Sunday, January 30, 2011

Gift Card Notebooks

I like getting gift cards as gifts. Once I spend the card I try to find a reuse for it. I use them as scrapers and bone folders in my craft room. Well there are two I reused, what about the others?

Greenbean Crafterole came up with a brilliant idea. She uses old gift cards to make mini notebooks!

Photo courtesy of Greenbean Crafterole

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Six Blingy Napkin Rings

I'm convinced that cloth napkins are the one thing that separates us from the animals. I like that I never run out of napkins with cloth. If I do, I just pop them in the washing machine – easy!

The one thing I do not like about cloth napkins is how my family is averse to neatly folding them at their place setting for the next use. I’m on the hunt for cute everyday napkin rings made from environmentally friendly materials please.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sew a Quickie Cloth Camera Strap Cover

I’m going to Blissdom. I want something to identify my new black DSLR as mine because it looks like everyone else’s black DSLR camera. I don’t want someone to accidentally pick up my precious and get weirded out about the crazy amount of dog photos on my camera's memory card. What can I say? Blitzkrieg loves the camera.

I always meant to buy a wider camera strap for my Minolta and regretted it. Its thin webbed camera strap digs into my neck – ow! My Cannon has a wider strap – yay! But it’s webbed material – boo! I suspect more digging into my neck – ow!

Hey! A cloth camera strap cover would solve both of my problems. Let's do it!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Duracell How is This Less Wasteful?

Husband’s MP3 player eats AAA batteries. After not finding any at my local stores, I decided to buy a package of rechargeable Duracell batteries on line because I had a coupon.

I bought those batteries through Proctor and Gambles’ Future Friendly estore. Future Friendly is the new label Proctor and Gamble is putting on their current packaging to rebrand their products to appear greener. They are just talking about the packaging, not the ingredients. They say:

This multi-brand initiative brings together the power of trusted brands like Tide, Pampers, PUR, Duracell and others for a simple mission: to help consumers save water, waste and energy at home.
(Boldface mine.)

I Ordered Rechargeable Batteries and All I Got Was Plastic  

I knew going into this purchase that the rechargeable batteries are not a 100% green product. No battery is, I was just trying to buy a little better than an one use battery which I can recycle at the customer service desk at Easton Town Center. However I want to reduce the number of batteries I drop off there.

This is how Duracell packaged my order of one card of four AAA rechargeable batteries. The box longer than Blitzkrieg! I got more packaging than product.

Dude, even I know this is wasteful and I'm a dog.

I can't even recycle all of the packaging I got with my order. I can recycle or compost the cardboard box but I can't recycle the #2 plastic packing pillows. If the plastic pillows were #4 plastic like the recycled content packing pillows Alice uses I could put the pillows in the disposable plastic bag recycling bin at the grocery store.

But not P and G's plastic packing pillows. I can't put the #2 plastic pillows in my home recycling bin because plastic bags stop up #2 plastic recycling machines. They are not accepted by my recycling program, are they accepted by yours?

I am more than a little disappointed.  I'm trying to support an Ohio based company. Proctor and Gamble has many manufacturing plants in Ohio. I used to drive past their headquarters almost daily when I lived in Cincinnati. It's hard for me though because most of Proctor and Gamble's products are not made with the environmentally friendly ingredients I prefer. P and G claims they don't work as well. I disagree and vote with my wallet. I don't buy those products.

However, rechargeable batteries are something that they make that I agree with. I can also recycle the batteries at my local Batteries Plus store. In the interest of reducing our household waste, I ordered a card of Duracell AAA batteries. Sadly I made more waste than I anticipated saving.

Duracell, exactly what part of my order saved waste?

Is all of this packaging necessary for 4 tiny AAA batteries?

Couldn’t they have put my batteries in a padded mailer? It uses less packaging and it is cheaper to ship. Does anyone have contact information for a real person at Duracell who can answer my questions? I don't want to send a letter expressing my disappointment to a generic customer service person who doesn't have the power to make a change in their shipping materials.

Have you even been disappointed in how you received something that was supposed to be more environmentally friendly?

Update Feb 11, 2011: Duracell sent me the following information about their packaging on my battery order:

Hi Condo Blues – my name is Mike Nolan, I’m the community manager for P&G’s Future Friendly program. Thanks for the questions in your January 20 blog post, “Duracell How is This Less Wasteful?” We always appreciate consumer feedback. 

I spoke with the P&G eStore in order to obtain answers and possible solutions your questions and concerns. I found out that only about 7% of orders from the P&G eStore are for a single-item, which is why the batteries came in such a large box (it is the smallest size they currently have), with pillows to protect the product. I’ve confirmed that the eStore is presently looking for ways to reduce packaging for single-item orders – and feedback like this helps them understand where there is a need.

As for the Duracell product itself, I thought you might be interested to know that in the U.S., more than 97% of alkaline batteries are packaged in 100% recycled cardboard, and 100% of the outer cartons are 100% recycled cardboard. Duracell is also looking for ways to save energy during the manufacturing process, and has reduced energy use by 15-20% over the past eight years.

You can learn more about P&G’s commitment to sustainability at or reply back to me if you have any further questions.

Thanks again, Mike.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Husky T- Handle Driver Review

Husband and I decided to go forward with my garage workshop project. We’re going to do it on a slightly altered timeline and budget. While I’m impatiently waiting for the weather to warm up enough so I can work on the garage, I’m looking at all of the lovely tools I want to fill my workshop.

Husky Tools  sent me their 20 piece T-Handle Driver set to review. It has 2 Phillips, 1 Pozi (a small Phillips head), 2 slotted, 2 hex, and 2 square head T-handle screwdrivers as well as a ratcheting T-handle driver and 10 bits.

It took me awhile to get used to the T-handle grip over using a regular screwdriver. Once I got used to it, I prefer the T-handle for jobs where I use a regular screwdriver with the tips of my fingers, which for me is any job that requires a step stool.

The T-handle allows you to get a bit more torque behind what you are trying to drive into a wall or piece of wood.  This means you are a little less likely to strip screws with a T-handle screwdriver. I like that because I am the Queen of Stripped Screws.

The long handles come in handy for jobs that you can’t be close up and personal with the screw such as installing curtain rod brackets. Husband likes the long T-handle drivers for working on his computer.

The hex T-handle screwdrivers also come in handy when trying to assemble Ikea furniture. Sometimes the complimentary Allen wrench that comes with the furniture snaps in half while using it.   

While the Husky tools are inexpensive, they are not cheaply made. Friends don’t let friends use cheap tools  Cheap tool break and you can hurt yourself. Guess how I know?

The Husky 20 piece T-Handle Driver is available at Home Depot for $9.95, which makes it a bargain for someone who is trying to build a collection of useful tools while watching their pennies.

Oh and Husky Tools are red. Instead of some cheesy plastic doodad, maybe your guy or gal might like a set of Husky Tools for Valentine’s Day.

What do you think? Would you like a set of tools for Valentines Day or is that too practical?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

What is Your Favorite Dog Food?

I fed Blitzkrieg and for the first time in well, ever, he didn’t finish his dinner. This was right before Blitzkrieg's  knee surgery. I thought he wasn't eating because of knee pain.

When we visited family, Blitzkrieg gobbled down Chopper’s food. Maybe his old food was stale or had gone bad? 

I experimented with some free dog food samples I got at a dog event. He chowed down on the new foods. He rejected the samples of his current food.

The vet said Blitzkrieg isn't eating because he has Canine Colitis due to the stress from his knee surgery. The vet gave us meds and Blitzkrieg should be feeling better very soon.

I’m now on the hunt for a new dog food. I’m even more picky about Blitzkrieg’s food than my own because dog food isn’t regulated at all. Oh sure, there are guidelines but those are merely suggestions. There is nothing to stop a dog food company from using rancid people food to make dog food. In fact many, but not all, dog food companies do that.

Here is my list of things I want in a new food for Blitzkrieg.

  1. It must be corn and wheat free because Blitzkrieg has food allergies.
  2. I'd like a grain free dog food if possible. The grain in his current kibble may have contributed to the colitis.
  3. It must be made with human grade ingredients.
  4. It must be made with US sourced ingredients. That little nugget saved us from feeding Blitzkrieg something that was affected by the melamine dog food recalls.
This type of dog food is more expensive than the grocery store brands but when it comes to Blitzkrieg’s heath, he’s worth it.

I’m considering Nature’s Select  because they deliver for only $3.00 more than our current brand of dog food. The first ingredients on the list are real food Wild Salmon, wild rice, sweet potato, pumpkin, etc. 

However, I’m concerned that after those real food ingredients are a bunch of added vitamins and minerals. If they use real food ingredients, why do they need the extra vitamins and minerals? Shouldn’t they already be in the whole food ingredients?

I'm not sure what to do.

What do you feed your dog?

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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Dried Sweet Potato Dog Chew Recipe

Blitzkrieg rested comfortably after his knee surgery, well, as comfortably as you can with your leg bandaged up from your hip to your foot. He’s making very good use of the little gift basket of meat flavored baby food his dog cousins gave him for Christmas. I hide Blitzkrieg’s pain medication in a spoonful of baby food and he gobbles it up as a low calorie treat. It’s important to keep his weight consistent as his leg heals. Also, he wants to keep himself svelte for da ladies

My little dog is resilient. Three days after the surgery, he was running, climbing stairs, and jumped on the sofa with his leg in cast - all against doctor's orders. It's been a stressful time for all of us. I hate hearing Blitzkrieg whimper in pain and be frustrated that he can't be the independent dog he wants to be right now.

Yesterday Blitzkrieg got his bandages off. This surgery has pushed every fear button we all worked so hard to conquer from his abused stray days. I need to give him a positive distraction from licking his stitches before they dissolve on their own. Our favorite yuppie puppy pet store did not have dried sweet potato chews (they had no idea it was an emergency) so I made them myself – and saved a bit a cash. Yay!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Love Letter to My Electric Snow Shovel

Dear Electric Snow Shovel,

Toro 38361 Power Shovel 7.5 Amp Electric Snow ThrowerI know your full name is Toro 38361 Power Shovel 7.5 Amp Electric Snow Thrower but can I just call you Electric Snow Shovel? Because I think we are going to be close friends for a long time to come.

I bought you as a Christmas gift for Husband but now that I have used you, I have to tell you that I adore you. In Central  Ohio, our problem is ice rather than snow although Mother Nature does see fit from time to time to send us more snow than my Pekingese is tall.

This is my front door - in March

During most of the winter, the branches of bushes and trees are encased in ice and look so pretty. When I was a kid, I called them Ice Plants.

The tree in my front yard encased in ice.

Now that I’m adult and have to whack the top layer of ice and break it with a manual snow shovel it in order to shovel the snow underneath, I call it something completely different.

That isn’t printable.

And of course when my snow covered sidewalk and driveway are covered in a sheet of ice, it’s usually too cold for rock salt or the more environmentally and pet friendly ice melt to work properly.

This leads to more unprintable name-calling.

And that’s why I bought you. The small gas powered snow blowers I looked at were too big to handle my short front walk and even shorter driveway. I also like that storing you in my tiny garage is as simple as hanging you on a nail in the wall next to my manual snow shovel.

You make speedy work of clearing snow and eat through layers of ice like there’s no tomorrow! Now I understand why I when I tried to buy you locally, you were sold out. I ended up ordering you on line. It’s OK. I used my Swagbucks to offset the shipping costs so essentially I ended up not paying for shipping. Yay me!

I really hate to quibble about details since you make my life so easy Electric Snow Shovel, however, I need to know. Why are you considered green over a gas-powered snow thrower? In all of my research, (oh yes, my friend, you were up against two other models) it claimed that electric snow throwers were green because you do not release carbon emissions, unlike your larger gas powered snow blower brethren.

But here’s the thing. I, like most of the US, don’t get my electricity from a clean renewable resource. My electricity is produced from a coal fired electric plant and that plant does produce carbon emissions. Which means when I use you, I am producing carbon emissions, abet indirectly.

I’m sorry to split hairs. Husband and I have the same issue with rechargeable batteries being called green over plug in electronic devices even though we are switching over to rechargeable batteries to reduce waste.

My point is, I am asking that you and the rest of your electronic friends to please consider the where the power comes to power or recharge you before calling yourself a green carbon neutral device.

I realize that I'm not perfect either. I will still love you and will use you though.



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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

How to Buy a Mattress

Husband and I need to buy a mattress for our guest bedroom. I'd like a green mattress if possible. I also want the mattress to be comfortable.  Of course, as the saying goes not too comfortable, or my guests will never leave!

Mattress shopping is nothing short of stressful. Unlike a car, you can’t comparison shop when it comes to mattresses. There isn’t anything to stop a mattress manufacturer from making the same style of mattress and putting a different name on it for every store that sells it. In fact, it’s a common practice. The price points for the same brand of mattress sold under different names vary wildly from store to store too.

That’s why mattress stores can guarantee that you won’t find a cheaper mattress at another store and if you do, they’ll give it to you free! Because you may find the same mattress brand, you won’t find the same mattress model name in another store – the individual model names are proprietary to each store.

Mattress Shopping? Prepare to Be Screwed

It gets worse. When Husband and I were shopping for a new mattress for our bed, we found that the prices were different for the same mattresses in two chain mattress stores in the same chain.

Coil counts, and other such indicators of mattress "quality" are actually bogus talking points. All coil mattresses start with enough coils to be considered good quality. The number of turns or coils in a mattress after that doesn't make much of a different in overall quality, just personal level of comfort. Besides there are only two companies that make mattress coils and if you’re buying a coil mattress, it’s going to be the same coil quality as another maker who buys coils from that manufacturer. Of course, you won't know that because they don't - and won't - tell you that.

When it comes to buying a mattress, name brands really don’t mean much either. Often the big name brands rename and sell their mattresses as no name or as private brands too. The best advice is to pick a price range, lie down on a bunch of them, decide what you like best, and hang onto your wallet.

If you notice, just like buying a car, as soon as you look at a mattress the salesperson will “lower” the sticker price than what is advertised so it looks like you are getting a deal. Some even do that “let me talk to my manager” thing too. My advice? Buy a mattress on the last day of the month when a saleperson is willing to deal and “talk with their manager” about lowering the price a little more so the mattress moves out the door and they make their commissioned sales goal for the month. The same advice goes for buying a car.

I absolutely hate being played. And that’s what happens when it comes to buying a mattress.

Mattress Shopping is Not for the Faint Hearted

Shopping for a green mattress wasn’t any better. In fact, it was a little worse because we only found one in a local brick and mortar store to try. If I’m going to spend up to a thousand dollars on something, I want to see it in person. Especially when I don’t know what kind of mattress we like or need. The mattress we were replacing at the time was very old and so worn out that it gave us back problems.

It turns out, that for our own bed, Husband and I thought we needed a soft mattress. Depending upon the store and the mattresses we tried, we sometimes liked one tagged firm, semi-firm, or soft pillowtop the best. ARGH!

Just like using baking soda as deodorant, my brain wanted a green option and my back said, “No thank you. I need a different one.” We opted for the correct firmness for us, at a price that made us comfortable, and put an allergy ban cover on it to keep flame retardants and such at bay.

Have you purchased a new mattress? Do you think they took advantage of you?

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Sunday, January 9, 2011

Five Repurposed Home Organizers

I am organized because I’m lazy. If I have a flash of inspiration I don’t want to hunt all over the house for the things I need to make my vision come to life. That is why I live by labels. It also keeps me from putting something “in a better place” and then promptly forgetting that I moved it leading to a whole house search.

As much I love wondering the aisles of the Container Store, I’m kinda cheap green. I try to repurpose what I have before I buy. If it works, I might upgrade it.  Sometimes I don’t under the if it’s not broke don’t fix it mantra.

Wood clementine boxes are fantastic for storage! I store my tea collection in two Clementine crates in my pantry. When I want a cup of tea, it’s easy to pull all of the tea from the pantry and take my pick.

 Yes I have a lot of tea. I don't have many vices, so this will have to do.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Is Pet Insurance Worth It?





Blitzkrieg started barking short, crisp, sharp barks that cut through the air like glass shards.All. Day. Long.

Something was wrong.

Blitzkrieg only barks when it is something important. For example, when the door on the washing machine unlatches with a “ker-THUD!” Blitzkrieg races around the house to find me and tell me that the washer finished a load of laundry.

He awarded handsomely for his efforts.

The dryer buzzes at the end of its cycle so Blitzkrieg lets me figure that out for myself.

My dog’s a thinker.

If he had opposable thumbs we’d all be screwed.

Blitzkrieg needs surgery to repair a luxating patella on his right rear leg. His kneecap refuses to stay where it’s supposed to – over his leg joint. Previously bed rest (tough to do with such an active dog), pain meds, and anti inflammatories were enough to get Blitzkrieg through until his kneecap eventually slipped back into place.

Not this time. From the x-ray, it looks like Blitzkrieg’s kneecap is several inches above where it is supposed to be. As I write this, my dog is in surgery to correct the problem. A very expensive problem. Over a thousand dollars worth of expensive problem and that is just for one leg! I’m sure Blitzkrieg will need for the orthopedic surgeon (yes, they have them for dogs) to repair his left rear leg in the near future.
My leg hurts. Please make it better Lisa.

Pet health insurance wouldn’t help me because most pet insurance policies don’t cover hereditary conditions  such as a luxating patella which is common in small dogs, Pekingese in particular. Which makes me think, why even buy pet health insurance to begin with? Wouldn’t it be better to open up a separate saving account and use that to cover vet and expensive pet care costs?

Fortunately living the way that we do, means Husband and I are able to save money and blow it on our dog :) What little commissions I make from the affiliate ads on Condo Blues and Lazy Budget Chef are going toward the Blitzkrieg Surgery Fund or more accurately the Blitzkrieg Post Surgery Dog Treat Fund because the commissions are very small.

I love my CSA and really want to start my garage workshop project this year but I will gladly give them up if it means that Blitzkrieg will be able to run and play pain free, even if it’s going to hurt me a little.

Get well soon little buddy.

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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

My New (to Me) DSLR Camera!

I miss photography with my Minolta SLR and developing black and white film in the darkroom. Yes, I know that the chemistry is bad for the environment. However, I don’t think you get the same balance of art plus science and a dash of luck with digital photography as you can with film photography.

My heart isn’t into artfully using my digital point and shoot camera. I think it shows. My blog photos are kind of hit and miss. Tabletop photography isn’t my strong suit. I like shooting architecture. With an SLR.

I’m also very hard on point and shoot cameras. I ask them to do things they aren’t normally meant to do. In three years of blogging I’m on digital point and shoot camera Number Three.

Normally I would just go out and buy myself a digital SLR (DSLR) and be done with it. However I’m in house mode. If I have several spare dollars to spend, I’m more likely to buy lighting or any number of house things, or Blitzkrieg things than A Fun Something for Lisa Thing.

Apparently, some of the people around here think I’ve been a bit too practical of late. Either that or maybe they are trying to tell me that asking for garage insulation is not a proper Christmas gift. Instead, Husband gave me a big girl camera! A Canon DSLR!

Canon Rebel XS 10.1MP Digital SLR Camera with EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS Lens (Black)
Photo courtesy of because I can’t take a photo of my new camera with my new camera.

The best thing about my camera is its story. Days after Husband and I bought our condominium, we jumped on a plane to spend New Year’s Eve with two of our dearest friends in Times Square. I had my film SLR with me because by golly if I was going to spend 6 hours freezing my butt off in Times Square I was going to take good pictures of everything I couldn’t normally take as a tourist and not be run over by a car.

That trip got my friend into photography. 

My love of photography (and gadgets) comes directly from my father. He got it from his father. Photography is the family hobby. Since I don’t have a human child to pass my love of photography on to, passing it on to a dear friend is the next best thing.

My friend was upgrading his DSLR and asked if I knew of a place that he could sell it or if I knew of someone who wanted one. When Husband was exasperated with my asking for yet another way too practical gift for Christmas, (I asked for a new vacuum cleaner for my birthday) I suggested our friend’s camera even though I was sure he sent it off to B&H Photo as I suggested. (HINT: I got the tip about buying from the B&H Used Store from a professional photographer- check it out.)

I could write about how buying a used DSLR is green and is a good way to save money on what can be an expensive hobby. However, that is not why I love my new to me camera. I love it because my family shared their love of photography with me and I in turn shared my love of photography with a friend who I also consider a member of my family. With my friend’s camera now in my possession I feel like some sort of sentimental Circle of Life is complete.

And no one can put a price on that.

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Sunday, January 2, 2011

Do You Use Cloth Panty Liners?

I’m kicking off the New Year and my January One Small Green Change in an up close and personal kind of way. So if you are any of my male relatives or current or feature employers this post is probably not for you because I’m going to talk about lady bits.

Lately I’ve had the need to wear a daily panty liner. Strangely wearing a disposable panty liner has lead to a few bladder infections. Odd, since I haven’t had any issues with disposables until now.

Going without is doable but not very comfortable ifyouknowwhatImean.

I though making cloth panty liners would be a good use for my fabric stash. I searched Craftster for patterns and emailed Crunchy Chicken a few fabric and construction questions.

Epic craft FAIL.