie as well as Food Rules.

So yes, I’m hopeful. There’s a growing awareness and people willing to campaign, and blog, and do what they can on a personal level to make their little parts of the world a better place.

So what about you? Is your Earth Day glass half full or half empty?

Updated 4/22/10:Correction. Sorry folks I got my dates mixed up. Food Inc. played on PBS April 21, 2010.Sorry about the mix up. Check if your library has a copy to see it for free.


 Disclosure: This post contains affliate links. If you chose to make a purchase using the 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. Although I encourage you to check your local library for the items mentiond in this post first.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Six Ways to Use Leftover Shampoo

As part of my Spring cleaning I decided to use all those little sample and travel bottles of toiletries that have been cluttering up my linen closet. Now I’m only stuck with a couple of bottles of shampoo that are full of parabins. I don’t want to donate these items to a shelter because I think it’s hypocritical to pawn it off on someone else if I don’t think it’s not such a great thing to use on myself - whether they care about avoiding parabens in their products or not.

What’s a Parabin and Why Avoid Parabens?


Parbins are basically a type of preservative. They are used in cosmetics and personal care products to keep fungus and bacteria from growing in the product. There are several types of parabens, the most common are methylparaben, probylparaben and butylparaben. Isobutylparaben, isopropylparaben, benzylparaben and their sodium salts are also parabens but they aren’t as commonly used as the first set.

You may want to avoid parabens because while studying the effects of estrogen hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in women, researchers established a connection between estrogen and breast cancer. They found that parabins can act like the hormone estrogen. This is what they mean when they call parabens an endocrine disruptor - because they can interfere with the body’s natural hormone production of estrogen.

To be fair there are quite a few studies that say parbins are safe to use because the estrogen activity in parabins is weak compared to levels of estrogen used in hormone replacement therapy.  Even more so if the paraben is in a product where you apply it and then rinse the product off of the body, like a shampoo or conditioner.

Still after experiencing this

Photobucket
40, 000 people participated in the 2009 Komen Columbus Race for the Cure - including us

and knowing several women who have fought, and some who have sadly lost, the battle with breast cancer parabins are something I want to avoid when and were I can. And no, I’m not going to shove the paraben filled shampoo off on Husband because men can get breast cancer too.

I don’t want to use my parabin filled shampoo, I don’t want to give it way, but pouring it down the sink would be a waste. What do to? I put on a pair of rubber gloves and found six ways to reuse old shampoo.

  1. To wash delicates. I’ve always used shampoo to hand wash nylons and lingerie that’s too delicate for the washing machine. 
  2. For cleaning. Use it to scrub the tub, shower, or toilet. Add some baking soda to it if you need a little more oomph to tackle a bathtub ring. 
  3.  As a laundry stain fighter. Shampoos are designed to remove the oil and dirt from your hair and are the perfect stain fighter, espically perspiration or ring around the collar stains. Pour a little on the stain and scrub with an old toothbrush before popping it in the wash. 
  4. To wash makeup brushes. Especially if they are brushes made with natural bristles. 
  5. To wash wool. Shampoo works just as well or better than Woolite when hand washing wool sweaters.
  6. To wash combs and brushes. Soaking combs and brushes in a mixture of water and shampoo removes built up product. Be sure to rinse the items thoroughly when finished.

Warming: Do NOT use people shampoo on dogs or cats. The ph of pet skin and fur is different than humans. Human shampoo strips their fur of their essential oils and can dry out pet skin. If you have any questions please check with your vet.

Do you have any ways to use leftover shampoo? Help me out here; I used up my few little bottles of travel shampoo but I have a half a big bottle of nonparabin tea tree oil shampoo I can’t use because it makes my scalp break out into a rash. I could use some more ideas. Thanks!


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This post is part of the Get the Junk Out! Carnival where the topic is parabens hosted by Mindful Momma.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Thursday, April 15, 2010

10 Ways Kids Can Go Green for Earth Day

I did one of my informal polls of the neighborhood kids. I asked them for ideas on kids how kids can go green for Earth Day. I got some interesting answers.

“You should get solar panels!”

Um, no. I’ll stick to my solar garden lights. Solar panels aren’t a good year round return on investment in central Ohio.

“You should get a hybrid car!”

Why is it that all of these suggestions are things I can do that would benefit a kid living in my house?

“Recycle!”

Well that’s a little closer to what I was looking for but recycling still depends upon an adult setting up or overseeing the program at home.

“Those are good ideas,” I said, “But what can YOU do as a kid, without a grown up’s help, do to go green?”

Silence

Blank stare

*Blink*

After a little prodding, we started brainstorming. We came up with a list of green things kids can do to go green for Earth Day without a grownup’s help.

  1. Clean your plate - It takes a lot of energy to grow and cook food. Eating all you take reduces waste. Don’t worry about leaving stuff behind to feed your home compost bin, I’m sure Mom or Dad will have more than enough food scraps from peeling and preparing vegetables for dinner to take care of that. 
  2. Turn the water off while brushing your teeth - Not wasting water is really important, especially if you live in an area that has a drought. By the way, forgoing brushing your teeth or bathing is not a good way to save water – don’t even think about it. 
  3. Turn off the lights when you leave a room – It takes a lot of energy to make electricity. Turning off the lights when you leave the room saves electricity and helps lower your parents’ electric bills. Don’t believe me? Turning off the lights to unused rooms helped me lower my electric use by 32%.
  4. Take care of your toys, clothes, and belongings – When you throwing a broken toy away it go right into the landfill. That’s not cool. If you take care of your toys, clothes, and other belongings you can give them to kids who don’t have any and nothing is thrown away.
  5. Take off your shoes when you enter the house – Shoes protect your feet from stepping in yucky stuff. If you take off your shoes at the door of your house, you’re not tracking that yucky stuff all over the house. Your parents may be able to vacuum less often and trust me, for that your parents will thank you. 
  6. Dress for the weather. Shorts in the summer, sweaters during the winter. That way mom and dad can set the thermostat a few degrees lower in winter and higher during the summer and save energy. 
  7. Use a cloth napkin at dinner and lunch. Instead of using disposable paper napkins try asking your parents to switch to cloth napkins for dinner or ask them to put a cloth napkin in your lunch box. Don’t have any? Try winning a set of Fabkins children’s cloth napkins
  8. Bring home your reusable containers, lunch box, water bottle home from school or activities – There’s a reason your parents harp on you to bring your lunchbox, water bottle, and stuff home from school each day - so you can reuse them! Step it up, take responsibility and keep track of your stuff. 
  9. Unplug the video game console after you save and shut down your game – See that little that stays on the video game console after you’ve closed the game and turned off the machine? That little light means the box is sucking a little bit of electricity from the socket just to light that little light. We call that vampire power and it’s wasteful. By unplugging my Wii when I’m done playing was another way we reduced our electricity use by 32%.
  10. Join The Great TV Rebellion -  Sign the pledge to turn off your television and turn on nature during Earth Week.
 What do you think kids can do to go green?

    Tuesday, April 13, 2010

    5 Sugar Free Ways to Sweeten Coffee and Tea

    I was a confirmed tea drinker during college. I always studied with a giant mug of tea in front of me. I drank so much tea that my roommate joked that I’d fail all of my classes if my hot water maker broke.

    I didn’t learn about the joys of drinking coffee until I moved to Miami for an internship with a TV production company. Long days, early morning calls, and late nights led me to try the dark luscious liquid that is Café Cubano - an espresso shot sweetened with white sugar as it is being brewed. I preferred and usually drank Cafe con Leche (Cuban Coffee with Milk) at 10 and at 2, as is the Cuban custom.

    I soon realized that I didn’t hate coffee – I just didn’t like cheap beans or weak coffee. Fortunately the stuff I feel for more often than not is Fair Trade coffee (even with its problems and issues I try to drink Fair Trade coffee when I can.) For me a great cup of coffee soon became an essential. It was all about the beans - the darker roast the better. Whenever I drank regular coffee I drank it with sugar and milk.

    Unfortunately, there were times particularly in the morning when I drank coffee and it didn’t sit the right way. I got an upset stomach and made me feel sluggish and blah all day long.

    My dad’s gynecologist* had the answer – drink my coffee black.

    Once I stopped putting refined white sugar in my coffee my stomach problems, which were later diagnosed as heart burn, disappeared and I didn’t need medication for my stomach issues. Hurray!

    That’s not to say that I don’t have sweet or flavored coffee or tea now and again. I learned how to sweeten my coffee and tea without white refined sugar. Husband and I use a combination of the following:

    • Honey – Mostly for tea and especially when I’m sick. Hot tea with honey and a dash of lemon juice feels great going down a sore throat. 
    • Molasses – This is Husband’s coffee sweetener of choice. In fact, we have almost come to blows when I want to use what little bit of molasses we have left for baking 
    • Stevia – I have this on hand for diabetic guests. I’d rather keep stevia on hand for them than an artificial sweetener. I honestly haven’t used it much if at all. I plan on experimenting with it in baking in the future. If you have any tips or favorite recipes let me know! 
    • Raw sugar — is unrefined sugar made from sugar cane. Sugar in the Raw is one brand you often see in coffee shops. This one still give me stomach issues. Husband will use it when we're in a coffee shop.
    • Brown sugar - is typically white refined sugar with molasses added to it so it’s not much different nutritionally than refined white sugar. Oh, and it has a few more calories in it than refined white sugar too. I avoid it in my coffee due to my stomach woes. Husband will use it in a pinch if we’re out of molasses. For the most part, he sticks to molasses at home.
    The sugary flavored coffee syrups added to my stomach woes. Now if I want to flavor my coffee, I sprinkle spices on the coffee grounds before I brew the coffee. I’d had luck with:

    • Cinnamon 
    • Pumpkin spices 
    • Nutmeg 
    • Cardamom – expensive but worth it!
    Once I gave up refined white sugar in my morning coffee my stomach aches and heart burn went away. So did the 3 O’clock Slump. Bonus!

    Refined white sugar – yeah or neigh? How do you avoid sugar overload in your diet?


    * OK, really he’s a friend of my dad’s who happens to be a gynecologist. My dad refers to him as his gynecologist just to get a reaction. I couldn’t resist doing the same because my Dad and I share the same warped sense of humor because we're related.

    This post is part of the Spring Clean Get The Junk Out Carnival hosted by Donielle at Naturally Knocked Up where the topic is refined sugar.

    Sunday, April 11, 2010

    Telephone Book Wreath

    I have a bunch of telephone books lying around the house. I don’t know how this happens - we don’t have a land line! We’re a cell phone as home phone family.

    I figure I could do one of two things with those phone books.

    1. Complain about them – which isn’t very productive and not really worth the energy.
    2. Find a way to use them - beyond the obvious because that's why Al Gore invented Internet - so we could use it to look up telephone numbers :)
    I wanted a new wreath for the door to celebrate spring. I had a wreath form from a failed project. "What if I married my telephone books and my wreath form it would be the perfect project to enter in Dollar Store Crafts April Stash Bust Challenge?" says I. Not to mention it's an ultra cheap - and green! - way to get a new door decoration because I’m using what I already have on hand.

    *Enter the Condo Blues Whammy*

    I opened the wreath storage bag and found this.


    Once upon a time this was all in one piece.


    Nuts.

    Looks like I lost of the Stash Bust Challenge even before I started. *Sad face*

    I decided to try to piece the form back together. If I got something workable I’d move on from there. If not, I’d ditch it and hop on down to the store and buy a new wreath form.

    I removed the Christmas balls with a pair of needle nose pliers and put them aside for another day.

    Can this wreath be saved?

    I snapped the tops off of some plastic forks that have been wallowing in the utility closet so long they are practically family heirlooms. I used them as supports to hot glue the form back together.

    Trash or treasure to be?

    I cut a piece of leftover cardboard from I don’t-know-what to the size of the frame to stabilize it. I attached the cardboard to the chewed up side of the Styrofoam with hot glue and floral tape. I think the floral tape might be from when I did the flowers for Christina from A Mommy’s Story’s wedding. I hot glued the floral tape into place because it wasn’t sticky anymore. I also made a note to use more of this stuff up because the floral tape has to be a least 6 years old – older than Christina’s kids.


    I ripped the white pages from the telephone book into approximately one inch strips. I used the business white pages because I wanted black and white paper. I tried to rip down the telephone number columns of the page for privacy’s sake.

     I shredded the leftover paper scraps and put them in my compost bin.

    I used by very good friend Modge Podge to attach the paper strips to the wreath form and let it dry over night. The Modge Podge will also protect the paper from the elements. The Modge Podge is leftover from my books as wallpaper bathroom remodel. Is it just me or is this post playing out like an episode of Horders? Yipe!


    Modge Podge rules!

    I painted an empty toilet paper tube orange as an homage to How about orange… and let it dry overnight too.

    Orange you going to say it's pretty?

    The next morning, I smashed the toilet paper roll tube flat and cut it with scissors.

     I eyeballed the cuts 'cuz I'm a rebel.

    I hot glued the leaf shaped rings to the wreath form and added some scrap ribbon to the back as a hanger upper thingie.

    The finished wreath!

    TA DA! My telephone book and paper tube wreath idea actually worked! Yay me!


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    Visit thecsiproject.com



    Thursday, April 8, 2010

    How to Grow Sprouts

    Spring fever has kicked in. Husband and I want to grow something NOW. We don’t want to wait until after Mother’s Day, our traditional end of season frost date.

    Husband suggested growing sprouts. Sprouts don’t like full sunlight because it can cause the seeds to overheat or dry out. This describes our kitchen window to a T. Perfect!

    how to grow sprouts
    Alfalfa spouty goodness

    The equipment and directions were simple. The most difficult part was finding and buying alfalfa spout seeds. Which really wasn’t that hard, we bought our seeds at the Home and Garden show.

    How to Grow Sprouts in a Mason Jar

    Tuesday, April 6, 2010

    Plastic Free Renaissance Style Lunch Ware

    When Husband and I performed at the Ohio Renaissance Festival (1994-2001), if we ate or drank in view of the patrons, which was often, we had to us period eating and drinking vessels - meaning no plastic.

    I’m happy to say that most of these items are still in use.

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    Mugs made from leather, ceramic, wood, and metal. The leather mug is lined with food grade wax and is for cold beverages only.

    A mug is essential. If you don’t want to end up with a nasty case of heat stroke, you carried a mug or glass bottle full of water (often a repurposed wine bottle with a real cork), or sports drink with you at all times to stay hydrated and replace electrolytes after running, jumping, dancing, and sword fighting (oh yes I did!) while wearing several layers of clothing in the hot summer sun. We refilled our vessels from a water station in the actor’s rest area behind the scenes.

    For eating vessels a bowl is the most versatile. In a pinch, you could use a bowl for water instead of a mug. Most food booths would fill up our bowls instead of using the disposable products they supplied for the patrons.

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    The left bowl was mine when I played a jester. Since jesters colored outside of the lines of Elizabethan society, I figured she wouldn’t use a conventional wooden bowl either.

    All of our bowls are thrift store finds. We used wooden bowls when we played peasants and metal when we played nobility. We carried them by tucking them into a basket or by drilling a hole in them and hanging them from our belts because they didn’t have pockets as we know them back in ye olde England.

    We ate with wooden utensils when we played the lower classes and metal (the one pictured is a real silver spoon) when we played upper class characters. The wooden spoon and fork were purchased from Lehman’s on a trip to Amish country and still lives in our picnic basket. The bamboo spork is a recent addition from Fabkins and is used for our work lunches. I wanted to show the bamboo spork to you because I think it is kinda cool and wish I had it back in the day.

    Forks and sporks aren’t period as shown. A real Elizabethan period fork only has 2 tines and was controversial to use because it looked like the devil’s pitchfork. However, given that some of the food at the faire was easier to eat with a real fork than a spoon, like funnel cakes (total weakness here) we were allowed to use a conventional styled fork.

    So what about napkins you say? Well as peasants, we went with what we had, our shirt sleeves! As nobility, I had a cloth handkerchief that I used for such things – a lady would never use her shirt sleeve!


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    That’s great Lisa, you say but this is a Clear the Clutter Out Carnival. You don’t perform anymore. What are doing with all of this stuff? Isn’t this plastic free stuff just cluttering up the backs of your cupboards?

    Nope.

    Most of these items are put back into service when we use our picnic basket for road trips, potlucks, picnics, or for work lunches. The mugs are still great for drinking, especially the ceramic ones; drinks stay cooler longer in a thick ceramic mug. I now use some of the mugs to corral our collection of chopsticks in the cupboard. We have several sets because we eat a lot of Asian style food. I also use the mugs to display silverware when we have buffet dinners.

    The only difference is that when we dining with these items, we use a cloth tablecloth and napkins, not our shirtsleeves!




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    This post is part of the Get the Junk Out! Carnival where the topic is plastic food containers hosted by Fake Plastic Fish

    Want to try using cloth napkins? There’s still time to enter my Fabkins Children’s Cloth Napkin Giveaway!

    Disclosure: Fabkins gave me two free sporks (they will be selling them soon) but didn't ask me to review them or write about them on my blog. I wanted to because I'm a dork that likes sporks (hey! that rhymes!) I think they are clever and useful and wanted to show them to you.

    Monday, April 5, 2010

    Fabkins Earth Day Giveaway!

    This is what my household trash looks like every two weeks or so.

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    The dog isn’t trash. Blitzkrieg just likes to pose for pictures.

    All things being equal it usually takes my family of two plus Blitzkrieg about a month to fill up that plastic bag with things we can’t compost or recycle. One thing that has made a big difference in how much trash we produce, or well, not, was the switch to reusable cloth napkins.

    Really.

    Now that we’ve been in the cloth napkin habit for several years, I really don’t want to go back. Cloth napkins are a great frugal luxury – no trudging to the store when the weather is horrible when I run out of napkins. I just do laundry! Cloth napkins teach good manners and they reduce waste. High fives all around.

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    I even have cloth napkins for messy little kid visitors. For them I have something special - a fun child size napkin called Fabkins. I reviewed Fabkins here. It all goes with being The World’s Most Fabulous Aunt (trademark pending.)

    Although to be honest, since Fabkins are made to fit in a lunchbox, I use them for adult lunches too.

    Earth Day is April 22nd and it’s no better time to remind the kids in your life that there a lot of things they can do to make a difference. Why not start by putting a reusable cloth napkin, silverwear, or container in their - or your - lunchbox?

    Don’t have any kid size cloth napkins? How about winning a set?


    Fabkins Child Size Cloth Napkin Giveaway! *Closed*

    Fabkins has generously offered to sponsor a giveaway of four 100% cotton Polar Pals Fabkins.

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    Fabkins are cut smaller than a standard size dinner napkin and designed to fit in a lunchbox and on a child’s lap. I honestly wish I were eligible for this giveaway because I think the polar bear design will appeal to any home that has little kids, finicky tweens, teens, or adults. In other words, anyone who drops crumbs and packs a lunch.

    To enter: Visit Fabkins and leave a comment on Condo Blues telling me what other Fabkins product is your favorite.

    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. Become a fan of the Condo Blues Facebook page
    6. 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 seven chances to win!

    I will use a random generator to select the winner. The Fabkins Earth Day Giveaway runs from April 5, 2010 – April 18, 2010 12 midnight EST. Good Luck!

    Updated April 19, 2010: Congratulations to the winner - Andrea!


    Legal mumbo jumbo: This contest is open to US residents only. I will not share your email information any third parties. Fabkins did not pay me to run this giveaway or say nice things about their products because I truly like them and use them. All opinions are 100% my own and longtime readers know I can be very opinionated.

    Sunday, April 4, 2010

    Win a Makeover for Your Favorite Public Park!

    Do you have a beloved public park that could use a makeover? We do. Blitzkrieg’s favorite dog park is by a creek that floods every spring. Some of the agility equipment at that park is showing signs of wear and tear too. I won’t let Blitzkrieg climb his beloved A frame, his favorite obstacle, because it’s rickety from kids climbing on it when it’s supposed to be for dogs only.

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    I bet I'm the only dog in the world who has to wear a life jacket in the dog park.


    Friday, April 2, 2010

    Planters that Double as Garden Art

    Husband and I went to the Central Ohio Home and Garden Show to get some ideas about what to do with our front yard. This year’s theme was Art in Bloom. Let’s take a look at what we found.

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    This garden took the theme quite literally and featured painter’s palettes and planted succulents in a variety of boots and shoes.

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    A very cute idea. Now where have I seen this before? Oh, yeah at my own house where I turned an old pair of Doc Martins boots into a planter.

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    I’m not the biggest fan of succulents because I think they are sparse. After seeing them planted in this bowl I could change my mind. It reminds me of a big salad.

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    Hand blown glass garden ornaments - so shiney! I want to buy the whole display and put it my yard as is.

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    One of the landscaping companies usually makes a water feature out of an old car or truck. While it works in this bee themed garden, I think my neighbors would say, “ Fountain? Yeah, right when pigs fly. It’s a truck up on blocks!”

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    Don't speak too soon, here’s a whole flock of flying pigs!

    I love this pergola. It was in a Miami Beach Deco District themed garden. Lots of deep blue, turquoise and white in the structures. The corrugated tin roof and white billowy drapes reminds me of sipping Cuban coffee with friends at the News Café on Miami Beach.

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    The people who created the garden were too cool to talk to us - just like Miami Beach!

    However if it were me I would have painted the coffee table and bench white and changed the color of the bench cushion from tan to turquoise to match the rest of the design. It’s too jarring as it is and looks like an afterthought.

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    These silver garden balls would go perfectly in the Miami Beach garden display. Again, I’d buy and display them as is. I like the sleek metal of the ball against the worn metal of the basket. It’s that perfect blend of modern and retro that I love.

    ave you started planning your summer garden? Where do you get your ideas?