Condo Blues: July 2008

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

7 Budget Friendly Kitchen Cleaners

Vinegar, vinegar, vinegar. Clean your house with vinegar. The folks over at The Dollar Stretcher have been giving this advice out this nugget of advice for years as a cheap alternative to buying an array of expensive house cleaners. Honestly, I wasn’t convinced that vinegar cleaned and disinfected my house as well as any number of commercial cleaners that I could buy at a closeout or dollar store.

Then the environmentally friendly folks started touting the benefits of using vinegar. Again, I was skeptical (yes, I’m a skeptic. However, gentle readers you do benefit from my skepticism because I actually test stuff out before blinding blogging good thoughts about anything. If I like it, I tell you why I like it. If I don’t’ like it I’ll tell you why it didn’t work for me.) Because, again, there are a whole host of environmentally friendly (but not so cheap) commercial cleaners I could use to clean my house.

Then Blitzkrieg entered my life and that all changed. My vet told me that many commercial floor cleaners contain chemicals that are toxic to pets! In the United States, unlike food and health and beauty products, manufacturers aren’t required to list the ingredients on the labels of household cleaners. That makes it very difficult while standing in the store to determine whether a cleaner (environmentally friendly or no) is going harm my dog if he licks it off of his paws. As a last resort I tried cleaning my kitchen floor with vinegar and a squirt of dish soap in my automatic floor cleaner. It worked.

“Hello, my name is Lisa and I’m a reformed cleaning with baking soda and vinegar skeptic.”

“Hi, Lisa!” you say.

As part of Retro Housewife goes green What under your sink challenge I give you the Condo Blues Kitchen Cleaning Arsenal.

OK. I admit that the fire extinguisher isn’t a cleaner. However, it doesn’t hurt to be prepared in the case of an emergency, does it? If you don’t have a fire extinguisher in your kitchen, I suggest you buy one. Or put it on your Christmas list. You never know when you might need it. Hopefully never!

Natural Kitchen Cleaners and How I Use Them

Dish washing 

1. Powdered phosphate free store brand dish washing detergent mixed with a box of baking soda (in the milk jug.) Mixing baking soda into powdered dish washing detergent gives it an extra oomph when cleaning the dishes in your dishwasher. It’s also an excellent way to reuse that expired box of baking soda you put in the freezer/refrigerator as a deodorizer.

2. Vinegar in the Jet Dry container of the dishwasher. Vinegar works to keep spots off the glasses just like Jet Dry, Cascade, or a store brand-sheeting agent. Actually, I think vinegar has better sheeting action and keeps water spots from forming on my glasses. Who knew?

3.Store brand phosphate free dish detergent. For those rare times I hand wash dishes. I also use a mixture of dish detergent, vinegar, and water as a floor cleaner.

Counter Cleaners

1. Store brand cleaning wipes. Husband is The Man Who Makes My Dinner. Husband doesn’t like the smell of most spray surface cleaners because most of them are heavily perfumed. And honestly, I don't want The Condo to smell like a fake flower factory after I clean it. We compromise and clean the counters with wipes. This isn't the most environmentally friendly cleaner because we can't compost the spent wipes.

2. Cellulose sponges. We use sponges to clean up quick spills instead of paper towels. To extend the life and reduce the grungy funk factor of the sponges, I run them through dishwasher. There are some sponges are made with recycled materials, however these aren’t those. I'd love to try the cellulose sponges made with recycled materials but I can't find them locally so I use what I have. When it’s time to replace the sponges, I use the dead sponges to make self-watering potting soil by cutting them up and burying them in the dirt of my potted plants.

3. Baking soda with a spot of vinegar. To clean baked on crud off of my stove I sprinkle vinegar on the crud and add a spot of vinegar. The mixture bubbles up, loosens the baked on gunk, and allows me to easily wipe up the mess better than any commercial cleaner I’ve tried.

Floor Cleaners

1.A solution of half vinegar, half water, and healthy squirt of dish washing soap for a little extra cleaning oomph. I use this in my automatic floor cleaner. I also used it in the Swiffer that preceded the automatic floor cleaner with excellent results.

There you have it. The Condo Blues kitchen cleaners. Some of these cleaners are considered green, some are not. Some are homemade cleaners, and some are not. Nevertheless, all of these cleaners are budget-friendly and will easily help you keep your house FlyLady clean.

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Friday, July 25, 2008

Four Ways to Repair a Beeping Smoke Alarm

It is night. All of The Condo residents are nestled all snug in their beds, except for Blitzkrieg, the one-eyed wonder dog who is snoring like a buzz saw in my ear because he is sleeping under my side of the bed. Out of the darkness it comes.
"Bow-rowr- -rowr- -rowr- -rowr- -rowr- -rowr!

Groggily Husband and I investigate the noise. There is no smoke. There is no fire. However, one of the hardwired smoke detectors is beeping and it will.not. stop.

How to Fix a Beeping Smoke Detector
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The first time this happened, I called 911 just as I learned to do in case of an emergency in Safety Town. The firefighters came. Fortunately, they confirmed that The Condo was not on fire. Nor did we have an electrical fire in the walls. The firefighters said that I’d know if an internal electrical fire was the culprit in the The Case of the Beeping Smoke Detector because the walls of The Condo would be hot to the touch (good to know.) That was a relief! They said that my smoke detector is chirping intermittently because either it needs a new battery or it needs repair.

Four Ways to Fix a Falsely Beeping Hard Wired Smoke Detector or Fire Alarm

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Election 2008 is Going to the Dogs, Part 2

This isn't a political blog and I usually don't blog about politics. It's not that I don't have political opinions oh, trust me, I do. Political discussions and debates are typical dinner table fodder here at The Condo because all of its residents are free to express their own personal political opinions. Sometimes we agree and sometimes we don’t.

“Hang on, wait a minute. All of the residents of The Condo are free to express their political opinions?! “ you ask incredulously, “Including Blitzkrieg?”

Yes, gentle reader, including my dog Blitzkrieg. Take a look closely at timestamp 1:50 in the election 2008 Jib Jab video I posted yesterday and you will see that Blitzkrieg is exercising his right to vote – just as every good Pekingese American should.


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

40 Flower, Plants, and Trees That Attract Japanese Beetles

The natural predictors that keep Japanese Beetles from ruining plants in their native Japan do not exist here in the United States. That’s what makes Japanese Beetles so difficult to control and kill. 

One of the best and most organic and natural ways to keep Japanese Beetles from eating and killing the plants in your yard is to simply remove the plants that attract Japanese beetles from your home and landscaping. If you have a Japanese beetle problem in your garden, you might want to thing twice about keeping or planting the following flowers, shrubs, vines, plants, and trees in your yard.

Eighteen Flowers, Shrubs, and Vines That Attract Japanese Beetles

Thursday, July 17, 2008

How to Make a Wine Glass Chandelier

I’m on the hunt for a pendent fixture for my dining room. There are so many designs (and subsequent price tags) to choose from to get the Mid-century-Bauhaus -Contemporary-Found-And-Funkified-Retro- DaDa-Danish style (bonus points to you if you know that DaDa is a design movement and not just what babies call their fathers) that I’m going for in The Condo. I found a fun overhead pendant light in the Chandelini. I love that it’s a ball of martini glasses – a fun addition to any room in the house.


However as much as I love the Chandelini right now I’m not sure if this is a piece that I’d love forever. At $6000.00, I know that Husband would insist that I love it forever.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Fabulous Flamingo Front Porch

During the first summer in our Condo, I wanted to sit on our front porch and watch the world go by. (That is, until the temperature hit 90+ degrees, then I’d watch the world go by looking out of the window from the comfort of my air-conditioned Condo.) For that, I needed chairs. I didn’t know what I wanted other than:
  1. Something pretty
  2. Sturdy enough not blow off the porch during high winds
  3. I wanted them now
At the time, I was working on painting and decorating our bedroom. I didn’t have time to search for The Perfect Set of Porch Chairs. As a cheap and easy stopgap, I repainted Husband’s ugly bachelor dining room chairs (once upon a time these heavy monsters may have lived in a doctor’s waiting room) green to coordinate with the green shutters on the house. I also did a little staple gun upholstery to upgrade the fabric on the seat and chair back. The revamped chairs looked better. I didn’t hate them with the white-hot intensity of a thousand suns anymore.


Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Hippies, Festivals, and Dogs, Oh My!

The last weekend I went to Comfest, a huge three-day local music, art, and food blowout. A lot of people refer to Comfest as a big hippie festival because for three days Goodale Park looks a little like Height Ashbury in the 60’s with lots of people hanging out and listening to the bands, getting carpel tunnel from signing political petitions, and smelling patchouli in the air. At least I hope that was patchouli I smelled…

Oh and there’s tie-dye. Lots of people wear tie dye. And dogs. People like to bring dogs to Comfest. Sometimes the dogs wear tie dye too.
Not my dog. Blitzkrieg wisely opted to stay home and wear the air conditioner during warm Comfest weekend.