Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Please Make Lisa Nelsen-Woods the First Salada Green Tea Spokesperson!

Little ol’ me Lisa Nelsen-Woods from Columbus, Ohio, is one of the top 10 finalists in the nationwide search for Salada Tea's first-ever consumer spokesperson!


As the First Salada Green Tea Spokesperson I will be promoting green living and healthy eating in a cost conscious manner. In other words, I’d be promoting Green Living and Money Saving Tips – just like I do on Condo Blues!

It’s like we were made for each other!

Salada is a brand that I trust and can get behind. They chose me as their February Green Tea Spotlight because I reduced my home’s utility use by 32% using new habits and cheap home improvements. I couldn’t have done it with a hot cup of tea to keep me warm on cold winter days.

Your vote will help Salada pick the winner. Voting opened Monday, June 28th. You may vote once a day, every day from now until the contest ends on August 1st.

My Tea Story

I love to drink tea. I like to grow it. I’m learning how to cook with it. I keep it zero waste by composting the tea bag, paper wrappers, and cardboard box when I’m done. I even decorated my bathroom with tea stained books as wallpaper!

Tea helped me turn my health around. My doctor considered me healthy even though I was on medication to deal with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), allergies, and stress. I felt tired and worn out most of the time. I spend a boatload of cash on medications for my stomach and bowel issues. More often than not, I’d have a horrible case of heart burn. It never turned into an ulcer but I nicknamed it Chuck anyway because I often felt like I had to upchuck for no apparent reason.

Something had to change.

I gave up carbonated soda and switched to iced tea. I started to eat one vegetarian meal a day to regulate things in the IBS department. I stopped using coupons to buy processed food and save money (in theory.) I started cooking from scratch – which really did save me money. Cooking from scratch was a challenge because I did not grow up cooking. Most of the ingredients my mom used came from a box or a can. I experimented with spices instead of adding flavor to my food with salt and saturated fats.

It worked.

I am no longer spending $50.00 to $100.00 a month in prescription medications for IBS or heartburn or stomach problems. My food bill went down. I do not feel blah and tired anymore. My thyroid, blood pressure, cholesterol, heart, and sugar numbers are still very low. My doctor is impressed by this given that these issues run in my family’s medical history. By eating healthy, I hope to keep them that way for a very long time.

Why I Want to Win This Amazing Dream Job

Green living and saving money go hand in hand for me. One of the reasons I started Condo Blues to share my green and money saving ways because I felt battered by the YOU MUST BUY THIS TO LIVE GREEN message I saw every time I turned on the TV or read a magazine or newspaper. I grew frustrated because I knew that isn't always the case.

Many of the green living and money saving tips and tricks I share with you on Condo Blues came from my struggling student years where I had to save money by every means necessary. I was responsible for paying for my college education. My parents couldn’t send me to school, I didn’t have a college fund, and I wanted a college education more than life itself. I’m still paying off those student loans to prove it. In fact, that’s where my prize money will go – to help me pay off my student loans.

Please vote for me Lisa Nelsen-Woods at and help me win the the title of Salada Tea Spokesperson. Voting ends 8/1/10.

I Can’t Do This Without YOU!

Professionally I am a technical writer and instructional designer. I develop training programs for companies on a project basis. With this changing economy and hiring freezes (including the contract work I do) winning the Salada Green Tea Spokesperson contest would allow me to explore a new area of writing and take my career in a new direction by writing about lifestyle issues.

It would be a dream come true.

I can really use your help.

While I can jump on a stage and speak in front of a roomful of strangers without a second thought, I am shy when it comes to promoting or asking things for myself. I suppose that is one reason why I’m such a DIYer – I don’t think I’m worthy of asking for help from others. However if you ask me for help to promote or work for your worthy cause and I can and will do that in a heartbeat.

I have a hard time asking people for things, especially something this big – to help me win my dream job.

I’m going to be honest and ask for your help and your ideas on how I can ask people to vote for me that doesn’t sound like bragging or nagging. You see, there are nine other people that want this job too. Your vote helps determine who gets it.

I really with all of my heart want that person to be me.

Visit Salada Spokespeson Contest and vote for me, Lisa Nelsen-Woods and help me earn the title of Salada Tea Spokesperson. Voting ends 8/1/10. You can vote once a day every day until the voting closes on August 1, 2010. Please spread the word through your blogs and social media contacts. I created the Twitter hashtag #voteLisa to help me in my efforts.

I’d love to teach the world that small things add up and really do make a difference in the world that we live in for the better.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Make Patriotic Hair Bow Barrettes

I’m reliving my high school glory days and twirling flag in a parade with a local marching band this summer. It’s amazing how some things come back to you after *cough* years – just like falling off a bike!

Parade day is always the hottest day of the year without fail. It’s like marching across Vulcan’s anvil. I’m definitely wearing my hair up in a ponytail.

Since I am the only girl on the line (unlike high school) and my uniform is ever so butch (cargo shorts and a polo shirt) I wanted some little doodad for my hair that’s girly. The only one I have is this hair bow I bought from Lucky Kat.

Twisted and totally me but not fitting the Celebrate Our Families theme of the parade (unless you do not like your family I suppose.)

Oh and it has to be subtle because the band director has a strict “no bling” policy for band members even though we are all adults.

Maybe that’s because we are all adults :)

I found some ribbon in my craft stash that matches my uniform and a bare barrette from my professional jester days. I sewed clippie barrette thingies to the inside of my jester hat to staple it on to my head when I danced or did cartwheels. I decided to make my own hair bow barette instead buying one from Etsy because I've already shelled out some bucks for a uniform shirt and shorts I may never wear again.

How to Make an Easy Hair Bow Clip

You will need:
Ribbon (I used two colors of ribbon you can you more or less if you like)
Straight pin
Barrette Clip (check your local craft store)

1. Wind the ribbon around your hand at least two times for a small bow or several times for a larger bow.

2. Cut the ribbon with the scissors, pin the front and back sides together.

3. Stitch the front and back sides together with the needle and thread.

Hand stitching is fine for this project.

4. Gather the ribbon in the center, stitch/wind the thread around the center, and tie it off to hold it into place.

5. Stitch a second piece of ribbon to the back of the bow.

I used pinking shears to cut my ribbon. If you don't have pinking shears don't worry about it.

6. Wind the ribbon around the front of the blow, clip the end and stitch it into place on the back of the bow.

7. Sew the bow to the barrette.

Almost done!

8. Fluff the bow.


9. Wear it and look cute!

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If you are joining us from House of Hepworths, Somewhat Simple, Tales from Bloggeritaville, The Shabby Chic Cottage, Beyond The Picket Fence, Seven Thirty Three - A Creative Blog, Life as Lori, Just a Girl, Everything Etsy, Pony Tails & Fish Scales - welcome!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Does Your Compost Stink?

I noticed I white mushrooms growing in my homemade compost bin I made out of a Rubbermaid tub. I ran to the Internet to check if that was a good sign or not. The Gardenweb gurus said:
“It's a good sign that fungi have colonized the mix to the point where they are fruiting. That means that in addition to the materials you put in there, you now have miles of fungal mycelium, which has soil enrichment properties.”
“That being said, certain mushroom-producing fungi also have a particular affinity for carbon-rich materials, such as those used for ‘bedding’ in a worm bin – shredded cardboard, newsprint etc. Since worm composting systems are often rich in these sorts of materials, it’s not too surprising to see these fungal species briefly taking advantage of this resource.”
Apparently, shredding and adding all of my household paper waste to my compost bin for carbons must be working. In fact, there’s a name for such a practice - High fiber composting . (High fiber - Kinda like my diet, hee!)

The idea behind high fiber composting is that if you shred and compost all of your home’s household paper waste instead of recycling it, you should have more than enough carbons for your compost bin. Nice to know because I don’t have access to the usual carbon suspects - grass clippings, leaves, or tree clippings.

My compost bin

Since we had a bunch of rain, I figured it was time to mix up my very damp compost. I snapped the lid on the compost bin and flipped it couple of times in the yard. I smacked the bottom of the bin to loosen everything up for good measure. I took the lid off of the compost bin to see if I had actually mixed up the pile.

Phew! Did it stink! The smell reminded me of the latrines at Girl Scout camp –  the Junk Drawer described as a hole in a shed type of stinky outhouses. YUCK!

I shredded as much paper as I could find, held my nose, and dumped it in the stinky compost bin. I checked the internet again. Gardenweb said:
"Stinky compost pile? This is probably due to an overabundance of anaerobic microbes, enthusiastically breaking down your compost, but creating quite a funk in the process. To cut down on the smell, fluff the pile regularly, creating air spaces and limiting the anaerobic microbes while stimulating the less smelly aerobic microbes. “
Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Does your compost bin ever stink? What do you do?

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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Chalkboard Paint Outlet Covers

After I painted my kitchen backsplash with black chalkboard paint I looked at my white plastic outlet covers – they just would not do. The white plastic was just too high contrast with the black chalkboard wall.

Keep reading! I'll teach you how to paint shiny plastic outlet covers with chalkboard paint.

I wonder if I can save a few bucks and reuse what I have (very green BTW) and paint those cheap plastic outlet covers with chalkboard paint to match the wall?

White plaste builder outlet covers.

I took off the gloss with steel wool. Sandpaper works too. I used steel wool because it was only two steps to my right under the kitchen sink instead of six steps to my left in the garage. You know I am all about saving energy, fossil fuels as well as my own.

I grabbed a variety of items from the recycling bin to use as risers to make painting and priming the outlet covers easier. I primed the outlet covers using the same grey colored primer I used for the walls. Using a colored primer under a dark top coat reduces the number of extra coats of paint you will need to get nice even coverage.

Gray primer.

Once the primer was dry, I painted the outlet covers with two coats of chalkboard paint.

Black chalkboard paint outlet covers!

When everything was dry, I screwed them into the wall with the original screws and dabbed a bit a black paint on the black screws so they would match.

They blend nicely into the wall. I can draw on them too.

Ta Da! The matching chalkboard outlet covers was the final addition to my chalkboard backsplash that appears in the July/August 2010 issue of This Old House Magazine!

I'm in the July/August 2010 issue of This Old House Magazine.

I’m kinda of hooked on chalkboard paint. What shall I do next? I’m eyeing the refrigerator…

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Columbus Arts Festival – Local Fun and Ice Cream Too!

After dealing with a 2 and ½ day blackout Husband and I needed some fun once the power came back on. We filled up our reusable water bottles with the finest tap water around and went downtown to check out The Columbus Arts Festival.

The added incentive for bringing our own bottles of water is that is a little more money in our pockets to use to buy art or street fair food, like Jeni’s ice Cream. Jeni’s is another local ice cream shop that makes unusual and yummy flavors as Wildberry Lavender (my favorite) and Queen City Cayenne (chocolate with a hint of cayenne pepper – Husband’s favorite) made from milk from happy grass fed Columbus, Ohio cows.

It was not too hot outside, which meant Blitzkrieg could come with us to see the sights. Of course, he has his own BPA free plastic dog water bottle with a dog dish attached. In fact, he is the one that got me back into the water bottle habit. I have to bring water for him because he overheats easily. Filling up his water bottle  reminds me to fill up and bring a reusable water bottle for myself.

Blitzkrieg met his fair share of art dogs at the festival.

Dude! I watered a tree; some human called it performance art and gave me a grant!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

When a Woman Takes an Axe to a Wall

Many people ask me how I got into using tools and being a female DIYer. Well, from what other women tell me, apparently I was lucky growing up. In our house, there was no such a thing as girl’s chores or boy’s chores and there was I-need-as-many-hands-as-I-can-get chores in my parent’s fixer upper house.

That and a steady diet of HGTV, DIY Network, and other home improvement and decorating shows put the No Fear in me when it came time to fix up my own house. Besides, I am picky and I like to do things on my terms – and at my price point. That means large does of Vitamin DIY all the way! Right, Knock Off Wood?

When a Woman Takes an Axe to a Wall: Where is She Really Trying to Go? by Allegra Bennett is an inspirational book for any woman who never had a Dad that allowed her to “help” in his workshop or with odd fix jobs around the house. (PS: Thanks Dad for not kicking me out when I probably pestered you with too many little kid questions.) The book is a series of inspirational stories about women who did not think they could do home improvement or renovation. Many of them were discouraged from trying by other women! The women in this book all found that they could tackle a range of DIY jobs and learned a little more about themselves in the process.

I could relate to many of the women in this book. One is Sarah Holley who was discouraged from refinishing her own wood floors because people were afraid them she might ruin them instead of refinish them. After watching how to refinish floors on a home improvement show Sarah rented a big floor sander, did a great job on her floors, and proved all of those people wrong. Woot!

Reading that story took me back to the only time I was ever talked down to at a home improvement store. It was by a female employee who felt the need to be condescending and explain to me what needle nose pliers were and how to use them to hang my framed ceiling tiles. (We’re not talking about using the Jaws of Life here but something that lots of women I know use to make jewelry!) Funny thing, this type of interaction has never happened to me in the plumbing or electrical aisle of the same store when a male employee is helping me. Grr!

When a Woman Takes an Axe to a Wall isn’t a how to or DIY handbook. My only criticism is that while the stories are interesting and inspiring, they also read a little like a women’s studies book on female empowerment through home improvement. I wish the stories were a told in a warmer manner. However, I’m not sure how to achieve that because it’s hard to be warm and fuzzy when you have to find the moxie to tell burly male contractors to redo the work you want them to do when they take shortcuts and insist they can’t do the job to the specs you’re paying them to follow.

The theme of this book really hit me the day after I finished it. I went into the garage to finish a woodworking project with my new toy – an electric belt sander. I was walking tall for the rest of the evening! "I also found bits of sawdust all over the garage flooring and in places I didn't know I had"

In other words, if you a woman who is unsure if you can do even a minor DIY job without a man’s help read this book. Then grab a hammer or whatever and try it – you will be glad you did.

Win When a Woman Takes an Axe to a Wall *Closed*

I am giving away one copy of the book When a Woman Takes an Axe to a Wall by Allegra Bennett.

To enter: Leave a comment telling me about a DIY job that gave you a boost of confidence, no matter how big or how small. Alternatively, if you have not tackled a DIY job tell me what is holding you back. (You won't get any discouragement from me - honest!)

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. I'm not going to do anything mischievous with your email address. I just want to be able to contact you about sending your prize to you if you win.

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 When a Women Takes an axe to a Wall Giveaway runs from June 15, 2010 – June 27, 2010 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. I received a free review copy of When a Woman takes an Axe to a Wall to facilitate this review. All opinions are 100% my own and longtime readers know I can be very opinionated. This post contains affilate links.

Updated:: Monday June 28, 2010 Congratualtions to Milena, the winner of the giveaway!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Chalkboard Paint Kitchen Backsplash

Husband and I couldn’t agree on what type of tile we wanted to use on our kitchen backsplash. I wanted something sleek like recycled glass or stainless steel tile. He wanted a Byzantine pattern in travertine tile.

In the meantime, when I wiped the walls with nothing more than water, paint came off on my damp sponge because the builder used cheap watered down paint to paint our house. The wall needed something to protect it as we fought over what tile to use.

As a temporary fix, I broke out the chalkboard paint.

Chalkboard kitchen backsplash!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Book Review: Stay by Allie Larkin Sit –Stay-Read-Repeat

The book Stay by Allie Larkin  is the perfect combination of two of my favorite summer beach reading genres – quirky romantic comedy and dog. It is about a woman named Van who fell in love with Peter the first day they met in college. They were inseparable until Peter meets Van’s best friend Janie and marries her instead. Van does what any torn best friend would do in that situation. After the wedding Van drinks too much vodka and accidentally orders a black German Shepard puppy off the Internet from Slovakia.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

My No Impact Day Experiment Sucked

 The sky went dark as if turning off a light switch.

The rains came suddenly. BOOISH!

The thunder. CAR-RACK!

The lights went out.

“WHIRRR-EEEEEEEEE!” The nearby tornado siren screamed.

Husband, Blitzkrieg, and I holed up in the laundry room – our safe room since we do not have a basement.

Blitzkrieg knows my Blackberry takes pictures and he barked until I took his photo as we waited for the all clear. Even in a crisis, my dog is a diva and comic relief.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

How to use a Rototiller

My in laws do a big garden every year. Husband says that they have had a garden for as long as he can remember.

Father in law had a heath situation. He is recovering and on physical restrictions for the rest of the year. (Since I did not ask if I could write about it, I am not going to mention the details, only to say things got scary and surgery was involved.) My in laws did not think they would put in a garden this year because Father in law should not till the garden bed with the rototiller. Husband is still recovering from his running injury, so he is out too.

While farming and country life is not for me because I am allergic to everything that is green (oh the irony!) it is Mother and Father in law’s Little Slice of Heaven. I will do everything I can to make sure that they keep it for as long as they want.

I volunteered to till their garden with this monster.

Told you the garden was big!

What I don’t have in rototiller knowledge, I make up for in enthusiasm.

I was very enthusiastic.

I took off my safety equipment for the photo.

Have I mentioned I have never actually used a rototiller before? But I have gardened with a jackjammer how hard could this be?

I needed help getting the big thing started because it has a pull cord like a lawn mower and I have arm muscles made out of macaroni. There are two hand controls on the rototiller I used one for forward and other is for reverse. Each control has a safety feature - if you let go of either control the rototiller stops so you are less likely to chop off your feet if the thing backs up into you too fast.

My plan was push it in front of me like a lawn mower and let the rotating blades churn up the soil. Then we could easily hand pick the weeds and Mother in law could start planting.

Mother in law called these carrot seeds imbedded in paper strips “stripper carrots.” Husband got mad because he thought I was using salty language in front of his Mom because she is a saint (she is.) They cost a little more than loose seeds, but you do not have to thin the plants out later like with planting loose carrot seeds. They are worth the extra money.

My plan worked well until the farmer who rents Mom and Dad’s fields for extra planting stopped by and watched as I tried to churn up the soil and avoid some volunteer lettuce, a row of growing garlic and rhubarb. The obstacle course made this Advanced Rototilling when I clearly was supposed to be in the Beginner’s Course. No pressure trying to learn how to use a tiller in front of a professional farmer!

A few things I learned:
  • Wear ear protection because gas powered rototillers are LOUD!
  • You may need to do one than one pass with the tiller in your garden. I did the first pass just walking through the garden with the tiller in front of me to break the soil into bigger chunks. Those are the photos you see here. I did a longer second pass to break the big dirt chunks into little chunks the next day. 
  • If we wanted to add soil amendments like compost it is best to add them after the first full pass with the tiller and work them into the soil with the rototiller on the second pass. I didn’t do this because well, look at that naturally dark, rich soil! (And their compost heap is still composting.) 
  • To break the big dirt clods into wee little dirt clods, I pushed down slightly on the rototiller handles so the tiller was at a slight angle. This way, the blades are working the dirt clods I tilled on the top of the soil and the blades are not digging deeper into the soil and making a deeper ditch. 
  • If you have adjustable blades on the rototiller you are using, you can set them to till deeper on the first pass and shallower in the second pass to avoid the angle thing I had to do. Shut the machine down when you reset the blades for safety’s sake please! 
  • To turn corners in tight spaces (and to avoid the garlic) I found it better to put the tiller in reverse, take a few steps back, and then do a pivot turn in the direction I wanted to go instead of trying to heft the tiller with brute force – which I lack. 
  • If you are in a situation where someone wants to micromanage or Armchair Quarterback you through a project like Father in Law and the farmer were trying to do, use a very loud tool so you cannot hear them! As Mother in law and the Mennonite lady neighbor (who was duly impressed I took on such a task), commented, “Like they did it perfectly the first time.” Nah. Solidarity my sisters! Girl Power!
Why yes I AM pretty darn pleased with myself!

Mother in law rewarded my efforts with some rhubarb that I miraculously did not till under.

Rhubarb crumble hot from the oven and plopped on vanilla ice cream!

I used the rhubarb to make The Green Phone Booth’s Rhubarb Crumble. While it was baking Husband insisted that we serve it over vanilla ice cream and ran off to the store to buy Ohio made ice cream. He was right. The ice cream was the perfect compliment to a very delicious end. I love it when a plan comes together!

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Thursday, June 3, 2010

Boon Grass Drying Rack – Not Just for Babies!

I use the dishwasher for washing most things. I keep a kitchen dish rack in one side of my sink for those few items I do not want to ruin by putting them in the dishwasher like kitchen knives. Those I hand wash.

My kitchen knives don't fit in the utensil cup in my dish rack and often fall out – very dangerous. The dish rack gets gunky easily and requires a good scrub with an old toothbrush often. Let’s face it; dish racks by and large are not cute.

OK maybe it is just my dish rack that is not cute.

I am looking for low cost ways to spiff up my kitchen until I decide how to renovate it.

I’m a sucker for good modern design and quickly became a fan of Boon’s blog, Facebook page, and follow them on Twitter: even though I am more than a little jealous that every green, affordable, and well-designed doo-dad Boon makes is for kids. Like adults don’t count or want to pay a king’s ransom for this stuff?

Except for this one. The Boon Grass drying rack. Its BPA free plastic and made to hold all those little fiddly bits you use to feed babies and toddlers that fall through a regular drying rack. I wondered if I could use it to hold hold my kitchen knives and all those little fiddly bits I use to feed adults and dogs that fall through my regular dish drying rack?

Me likey.

The blades of green 'grass' in this drying rack keep my kitchen knives from falling out of the dish rack while they air dry. The grass lifts out of the white drip tray and makes it easier to clean than my regular dish rack.

Why yes, that IS chalk board paint on my kitchen back splash! I will blog more on that in a later post.

Somehow, I do not feel the need to shove it out of sight under the sink when I have guests over either, unlike my other drying rack.

The modern design makes it a keeper.

Disclosure: Boon provided me with a sample to facilitate this review because I can’t write about my experience in using the product without trying it, now can I? Boon did not pay me to say nice things about their product. This post contains an affiliate link, which helps me move toward making Condo Blues a self-hosted blog at no additional cost to you. All opinions are my own. Long time readers know I am very opinioned and would not give something a positive review just to fake you into buying it. In other words, I really think it is a stinking cute dish rack.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Have You Tried a Shampoo Bar to Wash Your Hair?

June's One Small Green Change is to switch from washing my hair with liquid shampoo to washing my hair with a shampoo bar.

Last fall my hair freaked out and decided it hated my liquid shampoo and conditioner. My scalp flaked and my hair frizzed. I switched to a shampoo with tea tree oil in it, which made the problem worse. I developed a red bumpy rash on my scalp.


I tried going no poo but that lasted only three days – I’m a vain eco-wuss. In desperation used a free packet of Head and Shoulders I got in the mail. It felt like fire on my scalp. Finally, I went to my doctor who suggested adding more Omega 3’s in my diet, gave me a prescription for the rash, and suggested using Selsun Blue to wash my hair. That combination solved the problem.

However, Selsun Blue rates a 6 out of 10 on the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database. I want to go back to using something a little less hazardous now that the rash and flaking are gone. I looked at earth friendly/natural baby shampoos. Most I found are liquid Castile soap, great for babies but not for me. When I wash my hair with liquid castile soap – my hair feels like straw afterwards. I need copious amounts of conditioner.